It used to be that a website was like a brick wall.  You would visit the website for your school, or a charity, or a business, and you saw a bunch of information on the webpage that someone from that organization posted, and that was it.  You couldn’t get any further than the brick wall.  (Early on, some websites posted real email addresses and bios of people who you could interact with from the organization, but that is basically like installing peepholes in the brick wall.)

The smartest people who run websites today are tearing down the brick wall completely, and replacing it with glass rotating doors that you can see through and walk through.  How do you do that?

  • If you run a theater website and someone buys tickets for one of your shows, you shouldn’t just give them a dead receipt (i.e., a brick wall) you should give them a page that lets them write a short testimonial about how much they are looking forward to the show, and link them to a page where other fans have done the same thing.
  • If you run a nonprofit and someone registers to be a volunteer at your next event, let them also signup to recruit two additional volunteers, and don’t force them to do it without help.  Give them tools to send email, import contacts, connect to their Facebook and Twitter account, and let them trigger their own reminders well in advance of the event.
  • If someone makes a donation to your school or nonprofit, give them the opportunity to create a personal fundraising page (like the type that AlumniFidelity enables) that allows them to become a fundraiser, and not just a one-time donor. 
  • Rather than showing only official photography on your website, make sure that there is a method for submitting photographs that your fans take at events, or launch parties, or from old events that may have taken place years ago.  You should make it easy for anyone to subscribe (and also to unsubscribe) to receive updates when new photos and videos are posted.  

The point is, the next generation of Internet marketing for all organizations is this: when a fan/customer/donor stops engaging with you, it should be because they are satisfied that they have done everything that they want to do with you.  The worst thing you can do is to put up a brick wall that prevents an energetic fan of yours from doing more to carry your goals forward.

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Will Marlow is a digital strategist/online marketing consultant.  He co-founded AlumniFidelity, which provides a Web 2.0 fundraising platform to colleges, nonprofits and secondary schools.   He’s working with clients such as UVA, the College of William & Mary, the University of Oklahoma, and Bowling Green State University and he loves nothing better than a thorny marketing challenge.  He would love to help you market your business on the Internet, boost the fundraising numbers for your school or nonprofit, or sellout your next big event.  Email him at will@alumnifidelity.com.