Monday, November 19, 2007

The Marketing Mix

By Ben Delaney © 2007

In which we become the DJ of our own exciting MarCom hit parade.

Today must be the best day ever to be a marketer. And tomorrow will be even better. Why? Because at no time in history have there been as many tools at our disposal, so may ways to reach our audiences, and so many ways to measure our effectiveness.

The key to successful marketing is using the appropriate medium to reach your audience. All the buzz these days is about using the internet for marketing. Apparently no one ever recommended a product or service before the internet enabled that process! If you believe the hype, no one communicated before email, and the only advertising that matters are banners on web pages and text ads on Google. But I’ve been around awhile, so let me assure you that old-fashioned technologies – paper, face-to-face communications, and the postal system are still fine ways to get your message to people. And when you combine modern electronic communications with those older, proven technologies, you can build strong and effective campaigns that meet your objectives and fit in your budget. That combination of tools and techniques is called your Marketing Mix.

For those of us working in nonprofit MarCom, it is essential not to waste any of our typically too-small marketing budgets. I take pride in getting the most from every MarCom dollar by creating an effective marketing mix for every project. Sometimes you need print advertising, and sometimes you augment it with on-line ads. Usually you email press releases to journalists, but sometimes you need the in-hand impact of the printed sheet to cut through the noise and make an impression. In this age of constant email, I have found that an old-fashioned brochure in the mail can really get people’s attention. But adding some well-placed advertising, and perhaps a press release announcing the event or program you are soliciting support for, can create a powerful marketing mix that gets better results.

Working in nonprofit MarCom, I have found that there are a few constraints that one seldom deals with in the business world. In high-tech marketing, it is hard to be too brash, to make a sales pitch that is too strong, or to be too flashy. In the social service world, people expect you to be a bit more modest, to not conspicuously spend money on marketing, and to be less blatantly competitive. Cultural issues also abound, with people’s feeling to be considered. And of course, one must not upset the big donors. How you construct your message and what tools comprise your marketing mix are dependent on being sensitive to these issues, as well as to getting the response you need.

I’m going to list the most common tools available to the NP MarCom team, give you some examples of what they are good for, evaluate their strengths and weaknesses, talk about their cost versus other methods, and give you some ideas about measuring effectiveness. Remember that in many, if not most cases, you will be combining several of these tools to achieve the best result. Also, keep in mind that few organizations use all of these tools – it’s important to determine which ones best meet your objectives and fit your budget. This list is by no means exhaustive, and the best MarCom minds are always thinking up new ways to communicate. So take this list as a starting point, and let your imagination run free as you create your own marketing mix.

The Marketing Mix Checklist is pretty long, so I invite you to download it as an Acrobat (PDF) file. Click her to download the Media Mix Checklist from

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Blowing my own horn

The 2006 Springboard Schools Annual Report, which I conceived and wrote, won two gold awards from the Association of Marketing and Communications Professionals:
  • Writing, Annual Report
  • Nonprofit Annual Report
Thanks to everyone who helped make this such a strong document, especially Jon Rendell’s winning design, and Kathy Cole’s critical input.

Find more information, and a PDF copy of the report, here:

Building Your Messaging Foundation

By Ben Delaney © 2007

In which we go deeper into our organization’s messaging

In this chapter, I come back to messaging, by addressing how you put together your message. Every service organization has a mission statement. Most have vision and needs statements as well. In this chapter we’re going to look at developing those three statements, and build a case statement from them.

In the earlier chapter, You May Have Heard This Before: The importance of consistent messaging, I talked about Mission, Vision, and Needs Statements. In terms of donor communications, they are the foundation. All of your communications must be based on these three statements.

Let’s briefly reiterate: Your Vision Statement is where your messaging starts. It should be brief and to the point. It explains what you hope to accomplish, the 10,000 foot view of your raison d’etre. It might sound like, “Ending hunger in Central America.”

Your Mission Statement describes what you do, how, and for whom. It too, should be short and sweet. Do NOT build a “one sentence” mission statement that includes a bunch of dependent clauses and runs 150 words. Read it out loud. If you need to take a breath in the middle, it’s too long. You might say, “We will end hunger in Central America by teaching the indigenous peoples how to farm more effectively.”

The Needs Statement is the next level of explanation. It demonstrates that your organization is meeting a critical need, and doing it better than anyone else. Your needs statement is the rationale behind the vision and mission. In our example, it might read like this: “Thousand of children in Central America go to bed hungry every night. If their parents were to use different seed corn and learn a few new farming techniques, they could produce 50% more maize and feed their children every night.”

Building the emotional case: the Case Statement

The Vision, Mission, and Needs statements build a logical case for people to support your organization. But logic is not enough. In fact, virtually no one buys (or donates) anything based on logic. People open their wallets when they open their hearts. So, how does your organization provide that essential tug to the heartstrings?

If you’ve ever stayed up watching late-night TV, you have probably seen ads for the Christian Children’s Fund. I can’t tell you if this is a good charity or not. But I can tell you that they have set the bar high for forging an emotional connection to their donors.

The Christian Children’s Fund’s TV spots typically start with a bearded, grizzled, world-weary man walking slowly though a third-world slum, passing ragged, possibly starving children who gaze at the passing camera with wide, sad eyes. He might be an off-duty reporter, or an explorer. He speaks directly to the camera and looks like he means what he says. He was chosen to do this ad for his apparent sincerity and trustworthiness. He proceeds to describe the miserable lives these hungry, dirty, unschooled, apparently orphaned children endure. He paints a vivid picture of disease, hunger, abuse, poverty, and general despair. He brings tears to your eyes.

But wait! There is hope! If only you would send a small donation, barely enough to buy yourself a decent lunch, you can “adopt” one of these tykes, and save her from a life of horror. Now we see him holding a child, and her face is clean, and she’s smiling. And you did it! Your tiny donation, that sum of money so paltry that you won’t even notice it missing, has saved this poor child. Now, don’t you feel better?

That’s how you build an emotional case. The Case Statement is built on just three points, what I call the Key Three, the Need, the Solution, and the Ask:
  • There exists a terrible situation that needs to be fixed. Our hypothetical organization might explain it like this: “In the highlands of Central America, farms have become less productive over the past ten years. Soil is depleted and water is hard to come by. Changing climate in the area will probably make this dire situation worse. Children are already getting less to eat than they need, and infant mortality is high. Per capita income is less than $800 per year.”
  • We know how to fix it. Working with a team lead by Nobel Prize winner, Dr. Marie Curie, we have developed a new, natural hybrid of maize, that will grow in the increasingly warm and dry conditions expected. As a bonus, this new breed of maize is more insect resistant. Using this new seed, and some revcently developed, simple techniques for managing their hill-side farms, the indigenous farmers in Central America will be able to grow more corn, feed their families, and lift the standard of living of the entire region.
  • With your help we will fix it. We can help the indigenous farmers of Central America remain in their centuries-old family homes. We can help their children get enough to eat, and because they are no longer hungry, a better education. We can help these proud people live longer, more productive, happier lives. All it takes is $329 to help an entire village – 200 people – live better lives. You can help an entire village, for less than a dollar a day — won’t you pitch in?
Obviously, your Case Statement will be very different, but the three key points should be the heart of your messaging to donors. Once they are in place, it is vitally important that all of your messaging connects to them. I often suggest the development of an abridged version of the Key Three, which becomes a motto or slogan used on event invitations, your annual report, advertising, and brochures. This makes a pretty good elevator speech. It can then be distilled down to a tagline, a shorter format yet.

For our example organization, our distilled case statement would come down to three sentences: There is a terrible problem for Central American indigenous people. Their farms are failing and people are hungry. Our organization has developed new seed and farming techniques that can solve the problem, and let these people and their children lead longer, more productive lives.
As a tagline, the message would be boiled down even further, to the essence: Feeding the indigenous people of Central America by providing seeds and knowledge.

Spread the Word

The most important aspect of coordinated and cohesive communications is System Marketing. System Marketing is based on the concept that every communications function in your organization has a marketing impact, good or bad. That means that everyone in your organization, from the receptionist to the executive director, needs to be aware of the impact of what they say and how they say it. The person who answers the phones (and PLEASE, don’t use one of those awful automated response systems!) needs to be knowledgeable and friendly. Everyone in the organization needs to know the elevator speech. And all of your communications need to be keyed to your mission, vision, and needs statement. That’s the “system” in System Marketing – all communications at all times, in every environment, by every member of the team provides the same message.

For most nonprofits, development, or fund raising, is the primary outbound communications function. But it is seldom the only MarCom effort, and so all of your communications need to connect and strengthen each other. System Marketing, informed by strong Vision, Mission, Needs, and Case statements, will ensure that all of your communications are cohesive and consistent. It will ensure that all of your people understands the foundation of your communications, and as an added benefit, it will make it easier to do your job, since you will not have to rethink the basis of your communications whenever you create a new program or communications vehicle.