Increasing Awareness (and Research Money) to Decrease Cancer: Ben Kaplan on Marketing Smarts [Podcast]

Marketers at any organization strive toward many of the same goals: Improve user experience, go where your audience is, increase revenue.

Ben Kaplan of the American Cancer Society works to create an engaging mobile experience and enable frictionless fundraising via smartphone, with one overarching goal: to fight cancer.

When Ben joined the organization as senior director of mobile strategy and product in early 2016, he brought his extensive experience in B2B and mobile marketing to the nonprofit arena—with stellar results.

I invited Ben to Marketing Smarts to discuss how he and his team streamlined three third-party vendor apps into a single proprietary mobile app for the American Cancer Society, how he got buy-in to undertake an ambitious mobile marketing strategy, and how he achieved incredible results (including an 80% increase in mobile app revenue for 2016).

Here are just a few highlights from my conversation with Ben:


Improving mobile customer experience pays off (literally, as in ACS increased mobile app revenue 80%) (06:11): “Because we’ve made the customer experience our focal point, we’ve been able to drive tremendous engagement from the app, whereas before there was no real mobile app strategy for how to get people to use it, how to make people aware of it. But once people have downloaded it, the experience is so easy that people are using it as their go-to fundraising tool.p>

“It’s not the only tool we offer. We have a great website experience where you can do similar things, but because today’s customers are always mobile, this seems to be the de facto tool that they’re using. We’re getting amazing results across the board…. Our time-in-app was up 250% [and] revenue increased 80% year over year, from 2015 to 2016.

Make it easy for people to convert using their preferred payment method (07:18): “We gave people tools to do things they never had before. We gave dramatically improved their ability to scan checks…. We probably take more checks than any other form of payment. I think traditionally when people give to a nonprofit they [write a check], so we made it a point to make sure that we had an amazing check scanning technology.”

Even at a 100-year-old organization, people will embrace change if you can demonstrate what’s in it for them (08:32): “These events that we support, Relay for Life and Making Strides, they’re community-based events. The people that run them are extremely passionate…and the society’s over a hundred years old. We’ve been doing things a certain way for a certain amount of time and it’s kind of become the status quo. One of the things that we’ve been able to do with mobile is show that we can improve processes that have been in place for long periods of time and make it easier for volunteers and staff to do the things they’ve always done.

“One of those things is processing checks. We normally would have had to send those checks into our finance center and manually scan them, and we had to pay for scanners, and things like that. But because of [mobile] technology, we don’t need to do that anymore. The field is able to do more engagement with the community instead of focusing on the simple task of processing a check…. It’s definitely been a great tool for us to not only increase revenue but drive that operational efficiency that is also critical because it lowers our cost.”

To learn more,visit cancer.org. If you or a loved one needs information on cancer, you can also call 1 (800) 227-2345. Follow the American Cancer Society on Twitter at @AmericanCancer and Like them on Facebook, too.

Ben and I talked about much more, including live video as a channel for nonprofit marketing and the opportunities that augmented reality presents, so be sure to listen to the entire show, which you can do above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode!


Intro/Outro music credit: Noam Weinstein.

This marketing podcast was created and published by MarketingProfs.

Kerry O’Shea Gorgone is senior program manager, enterprise learning, at MarketingProfs. She’s also a speaker, writer, attorney, and educator. She hosts and produces the weekly Marketing Smarts podcast. To contact Kerry about being a guest on Marketing Smarts, send her an email, or you can find her on Twitter (@KerryGorgone) and on her personal blog.

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