In the business world all decisions lead to the bottom line, return on investment (ROI), symbolized by a $ sign. While this is also true of non-profits since increasingly funding agencies require proof that their donors’ contributions are well spent, the $ sign is shared by other considerations of equal importance.
ROI can be classified as hard ROI, i.e. direct return on investment; and soft ROI which is a more indirect route. Since cause marketing and business marketing strategies alike need to demonstrate accountability, the soft ROI trail must lead to hard ROI. Both are equally important in accomplishing the objectives of the organization which are directly tied to the brand mission—the reason for being.
The Woman Food mission is to empower women to make wise nutritional choices for themselves and their children by providing them with nutritional knowledge, food preparation skills, breastfeeding information, and multigenerational peer support. Woman Food get-togethers blog posts are methods by which I hope to communicate this information, hone these skills and extend this support. But unless community members attend the get-togethers and read the information offered, in other words engage in the program, there is no tie to the mission. To get members to engage they must know about the program, be interested in it and trust in me enough to become engaged. This requires an integrated strategy of soft ROI marketing techniques leading to the hard ROI of attendance and learning. Monitoring and measurement of indicators along the way pave the trail with accountability.
Soft ROI indicators for Woman Food are potential leads to and content or visuals viewed about the program. Potential leads can be generated by LinkedIn connections to local professionals in complimentary fields or businesses. The more they know about the program the more likely they are to recommend it to their clients. Another way to generate leads is by page likes by other Facebook users or blog reposts, shares, tweets, etc. since that also amounts to a recommendation to their followers, friends, subscribers. These can be measured by number of visitors to my blog, number of connections on LinkedIn, mentions on Google Alerts, shares on Facebook (reach). Visuals or content viewed about the program can be measured by the number of comments, texts and emails seeking advice; clicks on links I have provided from other sites; virality of particular posts; and time spent on content pages.
Hard ROI indicators for my program are expressed by two questions. Did visitors to my site learn anything about nutrition, gardening or breastfeeding (my objectives)? Did this site convert visits into get-together or coaching registrations (activities) where community members have the opportunity to learn about these things? These can be measured by positive comments or likes on Facebook and my blog in response to specific posts or comments I have given in answer to visitor questions. They can also be measured by the number of registrants originating from a specific social media or digital tool.
All social media marketing roads must lead to accountability whether the less direct route of soft ROI is taken or the more direct route of hard ROI.
Susan Gigot-Klein is working toward a Master of Nutritional Science degree at UW-Stevens Point and is the creator and coordinator of Woman Food, a nutrition awareness program offered by the Wellness Center of Door County.