Marketing Strategies For Your Website


I have been given the task to increase the viewership and participation in (a website dedicated to achieving greater equity in the Southeast Florida region through promoting and enabling affordable housing, transit-oriented development, stronger neighborhoods, and equal access to education and health).

I believe in the cause and I think demand for the website is out there. However, I did not know how to best get the word out. At first I spent approximately 60 hours identifying 1800 possible organizations and local activists who would possibly be interested in the purpose of the site. I then went ahead and emailed and snail mailed invitations to the website with very little response. I believe that of the 1800 pieces of mailings I received 2 phone calls and 7 emails. So that tactic did not get the results I was hoping for.

Next, I decided to create an e-newsletter through Constant Contact. The Collins Center already has an account with them so there is no additional cost to the website. Otherwise, It would cost over $300 a year to run the newsletter. However, I can not use my current email list to send out newsletters because if a certain percentage unsubscribe from the newsletter the account will be cancelled, thereby ruining the service for the whole organization (Constant Contact has a strict NO-SPAM policy). So that tactic could possibly produce the desired results, but it could also get me in some hot water with the Collins Center if the service gets cancelled.

After I spent some time reviewing my ineffective attempts, it became clear that the website needs an informed and focused marketing plan. I scheduled a "Marketing for Nonprofits" seminar this week that the Collins Center was gracious enough to pay for, but one seminar can only do so much. The website is in serious need of tried-and-true marketing strategies that work, and I plain have no expertise in marketing.

Therefore my plan is to a) gain knowledge of basic marketing principles; b) identify best practices for marketing websites; and c) choose one or a combination of best practices to implement.

If anyone else has the assignment of increasing participation in a website or project and would like to share your experience let me know! I think working on similar projects and having others share their input really helps, and it makes the whole process more enjoyable.

Comment from Rebecca White on March 19, 2007 - 4:01pm

The only way to "sell" a website is on its content. I think that one of the most effective ways to get people using a website is to use it to answer their questions. I don't know what sort of org you work at or how much networking you do (by email, in person, at conferences, at community tech trainings), but if you know the content of the website, you can bring up ideas from it in conversations and add, "I'll email you a link." if they're interested. If people pass bits and pieces of a website on to their coworkers or people they work with, it's not only "selling" the website, it's people actually making use of the content (which is [hopefully] the real point behind getting the word out).

If you're trying to spread the word about a website, "inreach" can be as important as outreach... do people in your organization use the website? If people within the organization are reading the website and casually passing links on to colleagues (the way links show up here on this blog and in our wiki, though most people would do that via email), or if they are using articles to introduce outsiders to their work, it shows a real ownership of the content. People will be much more willing to check out a website that is directly related to something specific that they're doing/thinking about/talking about. And if people within your organization aren't sold on the site... how are outsiders supposed to be sold on it? uh, what I mean by that is, find the good parts and pass them on.

Maybe that's too much person-to-person interaction/work... but content and people are the most important things, and have to be in it somewhere. HTH.

Comment from Kevin Bulger on March 19, 2007 - 4:45pm

Those are some good thoughts!  I suppose why this has been so challenging is because I have no real experience in urban planning (the content of the website) and in marketing.

I guess what I should do is focus on getting the word out while at the same time collect useful information, put it on the website, and educate myself on the issues at hand. That way I could actually conduct a conversation about it when out in public, which would reinforce the marketing of the site overall.

 Its coming together slowly but surely.

Comment from Mike Moore on March 20, 2007 - 1:23pm

Perhaps prominent local media - TV, Radio, Newspaper

Almost everyone likes a good human interest story.

Your NP is certainly a good fit.

That would also be high profile.

Use low / no cost outlets.

- if you haven't already, consider adding your
web page link to your email signature and having
co-workers add it to theirs

- Register with and add that to
your signature. (As an alternative to my previous
suggestion). Not only publicity but fundraising
as well.

- Indirect visibility - Flickr, Yahoo Answers, Yahoo,
or Google Groups (on relevant topics / subjects)
Find (or start) relevant groups, post relevant pictures

- Post info at local public locations - Post Offices,
Libraries, Churches, etc.

- Sponsorships, get others to advertise, advocate your
cause - force multipliers - local events

- Get a silly suit, stand on a busy corner with a sign
and broadcast your website to rush hour traffic

- Get kids to volunteer, they've got time and energy
and maybe some good ideas

- Give people a daily, weekly, monthly (periodic) reason
to come back to your website - it's all about content

- What are other local, regional, national orgs doing
to promote their websites - what ideas can you cost
effectively (legally) copy?

Just a few off the top of my head...

Good luck.

Comment from Colleen Kelly on March 21, 2007 - 12:07pm

Hi Mike - I really like your ideas here.

You should add them to the VISTA wiki!

Comment from Mike Moore on March 21, 2007 - 3:00pm


Comment from Mike Moore on March 21, 2007 - 3:04pm

Under Priority Areas / Across Areas

Across Areas

Comment from Mike Moore on March 21, 2007 - 4:01pm

Posted to the Wiki as well.

This for those who might look here first:

Here's a relevant reference:

"Nonprofit Internet Strategies - Best Practices for Marketing, Communications and Fundraising"

It's available in print as well as an e-book, and you might be able to get it
from your local library.

Here's a link that might help you find it:

OCLC WorldCat - Find in a Library Search

Comment from Kevin Bulger on March 21, 2007 - 4:25pm

Youve made some pretty good suggestions! The conference I was at yesterday made some of the very same points that youve made. There will have to be another blog topic on social networking using web 2.0 methods.

Comment from lauren bratslavsky on March 23, 2007 - 9:38am

hi kevin -

seems like you've got a lot of good advice. I was on the other day (great technology resource for nonprofits... you may already know). Here's an article about marketing your website, though it's just repeating what's already been said. But anyways, here it is:

Also, people may not know the resources you offer. Maybe try a targeted marketing campaign (that's a marketing class term). Contact the affordable housing orgs and let them know what's available. And do the same with the other "targets" or "niches"

Last year I worked at an affordable housing org too. People just didn't know that there was usable info and stats and help and all that available. I'd also suggest to try and get write ups about the site in other organization's newsletters. It may be small fries, but it's a spreading the word campaign.