Lean Marketing tips: not-for-profit edition Mike | August 29th, 2011

Like small businesses, most not-for-profits have limited resources, ambitious goals, and finite capacity. Many NFPs operate in ways that would not be considered ‘business-like,’ AND these organizations, like their small, for-profit cousins, can benefit by leveraging the ideas and tools that we often discuss in the Lean Marketing series.

Here are 8 tips for not-for-profit organizations on marketing their organizations, and some tools and suggestions for setting goals, maximizing resources, and extending capacity.

1. Define your goals.
Many NFPs have long-range plans, ambitions, and a clear mission. But one of the tenets os lean marketing is to define short-term and intermediate goals. It is of critical importance that NFPs define smaller, intermediate goals which are highly measurable and allow the organization to assess whether the strategies and tactics in use are successful. When determining these it is important to be as specific as possible, and to determine in advance how progress will be measured. Here is a post which goes into greater detail on the topic of setting goals.

2. Have a plan.
Put it on paper. Like most business startups, NFPs should also write their plan out in the form of a report or a presentation. Key to this process is homework: research, research, research. It is just as important for NFPs to write a formal document as it is with a for-profit business and the content of the plan should have many similarities to a formal business plan: an executive summary, a description of the market space and size, competitive analysis, and projections of growth and description of how that growth will be measured

3. Understand your market.
Many NFPs don’t view their organization as being a participant in a market, but the truth is they are. A market merely defines the aggregate of demand for a product or service and every organization, whether for profit or not participates in one. Without a clear understanding of your market, it’s size, shape, and composition it is impossible to define goals, raise funds, or execute strategy. Ross made a video on this topic and it is just as relevant for NFPs as it is for all small business and startups.

4. Market modestly.
It is necessary for NFPs to put a great deal of thought into their audience or audiences and then look for simple ways to market to each segment. For instance a service oriented NFP might have two types of ‘customer,’ donors and clients, and the strategy, messaging, and tactics  to reach each of those may be very different. For each of these groups, it is necessary to understand what it will take to ‘convert’ a customer by building awareness, providing education, and making interaction as simple and barrier-free as possible.

5. Get online.
If your potential customers are looking for you, whether you are aware of them or not, it is critical that your organization have an online presence. Whether your website allows you to process transactions, gather contact information, provide educational content, or simply manage your own internal process, its very existence is beneficial. Creating, maintaining, mining, and leveraging the website can be done in many ways but in the new millennium the lack of a website is a competitive and practical disadvantage.

6. Leverage the crowd.
Like startups and small business everywhere, NFPs can take advantage of crowd sourcing for everything from decretive services (crowdSPRING, duh), to fundraising, to professional services like accounting and public relations. Sites like Kickstarter allow NFPs and others to post their requests for funding and puts those requests in front of a large network of donors who can choose which organization, project, or effort they wish to help. Other organizations, like the taproot foundation, help NFPs connect with professional service providers for pro-bono help with legal, marketing, and other critical areas.

7. Mine your data.
Just as businesses large and small use analytics tools to understand their traffic, their customers, and their conversion metrics, NFPs can also benefit from the tools used for this. And there are sone great ones out there, many of them completely free. For instance, Google has a suite of tools available that NFPs can use as effectively as startups and small businesses: AdWords Small Business CenterGoogle Analytics, Google Alerts, and Google Places are all tools which can be used to great effect.

8. Be a leader.
Being a leader in your market or space is not only about innovating, but also about sharing your knowledge, advocating for your believes, and building your network. To do these effectively requires you to be a leader in action, but also a leader in thought. Create content, promote your public face, and make connections. Great tools are easily available to help: create a blog and post regularly, develop an email newsletter strategy, share resources, ideas, articles, and connections on Twitter, leverage Facebook to keep your audience and clients up to date on your efforts and activities, and identify conferences, classrooms, and other venues for speaking opportunities. When others look to you for your opinion, your analysis, or your ideas, be ready to provide them any way you can.

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