You've heard the saying, but how much truth is in the old cliche "think outside the box"? Sometimes getting back to the basics is the best move you can make when it comes to marketing nonprofit organizations and promoting their mission. Revisiting older ideas and tried and true marketing practices can provide a sense of clarity that is vital to fresh creativity. Sometimes you first need to think inside the box.
Back to the Basics
You've heard the 4 P's of marketing: product, place, price and promotion. How do those apply to the nonprofit community when their product is intangible, their place is often undefined, their price is indeterminable, and promotion is approached cautiously out of fear of an image that donor dollars are not well spent? Here are some suggestions.
1. PRODUCT - The product of nonprofit organizations are not the services that they offer the community. The product of non-profit organizations is impact. What impact are you making in the lives of your clients? What change is occuring in the community as a result of your efforts? How is your organization's mission meeting needs, transforming lives and contributing to the greater good? Your product is impact and change - focus your marketing messages on that, particularly when trying to reach potential donors.
2. PLACE - In merchandising marketing, place refers to placement of products for optimum sales. In nonprofit marketing where the product is impact and change, we define place as the area in which you concentrate your marketing messages. Let's say, for example, you are a small organization in Kansas City, Kansas. Your services and programs are primarily geared toward Wyandotte County residents. When considering how and where to place your messages, focus your resources on local media, not city-wide or regional outlets. Reach the people whose community you directly serve.
3. PRICE - What price can you put on helping a homeless person achieve self-sustainability, or what price can be assigned to the impact of a tutoring program in an inner-city school? Your target market is likely to be potential donors. The product you offer them is an improved community. Where are you offering that? In their neighborhood. Your third task is to convince them that your organization is worth investing in - at whatever level they are able to give.
4. PROMOTION - You may have a great organization and outstanding programs, but how do you share that with potential donors? You share that through promotion. Nonprofit organizations have limited budgets, and those limited budgets rarely account for marketing, public relations and promotions. Our goal is to help you see the importance of marketing and public relations, and recognize that a little investment can go a long way. In fact, promotion doesn't always have to be costly - it may take the form of a press release or an announcement to your local community bulletin board. The important thing is that you consider ways to actively promote your organization.
Get Comfortable Inside the Box Before Stepping Out
The challenge that too many organizations face is that they try and think "outside of the box" before making sure they know what is inside of the box. Or in other words, make sure that your creative, fresh, unique marketing idea is a solid one before investing time, creativity and money into it.
There are three things that can help you avoid the pitfalls of ineffective marketing:
1. Plan, plan, plan. Develop a strategic marketing plan. This will help you know whom you are trying to reach, what message you will convey when you reach them, and how much money you will need to set aside to embark on that effort.
2. Craft, craft, craft. Craft your message and wrap it in a way that is appealing and that stands out. Craft your marketing effort with creativity while keeping in the forefront of your mind who you are trying to reach and what you want them to do once you reach them.
3. Evaluate, evaluate, evaluate. Establish some way for you to evaluate how well your marketing efforts worked. This will help you know whether a marketing effort was successful, and whether your investment in that effort was worth the return.
Creativity and innovative thinking is vital to the long-term sustainability of any marketing or public relations campaign; but, before embarking on that next great idea, make sure that your footing is placed firmly on tried and true marketing techniques.
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