Here is a how-to guide to creating a marketing plan. Though I wrote it specifically for nonprofits, the steps can be applied to any type of business or organization.
Marketing Plan: Key to Meeting Organizational Objectives
By Terri Davidson
Does your non-profit need a marketing plan? This is more than a rhetorical question, though the answer, of course, is yes.
Frequently, many nonprofit administrators and development officers do not consider marketing to be one of their organization’s overall functions, as marketing is felt to be a discipline for companies that make money and seek profits.
Yet every organization has a group of customers it serves and needs a plan to find these folks with the right message and in the most cost-effective way. Like for-profit institutions, you still need to convince your customers to use or fund your services. A marketing plan is the road map to help you meet these goals and objectives.
However, a marketing plan should be more than a document that will take considerable time and energy to produce, undergo an arduous review and approval process by your board of directors, and then be left to sit on a shelf until the next paper purge. It should be a working document that you can use frequently throughout the year.
Your first marketing plan may be extensive and focus more on broad statements than action, but it should also be the foundation for further years’ plans. Each year’s plan should be analyzed for effectiveness both quantitatively, i.e., more clients, more donations, etc., and qualitatively, i.e., improved image and/or service as demonstrated through surveys and other factors.
Here are a few good reasons why your nonprofit needs a marketing plan:
1. Marketing plans help your organization define its customers. Most nonprofits have a variety of different types of customers: clients, individual donors, foundations and corporate donors, members of the board of directors, volunteers, and employees. A marketing plan requires that you define these customers in several different ways. Here are some sample questions you should ask:
Who are your customers? What is their current demographic profile? How do they use your services? How do you recruit employees, volunteers, and board members? How does your organization meet their needs?
2. Marketing plans help your organization analyze its competition. Many nonprofits have collegial relationships with organizations and agencies offering similar services, having similar missions, etc. Nonetheless, these groups also are your competitors, vying for the same clientele and funding sources. It is important to know what market share you have versus the competition and how you can differentiate your services from theirs.
3. Marketing plans help you assess how well you have done in growing your organization. Knowing what have you done well and what needs to be improved is crucial for taking the next step. A marketing plan requires that you look at all aspects of your service and mission through the traditional four “P’s”: Product (service), Place, Price, and Promotion. To these, you should add two more: Preparedness, which is market research, and People — employees, volunteers, and board members who are providing services or representing the organization. All those P’s must be examined and constantly improved to win in the marketplace.
4. Marketing plans force you to look at demographic, technological, governmental, and cultural trends. Even nonprofits need to look ahead for trends in the marketplace and refine their services. For example, are there or will there be fewer or more potential customers in a particular age group you serve? Can you develop new services that will meet a greater need? Are there funding sources that will provide seed money for this next step?
5. Marketing plans provide your organization with a plan of action to meet your goals and objectives. One of the final aspects of a marketing plan is the plan of action or promotions component. What strategies and tactics will your group use to find more clients, donations, and energetic and qualified board members, volunteers, and employees? What is the timetable required and how much will it cost? Who will be responsible for implementing the strategy? How can all concerned parties be involved in its implementation?
The development of a marketing plan is the first step in becoming a marketing-focused organization — a step that can only make your organization stronger and more poised to fulfill its mission.