Community Section |
the ABCs of Marketing
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Refrigerator magnets, tee shirts, pencils, pens, post-it notepads, or key chains
with a program or agency name, logo or phone number are all considered “ad
specialties.” “Ad specialty” is the advertising industry term for the giveaways
that organizations use to keep their names out in the public in a direct and
personal way. The main problem for nonprofit programs is that even the simplest
gifts can be expensive. Used prudently, “ad specialties” can be an excellent
tool to create awareness of your program. People will recognize your
organization’s name and logo. Your gift becomes a walking advertisement for your
organization. Invest wisely.
Be sure to think of your annual report as a promotional tool and apply a
marketing approach when designing it. It can take the place of an overall
brochure, especially if your organization experiences a lot of change during a
year. Pay close attention to detail and image. Annual reports are a very
effective means to convey image and your organization’s priorities.
Dress sensible and wear appropriate clothing if you are involved in
participant contact. Who you are and how you look sends a very powerful message
to your program participants. See Image.
It goes without saying to any community-oriented program person who’s been in
the field for more than six months, however, some people fail to remember, that
attitude is very important. The manner in which a participant is received the
first time he/she enter your organization is critical, because, if he/she are
turned off, unnecessarily embarrassed, or intimidated, it will be his/her only
visit. Thus, the attitude of the staff is a necessary first step in developing
an effective marketing-based approach to participant and volunteer recruitment.
Was a staff member recently interviewed on a local radio program? Did a
participant give a wonderful testimony at a recent award ceremony? Tape these
moments and save them for future use. File the tapes carefully so that they can
be easily located in the future. You can provide these quotes to news reporters
who are looking for “news hooks” and angles to tell your story in the community.
The term “audio visual” describes a whole range of non-print techniques,
including video, audio, and PowerPoint. When giving a presentation in the
community about your organization, incorporate audio visuals. The key point is
the more ways you can tell your story, the more likely: 1) your target audience
will see the message 2) the more likely everyone will understand the message
(some people better comprehend material when it is presented visually) 3) the
more memorable the message will be for those who have seen it in more than one
mode (print, visual, audio, etc.)
Brochures are among the most underestimated sales tools in the grassroots
marketers’ arsenal. Brochures can be reasonable in cost, can be targeted
directly to the target audience with little or no wasted media costs, and can be
updated frequently, with minimal cost incurred. You don’t have to use a lot of
words. Simple, powerful images are better than hundreds of words of detail.
Brochures are visually oriented support pieces that are part of an overall media
campaign. They can be used for information, marketing, and promotions. They can
be stand-alone pieces, as a supporting document in a press kit, or as a
component of direct marketing. The bulk of the information can be included in
fact sheets and flyers. Also, remember the font you choose should be easy to
read so that people of all ages can understand it (Do not choose a font size
smaller than 12 point for a brochure. Do not choose a too flowery of a font. Do
not use red ink. All are very difficult for the elderly to read.)
Honestly, most people hate bumper stickers. They go on easily, however, they
are very difficult to remove. People, however, are very supportive of the
“window cling.” A “window cling” can go on the side or rear of a window of a
vehicle, or window in an office, etc. and come off with ease.
The transit agencies in most cities in Pennsylvania carry advertising
messages inside and on the outside of their vehicles. The advantage of indoor
bus advertising is a definable, captive audience for periods of 15 minutes or
more-just enough time to look at and read all of the advertisements more than
once. Bus side ads offer low-cost exposure to people on the highways and on
public streets. One considerable advantage is targeting buses by routes. This
type of advertising is a rolling billboard. You can learn who is the broker for
transit by contacting your local transit agency. Bus advertising is typically
sold by the month with lower rates for longer contracts.
Cable TV Postings on Public Access Television
Most cable systems still offer free message postings for non-profit
organizations. Contact your local cable system and ask for the “public access
channel” manager or the community service or public affairs manager for the
local system operator. The goal is to get the cable system to run your
promotional and informational messages as “crawls” across the bottom or top of
the screen on the local access channel or as part of the public service messages
that “roll” up or down the screen. This service should be free to non-profit
Circulars or flyers are extremely low-cost marketing tools. Often, these can
be made in-house. Bulk copies can be left at suitable locations like the YMCA,
YWCA, or other community-based organizations. Perhaps a Boy Scout or Girl Scout
troop could slip the flyers under the windshield wipers in parking lots or
distribute them at a local grocery store.
Club and Member Associations
Even if your service club members (Kiwanis, Rotary, Lions, Chamber of
Commerce, Junior League, etc.) are not prospects for your organization/agency,
they are active in the community and can be excellent referral sources. Clubs
are good occasions for networking-for referrals, strategic partnerships, public
speaking engagements, and recruiting volunteers. See Networking below.
Days of Operation
Let your community know your days and hours of operation. The organizations
with the most flexible hours of operation are the one most likely to attract the
Direct Mail Letters
Statistics have shown that the amount of mail a person reads is more a
function of economic status than anything else. Direct mail firms and mailing
list developers target the prosperous. Are you looking for volunteers? Are you
looking for donations? Are you looking for participants? Refer to your past
mailing lists. Obtain referrals from other agencies or organizations. The
personal touch is very important. In your periodic direct mail letter you have
the opportunity to bring your community of interested persons up to date. The
more personable you are, the more likely you are to encourage participation,
pledges, or volunteering.
Direct Mail Postcards
Are postcards better than letters? This depends on the design of the
postcard and the message you want to convey. A personalized letter is the best
form of direct mail communication. If you have simple information you need to
convey, a “supersized” postcard is the way to go. Use striking photos or images
and large type. You want your postcard to stand out from the “junk mail.” See
Junk Mail below.
“Ad Specialty” companies offer production of door hangers, mini posters
(typically 3-4 inches wide and 6-10 inches long) with cut-out loops to allow for
hanging on door knobs. If you choose to design your own door hanger, you can
purchase templates through paper companies such as Paper Design
(www.paperdesign.com). Also, many print shops stock the die cuts necessary to
make flat posters into door hangers. This technique for delivering an important
message door-to-door ensures that the homeowner touches and sees the message.
Perhaps a Boy Scout or Girl Scout troop or Sunday School youth group could
distribute these items door to door. You might target a specific neighborhood or
street. A door-to-door canvas can be cost-effective and sometimes the best way
Newspaper editors are remarkably accessible and will consider
well-researched points of view. Make a phone call first and be prepared to send
information right away if you get a positive response. Use of editorials offers
high visibility, is an excellent positioning tool for your organization, and
makes a real contribution to public debate on important issues.
Educational Broadcasting (Public Radio and TV)
Most public radio and TV stations have very strong local programming
commitments and growing interest in a return to their educational TV roots. Get
to know the local station managers and the program managers. Maybe the exposure
comes in the form of your participation in a local TV magazine show or a radio
interview program. Maybe there are even grater opportunities available. The
sooner you begin to dialogue with your local public TV licensee, the more likely
your organization can be a part of the new public TV programming changes.
As technology continues to expand, so does the need for your marketing
tools. Obtain your participants’ e-mail addresses (more than you think have
e-mail). Once you get an e-mail address, initiate a two-way dialogue. It’s
economical and effective.
A television or radio station or local newspaper can sponsor or co-sponsor
either a nonprofit organization or an event, such as a concert or 5K. When these
organizations sponsor a non-profit organization or event, the station or
newspaper becomes identified with the nonprofit organization or event and
contributes time and personnel to promote it. See Tie-ins with other
Fairs and Flea Markets
Go where the people are. This is an effective, low-cost way to get your
message out. Fairs and flea markets offer great opportunities to reach people in
a target market. Tips on tables at these kinds of events: 1) They should be
staffed. If people have questions, someone needs to be there to answer the
questions. A display is good; a display with human presence for interaction is
great! 2) You must have “take home” materials (brochures, flyers, etc.). This is
an information-gathering opportunity. 3) “Ad specialties” are even better. Gifts
can be as simple as a pencil with your name or logo and phone number.
Reporters are looking for news. If you have something timely, interesting,
meaningful, and entertaining (See T-I-M-E below), give it a try. They like a
fresh angle. Don’t say anything you wouldn’t want to hear on the news or read in
print tomorrow morning. Think through how to take advantage of the maximum
effect of feature coverage.
Once you obtain someone’s name, address, and phone number (maybe even an
e-mail address), you need to keep in contact. It pays to follow up with
prospects at reasonable intervals, because it can shorten the adoption process.
It also demonstrates caring and interest on the part of the program.
Frequency of Advertising
Frequency of Advertising is more important than any other factor, however,
“message” is a close second. A powerful ad message, if it is not delivered and
delivered often enough, is a wasted effort. Thus, you should strive in your
marketing program to create as many “impressions” as possible on your target
audience. A good rule of thumb is that the typical person must see or hear a
message three to five times to be able to recall any part of it. Repetition is
especially important in “call to action” advertising where we want the target
audience to remember a phone number, address, and name. Frequency can be built
up by using various mediums in a total program: paid radio spots or public
service announcements (PSAs) plus display ads which run at least once a month in
weekly papers or shoppers. Flyers, posters, and brochures also should be counted
when calculating advertising frequency.
Grassroots Marketing means you do not have the number of staff and other
resources of large programs and agencies, therefore, you make up for it with
mobility and opportunism. Be committed and motivated. Be prepared to make do
with the supplies you have on hand. Take advantage of every low-cost opportunity
to get your name and message out to the public.
Hours of Operation
See Days of Operations. Flexible hours attract more individuals.
People love “logo products.” A sharp logo will look great on a tee shirt,
baseball cap, or tote bag. Be sure to add your name and phone number to the
logo. The key is to create “human advertisements.” When your participants and
volunteers become “walking ads,” you will have achieved a new status in the
Who are you? What do you do? Where do you live? How can I get in touch with
you? These are basic questions we ask each other every day. In our personal
lives, we may be uncomfortable sharing this information with strangers. In the
non-profit world, it’s critical that every encounter with a potential
participant offer that needed information. That means putting your
organization’s name, address, phone number, website, etc. on virtually
Image is the essence of your agency, it is encompassed by the good work that you
do. If your image is poor and your agency is unknown, you cannot be effective in
serving all those who may desire your services. Image is primarily associated
with “word of mouth” advertising. Present a positive, effective presence in the
community in order to achieve the best image of your agency. See Word of Mouth
Sometimes the easiest and most economical way to get lots of information into
the hands of potential participants or referral source is to insert it into an
existing publication (newspaper, Pennysaver, shopper, or regional magazine).
Because you have paid the cost of the paper and the printing, the publication’s
fee to “stuff” or insert the document or sheet into the regular publication is
less than the equivalent number of square inches of ad space. Check with other
non-profit organizations to learn if they publish newsletters in which you could
Internet use is growing rapidly across all age, income, and education strata.
It’s also an economical way for organizations to get reams of information
distributed to people for access. Incorporate visuals and graphics and choose
easy-to-read language. Make sure individuals can navigate through your website
without any challenges.
Mail is deemed is as “junk” by the beholder. The majority of individuals
classify “junk mail” as that mail you do nott want to receive. You fill in the
blank to suit your own tastes and needs. For more details, see Direct Mail and
Direct Mail Post Cards.
Keeping in Touch
Two points to remember about keeping in touch: 1) The process of adopting
occurs over time, not as a single event. Simply stated, people take their time
in deciding whether or not to participate in programs or services. 2) Successful
program participants are walking advertisements; they can be your best referral.
They will be better referral sources if they know you have not forgotten them.
See Direct Mail .
Your letterhead is no place to hold back on spending. You need high quality,
printed (not copied) letterhead. It is best to use bold letters in dark blue or
black. Make it clear and easy to read. Use your logo (See Logo above). Be sure
that every piece of paper contains your full program name (no acronyms),
address, phone and fax numbers, and e-mail address.
Letters to the Editor
When timely, well thought out, and well-written, letters to the editor are
very often published. If you have a strong opinion or your position is being
attacked, undermined, or misrepresented by others, get in there and write. Like
feature coverage (See Feature Stories above), think through how to take
advantage of the maximum effect.
A logo is a letter, symbol, or sign that is used to represent your organization.
Community members will associate your logo with your organization’s name and
mission. Use your logo wisely and well and it will return value to you manifold
by helping to tell your story with a strong visual.
The best thing you have going for you is your location. You are the hometown
program to help individuals in your community. Ideally, you’ll have an actual,
physical location that stands out in the community that you serve.
Your mailing list is your best friend. You should try to capture names and
interests of those on your list whenever you can. If you can get a table at a
shopping mall (See Shopping Malls), arrange for a merchant to give you gifts to
give away at a drawing. The names and addresses on the drawing entries can be
used to enhance your mailing list.
Names Make News
Local publications build readers by including the names of those readers,
their friends, and relatives. People love to see their picture/name in the
paper. News releases to hometown newspapers promote the program while rewarding
your success stories. Reward your volunteers with the same kinds of recognition.
Also, don’t forget to give each person named in the article a copy of the
“Networking” is a hot term in the private sector. In the non-profit and public
sector, it’s been the way to go for years. Advertising, and even public
relations, cannot replace it. Get out and become more interconnected with your
community…get your name out and your face known!
News conferences are generally only held for a very big, controversial, or
out-of-the-ordinary event. If there is anything you can do to make it visually
interesting, it will help extend the coverage. Prepare your message carefully.
News Release/Press Release
News Releases, or Press Releases, can announce anything at all and will
often run if they get to the right person in time. Know your local media’s
deadlines for publication and know to whom to address releases. Review the news
release format. It’s very good to announce any classes, special events or
activities, workshops, or conferences to the media. Sending news releases
regularly to media outlets raises your visibility with them. Later, when your
agency does something newsworthy, they are more likely to cover your story.
Also, if a news outlet is preparing a story and is looking for an expert or a
quote, they may call on you.
Newsletters make people aware of your presence in the community. When well
written, they can produce loyal readers and a positive community response.
Produce the newsletters regularly. Many people scan newsletters. Use lots of
photos, headlines, sub-headlines, pull-out quotes, and white space. For the
cost, this direct mail piece can bring you considerable goodwill.
Billboards serve as a good reinforcement to your current campaign when
combined with other mediums. Get a good design. It is said that a billboard
should never have more than seven words on it. Billboards reach a tremendous
potential audience at a very low-cost-per “impression.” They sell every day, 24
hours a day. They require little time input from you. How can you pay for
billboard advertising? Consider “sponsorship snipes.” Ask businesses that
support your program already to underwrite the cost of one or more billboards in
return for a line at the bottom of the billboard in foot-tall type saying, “This
message brought to you by XYZ Insurance.” One thing to remember, choose your
billboard location carefully.
Posters are a useful grassroots tool because of the variety of places they
can be posted: school bulletin boards, stores, shops, diners, restaurants,
shopping malls, churches, and laundromats. Well designed, well-printed posters
are worth the extra cost because they have the impact to stop the busy eye and
to make a memorable impression.
Prepare a 20-minute talk about something service clubs or high school
students need to know. Develop some visuals. Come up with two or three examples
or success stories. Next, prepare a letter of solicitation to mail to area
service club presidents. Present. Learn from your presentations. Refine your
presentations. Check the community newspaper for a listing of club meeting times
and locations. Public speaking is a good positioning tool and way to mix media.
Have some kind of handout to reinforce your message.
Quality versus Quantity
What kind of marketing does your agency currently do? Do you focus on
quantity or quality? It is more important to have a quality, well planned, well
executed marketing campaign than to have a mass quantity of poorly designed,
photocopied materials. What would be more appealing to you?
Radio “spots” is the term used to describe paid commercials on local radio
stations. Spots generally run in increments of one minute or less. While
60-second sports are still the norm on local radio, 30-second spots are becoming
more common, as are 15 and 10-second messages, generally called announcements or
tags. Because the “minute spot” is the basic unit, expect the best buys to come
in that category. Thirty-second spots, although only half as long, typically
cost 60-75% of a full one-minute spot. Ten and 15-second spots offer similar,
non-proportional cost savings. The idea behind the premium price for shorter
spots if the concept that the message frequency is king. You are buying the
number of exposures more than the length of those exposures. Sixty-second spots,
when well-produced, offer impact advantages over the 300-second spot. You can
tell the whole story in a 60-second spot. You can target the population you wish
to reach by finding the local radio station that fits your profile of your
target audience. It is also best to pick specific drive times in cities and
early mornings in rural areas. Test your results with co-workers prior to air
time to be sure your ad is effective.
“PSAs” are Public Service Announcements. They generally are offered by radio
stations at no cost to non-profits. The offer of such free time is completely at
the discretion of the local station management. Although the Federal
Communications Commission (FCC) once required that broadcasters devote a
substantial portion of their time to public service, the Regan Era broadcast
deregulation brought an end to that practice for non-profit organizations. Most
stations still continue to practice this public service in order to maintain
good will within the community. Expect a two-week lag time before your PSA airs.
Radio stations use “unsold inventory” when they air a PSA. “Unsold inventory”
are blocks of air time that have not been sold to commercial advertisers in any
given hour of the day. You can also include your programs and services on radio
in a “community bulletin board.” This type of program will mention your upcoming
events and may even offer a staff member an interview at the radio station to
discuss the programs/services.
Reprints of Ads/Publicity
Good news need not fade away. Stories in newspapers and magazines about your
programs, volunteers, or participants take on added impact and credibility from
the implied endorsement of the publication in which the story is carried. This
is known as “third party endorsement.” A good way to capitalize on this
reflected support, this implied endorsement, is to produce plenty of reprints of
any favorable news story or ad. You can use them for publicity as well as
recruiting new participants.
If you are working at a mall booth or a county fair show booth, why not offer
the perspective participant a taste of what your programs/services are like.
Have mini-demonstrations. Entice the audience. It can take the form of free
advice to a small group activity.
What better place to tell people about the fantastic, free programs
available at your organization than at the local mall or shopping plaza? Malls
offer high visibility locations sheltered from the weather where you can talk to
prospective participants. Usually, malls offer tables or display space for free
to public service organizations. Points to remember: 1) Staff the table. A
static display is very easily by-passed unless it is extremely bright, colorful,
and interactive. 2) Be sure to provide adequate take-home materials (brochures,
informational sheets, etc.). 3) Make the display colorful and interesting.
Include photos. If you can, incorporate a videotape and a monitor or a laptop
computer with a simple PowerPoint program hooked up to a big screen monitor. 4)
Provide “ad specialties.”
If you can put up a display table at a special event and can get staff or
volunteers to work it, do it. If you are coordinating a special event, decide
what you want out of the event, then put the elements together accordingly. A
good way to renew or maintain personal contacts on a large scale. Remember the
invitation itself is a promotional tool. Be careful of special events as
fundraising schemes. Expect a sense of let down when it’s all over.
The image of your organization is vital in serving the people of your
community and in helping the general public understand your mission. Your image
starts with simple interactions, such as telephone calls. How are callers
connected with your organization, how are they greeted? The way callers are
greeted will greatly affect the image you project of your agency. Telephone
etiquette is indeed critical, as many contacts with your agency are never in
person or in writing, but rather limited to the telephone. Telephone etiquette
may seem simple and without need of discussion. It is, however, a major issue in
American business today. A good check of your system might be to have a friend
place a call to your agency, make notes about the call, and provide you with the
information, such as feelings about the agency based upon the greeting and
manner of call handling.
Television is a wonderful medium for presenting your message because it affects
your sight, hearing, and brain for thinking. It can arouse passion, fear, joy,
or sorrow and deals with many feelings and senses. TV is a colored medium and
can present a message or image in real life or surreal. Most importantly,
television reaches many people in a fast and accurate manner. The problem is the
cost. The cost of television advertising depends upon the time of airing and
audience reached. An example of using television advertising effectively would
be to develop a multimedia campaign around a given issue. Added to print and
radio, you could have a solid campaign. Remember, people must see, hear, and
feel your message several ties for the message to be received and understood.
Every once in a while, you get one of those phenomenal letters or phone calls
that makes all the work you do worthwhile. You get an unsolicited testimonial
from one of your participants or volunteers. The program works! A goal has been
achieved! It makes you feel good. It makes everyone around you feel good. Save
the letter. Transcribe the call. Ask the person offering the praise for
permission to share their comments with others, either with or without name and
background. Usually, individuals will say yes. Perhaps over the course of a year
you will have a dozen success stories to share with prospective participants,
volunteers, and the media.
Tie-ins with other Organizations
The Lions Club focuses on sight impairment issues. The Kiwanis and Shriners
focus on children who have disabilities. Find a service organization whose
interest mirrors your programs and services. Work with radio or television
stations and newspapers to raise awareness and partner for worthwhile causes.
This is a good, lost-cost way to multiply your impact and increase exposure in
your community. See Event Sponsorship.
Timely, Interesting, Meaningful, Entertaining. These are four key element to
review when constructing marketing materials for an upcoming event or activity.
Like radio commercials, the local broadcaster term for a paid message is a
“spot.” On TV, the basic unit of advertising is the 30-second spot. One-minute
spots are rare. Fifteen and 10-second messages are also common. It’s not likely
that your organization can afford paid television. But, it’s worth knowing how
they work. It’s also worth knowing that stations like community-oriented
promotions and they might consider a joint promotional program where they –the
station management-can sponsor your efforts to help prepare people for better
TV PSAs work the same as counterpart, Radio PSAs, work. It’s not likely that
you’ll have the resources to produce a local spot for TV, much less pay for the
air time. However, sometimes you can get TV stations to provide a crew to
“shoot” or videotape your message, usually testimonials, in the studio.
Remember, scripts have to time out to 30 seconds, not 30.5 or 31.
You want to be EVERYWHERE. See Unconventional Media below.
Unconventional Media can best be defined as Pennysavers, Neighborhood
flyers, or church publications. These are all fair game for the shrewd
grassroots marketer. Everyone is aware of those ubiquitous, lighted marquee
signs we see in front of every volunteer fire company and pretty much everyplace
else. Maybe the fire company will let you have the marquee sign for a week or
two to promote your organization. Remember, you want to be “ubiquitous.” You
want your name and phone number to be everywhere. See Posters.
If ad and news story reprints are good, then how great will video clips be?
A good TV feature story can have tremendous shelf life, especially stories where
testimonials are offered by successful students. How can you use these clips?
You can run them in groups on a single tape in the office waiting room. You can
use them to help explain your organization. You can also mount them on your
website (be sure to give proper credit to the producing organization).
Web Banner Advertising
Web banner advertising can be a tremendous, low-cost way to get your message
out, provided you do some homework about the kinds of people who are signing on
to the website where your banners are running. Usually, local newspaper
“portals” are good bets. Also, community college and school district web pages
are good to advertise on. Try web advertising to see if your audience is ready
for it. If, after six weeks, you aren’t getting any hits from the web surfers,
move on to a new form of advertising.
See Unconventional Media above. Windows of vacant stores are the equivalent
of billboard, except they are free. You’ll be doing the landlords a service to
give their properties some “curb appeal.” It may not only help you with
prospects for your program, but also help the landlords find new tenants.
Word of Mouth Advertising
Word of Mouth Advertising has long been called the best kind of advertising.
How do you get it? Word of Mouth Advertising is perhaps the most difficult
aspect of public relations and marketing to measure and manage, yet it can also
be the most effective tool in sharing your message. Remember, generally
satisfied individuals tells three/four of their friends and relatives of their
satisfaction. The best promotional campaign in the world cannot overcome
Xmas and Other Holidays
Christmas and other holidays might seem to be the wrong time to talk about
the benefits of your programs/services. Holidays generally mean “slow news
days,” for both broadcasters and newspapers. What better time to pitch a feature
story? Maybe the story is a human interest feature on a success story at
Christmas. Maybe the article is on the commitment of one of your volunteers.
Yellow Page Advertising
Yellow page advertising is not recommended for non-profits. Phone book
listings are costly and they are becoming less effective due to competing books
and the declining usefulness of phone books and authoritative guides.
As Webster’s Dictionary defines it, zeal is “enthusiastic, diligent devotion
in pursuit of a cause, ideal, or goal.” This is exactly the right spirit to
bring to grassroots marketing. Spread your message with zeal.
Fayette County Community Action Agency, Inc.
140 North Beeson Avenue Uniontown, Pennsylvania 15401
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