Marketing bridges to cross

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Having recently talked marketing with over 200 nonprofit and community groups in 24 hours (no, not one at a time silly) we have some thoughts on the many marketing bridges nonprofits must cross if they are to get results.

marketing advice for nonprofits

Keep walkin'

Bridge #1: marketing at all. Most nonprofits don’t have marketing in their DNA. They are service providers with little shortage of demand – hardly the sort of organisation that lives or dies on its ability to win hearts, minds and wallets. Some organisations see marketing as extra-curricular, unnecessary, even tawdry. Such organisations are less likely to survive than those with a healthy attitude to marketing. The nonprofits that market themselves best see themselves as campaigners, advocates and spokespeople. Why bother marketing? Well would you like more and better donors, volunteers, staff, access to policymakers?

Bridge #2: changing the status quo. No change equals no improvement. You have to assess what you are currently doing and make some changes. Do you really need four quarterly printed newsletters? Why not go down to two printed editions and introduce an eNewsletter? What do you mean you don’t offer your expert opinion to media? Why not expose yourself to hundreds of thousands of potential staff, volunteers and donors? Why couldn’t you offer your clients as public speakers in suitable forums? Many changes to make.

free advice on marketing

Yes, this is a real bridge. Cross it.

Bridge #3: fear of over-exposure. Some nonprofits – usually the low-profile ones – worry that aggressive marketing will see them wear out their welcome with their audiences. That should be their problem! Who cares if some people tire of your eNewsletter and unsubscribe? These people don’t care about you anyway. Who cares if your peer organisations feel that you get too much media spotlight? That’s their problem – you will score the benefits that come with media profile.

Do you think corporate organisations give a damn about overexposure? Every two-bit bank, mobile phone company, vitamin maker, dishwashing liquid spruiker and real estate hawker pummels us day and night with TV advertising, direct mail, street signs, events and more. Do they suffer from this? Aparently not. They spend huge money to bombard us with little fear of over-exposure. The thought that nonprofits will suffer a backlash over our paltry marketing efforts is laughable.

marketing tips and advice

March across Britain's most recently completed piece of infrastructure.

Bridge#4: identifying, segmenting and understanding your audiences. How many key audiences do you have? What can you tell us about them? What can you tell us about what they think of you and your issues? How do you appeal to each of them specifically? What marketing option is best for each of them? Marketing is all about audiences, so get to know yours. Then pursue them ruthlessly.

Bridge #5: spending some money. Many marketing options need just time and forethought but yes, some need moolah. Some expenditure will gain you profile, closer relationships and a better image. Some might even make the financial investment back. There’s no better example of this than starting an eNewsletter. A better graphic designer may be worth the spend. Likewise a pro copywriter. Likewise some stock photos. The best money you can spend is on a smart, savvy, hungry and humble marketer.

nonprofit publicity advice

Walkabout over this to the other side.

Bridge #6: hiring someone appropriate. Do you hire accountants to do your accounting? Builders to build your buildings? Do you see where we are headed with this? You need to hire the best professional marketer your money can buy. This person will have experience in marketing causes, courses, ideas, events and the like via a range of marketing options – media, publications and online communications. As long as you have some inappropriate person part-timing, job-sharing and corner-cutting you will get commensurate results.

Bridge #7: going wholeheartedly online. Your website probably treats visitors with disdain. A new, better website will be the cornerstone of a more marketing-orientated you. Likewise, social media and eNewsletters which all offer fast, free marketing options.

Bridge #8: being interesting. How far will you go to gain attention? A witty headline, an eye-catching image? You’ll need all that and much more to gain people’s time in a crowded marketplace. Will you make strong statements, bold claims and make them loudly? You should. Note – being informative and well-written is not being interesting.


2 Responses to Marketing bridges to cross

  1. Paul says:

    Agree with all of the above. Good advice.

  2. Christine says:

    Brett, Oh, I SO agree with what you say. Having worked in NGO and NFP sector but having come from a high flying corporate background, the NFP’s could do soooo much more with themselves if they just “got it”. Sounds a bit tawdry really, doesn’t it? But I meeean you really just cant survive it you don’t get your profile, PR and marketing right. Just ask me!
    And I so love the way you write- its like well, this is how it is… ok. Makes you, or me really, sit up and listen.