You Say You Don’t Need a Marketing Plan?

Marketing planning — real marketing planning –isn’t easy. It means you are prioritizing your goals, learning about and defining your target audiences, refining your calls to action, figuring out what will move people to follow through, deciding which communications channels to use, and much more.

It’s work . . . which means I often hear rationalizing about why a nonprofit can’t make it happen. Here are few common ones, along with my replies.

“I already have a to-do list a mile long. That’s my marketing plan.”

A to-do list is not your marketing plan. A marketing plan will ensure that you focus your efforts and your budget on the actual marketing to-dos that will move your organizational goals forward, instead of a random list of tactics that may or may not work together to produce results.

“No one here understands what nonprofit marketing is or why we need a plan.”

Your job as a marketer is to educate. Share what other nonprofits are doing for attention, for program participants, for donations. Then put out on a table everything that you are currently producing (print out your e-newsletters, blog, etc.) and ask staff or your board to explain how they all fit together. Ask if the sum is equal to more than the parts. Odds are, without a strategy in the place, that there won’t be much coherence there, and people will start to understand the need for a real plan.

“We have a PR plan already.”

PR, or public relations, is only one marketing tactic.  A marketing plan is a map. It’s an overall structure that  guides you in making decisions about the right tactics to use to reach your target audiences. And those tactics may or may not include PR.

“We just finished a strategic plan. How is a marketing plan different?”

They are very much related but different. Your marketing goals are going to help you implement your strategic plan goals. That’s one of the very first things that we do in the Total Focus Nonprofit Marketing Plan Workshop is have you identify what those strategic goals are — the goals directly related to the mission of your organization. Then we ask you to set goals that show how you can use marketing to achieve those “mission” goals.

Ready to Create a Real Marketing Plan?

Nancy Schwartz and I will walk 25 nonprofits through the creation of a marketing plan during the Total Focus Nonprofit Marketing Plan Workshop on October 12, 2011 in New York City. Nine of those seats are already reserved, so register now to grab one of the remaining seats!

P.S. Here’s a coupon code to save $100: totalnyc



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  • Written simply and tastefully. It’s pleasant to read. Thank u.

  • I had a client once who, when I asked him what his marketing plan was, said “I’ll just go and talk to people.”
    Anything there make you realise he knew nothing?
    Maybe I’ll copy this and send it to him.