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Conquering Budget Challenges: Nonprofit Marketing Strategies that Work

In Conversation with Paul Feith

For this episode of E-coffee with Experts, Ranmay Rath interviewed Paul Feith, President of Paul Gregory Media, a full-service digital marketing agency, focusing on nonprofit and mission-based organizations. Paul emphasizes the importance of purpose-driven branding and shares insights on effective strategies for mission-oriented organizations. He highlights the significance of storytelling in conveying a brand’s mission and values, the value of collaboration and partnerships, the role of innovation in staying relevant, and the importance of measuring impact and success.
Watch the episode now for some profound insights!

Strategic partnerships enable mission-based businesses to extend their reach and influence.

Paul Feith
President of Paul Gregory Media

Hey. Hi everyone. This is Ranmay here on your show E-Coffee with Experts. Today we have Paul from Paul Gregory Media, a digital marketing agency, serving mission-based and non-profit organizations. Welcome Paul.

Thank you. Thank you, Ranmay. Thank you for having me.

Great. It is our pleasure. Paul, before we move forward and speak about SEO and digital marketing at large, I request you to introduce yourself, and our audiences tonight, and help us understand how has been your journey so far, and what Paul Gregory Media is all about.

Oh, me. We are an overnight success, 17 years in the making. Like many, we struggle with the day-to-day operations and that’s a good thing, right?Because business is never easy. But yeah, we’re 17 years old this week and we have a certain niche about us in that. We’re devoted to non-profit organizations and mission-based organizations. It’s where our passion lies. It helps if you’re gonna be sitting in front of a screen for 95% of your time, it makes it that much better when you can feel good at the end of the day that you’re helping underserved populations.

We’re like the man behind the green curtain which, we are helping those that help others. It’s part of our mantra here. Help those that help others. Or to put it in maybe even a simpler way, we help people who help people. Yeah. And we love having that part of our workday.

The employees that we have, the team that we have working for us, have sought us out because of our ties to the community and the fact that we’re very philanthropic. We give money a certain percentage of our income, and we give a certain percentage of our time. And we’re just good corporate stewards and good community stewards.

So not only do our employees find us because of that, but our clients find us because of that. And We’re just, I think we feel very blessed to be part of that ecosystem in our communities, in our counties, in our state to just be able to give back and become part of something very much larger than ourselves. Always a good feeling when you have that working for you.

It is indeed. And talk us through the process of, finding such people with that alignment towards the vision of your organization or what you think of, hiring the right set of people who can think in the same way and service the client that you want them to. So how difficult or easy is it to find the people with the right mindset or, align towards that vision that you have?

Yeah it could be difficult if you’re not transparent. So we’re very transparent through our channels. So those channels, our biggest digital assets, our website. So we’re very transparent on our website, on what our community involvement looks like and what kind of people we are. We’re very transparent on our social media channels, so those are probably two of the biggest.

And if you look at any of our videos on our YouTube channel, which are also linked on our website, so you can find it all in one place, you’ll know what kind of people, we are what drives us. And anybody who looks at that spends 30 seconds looking at that will say, huh, this is a unique or a different kind of organization. Not that different. Other companies in the world are very philanthropic and very Community-Driven. But as long as we’re transparent, first of all, we’re setting the stage.This is the kind of company where we are. If you’re not volunteer-driven, if you’re not community-driven, if you’re not giving back to your community and prioritize volunteering or just giving back, or having an innate desire to help those that are needier than you or less fortunate or under served population. If you don’t have that innate desire, then you’re probably not gonna be very successful here.

Yeah, we do marketing and yeah, we go through the standard services, right? SEO, social media. We build websites, we do photography, we do videography, and, but we all do it for bringing stories to life in our community, telling the story about a homeless person who was allowed to build themselves a new home through Habitat for Humanity or somebody who needed resources through a 211 campaign through United Way, or a senior citizen who has very low-income living on social security, who can’t afford housing more than let’s say $350 a month, and an organization can give that to him and live with dignity, right? These are all stories that we want to bring to the forefront and then let other people know about them and further those missions making that transparent helps us find employees that are just drawn to us like a magnet. And as long as they have the soft skills, everything else is trainable, I think.

Superb. You have this passion for working with mission-based clients. You have a lot of experience in doing that, right? What do you think are the most important qualities for a business, to have to make a positive social impact?

What are the most important qualities? Empathy, I think, has to be at the core, right? You can have all the empathy you want. That doesn’t mean you’re gonna be successful. You certainly will make a difference in the world, but when you combine empathy with business, you need a plan.

And we’re very active because, we started this business as an island to ourselves and we heard crickets like anybody would, right? You need to be involved in the community, and if that’s your mission, then you need to practice that in the business community.

So we’re very strong supporters of the Chamber of Commerce and Rotary and the Exchange Club and other professional organizations because that’s where we grew up. It’s where we learned standard business practices and taught standard business practices as we became experts. So yeah, empathy at its core.

And then having a business plan that is backed by People that are smarter than you, quite frankly, and the ability to fund it, right? So we balance people and the environment with profit. But you need to have that profit there, you need to have that funding there. And I say this to all of our non-profit clients too.

What’s your number one goal? And I don’t care if you’re a 501 C three or a 501 C seven, as a professional organization, if your number one goal isn’t fundraising, you’re not gonna go very far. And we of course have to, any business should practice that as well. You need funding to do anything right, to get along.

Volunteerism will take you so far and that’s great and you need to do that as well. That’s putting your money where your mouth is, but putting your efforts where your mouth is. He knows that old avid of time, treasure, and talents and so the time would be the volunteerism. The treasurer would be the money that supports it and funds it. And the talents would be having great people that know, have great skills, and have expertise in certain areas with those three, especially in a business setting with a plan and then having that transparency to attract that talent. I think that’s a winning formula for any business mission-based or not.

Absolutely. Very well said. You mixed the best of both sides and there, so there must be unique challenges Paul, about working with mission-based organizations. So how do you tailor your approach to best serve these types of clients?

I think challenges are there working in any type of industry. Non-profits span multiple industries. Most of them are in professional service but others are in products as well. I think the biggest challenge we run into might be budgets. And we’ve gotten pretty clever at working around that.

You have to be flexible, right? Because, in certain instances, they may not know what a new website would cost or what social media costs if done well and done right. And we’ll have those conversations with them upfront and say here’s the range of what they would cost, depending on like how much of an impact do you want to make? But Ranmay, I have to tell you, and you know this and we don’t visit the digital world anymore. We live in a digital world. So we know the analytics before we spend a dime, right? We can tell them how many impressions they’re gonna get, how many visitors they’re gonna get, what the engagement’s gonna be based on a certain budget.

So I love having those conversations that say, Hey, here’s what it’ll cost over, say a given year. And if you don’t have that budget, we can get started now because you have an event coming up or whatever that you need to promote. And we can push back the finances until the next fiscal year or until your grant gets renewed or your grant gets accepted or whatever.

So you have to provide, or at least we have to provide flexibility. Yeah. Financial flexibility to get certain jobs. And in many cases we play the long game, right? Or okay, you can’t afford it this year. You might be able to afford it next year. You’re applying for grants. Here’s how to do that or here’s the budget that it’ll cost. Here’s what you need to apply for. And then, More oftentimes than not, we end up getting the project a year or two years later because of that advice. And of course, as a non-profit, they have to bid it out to three organizations, but we’re very competitively priced.

We have a proven track record. We end up having that as an advantage in our particular organization. So challenge to make it short and simple is just probably budgets would be the biggest one. The other one, just a real quick, a lot of non-profits are run by boards and whenever you have decisions made by the committee and you got a lot of different opinions, you need somebody strong to harness those opinions and get them to rally around a central idea that’s very difficult. It takes years, maybe even decades of experience.

We’ve gotten quite adept at that. So talking to any non-profit organization, if it’s run by a committee sometimes they don’t have an executive director. And it’s a working board. Those are very challenging circumstances, but one that I embrace because I’ve been in those positions, I’ve been on working boards before, and I know how to wrangle ’em and get them all to rally around a central idea. Okay.

That’s great. And, talking about why you mentioned, fundraising is so important at all times to run the show.

Talking more about mission-based organizations what advice do you have for mission-based organizations that, want to use digital marketing or SEO to raise awareness about their causes and engage with their, target audiences?

Yeah, I’ve never met an executive director that didn’t have 40 balls juggling in the air. I have the utmost respect for that title and that responsibility because they are steering a very large ship that’s very difficult to do. And it’s being built as they’re sailing, let’s say. So it’s very difficult, so my advice to non-profits and mission-based organizations is, Let a piece of it go. There’s a certain trust involved in that, right?

But if you can let a piece of it go, it is the battle cry of outsourcing.

We outsource our legal because we don’t have the expertise for that. We outsource our accounting because we don’t have the expertise for that. We outsource other things. Why not outsource some of your marketing? You might have some marketing production resources in-house, but you don’t have a strategy, you don’t have like social media is a big one, right? To have one person do social media for an organization. If they’re not working full-time, they’re not doing it right. They’re not doing it effectively. They’re not looking at the right KPIs because they’re just not trained, right?

It takes a lot of time. And then what? One person is both a designer, an animator, a good copywriter, and a good content strategist, that’s a unicorn, right? And if you find that great, but when you outsource that and you have a team of people working to those ends and propelling your organization, getting butts in seats at your next event, or getting tickets sold, or raffles sold, or increasing your list of beneficiaries or bringing on new volunteers or deepening your board venture. The list goes on and on, but you could let go of some of that. And that’s my biggest advice to these non-profits is to let go because one month with an agency that could help you with some of this, whether it’s SEO and getting found, cuz that’s the biggest thing, right? Awareness. Just get found when people are searching for you. If they’re not doing that, having the best website in the world isn’t doing you much good except for preaching to the choir that you already have. Let go and build that trust with whatever marketing vendor you choose. And again, you’ll know just like any other, whether you’re high outsourced, legal or outsourced, in a few months, whether it’s gonna work out or not.

And yeah, marketing, especially in the digital world, you have those analytics before you even spend that first penny. You know what the impressions, what the conversions are gonna be. And marketing companies wanna live up to that. They want to crush it and exceed those goals. And they typically do every time. Yeah, it’s definitely since the pandemic that’s one thing where I always say people don’t visit the digital world anymore. They live there. And that’s a good thing for us marketers because now we have more data.

And in fact, it gives you a lot about your competition these days as well, in terms of what other businesses in the same niche are doing you have to be on top of things in terms of getting that extra advantage versus your competition and being on the forefront of your target audiences, like you mentioned.

Yeah. Let me give you an example. One of the things we do with social media is we look at, we let them pick three or four companies, we don’t call ’em competitors in the non-profit space, but we say, give us three or four organizations that you want to be like, yeah, and let, we could look at their social media stats. We could look at their growth and their engagement per post on average. We could look at their engagement overall for the month, and then we compare ourselves to them, and the date is just right out there for everybody to see and to say, here’s what we did.

Here’s what these other organizations that you aspire to be, here’s what they did. And when we crush it, that’s a really big win for us. And when we’re like, A little down from maybe they’re having a great month wow, they killed it because they highlighted their employees during an extracurricular event.

Let’s do that next month and beat them at their game kind of thing. So it’s a little friendly competition. But with data, now we know what everybody else is doing because the data are out there. We know what people are doing on an SEO because, this is, it’s not that much of a secret, but there are companies like SpyFu and other things that are out there that let us see what people are paying for paid ad campaigns. And the same thing to social media. We know what engagement and awareness and posting behavior is like and any company we want, if you choose the right vendors to work with.

So you know about your clients how do you work with yours to create messaging and strategy that, aligns with their mission and values?

In this particular industry, there might be very rigid about what they think of, a certain subject or a certain, topic. So how do you find ways to align and create a messaging, which is aligned to their mission and values?

Yeah. That goes to one of our other edicts in that, they don’t join us when they outsource with a marketing firm, we join them and one of the ways we do that is from a strategic standpoint and messaging platform standpoint, we can’t just take the point person’s word for it, right? They probably know the business better than anybody.

This would be the executive director or a board member. They probably do, but that doesn’t mean they know everything. And they would probably be the first ones to admit, hey, if we need to survey other board members or other stakeholders, like people in the community who are valued sponsors or donors why are they donating to the organization? Why are they sponsoring you for the year? What do they feel about the organization? What you’re doing? What is their message or what do they think your message is, right? You homogenize all that, right? They’re members, they’re donors, they’re sponsors, they’re board members, their staff.

Get that all into one document and then craft, using a brand strategist, craft their messaging and their mission and their vision, which may be the same or maybe slightly different or maybe way different than what they thought.

We’ve had a couple of occasions around me the way. They were just upset about what people thought and what other board members felt the organization’s message should be. And we had to craft a new platform or architecture from that. But most of the time what we found is that while everybody might have different ideas about what that messaging is, and that alignment is.

Because of that there, there is a difference between what a board member thinks and what, a sponsor thinks. Once we get all that messaging condensed and distilled into one document. You’d be surprised how all these people now, all these different constituents come together and rally around that central document and say, yes I hear my voice in that and there is no greater feeling than seeing that to a point where we had one company that was a merger from three different companies, so they were very hard set on this is our messaging, this is what we’ve always done and called us names. By the way, as we started going through the survey questions, this is crap.

This is, this has nothing to do with, the sort this is fluff. But by the end of it, this hug fest saying, I hear my voice in this, and I love where that we have a central messaging platform that we can go forward now and use in our pitch decks and use in our sponsor programs, and use in our deliverables.

There is no greater feeling than getting everybody on the same page because mish companies propel so much quicker. And go so much further when that happens and I can look, I can just imagine in the back of my head some of the companies we’ve helped say 10 and eight years ago, how much further into the millions of dollars of revenue that can help so many people in their community that otherwise wouldn’t have happened.

Alignment’s very important.

Everyone has their vision of, looking at understanding and intepreting things. So yeah, you do come across, when you go through your set of questionnaires in terms of what is your vision, what are your mission, what is the value system that you’re looking at? So can completely relate to it. And any tips, Paul, on how to differentiate a brand from its competitors, and, what are some strategies for developing a unique brand identity that stands out in a crowded marketplace? As you mentioned, you might have organizations who are, having probably the same or, a relatable mission and vision statements or catering to the same segment, but how do you stand out from your competition if that is the case?

Yeah, The old-fashioned term for that is unique selling proposition, right? What’s your USP or what’s your niche? You gotta niche down and be different than everybody else. And that’s so true and so many companies are afraid to do that because they’d rather cast a wide net and get the funding from multiple sources and help multiple beneficiaries attract multiple different board members from a diverse group. When niching down is scary at first, and it does limit revenue maybe, or at least perceived they limit revenue.

But my gosh, you talk to any marketing person or talk to any business that’s already differentiated themselves, and they’ll tell you, why didn’t I do this when I started? Or why didn’t i do this years ago? Many businesses start with that concept, right? The disruptors, right? They invent a whole new category of business for themselves and become the masters of differentiators. And yes your question is how do we do that? And that is part of our brand strategy service, and it’s part of any marketing company’s brand strategy service taking everything that they do, which is, I call the what, and then figuring out the why do they do it.

And getting to the root of why are they even bothering if they disappeared, would it matter? Do companies ask themselves that? Very good question. And if the answer is nah, it wouldn’t matter that much. Some people would miss us for a couple of days, but that’s a red flag, right? Yeah.

So there’s gotta be that unique selling proposition and it’s up to, the marketer to work with that organization to say, okay, what is that? What is your why? And what is something that we can do that says you’re doing it this way that nobody else has thought of? There’s also the premise.

It doesn’t always have to be something new. There’s also the premise of being second. Writing on the coattails. A perfect example of that is, McDonald’s, which was, one of the many fast-food restaurant chains and franchises that opened up. But it was so easy for Wendy’s to just hop on that bandwagon and be number two, they didn’t have to put as much into marketing, right? They didn’t have to explain the franchise fast food concept that was already done. They just had to explain that they had square burgers. And they were fresh as opposed to stored, they were made to order as a matter of fact. That was there, they just had an advertiser differentiator.

They didn’t have to advertise it, that Hey, there’s this new concept, you just walk up and order and take your food, that was already done. So there’s nothing wrong with being second as long as you are in a lane and a differentiated market. But we have a brand strategist that takes a very special skill and a very, I would even say, a very special talent to, uncover what those niches are and what those unique selling propositions are, and define the why that is that they’re doing.

And present it in a manner so that, the audiences relate to one brand in a particular way versus what they’re doing with other brands.

Oh yeah.

Yeah. Once it’s defined, then you go into brand activation. And that to me is more academic where it’s like, Hey, the hard part’s done. We already know what we have to do. We’ve got the messaging, we got the platform, and we got our different personas lined up. Now we just have to produce, right? So now we just gotta flood social media. We gotta flood our YouTube channel, we gotta make sure it’s on our website. We gotta come out with some press releases. We gotta get the message out to the community. So don’t ignore grassroots movements too, right? Because you can empower volunteers to speak that same language and where wherever they go, whether they join their Chambers of Commerce or Rotaries, they’re asked, Hey, what organization are you volunteering for? Again, they’ve got the same message that they’re hearing everywhere else, which is that unique selling proposition, that unique value proposition, whatever you wanna call it these days. But as long as everybody’s talking from the same book. Yeah, for sure.

Absolutely. Talking about your SEO audit process Paul, what are the key factors that you look at when you are doing a fresh SEO audit for any new client that you’ve onboarded or, you’re preparing for a pitch?

So what are some of the important key points which you look at before doing that as you audit?

Yeah, that’s an easy layout for a marketing company, Ranmay Although not everybody understands the value of it. Not every client understands the value of it at first, because it’s still a mystery out there.

It’s a black box. Yeah. Sometimes they don’t even understand that their website is their largest, most important digital asset. And it is. That’s the center of their universe in the digital world. And so everything that points to that, Social media pointing to that. Let’s tease a blog article or a promotion of an event, but it all leads back to registration or some page on their website.

YouTube video is the same thing. If you wanna find out more or check out our playlist. Same thing with guest blog posts or a press release that ends up on the PR news wire or whatever.
It all comes back to their website, which gives people more information, should they wanna. So if that’s the case and the website is your largest digital asset, We’re gonna assume that’s in pretty decent shape and it looks great and it’s interactive. Then have clients looked at it, is it showing up when people are searching for it, right? If somebody’s searching for the particular assistance that company provides, let’s, and we’re talking about non-profits here or that particular benefit.

Are they being found and are they being found in the top three or four positions? And that’s really what SEO does, it’s search engine optimization. And marketing companies are well-versed in making sure that you are found at the top three or four keywords. That’s the holy grail, right?

Making sure that for a specific keyword that you know, people are searching for. And by the way, you know this Ranmay, we don’t have to guess, right? We don’t have to guess what people are searching for. There are tools out there from Google and other vendors that say, no, here’s what people if people are searching for low-income housing, here are the other 20 terms that they’re also searching for.

Right? And here’s the search volume every month. And then Here’s a level of competitive value, like competition for other keywords maybe. Yeah, exactly. So the holy grail of that is, and you know this, find the ones that have the highest search engine volume per month with the lowest competitors, right?

Because that’s the easier low-hanging fruit to get make sure that you’re found. And there are two ways to do that, right? There’s optimizing the pages on your website. To make sure that they’re optimized for those keywords. And then there’s off-page optimization. How many links are you getting back to your website from third-party credible sources in Google’s eyes?

And so that’s in a nutshell what SEO does. And it’s usually when we explain to our clients who are a little unfamiliar with the fact that their website is their largest digital asset, and they probably spent a lot of money on it too. That it works, it opts, and it performs its best when it’s generating leads and it’s benefiting people that are searching for their terms, for whatever benefits that they’re offering. Yeah, absolutely.

One last question. Paul, I cannot leave you without this one. Today’s generation, we’ve all been talking about AI, chatbots, and machine learning.

What is your take on that piece, now Google launching Bard to compete against chat, GPT what do you think about all of this?

Oh my this one might get me in trouble. I was the one that said when flip phones were really big by Motorola, I was the one that said when you were trying to play those Java games, back in the nineties, and I said, The phone will never be a game, a gaming platform.

And now the phone app is the seldom, most seldom used app on the phone, and gaming’s just the biggest. So I was way off on that one. But then in my defense, we’re not playing games on a flip phone using Java. So there’s that. So my take on chat, G P T I’ve read a lot about it. And I’m fascinated by the technology, but I’m not sold on it yet.

And I’m not sold on it yet because I don’t think at this point, and this may change even six months from now, but I think the latest iteration, something like 4.0 this point in time, we spent a lot of time training and hiring people that are very good at writing strategic content.

And so when it comes to social media or blog posts or whatever, they might use chat GPT for coming up with topic ideas. But when it comes down to actually writing and connecting with the reader, and that’s the most important thing is connecting with the reader, by telling a story. How is that story told?

Is there an art? Is there You’re not telling multiple stories, you’re not being general or vague. You’re telling a story of a particular person who went through this thing and here’s how we can help. From a non-profit standpoint, that takes a lot of finesse and it’s something that we pride ourselves on in terms of, and pride’s the wrong word, but it’s something that we strive very hard for so that we can not only be successful for the client on their behalf, but also what’s the end game? It’s attracting a volunteer, it’s attracting a donor, it’s attracting a sponsor, or it’s getting that beneficiary to the service that he or she needs. So if it accomplishes that, then we’ve done our job now when chat GPT or the services that run that engine can do that for us.

And it does it to the level that we. I think an actual writer can do it. I just haven’t seen evidence of that yet. I’ve seen some great writing. Yeah. Technical writing, but I haven’t seen, I. I haven’t seen the emotive tissue that connects the reader with the writer. I haven’t seen that yet in chat GPT.

So more to come on that, I’m sure. I would love to be proven wrong on that because I am a technology buff, believe me. I embrace technology. I’m a new adopter. I always have been. So it would be nice to see things come from a writing standpoint, for sure. It’d be nice to see. I don’t wanna say shortcuts, but I wanna say, use it as a tool.

But right now I just haven’t seen, yeah, I just haven’t seen much evidence in that regard. But have been impressed, by what AI can do. I have been impressed by what I’ve seen. Just nothing that we could use just yet other than maybe some title generation. Great.

Quite an observation, I must say.

Superb Paul, and before we let you go, we have to play rapid fire with you, which we might not have informed you earlier so you did not prep up for that.

no one told me where’s my people.

That was intentional.

Okay. Yeah. Game for it. Sure. I have no idea what that means, but yeah, I’m game

Okay. So I’ll have to, I’ll ask you if you do. Five questions. Yeah. And you have to answer without even thinking about it.

Okay. All right. Let’s give it a shot.

So what did you do with your first paycheck, Paul?

It was probably not a paycheck, it was probably cash and I barely had a dba, so I probably just, put it in my pocket and bought lunch with it the next day.

Okay.

And plans for your next vacation?

Oh, I already know that going to St. Lucia this December with some family I haven’t seen in quite some time. So looking forward to that. Superb.

And 17 short and quick years at Paul Gregory Media. What has been your highest point?

Last year was our highest point in terms of revenue.

It was our best year ever. And we had the opportunity because of that to hire some extremely talented staff that I’m very proud to call part of our team. So yeah, that’d probably be the highlight.

Okay, superb. Where do we find you on Friday evenings post office?

You can find me probably at a sports bar having dinner with my wife. We have a robust four-day workweek, so we don’t work on Fridays. So Fridays I’m pretty chill already, and then when my wife is done working, we end up having dinner at a sports bar.

Oh, okay. That’s superb. You’ve invited a lot of job applications that way.

Yeah.

Superb. Paul. And it was lovely having you.

It was really, a fun-filled knowledge form that you dropped at us in terms of, working with. Mission-based organizations, I’m sure our audiences would’ve benefited a lot from this. And if they want to reach out to you, how do they do that?

You could go to our website, Paul, at Paul Gregory me.com.

From there you can send us a note. You could email me, you can call me. They must I’ll go to me and I’ll be happy to respond. I do respond to all requests and questions, so yeah. Superb.

So thank you, Paul. Thank you for taking out time for this podcast. Appreciate that. Thank you so much.

It’s been my pleasure. Thank you for having me on your podcast. Thanks for me. Yes.

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