Marketing. It sounds so commercial, doesn’t it? But don’t be put off by the term. Your nonprofit organization can steal marketing secrets and use them for a good cause.
Marketing is business-speak for “communications with a purpose.” Your purpose may be to improve public health, enhance democracy, end hunger or homelessness, or enhance people’s lives through the arts. Whatever it is, s long as you tailor your communications to a purpose, you’re doing marketing, and you can look for ways to do it better.
Strategy means keeping your purpose in mind and letting it direct your activities and the way you use your time. It means knowing how you will approach your goal and not making it all up on the fly.
So what is marketing strategy? For businesses, the term means:
An organization’s strategy that combines all of its marketing goals into one comprehensive plan. A good marketing strategy should be drawn from market research and focus on the right product mix in order to achieve the maximum profit potential and sustain the business.
How do we say that in nonprofit?
- Market research for nonprofits is however you get to know and love your audience. Depending on your organization. your research could be hiring an outside professional to conduct surveys and focus groups–or going through your files and asking your staff and Board members what they know.
- Product mix is the services and benefits you offer. When you know and love your audience, you figure out what they need.
- Instead of profit, you aim to maximize good outcomes for the people you serve. You can only do that if they know about your services and use them.
- But you still need to sustain the business. And unlike a for-profit business, you can’t count on the people who use your services to pay for them. So, “sustaining the business” means raising funds from donors, foundations, corporations, and government, or through events or sales, to pay for what you really are “in business” to do: your mission.
Let’s put it all together. When you develop a marketing strategy, you are making a commitment. You are promising that everyone inside your organization will know whom you are trying to serve, what will help them, how you are providing that help, and what difference it makes. The people who use your services and the people and institutions that pay for them will know that too. All your communications will help you convey that message, and your programs will help you make it reality.
Make that commitment and keep to it. That’s how you say “marketing” in nonprofit.