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Six Mobile Marketing Strategies for Nonprofits

If your organization doesn’t have a mobile marketing strategy in place, it’s time to build one—here's how.

More than 130 million Americans own smartphones. Add desktop computers, tablets, and laptops to the mix, and there are more Internet-connected devices in the United States than there are people. Skyrocketing mobile web traffic numbers have Comcast analysts predicting that mobile web surfing will overtake desktop surfing by 2014. Still, most NGOs and nonprofits don’t have a mobile marketing strategy in place and so are missing out on new ways to connect with supporters. Worse, they may be unintentionally harming their organizations’ brands by brushing off the mobile sea change.

Here are six mobile strategies every nonprofit marketer should know.

Mobile web development is a marketing issue.

Marketers tend to leave structural web design decisions up to IT teams and partners. We like to weigh-in on graphical elements but are often less interested in development specifics, such as whether our websites use HTML5. However, in today’s multi-screen world, where website visitors are as likely to come from smartphones and tablets as they are from desktop computers, how your website appears on mobile is a marketing concern.

Consider building a “responsive” or “adaptive” website. Responsive websites are device-agnostic. That means no matter which device a visitor uses to access your website, it will shrink or expand to accommodate the screen size. Adaptive design goes a step further by allowing marketers to customize content for each device. For instance, you may want to feature a full-screen campaign video on your desktop homepage, but opt for a fast-loading image for your smartphone site. As mobile adoption continues to explode, our websites must perform as well on mobile as they do on the desktop.

Email in the age of mobile

eConsultancy reports that 41 percent of email is now opened on a smartphone or tablet. Of those opens, 63 percent of recipients close or delete an email that’s not mobile optimized. Still, half of email marketers don’t design emails with mobile devices in mind. Simple fixes such as adopting a mobile-enhanced email template, using one-column layouts, including a plain-text version, and optimizing images for mobile go a long way to making campaign emails more effective on mobile.

Opt for the mobile web, not apps

The web—that is, the browser already built into your smartphone and tablet—comes fully equipped with search, email and social media. It all just works. Still, organizations continue to spend a lot of money building device-specific apps. In reality, most people only use a few apps, and those apps are most likely social media and game apps—Facebook, Instagram, and Angry Birds. Usability expert Jakob Neilsen says, “A few mobile apps do get frequent use, ranging from Facebook to the Weather Channel. But most businesses can't realistically aspire to enter this category.” In the end, it’s easier to build for the web, and it ensures that your website will work on every web-enabled gadget, no matter which operating system or device.

Analytics to the rescue

Is it really worth investing in a mobile website? Analytics data comes in handy for defining and refining your mobile strategy. By segmenting smartphone and tablet visitors and analyzing their behavior, you can evaluate whether mobile is critical for marketing success. Useful data to benchmark and analyze include:

  • Mobile visits as a percentage of traffic. If one-third of site visitors come from mobile, you are going to need a mobile-friendly website.
  • Conversion rates. Is there more petition page drop-off on mobile? If so, you may need to streamline petition forms for mobile.
  • Is mobile bounce rate really high? That can mean that your mobile website loads too slowly. Google found that 20 percent of people abandon web pages when the load time increases by half a second.

Writing for the small screen

If you accept that mobile is changing the marketing landscape, then you must also embrace the extra work that goes hand-in-hand with this new paradigm. The desktop version of your website still needs love and attention, but content will need to be reworked for each screen size. On smartphones, key messages and links need to appear at the top of the screen–this has never been more important. Writing must be sharp and concise. If you choose to go with a responsive website that displays one site on all devices (as opposed to creating different content for each target device), then consider a strategy where you develop content with small screens in mind first.

Mobile as a campaign or fundraising platform

There are nifty ways to use mobile that may seem dated but that really work. During the Thailand and Haiti relief efforts, charities raised millions of dollars via donations by text. While this fundraising method is still used (the NPR radio show This American Life just used text-donations for its annual fundraising campaign), it’s surprisingly uncommon.

In less than a year, more people will visit your website from a mobile device than from the desktop. Now is the time to put mobile marketing strategies in place to ensure that your organization’s website performance—number of petitions signed, online donations, volunteer inquiries—won’t suffer in the coming mobile milieu.

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COMMENTS

  • BY Thomas Cole

    ON May 22, 2013 02:14 PM

    Thank you, Julie. Had no idea the mobile market impact was growing this fast. Just finished updating my site to HTML5. Guess it’s time to review and & revise all for smartphones. As my group’s website is primarily educational, this shifting will play an increasingly prominent role. Make it easy and they will come! Thanks, again. (Big supporter and promoter of SSIR’s collective impact).

  • BY Linda Lou

    ON May 22, 2013 06:02 PM

    Thank you, Julie!  Great tips for writing for the small screen.  I shudder to think of what else I should know, but don’t!

  • I agree. Mobile searching will only become more and more popular as time goes on.

    But I had 1 problem, I had a hard time deciding who to use to create my mobile website. Some were way too expensive and others required a monthly fee, which I hate. I finally decided on software I got through http://bestmobilewebsitemaker.com and it worked out great. It was easy to use and quite affordable.

  • BY Mickey Mixon

    ON June 20, 2013 10:01 PM

    Mobile marketing is a way you can move information about your business right into the hands of your customers when they are using the mobile web.

  • BY Julie Szabo

    ON June 21, 2013 10:57 AM

    Glad you found the article helpful. Dana, sounds as though you discovered a solution that works for your website. As mobile becomes increasingly important, I’m confident development solutions will become easier and more affordable.

  • BY Ava Cristi

    ON August 19, 2013 10:47 PM

    Great article here Julie!Mobile marketing is a great new way to market that’s very effective.With the explosion in mobile usage and smartphone applications,the audience is huge on mobile platform.

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