ASU Lodestar Center Blog

Current nonprofit sector research and recommendations for effective day-to-day practice from ASU faculty, staff, students, and the nonprofit and philanthropic community.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012 - 10:54am
posted by
Sunny Popali,

SEO Director
 Tempo Creative

The word marketing is usually associated with profit generating tactics; however, inbound marketing is focused on organic growth. The goal is to attract people to your cause based on the relevance of the information you offer your specific target audience. Outbound marketing consists of reaching out en masse in hopes of generating leads.

As opposed to traditional outbound marketing, inbound marketing is like a puzzle – but not because it’s confusing. It’s a puzzle in the sense that it’s made up of many pieces. To truly succeed online, businesses need to have a comprehensive strategy inclusive of all the pieces, including:

  • Blogging 
  • Social media engagement 
  • Search engine optimization (SEO) 
  • Landing pages 
  • Email marketing 
  • Video marketing 
  • Strategic website design.

These inbound marketing tactics, when orchestrated in unison, can drive traffic and interested leads. But the “in unison” piece is the key to success.

With that said, the web allows for almost total traceability, which means most marketing tactics and campaigns are instantly measurable. This allows for easy replication of success and fast learning from mistakes.

Advantages of Inbound Marketing

There are a lot of advantages that inbound marketing offers over outbound marketing. In its 2012 State of Inbound Marketing report, Hubspot notes that with inbound leads, the cost per lead is 61% less than outbound leads. Even small businesses with smaller budgets see savings with the move to inbound marketing. The report also mentions that in 2012, small businesses plan to allocate a significant percentage of their budget (43%) towards inbound marketing ventures. Such an economical move would benefit nonprofit organizations and help focus their budget on their causes instead of their marketing strategies.

The content created for inbound marketing should appeal to the target audience and should also resonate well with the nonprofit’s mission, as they are trying to entice readers to action. Since it is very likely that the people who discover such cause would already have an initial interest in it, organizations can depend on their continued commitment, which is an investment by itself.

There's really no distinctive way that nonprofit organizations should use inbound marketing compared to for-profit businesses. The main difference is you are calling people to support a cause. Getting more people to take part in your cause entails a similar process as selling a product or service, but with a different focus.

Get Noticed with SEO and Social Media

First and foremost, before you can get people to commit to a cause, your cause needs to be noticed. Whether you're using a blog, engaged emails, websites, or social media, getting noticed and having relevant content has a strong interdependence. To be noticed amidst many related websites, your content should be search engine-optimized to have the most common yet specific keywords to your topic. For websites and blogs, simplicity and logical organization of your URLs will also facilitate easier exposure to search engines. Your content has to be interesting and unique for people to revisit or to be shared. In some cases, a picture can be used to evoke a strong emotion that will encourage people to help. However, the use of pictures should be done sparingly and only when needed, as web crawlers cannot read your keywords from images. Using your existing social networks adds exposure by giving people an idea of what you are about while inviting deeper participation.

Convert your Audience to Support Your Cause

Once you have captured your audience, a little push in the right direction is needed. Use powerful vocabulary to urge people to get active. Clearly state the value of getting involved. Instead of just submitting personal information on a landing page or through email, provide some details about your philanthropic efforts. Specify how or whom your supporters are helping, or what they are getting in return. The main objective is to give your readers a feeling of how they are making a difference. There is much more to it than just subscribing to a mailing list, or infrequently sharing posts.. When taking a methodical approach inclusive of all the inbound marketing pieces, you will successfully teach others how to invest in a life-changing experience.

Inbound marketing is a powerful tool no nonprofit should pass up. For organizations considering their website as an enabler of growth, the marketing efficiency behind these tactics are well documented. It is a more efficient and cost effective way of reaching interested, qualified people. The ROI from inbound marketing will far surpass ROI created by outbound marketing efforts.

Sunny Popali is the SEO Director at Tempo Creative, an Arizona inbound marketing firm that has served over 700 clients since 2001. Tempo's team specializes in digital and internet marketing services including web design, SEO, social media and strategy.

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Click here to read Carly Rowe's post, "Social Media Marketing for NPOs: Give Your Organization a Voice."


I think this topic is one of buzz regardless of a for profit or nonprofit setting. My question is, will companies find value enough in this type of marketing to make it a priority? I think often times this seems to be something that can be done quickly, or by anyone... Although I do feel the internet and social media world is easily accessible for all, I feel it takes strategic time and effort to gain the benefits from it. I think this in itself can create new jobs, and open up a new creative side to marketing and expansion within nonprofits. Will nonprofits jump on this train? I sure hope so, it seems vital in the world we are in today! Very interesting insight on this topic, thank you!

My question is, will companies find value enough in this type of marketing to make it a priority?

There is definitely a method behind the processes. In a non profit situation where budgets are limited and must be used effectively, the cost per lead is much lower at an average of 61% less. The end result is a stronger ROI. As of now, most businesses with inbound marketing experience are either maintaining their inbound marketing budgets or increasing them due to past successes. With the added growth of social media it just makes sense. Once they make the effort, non-profits will likely see the value in the numbers.

Main advantages of inbound marketing in SEO is its cost effectiveness because all inbound marketing efforts are carried out online, it means you can achieve quite a lot of them at a notably cheaper price than traditional marketing approaches.

I think that marketers, be they "for profit" or "not for profit" have the same goal, to generate interest and activity on behalf of their company or cause. Inbound Marketing is an effective way to generate a list of individuals that have signaled that they are interested in what you are promoting, supporting, or selling. But the challenge is when marketers make it sound far more complicated than it is, or than it has to be.

Inbound can also be considered Digital Direct Response Marketing, in that you are asking the viewer to respond in some fashion. As a Grand Rapids Inbound Marketing agency and consulting group, we consistently see clients that are intimidated by the terminology, thinking that because it sounds different, they won't be able to do it.

For non-profits, the concept of Inbound Marketing, when coupled with a well thought out and consistent lead nurturing (or donor nurturing) plan can yield significant results.

Sunny, you did a great job summarizing Inbound.

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