“If you build it, they will come.” Kevin Costner said that, and it sounds marvelous, right? But you can develop the finest service or product on the planet, and unless you figure out who is the market, and how to let them know about what you offer, and how to acquire it at an affordable price, there it could sit. And this is the tale’s tragic ending for many worthy entrepreneurs and nonprofits.
Marketing is an art, and with practice, it can be a developing skill. Many entrepreneurs start with a light bulb idea, and develop their product or service, without thinking first – who is my market? For whom does this have the greatest value? How much will they pay for this? How will they hear about it? Will they come back for repeat business, and what other kinds of services/products can I offer to that same audience? So your marketing strategy is an equally important component of your program or product development strategy.
Customer service is equally important. You cannot underestimate the value of word-of-mouth referrals. If a customer has an awful experience attempting to access your program or product, he will talk about that too, and he won’t come back. The most valuable customer is your repeat customer. Making their entire experience comfortable, respectful, warm and professional will go that much farther toward inviting them to come back. In fact many increase their point-o9f-purchase sale by offering complementary products/services alongside whatever the customer is purchasing, at a reduced rate for a combined purchase. Having information systems and a database that allows your customer service staff to see the customer’s history when he/she calls in, can be essential. “Oh, Mrs. Dahl, I see you purchased our workbook on interactive reading with your child. Did you know we also offer a new handwriting activity book for children?”
Marketing is an essential component of a successful nonprofit. If you are the best kept secret, how will the world – or region- benefit from your services and programs? Who is your potential market? Who will benefit from what you offer? Are there market ‘segments’ you can target in different ways? For example, if an older audience needs what you offer, and also a young audience, can you reach the grandparent market through their activities, like rv camping in the summer? Can you strike up partnerships with the camping facilities? What strategic partnerships will help you get your offer in front of the target audiences most effectively?
In addition, it’s rarely a one-time contact or ‘touch’ that makes the sale. To build credibility, are you using all the available tools that are components of marketing? Is your website up-to-date, visually appealing, animated? Do you have testimonials from satisfied customers? Are you getting reviews and articles in related journals, bulletin boards, blogs? Are you utilizing social media? Do you need a Facebook page?
And it’s equally important to consider what image you want to present, and then be consistent throughout your branding strategy. If your look and visual identity are completely different in your collateral material than on your website, for example, you are diluting your message.
Is your message clear and consistent? Does it convey your unique value, and why you stand out against the competition? Make sure your value proposition is clear and concise, especially in this age of cellphones and websites, when we have the attention span of a gnat. Whittle away at your messaging, until you have a powerful, clear message you can convey through all your marketing tools. Then try it out on people you know, who represent your audience, and find out if it says what you think it says.
If you build it, and then you figure out how to convey its value, and then your customer service is warm and professional, and your fulfillment systems work like clockwork – they will come, and then they will return again.