Finally something worth looking at has hit the internet. We speak of the standalone website for Marketing Savvy. The workshop is available to anyone, anywhere anytime but we’re also staging a public session in Melbourne on Tuesday February 9 2016. Join us super quick and we might just double your coaching.
We hate creating marketing plans. It’s boring and requires concentration spans extending into the several-minutes-long category.
However creating a marketing plan avoids constant second-guessing, reduces unexpected spikes in workload and can ensure that what needs the most marketing gets the most investment. So stop complaining and get on with it.
A good marketing plan should encapsulate everything that markets you or communicates about you to the world. This ranges from the obvious – direct mail, websites, email and social media – to the less obvious options including: events, webinars, eBooks, award ceremonies, lectures that you stage, expos at which you exhibit, conferences at which you present, media coverage you may seek, letterboxing and face-to-face marketing.
Your marketing plan might detail the 12 attention-grabbing email signatures that your staff will roll out across the year, how you’ll promote events via signage on your building and the themes of your constantly evolving messages-on-hold.
It’s all marketing. get it right and you’ll have bottoms on seats, gold in your coffers and a place in people’s hearts.
Before you open up that Excel spreadsheet and start developing your marketing plan consider that this is your opportunity to:
- review and prioritise your audiences;
- review and prioritise your offerings / campaigns / initiatives;
- review the effectiveness of each aspect of your marketing;
- create new marketing initiatives and kill the duds.
1. Reviewing and prioritising your audiences
Some marketers want to reach everybody. This is impossible. Be ruthless – if parents can have favourite children, marketers can favour certain audiences.
It’s too easy to keep aiming for the same people year in, year out. Savvy marketers separate audiences and create specific marketing initiatives for valuable audiences, even if they are small in number.
Take this typical audience: lapsed or former clients / donors / students / members.
A savvy marketer investigates this audience and reviews her marketing plan with the question: “Do we have anything that will connect to this audience?”
If not, she must create a piece of marketing to do just that. That might be a piece of direct mail, be a free webinar, a business breakfast, phone calls from her CEO to the individuals. The choice is up to her but she must be sure that the initiative is shamelessly tailored to that audience as one size rarely fits all.
We ran a marketing workshop for a large division of the Country Fire Authority which is Australia’s largest volunteer-based organisation. The CFA division was keen to recruit more women but we soon realised that there were few, if any, effective marketing options aimed at the target group.
We advised that a series of face-to-face events would be wise, featuring women volunteers as speakers. A public event would also immediately enable prospective volunteers to meet other women in a similar situation, creating a peer group.
The timing of the event was important as was the provision of childcare. And yes, there should be some champagne served. Sexist maybe – but effective.
We recommended reaching women en masse via female-only gyms and schools. It’s all seemingly simple but has to be thought through and cleverly executed.
At a recent Sports Without Borders conference representatives of Cricket Victoria advised us that they were missing out on the massive influx of cricket-loving Indian and Sri Lankans.
These prospective club cricketers preferred their own company and casual matches in public ovals as opposed to the regimen of club cricket.
Our advice – hit the parks whenever and wherever the prospects gather with a sub-continental-savvy promotional person who is ready to address the concerns of this audience.
We also suggested that they create a special event for this audience and work with clubs to make them more welcoming of this stream of talent when they show up for the all-important first training session. Clubs would be well served to read this blog post as they have some well-founded anxieties to address.
Finally – find this audience where they gather. In the case of newly arrived Indians and Sri Lankans that may be care of certain RTOs, workplaces and professional organisations.
2. Review and prioritise your offerings / campaigns / initiatives
As with audiences, not all your services, products, campaigns, initiatives are created equal. We regularly see some marketing initiatives (AGMs, annual reports) receive a far greater share of marketing resources than is justified.
When allocating precious resources to market certain activities ask:
- can marketing make this activity significantly more successful or is its likely success beyond the influence of marketing due to factors such as cost, location or market demand?
- can marketing help us make a lot more money than we might otherwise make?
- does this activity hold special significance?
When the answer is yes, go crazy. If not, consider a minimal effort.
3. Review the effectiveness of each marketing initiative
Few of us have time to pursue all the marketing channels open to us so we’ve created this table to help you choose more objectively. Too often marketers waste time and money on channels that don’t really create an impact. “We’ve always done it that way,” is not a marketing mantra.
Start by listing your marketing options across the top. Then work through the criteria giving a rating from very negative (—) to very positive (+++).
Hopefully you’ll compare a dozen or more channels rating each as appropriate. We explain each criterion and more below.
|Cost / value||+++|
|Existing / learnable skills||=|
|Appropriate to audience||+|
|Time & effort / reward ratio||++|
|Control / guarantee of delivery||+|
|Ability to time the marketing to suit you.||=|
|Speedy communications option?||=|
|Saves us money||+|
|Kudos / influence||++|
|Ongoing commitment required||-|
Cost / value – quite simply is it worth the money? Is it worth the time? Have you ever estimated how much each marketing option is costing you? Do it.
Data – online communications let you know if they are effective, print publications do not. Generally speaking we prefer to know if what we are doing works.
Existing / learnable skills – can you internally develop the right skills to execute the option well? Can you afford to outsource them?
Ongoing growth – some channels such as eMarketing and websites can continue to grow in power if executed properly. Brochures don’t.
Appropriate to audience – will the channel work for your particular audiences. Perhaps you’ll adopt one option for just one particular audience.
Control / guarantee of delivery – media coverage is never guaranteed. A brochure is. Events can be rained out, your website remains entirely within your control.
Complexity – some options such as events are more complicated than other options. Is it worth it?
Ability to time the marketing to suit you – direct mail can be timed, media coverage less so.
Speedy communications option? It is great to have some quick options in your arsenal. eMarketing scores well in this regard.
Risk – staging events is risky as you may not be able to guarantee bums on seats.
Longevity – a brochure can serve you for years. Tweets disappear into cyberspace. An eBook could gain you credibility and emails for years.
Saves us money – don’t forget that some channels in which you initially invest money (websites, eNewsletters) can save you money longer term.
Kudos / influence – media coverage makes you important and creates influence, library displays don’t.
Ongoing commitment – some channels such as social media need repeated investment of time.
Geographic specificity – you might have a very specific location to which you market. Letterboxing, street signage or face-to-face marketing might target your locality very well.
4. Create new marketing initiatives and kill the duds
Having considered your audiences and your marketing options you have some decisions to make. Are you going to jettison some marketing options that you are currently using? We hope so. Similarly, we hope you will take up some new options and target some new audiences.
Features of a good marketing plan:
- schedules in the little stuff
- hits all priority audiences and initiatives
- guides editorial content for the year
Scheduling in the little stuff: it’s tempting to just detail the big stuff – blog posts, email updates, twice yearly direct mail to solicit donations etc – but you need to budget in the time to attend to the small stuff too.
The small stuff might include: quarterly keyword research to help get better Google results, a cleaning out of dead email addresses, reporting, a blitz on updating the website, hiring a photographer, market research, planning editorial content etc.
This will help you (and the boss) understand the workload you have in front of you. It also makes ongoing improvement more likely.
Flexibility: if your marketing plan requires 100% of your time and energy you won’t have room to deal with unexpected opportunities or dramas. You also won’t get a break.
Hits all priority audiences and initiatives: when your plan is complete you should be comforted to see that everything will be covered in accordance to its priority. If in doubt look at your plan (which will likely be a spreadsheet) and ask: “Does this marketing plan sufficiently target audience A?” “Are we marketing enough to support initiative B?” You should also be able to look at the plan and answer the question: “Are we utilising channel X well enough?”
Guides editorial content for the year: Editorial content should be guided by and support your marketing goals. A good clear marketing plan can help instruct your content creator. For instance if July is your big membership renewal period you need to create suitable content across various channels in the lead up. You might instruct your copywriter to create a series of 12 posts about the benefits of membership to be rolled out via LinkedIn. If your annual lecture is in September you might tweet out 10 factoids about the speaker in the lead up. You get the idea.
OK – so start creating your marketing plan spreadsheet. Place months or weeks along the vertical axis, marketing options across the top. Use the first column to list the activity / product / campaign you are trying to promote.
Add all the small, supporting activity around the big stuff. Estmate time required. It might take six hours to write a brief and meet with three photographers. That one full working day! Always remember that everything takes longer than you’d reasonably expect so start activities early.
Hope this helps. Goodluck with your marketing plan.
Note: The original post was published in May 2015. We added a significant update at the bottom of this post in May 2016. Enjoy and please share.
One of the greatest myths in the nonprofit world was trotted out in response to Carrie Bickmore’s 2015 plea for greater funding for brain cancer research. It was delivered by the Cure Brain Cancer Foundation’s head of engagement. When asked why her cause gets such a small slice of National Health and Medical Research Council funding she explained it thus:
“We don’t have the awareness we need. It’s not a ‘sexy’ cancer.”
That quote may be taken out of context or it may have just been a passing thought but the attitude is endemic. It’s convenient thinking, defeatist, demonstrably wrong and we want to tackle it to the ground right here.
Nonprofit marketing is a fiercely competitive playing field – like every other kind of marketing. Every cause, every disease and every charity is fighting for hearts, minds and wallets. Nonprofit marketing is in no way a meritocracy. It’s showbiz – which is the opposite of science.
Agreed, there’s nothing sexy about brain cancer but there’s little that’s ‘sexy’ about bowel cancer, lung cancer, domestic violence, drink driving, depression, asylum seekers, Indigenous reconciliation or live animal export. Yet all these causes currently outperform brain cancer in terms of media coverage, public support and funding. Good for them. It’s not by accident.
It’s true that every cause starts with natural advantages and disadvantages. In terms of impact, HIV – a new, fatal, sexually-transmitted disease – was pretty hard to beat for a while. The sight of puppies in squalid puppy farms is gut churning. Kids with just about any diagnosis tug at the heart strings. Anything with the prefix “trans” (-gender, -fats, -Pacific Partnerships) sparks curiosity. Yet we follow and support many causes to which we have little connection.
One of the great feats of social marketing is child sponsorship in which global charities convince Australians to donate on a monthly basis, to kids they’ve never met, in countries they’ll never visit. The kids often come from countries and cultures with which we feel little affinity yet we give millions a month, often while actively avoiding any contact with the beneficiaries. Remarkable.
Similarly there are plenty of causes that we ‘should’ care about more deeply, which aren’t being effectively marketed:
• we’re all gettting older yet there’s no effective grey lobby in Australia;
• 100% of people are going to die yet dying with dignity commands no army of active supporters;
• twice as many students attend state schools than non-government options yet state-schooling parents hardly form a pro-state-education voting block.
We heard a brain cancer researcher justify her cause’s poor public profile by saying that as brain cancer mortality is so high, there are few survivors to spread the story and stoke the fires of the cause. She should stick to the lab.
• Road fatalities are pretty damn fatal yet attitudes to drink driving have turned on a dime.
• Battery hens live in misery and many of us have sworn off cage eggs; yet few of us speak chicken.
Despite everything you’ve heard, your cause or brand doesn’t have to be ‘sexy’ to get the media coverage, political sway and public support you seek. There are many factors behind any campaigning success; so if you ain’t sexy; fear not. Here’s what you need to be to cut through:
You need to be emotional.
There’s nothing rational about emotions. Corporations make us feel passionate about their products and services.
Queues form for the latest iPhone, football teams inspire violent support from superfans, people pay extra to wear the logos of the favoured tax-minimising global megabrands.
Make people feel something. Animals Australia, PETA and the folks behind Anzac Day are masterful at this.
You need to be interesting.
Can you put a human face to your cause? Will you challenge government or public policy? Being seen as an advocate works nicely for Greenpeace. When was the last time you really stood up for your stakeholders?
Will you create media friendly events that we can join and cover? Head-shaving, moustache-growing and boss-incarcerating are all winners. Who knew?
Paul Keating described it as “flicking the switch to Vaudeville” and he was right. If you want to engage the masses, you better be willing to play by their rules. They like fun events, blunt spokespeople, sympathetic ‘victims’, simple slogans, hope, celebrity endorsements, very little science and even less guilt.
Attention spans are limited and their favour is fickle but some campaigns do cut through and maintain a place in their hearts. In terms of events Australia’s Morning Tea is cutesy, low-tech and highly successful. In 2014 it raised $11 million! No lab coats required.
You need to be entrepreneurial..
It’s about trying something, failing, changing and moving on to something that works. That’s how tech start-ups work and you should too (with less hipsterism please). Cliches such as ‘minimal viable product’ and ‘iterate’ and ‘ready, fire aim’ may come in handy. Does your organisation hustle or haggle?
You need to be passionate
Sadly we often see more passion from app developers, real estate agents and the paleo crowd than from non-profit folk. Passion for any cause goes a looong way. It is zero coincidence that many campaigns run by passionate volunteers and amateurs outperform those run by full-time paid professionals. Eg: Oscar’s Law which is about to change state legislation.
You need to have PR skills.
Do you have people who know how to conceive and package a media story idea? Can they then pitch to media? Don’t expect the part-time graphic designer-come-PR-person to have media sense. Get some training!
You need to have talent
Do you have spokespeople who can deliver an interesting interview or killer presentation? We’ve heard too many boring spokespeople recently, wasting precious opportunities. Dr Karl Kruszelnicki makes science sound sexy on a daily basis. Dr Tim Costello is one of Australia’s most-interviewed citizens. He’s authentic and outspoken. What’s that worth to World Vision? A. Whole. Lot. Get some training!
You need to possess expertise.
What do you know that others don’t? What special experiences, knowledge or perspectives do you bring? What cats are you willing to bell that others are not? (Consult your Brewers.)
Media runs on expertise. Want proof? The weather bureau! Show me one other (cardigan-clad) body that gets more media time on an hourly daily basis. Nobody. Weather is not sexy – but expertise is. But don’t expect the media to recognise your expertise – shout it from the rooftops.
You need to be simple.
People abhor complication. Fred Hollows Foundation restores sight for $25! Pretty simple ain’t it? (It probably ain’t quite that simple but who cares?) What a great value proposition. What’s yours?
You need to be persistent and consistent.
We’ve met clients who put their faith in a TV commercial campaign, a mail out or a single event. That’s not how brands are built or movements made. You need to find the resources to be in front of people on an ongoing basis and that includes the 51 weeks that aren’t your awareness week.
Now make yourself irresistibly sexy by donating to Cure Brain Cancer Foundation.
Still unconvinced? A: go to hell B. Read our interview with Lucy Perry who is one of the best speakers you’ll ever hear on matters NFP, marketing and the like. Until recently she headed Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia in Australia.
Lucy is a rule breaker, ideas maker and communicator. She now uses her powers for speaking and writing about leadership, creative thinking and changing the world. Visit lucyperry.com.au
So Lucy, where does fistula in Africa rate on the sexy scale? Thanks to celebrities like Oprah and Natalie Imbruglia, obstetric fistula has received a lot of awareness in the last 10 years. But it really doesn’t matter which way you look at it, smashed up vaginas and incontinent women on the other side of the world is a tough story to tell. I would give it 2 out of 10 for broad appeal.
Did the inherent unsexiness of your cause inhibit you? Did it change the way you campaigned? I have always attacked communication messages head on with the truth. It is the only way to be heard, understood, trusted, believed. I saw the challenge of explaining the horrors of obstetric fistula as the best part of the success story. When people hear a strong message about women’s health, women can empathise, men are protective. There is no point dancing around the truth and softening the reality. You will never find me saying “birth canal” instead of “vagina” and you will never find me pretending shit ain’t real.
Were there times with prospective partners / donors / staff etc that they expressed some trepidation about becoming involved with fistula as an issue?
There were times when major corporates were not interested in supporting a charity in Ethiopia. It was not so much the fistula injury that bothered them as much as their financial support going to the other side of the globe. But that was not across the board. I developed relationships with whopping great corporates like CommBank who were happy to give financial support to a vagina charity on the other side of the world. Go CommBank!
How important is it for campaigns to balance making people feel angry with giving them hope?
One of the top 10 shared emotions on social media is outrage so that is an important part of gaining traction for any cause. People have to feel uncomfortable with the reality of the issue. Then they have to feel like their contribution is needed and they can actually help. Then you have to make people feel good about their contribution after the fact. So, the emotional trifecta for successful fundraising communication is outrage, hope, satisfaction. Take your donors on a loop of those feelings and you’ll have them for life!
Is it possible for any charity fighting any cause to be positive, interesting and hopeful? How?
Absolutely. In fact it is essential. Add to that list: funny and entertaining. People have very short attention spans and they also have a limited capacity for horror stories. So any charity fighting any cause needs to be positive, interesting, hopeful and humorous so that when they do slam their supporters with the heartbreaking truth of their cause, the audience hasn’t already suffered a mild case of cause fatigue. Your comms have been so entertaining, funny, positive and uplifting that your story lands on ears ready to listen and hearts ready to donate.
Were there times when you wished you were representing puppies or fighting to save a much-loved landmark?
Never. I have always preferred to fight for the underdog and fistula sufferers are some of the most marginalised women in the world. Puppies and landmarks don’t float my boat like womens’ health does. I need to be working on something I am truly passionate about so that it shines through in my communication. Love for the cause, love for the patients, love for the underdog – it all fuels my reason for being, my purpose as a communicator.
Update: can we talk vaginal prolapse?
We had the honour of Shauna Hurley’s company at our most recent Media Savvy workshop. Shauna handles media among other things for medical research reviewers nonprofit Cochrane Australia and recently scored some media on what may be the least sexy topic we’ve encountered in a while – vaginal prolapse. (Google it if you dare or ask 50% of mothers.)
Anyhow Shauna did not presume that the topic was taboo, unsexy or of little interest and her pitch – based on the fact that the common surgical intervention may be more harmful than helpful – scored a lovely big hit in The Conversation which lead to a follow-on hit on ABC RN’s The Health Report with fabled presenter Dr Norman Swan.
Prolapse unsexy? Vaginas unsuitable for primetime? Bollocks. Money can’t buy these hits and Google analytics won’t track how many women may well avoid unwelcome complications surgery. Kudos Shauna. Go ask for a raise.
Now – how many media hits are you counting yourself out of?
We’ve written previously about the importance of knowing your audiences and the value of the conversion formula. Infact it’s one of our most-read post. We ensure every Marketing Savvy workshop devotes time to just this.
Well know we’ve made a short video about it. Enjoy.
Definition: “Marketing” is a much-used and often-abused term meaning very different things to different people. For some people, marketing equals little more than a logo. Their idea of a marketing campaign is to ensure all the brochures adhere to the style guide. How quaint. However it’s a lot more than that. For our purposes we’ll define “marketing” as all the ways you communicate to the marketplace about what you are and what you have to offer. If you have difficulty thinking of your clients, participants, donors, prospective staff, policy makers, volunteers and other groups as “markets” you may opt for “audiences”. If neither of those terms ring true to you, you’re in trouble and so is your organisation.
1.Your brand – what you stand for, your position, the reputation you want.
2.Your audiences – who are they and what do they think? What are their perceptions about you and your issues?
3.How to best reach them. (Which marketing and communications options you will choose to execute your marketing.)
Cynical about marketing? Here’s why it’s worth the bother
1. It separates you from the pack.
2. Folk won’t care about you, support you or use you if they don’t know you exist.
3. Marketing makes you more than just another service provider.
4. Good marketing is the best revenge – it can level a playing field against opponents with more power and money but less marketing savvy. Well-marketed organisations punch above their weight. How do makers of sweet fizzy drinks become ubiquitous? Marketing. You can all name peer organisations which unfairly occupy more hearts and minds than you. That’s marketing.
5. People important to you will be impressed. Stakeholders, shareholders, suppliers, government, sponsors and staff want to know your organisation counts. They want your brand recognised in your marketplace.
6.Good marketing strengthens organisations by attracting more and better donations, staff, vollies and opportunities. A solid marketing operation puts bums on seats and dollars in coffers with less effort.
7. Marketing makes everything else work more smoothly – recruiting of paid staff and volunteers, filling events or gaining support.
Umbrellas and channels
Marketing types like to talk about the “marketing umbrella” which implies that marketing is an overarching term under which many different marketing options (or “channels”) can be used.
It’s a horrible piece of jargon but under the umbrella are your marketing or communications options including: website and eMarketing, social media signage, media relations, publications and marketing collateral, public displays, lobbying activities such as letter-writing campaigns by your members, public speaking, events – from open days, guest speakers to conferences and yes – advertising. Every channel is a way to communicate; persuade, influence.
And that, dear citizen, is why so few organisations get their marketing right. Each of the elements above is a world unto itself. You could spend a career exploring the possibilities offered by any one of them. There are so many options, so many skills required, so many pitfalls and so few hours in the day that most of us do a patchy job at best. The more complex your cause, the harder it is. Eg: flogging an energy drink is simpler than pushing a safe injecting room. (Pun intended.)
And of course the use of these channels should follow a planning process to decide what you want to achieve and through which means you will accomplish your goal. Not to mention a process of deciding what ‘personality’ your brand will have. (More on that later.)
No wonder marketing campaigns fail to launch, go awry or leave behind exhausted workers and resentful volunteers for little gain. Oh dear – continuing on regardless – read on.
Note to bosses: Marketing is NOT one thing such as an advertisement or an event. Clients often refer to their “marketing campaign” which amounts to just one thing – a street fair, art auction, launch, publication etc. A new logo!
Such activities are not marketing campaigns in themselves, just single channels through which you market.
If you are a boss ask; “Is this going to make a big impact with our key audiences?” Not, “Have you spell-checked the brochure?”
Want to read more on this topic? Read this post about Marketing bridges you need to cross.
And if you have read this far how about sharing the wisdom?
In our Marketing Savvy 101 workshops we explore the many and varied ways to prosecute your marketing plan. Sure we all realise that a website and perhaps social media is vital. Media coverage is obligatory for some and a bonus to others but awards and Halls of Fame are too rarely exploited.
Awards ceremonies needn’t necessitate a black tie gala. They needn’t even reward good behaviour. Why not take a leaf out of the The Razzies playbook which ‘celebrates’ the worst of cinema each year? We did when we suggested an awards ceremony for client Combined Pensioner and Superannuants Association. We celebrated the worst in government policy and corporate behaviour from the perspective of the low-income constituency that CPSA represents. Certificates were sent out to winners but more important were the media releases.
Likewise Halls of Fame give you a chance to gain media coverage through rewarding the prime movers of your sector. We were chuffed to score significant coverage on disability employment issues when our client ACE National (now Disability Employment Australia) instigated a Hall of Fame.
There is no building devoted to them but it is a Hall of Fame nevertheless. Devote a section of your website to yours. If you want a ceremony to announce the inductees (always have more than one) incorporate it into your conference dinner or AGM.
If the sandwhich industry, stockmen and shearers can do it, so can nonprofits. Don’t wait for your peak body to do it – you may be waiting a while. And no, we are not making up that image above – there really is an industry body for sandwhiches and they do have awards and a Hall of Fame. Bless ‘em and all they stand for.
Oh we just became aware of this PR-driven drivel. Mind you if they need an emcee… Bottom line – start some awards, get some added media coverage, build some relationships.