As a social service or nonprofit organization, the majority of your budget is spent where it should be, on your services and client-focused activities.
This probably holds true whether you’re a counselling agency, multi-service clinic, domestic violence shelter, disability support provider or criminal justice agency.
Marketing, however, is still on your priority list as it helps attract new clients to your agency and keeps your external stakeholders aware of the great work you’re doing.
So, massive budget discrepancies aside, why do some social service agencies look like their marketing department is run by Apple (i.e. super-slick) while others look like they’re waiting for the clock to turn over on January 1, 1997?
The answer is sometimes simply just being able to find and use the excellent free or low-cost tools that are out there.
Here’s a quick list of our top 5 marketing tools that your agency can use to display some of the great work you’re doing, and that won't break your budget.
1. Snappa - Graphic Design Tool
You don’t need an artistic eye for this tool to help you build some awesome graphic elements.
Whether it’s for your website, Twitter account, annual report, newsletter or Facebook page, Snappa is hands down the best graphic tool I’ve ever used.
And best of all, it’s free!
You can also upgrade to the Pro Version, which I highly recommend - this comes with 10,000+ photos and patterns, 3,000+ vectors & shapes, and 200+ fonts & typefaces. Take the title image for this blog for instance - that's Snappa at work.
Canva is another great graphic design tool, and they also have packages specifically for nonprofits. Find out more on the Canva website.
2. Sharp Eye Animation - Agency Videos
It’s often hard to summarize what your agency does to someone who has no prior knowledge.
Whether you’re broadcasting to others in your agency or to prospective clients, the stats are there to back up the rise of video marketing.
For example, a stunning 59 per cent of executives would rather watch a video than read an article.
We recently found Sharp Eye Animation based out Palo Alto, California, and they are fantastic to work with.
They create animated how-to and explainer videos for businesses and agencies.
Their pricing is very reasonable and their attention to detail and customer service is second to none. Here is a 90-second Penelope video that we collaborated with them on.
3. Blogs - Idea Generation
This one is not a shock, but one of the best ways to create eye-catching marketing assets for your agency is by following those who do it well.
Perhaps they’re an agency similar to yours, or maybe they’re a completely unrelated company that markets directly to consumers or businesses.
Either way, as long as you’re not plagiarizing, there’s nothing wrong with taking cues from other agencies who seem to be knocking it out of the park.
Marketing automation companies such as Hubspot will often have a wide variety of blog articles and suggestions that can help start your brainstorm on how to market yourselves better.
4. Wistia - Video Marketing
Wistia is a video marketing platform that can be used for hosting videos you’ve created.
From here, you can track statistics on who has watched that video and for how long, while incorporating calls-to-action throughout the video.
What types of videos you might ask?
Any video at all!
Whether it’s an animated agency overview that Sharp Eye made for you, or a client interview, Wistia becomes the player that embeds into your site, e-mails and any other external touch point that a client or stakeholder would interact with.
Beyond the practical benefits that Wistia offers, it’s also a great resource for agencies that want to bring video production in house.
They have instructional videos to show you how to build an in-house recording studio on a very affordable budget.
Learn more about how Athena Software has found success using Wistia in this case study.
There’s also a free version of Wistia that allows you to test the waters or you can upgrade your subscription as you grow your video capabilities at your agency.
As social and human services become more mobile in terms of how they interact with clients, having this capability will start to make more and more sense.
5. Stock Photos - Marketing Images
For those who aren’t familiar with stock images, there are many great sites out there that offer free professional photographs on a wide range of subjects that can serve as images for your website or newsletter.
We all know the cliché and overused images that appear with most agencies/businesses, but that’s the nice thing about a stock photo site.
There are literally thousands of images to choose from, so there’s bound to be a few that reflect the culture of your agency, without looking like every other organization out there.
Our favourite is a free photo site called Unsplash, but there’s many others that are just as good. Here's an example of one of their pics.
Using these five tools, you can definitely create a splash and improve the marketing efforts around your agency.
Or, if you're looking to create or boost your online presence, companies like First Site Guide can help you out with some free resources and tutorials.
Beyond this, our suggestion would be to keep things consistent across the different marketing media you use.
Little things like the font you use, the colours and types of images, should all reflect the culture your agency has and should be fairly consistent.
Creating a small branding guide for all your employees is also not a bad idea to help communications look like they’re coming from the same voice.