All along, for the past 15 years or so, we've passed along tidbits of inspiration on how to market your group. We never really said marketing was easy. You might know your computer stuff really well, but it doesn't matter if the prospective members for your organization are not finding you. We've shared tips I've compiled over the years, and it's been quite a while since the last time. Time for an upgrade!
Growing your membership not only brings in new revenue, it also adds to your pool of volunteers and resources to the benefit of all. Groups that aren't growing, are groups that are moving back-wards.
So, if you have an organization to market, here is a little refresher list...
The Top 10 UG Marketing Mistakes
1. Assuming you don't need to market your group.
No matter how big or successful your group has become, you'll always need to make sure your members -- current and potential -- know who you are and what you can do for them. Coca-Cola, for example, is one of the best-known brand names in the world, yet it still markets itself aggressively every day.
2. Relying too much on the Internet.
The trend is to down-size the office and let the internet do all the work. Guess what? If you put a site out there along the highway, don't expect people to come. You've got to get out there and push. No one will embrace an organization that is automated. People to people is what the community is all about. Rely on the internet and you'll eventually find yourself with one or two officers, and a membership list of total strangers.
3. Undervaluing your organization's value.
Members won't value what you have to offer if you don't value it yourself. Be fair when setting policies and programs, but don't give too much away in the name of "help" -- yet provide good 'value' in your services.
4. Not measuring the effectiveness of your efforts.
You have to constantly evaluate whether the benefit you give your members is really making a difference. Set goals and track your progress in terms of new members, newsletter subscriptions, or whatever other measure seems appropriate. Have an online feedback form for members. Ask for their opinions and suggestions for new programs.
5. Providing insufficient information.
Conventional wisdom will say that your prospective members don't want to read lengthy copy. While tests show readers do give up after the first 50 or so words, you shouldn't give up until you've told the whole story thoroughly. Put the most important information in the beginning. But also, make sure you've provided all the information he or she needs to make a decision. Good design and good wordsmithing of headlines and subheads can substantially help readers take in MORE than the 50 or so words. And don't forget pictures.
6. Changing strategies too often or too hastily.
Don't be in a hurry to switch the message or your look. You may be getting sick of your own message and image, but key outreach messages need to be repeated again and again in order to make an impact on the customer's consciousness. Look at how long really successful campaigns run. Pound that message home
7. Relying too heavily on others or referrals.
Depending on referrals for new members limits your options. Design a marketing program that lets you target potential members, and also gives them the opportunity to contact you directly. Otherwise you'll be at the mercy of whomever has the ability to refer members to your organization.
8. Failing to position your organization as a leader.
Being seen as a leader in your community gives you a distinct advantage. Identify a niche where your organization can truthfully label itself the best. If you can't find a niche, create one. Then let your role as an community leader be a powerful factor in your marketing campaigns. Many groups find that charity work, education awards, grants or scholarships really get the community's attention. Washington Pi, for example has a computer recycling program. It gets the attention of thousands of people who would not ordinarily be looking for a group.
9. Keeping your marketing materials to yourself.
This is a FAMOUS problem with all nonprofits. It's easy to spend big money on brochures and other outreach materials to hand out to prospects when they inquire. However, they then feel they have to be stingy, because of the cost. Develop an information outreach packet for your group -- and then USE it. Offer a booklet of useful information about using the computer -- or other material that people would probably want. Then GIVE them away. I know dozens of important people who had to throw away hunderds, if not thousands of business cards when the area code changed. My question was: "Why were you sitting on them? Business cards do you no good what so ever in your closet."
10. Not maintaining a mailing list.
Establish a mailing list of past members, prospective members, people who have referred members or services to your organization, and other important community contacts -- both in and out of town. Be sure to communicate with these people at least quarterly. A simple one- or two-page newsletter with a few bits of useful information will keep your name at the top of people's minds.
Whether you have a nonprofit organization, club, ball team, or small business, reading and fully understanding the above will help you make the very best out of every marketing dollar. You'll gain friends, and your message will spread.
Thanks for reading...
Fred Showker, Editor, Graphic Design & Publishing