Targeting a new demographic is fraught with potential pitfalls—but it’s easier with data in the driver’s seat

A recent news article over at the ABC caught our eye. It details how Volunteering WA employed a marketing agency to “kickstart the sector’s makeover” and successfully attract new blood from a younger generation to replenish the state’s volunteering workforce, following the sector-wide depredations of the covid-19 pandemic.

As a proud and long-time supporter of the not-for-profit sector in Australia, rising youth volunteer rates is something we’re delighted to hear about!

It’s also an interesting look into how we can use data to drive marketing in practice.

It’s very likely that, at some point, we will all need to attract new parts of the market, or to optimise our marketing towards one defined group without alienating another—and, luckily, the principles Volunteering WA used in their campaign can be used by all kinds of organisations.

  • Starting with the data
  • Profiling and making personas
  • Market segmentation
  • Delivering the right message in the right way

Starting with the data

Only after collecting necessary information is it possible to make quality business decisions. Nothing is possible in marketing without data.

Collecting data about demographics you know to be outside your current customer base can be complex—unlike optimising your current marketing practices, you don’t have an existing repository of such information. In their case, Volunteering WA elected to use a market research company to find out more about the part of the WA population they wanted to address.

In other situations, it may benefit an organisation to consider whether powerful tools like data enrichment can unlock the latent potential of an existing database.

Customer profiling and personas

Volunteering WA developed a persona out of their research. This was a Generation Z volunteer avatar, defined by the data they accrued: someone who cares a lot about causes but wants to get something back out of their volunteering efforts, someone who finds traditional narratives around volunteering uncool and alienating, someone who uses Spotify and TikTok, and who is familiar with their local youth organisations.

Crafting personas gives you a tool to laser-focus your attention and resources on the motives, desires, habits and preferred channels specific to your target demographic. In this case, putting the data gathered to work empowered this organisation to evolve a strong understanding of their new generation of volunteers.

Market segmentation

Understanding the audience isn’t enough on its own. You also have to ensure that your messaging reaches your target segment—and, because what’s relevant to this group of people will not be relevant to another group of people, it’s important to guarantee that you don’t alienate your existing supporters while attracting new ones.

As it simplest, segmentation is the practice of splitting up the people you contact to ensure only the most relevant messaging reaches each. The social media and streaming channels in use by Volunteering WA are all channels which allow them to select specific demographics, locations, likes and psychographics of the people their campaign should reach to get the greatest impact.

Every channel, from billboards to direct mail and SMS campaigns, has a use-case, informed by the data used to drive your marketing. Using the right or wrong channel to access a demographic can make or break your campaign.

Delivering the right message in the right way

Finding the right channels through which to target a segment is only part of the solution: it’s still vital to get the messaging right. Your messaging is of paramount importance, and it depends entirely on what you know about your target market.

In the case of Volunteering WA, they found that one of the key preconceptions they had to combat was an existing perception of volunteering as a ‘pious and selfless’ activity—they needed to pivot on their messaging to make their new audience aware that volunteering is an activity that can also enrich volunteers.

Volunteering WA is not the only body switching up tactics in the not-for-profit sector during the pandemic. 2020-2021 marked the year of the pivot campaign for the sector, shining a light on the remarkable resilience of the community in Australia.

About the Author

Hanzel Nillo is DCA’s Partner and Customer Engagement Lead, working with fundraisers of all sizes to drive success through data. With over a decade of expertise, Hanzel’s holistic understanding of the industry landscape gives him a unique insight into the data-driven challenges fundraisers are facing and how to overcome them.

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