Whether you are a for-profit or a nonprofit business, marketing is vital to the sustainability and growth of your organization. Marketing is a buzz word that people like to throw around but many do not understand what it is. Let’s keep our definition simple – Marketing is everything you do on behalf of and say about your organization to result in a sale.
In the nonprofit sector this would translate to: Marketing is everything you do or say about your organization to result in donations, funding, community support, and revenues for the development, sustainability, and growth of your organization. The key words in this definition of Marketing are “everything you do or say….” Another important word to understand is Marketplace. Every business has a marketplace. For the nonprofit sector, the marketplace is everyone who may be in need or want of your service and everyone who may want to support your mission either through funding or volunteering.
Importance of Having a Marketing Plan
Does your organization have a marketing plan? Not just ideas, but a real plan that is written and includes: a timeline, a consistent way to communicate with those you serve and with those you hope will support your efforts, and advertising. Does your plan help to communicate your mission statement?
Your marketing plan should be customized to serve your organization’s needs. A larger organization may be able to spend a larger portion on advertising dollars whereas your organization may have to start smaller. Another organization may have a larger volunteer base they can use to implement their marketing plan whereas your organization may not. But there are solutions, no matter the size of your organization.
How to Execute Your Marketing Plan
You can have the best marketing plan on paper but if it is not executed effectively, it cannot give you the results you want and need. What are the key elements of an effective marketing plan? You must have organization, systems/processes, and enthusiasm. Without these it will be more challenging to execute and maintain your marketing plan. You must also be able to answer important questions about those you serve and those you want to support you.
How does your marketplace want you to communicate with them? What are their concerns/issues? What are the demographics? What is interesting is that many organizations will provide this information in their grant applications, but don’t use this same information as a way to connect with their marketplace or to create a marketing plan.
Tools of Marketing
Often marketing is confused with advertising. Advertising is one of the tools used to promote your marketing message. It is part of your marketing plan but does not make up your marketing plan. Brochures, business cards, signs/posters, banners, billboards, websites, blogs, magazine/newspaper ads are all examples of advertising tools. These tools are used to communicate with your current marketplace and to reach out to potential new marketplaces. They can be used to inform, create curiosity and invite participation. The marketplace is most tuned into WIIFM (What’s In It For Me?). Your advertising tools should always convey, as part of your marketing message, how the person can benefit by participating with your organization.
Another important marketing tool is a database. In our technology, communication and information age, databases are vital to your organization. In fact, so vital that for-profits and nonprofits are willing to pay hundreds of dollars for databases. In the last decade with the emphasis in the corporate world on Customer Relationship Management (CRM), we have seen an increase in database management software products. These products common in the insurance and financial services industries are now being used by more businesses including nonprofits.
There is nothing in the rule book that says effective marketing has to be expensive. No matter what your budget, you can execute an effective marketing plan that does not take away important dollars from your programming or operations. The myth that marketing is going to be expensive is probably the biggest reason that many nonprofits don’t like to talk about it or don’t give consideration or time to developing a marketing plan.
Another challenge is having dedicated staff to develop and execute the marketing plan. Like anything else in your organization, if priority and resources are not assigned to a task, it will not get implemented. Have you ever noticed how much advertising a business that is going-out-of business does? There are many reasons why a business may shut its doors, but one wonders how much of it has to do with costly ineffective or inconsistent marketing?
Another commonality among for-profits and nonprofits is that both can shut down due to: lack of resources (funding, etc.), lack of clients, not being able to compete, or their marketplace just forgets about them. You have to consistently communicate to your marketplace to let them know that you are there, that you care, and you have something to offer. Marketing must be consistent and not just a grand opening and grand closing event.
Do you have a marketing challenge you’d like to share? Let us know!
The following article was written by Ruth Peebles, MPA, and President of The INS Group, a national consulting firm that provides organizational development and capacity building services to nonprofits, government agencies, and faith-based institutions. Services include grant writing, grant research, strategic planning, strategic fund development planning, succession planning, executive coaching, and board training and board development. Ms. Peebles can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.