Any traditional marketing 101 course will tell you about the "Four Ps" of marketing: price, product, placement and promotion. The Ps provide a framework for professional MBA-types to gain their footing and strategize their outreach initiatives to reach their audiences and ultimately sell a product or service.
Meanwhile, we as nonprofit, mission-oriented types often find ourselves looking at the ever-important nonprofit "P" (passion) and losing sight of the rest of potentially powerful Ps and how they affect our "customers"-our supporters and potential supporters.
How can nonprofits apply the traditional marketing mix and achieve great results? What's the difference in approach? Here are four bite-sized marketing tips you can take with you back to your next planning meeting:
- Pinpoint your product. In the work we do we're not selling cars or cola, but that doesn't mean we lack a product. In fact, we have two products.
The first is what your nonprofit is actually delivering: school lunches for underprivileged children, showcases of local artists' work, bed nets for people to prevent malaria, etc. We often confuse our mission for our product: Saving the Earth versus recycling bins for every household. The trick is to make your product into something tangible. It's taking a concept and a dream, and translating that into a tangible, visualize-in-my-head-able thing or service.
The second-and oftentimes more elusive-is the value or service you're providing to the donor/volunteer/advocate. Yes, you're providing an avenue for him/her to help someone/something else. But think beyond that: What feelings or benefits are you providing for the donor him/herself? Here are a few examples of things you're providing with your benefit-exchange: happiness, convenience, power, safety and so on. Take some time to brainstorm what your organization is offering behind door number 1 and door number 2. (Hint: "Stopping malaria" is not a valid response for either type of product. Providing a bed net and the proud feeling I get for potentially saving a child's life are the right one-two punch.)
- Set the price. When translating for-profit-speak to nonprofit lingo, we might associate price with "amount of donation." However, donation amounts are not the whole story. Price comes down to the sacrifice your supporter is making in order to support you-whether it's with her time, money, etc. When you think of your marketing "calls-to-action," the action is the price. Nail that down and you can speak more clearly and openly with your audiences. And, when considering what you're "charging," make sure you know the value you're providing in return. What are the benefits for them? What's the reward?
- Plan the promotion. Quick: Think of a synonym for promotion! Did you say "advertising"? *buzzer* Sorry, you only get partial credit. The complete answer we're looking for is channels. Promotion refers to the various aspects of marketing communication. By going through this "Ps" exercise with your marketing strategy, you've got the product and how much it costs determined; this third step covers how you're going to spread your message about them. Are you going to talk about your "products" online? Via direct mail? With a black-tie gala? Through paid advertising?
We'll sneak in a bonus "P" to this category: packaging. The success of your promotion and outreach around your products relies heavily on the way you frame the information. What's the messaging? To what audience values are you appealing? What's your communications strategy? (Hint #2: "Facebook" is not a strategy. If anything, it's a "place" and we're not there yet. Hold your marketing-resource horses!)
- Pick the right place. "Place" is another two-in-one situation. When choosing your outreach tactics, you're reaching out to audiences in two places or ways: 1) where they are physically (ex: in their email, on Facebook, at a convenience store), and 2) where they are mentally (ex: their state of mind). To be at the right place at the right time, make access easy: meet people where they are physically and appeal to what's top-of-mind for them right now. One example of easy access is to accept donations on your website and have a donate button that's simply to find at a glance. That potential donor is on your website and thinking about your organization, your product and the price you've set to get involved; make sure you're in that place along with her.