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A ‘Differential’ Marketing Strategy Is Crucial For Not-For-Profits

How can non-profit organisations overcome challenges and create compelling and successful marketing strategies

By Atul Raja

In today’s globalized business world, many non-profit organizations function like corporates in terms of policies and processes. Keeping the global Foundations aside, the sector faces unique challenges like budget constraints, unclear roadmap, and quality of talent.

In the 2020 Non-profit’s Trend Report by Salesforce, the most significant marketing challenges listed by 7000+ respondent marketers are three-fold: budget constraints, implementing large marketing programs and creating a message that consistently resonates with the audience. Another crucial challenge that came about was the sluggish technology adoption, due to which 75% of the respondents are not able to measure how well their marketing initiatives are performing, and 40% cited that they are not able to analyze the Return on Investment (ROI) and measure impact for their activities.

So how can non-profits overcome these challenges and create compelling and successful marketing strategies? While the twin pillars of productive operations, i.e., customer/beneficiary focus and data-based decision, remain common, Exhibit 1 articulates the key parameters which define the need for a differential marketing strategy between for-profits and non-profits.

Marketing Dynamics

It’s all about impact

At the core of non-profit marketing is an unwavering focus on impact orientation, leading to two distinct approaches: (1) the communication encompasses the company’s mission and values and (2) a clear demonstration of ‘do as you say’. This is because the social objectives and impact creation are closely intertwined with the communication that showcases the non-profit brand.

The beneficiary is your biggest customer

The key tasks for non-profit marketing are to put the beneficiary as the centrepiece of the communication and for the communication to benefit the beneficiary in terms of awareness, resources, and access to knowledge repositories. In essence, the creatives and communication approach must be human centred with real-world human perspectives defining the relentless focus on people.

Credibility is your biggest asset

‘Walk the talk’ is an important criterion that goes a long way in enhancing the ‘Trust Metric’, resulting in legitimacy, effectiveness, and non-financial/financial support. This needs to be integrated into the non-profit communication as an underlying theme and doing so will result in enjoying a high degree of social, bureaucratic, and political capital.

Handholding is the ‘memorable’ brand experience

In the non-profit world, it is essential to partner with the beneficiary across the support life cycle. This is the cornerstone of sustainable impact. Handholding and proactively engaging with the beneficiary beyond the initial support will ensure enduring success. It also leads to assessing and measuring impact right till the last mile. The role of marketing is to showcase this last mile and measurable impact to create equity in the ecosystem as a serious player.

Thought leadership is akin to brand stewardship

Thought leadership is a long haul and needs to be worked upon assiduously and painstakingly to gain traction. This is a powerful tool that can open doors towards influencing policymakers, attracting resources and partners, and initiating a debate in the ecosystem. Public Relations (PR) and sharing of views in the opinion-making forums plays a crucial marketing-driven role here.

There is no competition, only partners

While substantial marketing efforts in the for-profit enterprises are concentrated towards addressing the competition landscape and gaining a competitive edge, the outlook is exactly the opposite in the not-for-profits. The ecosystem players here are not adversaries but a big asset in meeting common objectives. The approach in this sector is to constantly look out for like-minded organizations so that a handshake takes place in the interest of augmented impact. So, a key marketing objective is to identify and engage with stakeholders doing a stellar job in the space and run joint marketing programs.

It’s passion vs salary – the MMM phenomena

The average employee in the not-for-profit space invariably wears passion on his sleeve and believes in giving with a smile; sharing knowledge unselfishly and constantly looking to create meaningful impact. Therefore, the MMM phenomena (Marketing Meets Mission) gives top priority to internal

communications. It is imperative that the employees are energized, and marketing communication plays a crucial role in inspiring them towards the mission, vision, and goals.

For long, marketing has been a neglected feature in non-profit operations. But over the last five years, there has been a sea change in their outlook towards marketing. Leading non-profits are now hiring top-notch marketing talent, acknowledging their role in facilitating and meeting impact objectives.

Source: BW Marketing World

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