Thanks for joining us today for this ASTD Chapter Leader session on marketing your chapter. We’re going to start with a basic idea: Marketing is far more than press releases and hard sells. Like the strategic planning process we discussed together a few months ago in an ASTD Chapter Leader webinar [https://astd.webex.com/astd/ldr.php?AT=pb&SP=MC&rID=60888397&rKey=e1cabc949eaa034a] marketing is very much a cohesive and sustainable effort to match what you do with what others need. Effective marketing helps us determine several things, including: Who we are in terms of meeting marketplace needs How we are going to work to work to meet those needs Whether what we are providing actually meets a continuing or unmet need What we think is possible—are we setting easy-to-achieve goals and objectives or pushing a little beyond what we believe can easily be accomplished?
The framework for our discussions is the Mount Diablo chapter’s current marketing plan—and it does far more than provide a plan for dressing up and reaching its audience through the door to door sale of magazines. [You should be able to find the Chapter’s plan online by searching on the surprisingly complex words “ASTD Mount Diablo Marketing Communication Plan,” and we’ll have a URL on a resource slide at the end of the discussion today. ] It’s an example of marketing in the broadest purest sense: It uses a start-to-finish process not at all unlike the strategic-planning process. Mount Diablo’s plan starts with strong mission, vision, and value statements that were updated before the marketing plan was developed. It continues with efforts to connect what the Chapter offers with what its members and other stakeholders need. Then it provides an action-oriented measurable plan for connecting stakeholders with ASTD’s services and resources. It includes an understanding that evaluation and updating are part of the entire cycle.
Let’s take a few seconds to read the challenge outlined on this slide. Shelli Bischoff is a partner in Conservation Impact and founder of Marketing Impact. In this quote from her article she published several years ago, she takes us to the heart of what we’re going to accomplish today. [ Nonprofit Marketing with a Purpose: Developing a Strategic Marketing Plan to Engage New Audiences] The article is a concise (11-page) introduction to the topic, and it’s going to give us some ideas to explore during the first few minutes of our time together today. [The article, by the way, is available online at http://www.austincc.edu/npo/library/documents/Nonprofit%20Marketing%20with%20a%20Purpose.pdf ]
Again, let’s pause to take in what Shelli Bischoff is suggesting. She provides a concise eight-point summary of steps to be taking in strategic marketing efforts, and it pretty much summarizes Mount Diablo’s approach: First, we set goals. We analyzed the situation we are in (what we’ll call an “environmental scan “or “situation analysis”). We analyzed our market and the segmentation that exists in that marketplace. We selected a couple of target markets where we could achieve the greatest results with the least amount of effort (workplace learning and performance professionals living or working in the two-county area that is our primary service area—particularly those who were showing a little interest in us already but hadn’t joined the chapter and/or the national organization). We developed market strategies for those target markets—face-to-face contact, the use of social media, and broader-based outreach efforts). We continued to design programs and services that responded to what members and guests were requesting. We engaged and continue to engage in promotion and outreach, recognizing this as a small chunk of the big picture that comes to mind for most people who don’t have lots of marketing experience. And, finally, we continued to implement the marketing strategy with effective leadership and an eye toward updating that strategy as needed to respond to changes in our environment. If you’re already doing all of this, we’re done. But I suspect we have a way to go. For me, it comes down to those two words at the top of this slide. Our friend in the picture is a great reminder that effective marketing begins developing a voice that conveys our customer-oriented approach. If we begin all we do with our customers in mind, we’re going to keep them in our sights and approach them in ways that meet them where they want to be met rather than expecting them to come to us.
Understanding our market begins with that environmental scan or what Bischoff calls “situation analysis.” This can be extremely informal—a discussion that has marketing committee members describing our current and prospective audience. It can also include more formal efforts including surveys, focus groups, and research through a variety of resources including U.S. Census data. (That, by the way, is readily available online, and our local library can help us find plenty of resources if we’re having trouble on our own.)
To better gain an understanding of our market, let’s briefly go back to something we covered in the strategic planning webinar a few months ago—the idea of tracking down information about those current and prospective constituents we want to serve. There are numerous wonderful free sources of information available to us if we want to know more about the areas we serve. We can search U.S. Census Bureau figures at the national , state, and local levels, as we did here for one of the two primary counties Mount Diablo serves: http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/06/06013.html .
We can choose the “Select a State” tab in the upper left-hand corner of that screen and then jump into a larger pool of data.
Once we are on the “Select a State” page, we use the dropdown window to the right of the orange arrow to choose the area we want to study—and California always seems like a nice place to go. The next step is to click on “Go,” which is directly above the green star.
Now it’s just a matter of pulling out what we need and incorporating it into that environmental scan we’ve been discussing. Other resources include sites as basic as city sites (try searching on the term “city of,” as in “city of San Francisco,” “city of Papillon,” “city of Escanaba”). Chambers of commerce can also be great sources of information, particularly if you want to know more about the businesses in your area; the online search would be similar (Chamber of Commerce San Francisco, etc.). And don’t forget the business section of your local library and the onsite and online librarians who can quickly make you aware of resources you didn’t even know existed.
Having gained some ideas about how to scope out our market, let’s get back to the idea of understanding our customers’ needs. Step one is pretty obvious: we need to focus on the needs they are expressing. Step two is remembering that our efforts are as much about them as about us. If the only thing we do in our marketing efforts is talk about our need to attract more members or our need to increase revenues, we’re on the wrong side of the equation—we’re leaving out the all-important customer-centric focus of our efforts. And we’re going to stay right where we are.
As we work toward developing and refining a marketing voice that meets the needs of those we serve and hope to serve, we don’t want to forget one of the most basic elements: the need to create a distinctive, engaging, and consistent brand—something as eye-catching as this guy’s outfit. ASTD nationally helps all of us tremendously by having online branding guidelines, free articles we can use, and many other resources. We do our part by building off our local strengths to foster a strong, responsive, and distinctive voice while demonstrating that we’re part of something much larger than any single chapter could achieve on its own.
Check out any standard text on marketing or the Wikipedia article on “marketing mix” and you’ll find reference to the Four P’s of marketing. The first one really doesn’t take much thought, as we’ve just seen. We’re part of the premier workplace learning and performance organization in the country. Our mission is to “ Empower professionals to develop knowledge and skills successfully ,” so our product is learning and professional development opportunities for our constituents. And we strive to produce positive results for those served by workplace learning and performance offerings. What that means, of course, is that our products include learning opportunities and the positive measurable results those opportunities inspire.
Price, for us, includes our combined national and chapter dues as well as the amount paid by those attending our meetings and other events. I sometimes hear ASTD colleagues expressing concern over the price of membership, and it always raises a question for me: what’s the price of not belonging to such a great learning community? If we can answer that from the heart, we’re well on the way to setting some of the concern about pricing behind us. What marketing practice also suggests we consider are prices including the cost of traveling to and from our events (and don’t forget the time involved). There is also the cost of choosing participation in what we are doing over the choice to participate in something else—what is referred to as opportunity costs, or turning down one opportunity so we can pursue another one.
As we look at the third of the four P’s, we would do well to think about how we often grab the first relatively inexpensive place we can find for our meetings and then move on to other things. We wouldn’t do that if we were buying a home. We wouldn’t do that if we were inviting people to a personal celebration at the level of a wedding or any other important social function. It does, then, raise the question: why do we so often end up in industrial-style rooms or classrooms more accommodating to lectures than to social learning events? The Mount Diablo Chapter, many years ago, scored bigtime. Chapter reps were able to make arrangements to have monthly meetings in a country club that overlooks a wonderful golf course and has a range of mountains as its backdrop. And, once a year, the chapter moves into a larger space at that country club--shown here--for its annual workplace learning and performance expo. Does a first-time visitor or returning member have any doubt about the Chapter’s commitment to creating an inviting sense of place along with its commitment to fostering a welcoming community of learning? Is that something worth including in our marketing efforts?
We’re going to focus quite a bit on promotion for much of the rest of this part of our time together, so let’s start by admitting that we have never had greater or more extensive resources available to us at low or no direct cost. And we shouldn’t forget that these range from often ignored traditional delivery vehicles including face to face contact as well as print and broadcast tools along with all the social networking sites that have quickly become part of the marketing landscape for ASTD and other vibrant organizations.
As we look for resources to help us develop our Chapter’s voice, we can’t forget to literally start at home. Among the resources on the ASTD Chapter Leader Community website [http://www.astd.org/membership/CLC ] is the “Communications Toolkit for ASTD Chapter Leaders.” This 21-page document takes us through the basics of communicating our message to our internal and external audiences and reminds us that “The annual communications plan is a ‘big picture’ overview of the chapter’s upcoming marketing and communications activities for the year.”
Kivi Leroux Miller is another resource capable of helping us through our learning curve. She has written The Nonprofit Marketing Guide , which was published by Jossey-Bass in 2010. She also maintains the blog site you see here. And she focuses on the basics by leading us from start to finish through the process of creating and implementing effective marketing plans for our organizations.
So, before we begin developing that voice that is at the heart of our time together today, let’s stop, reflect, and learn a bit from each other. And we’re also going to have a little learning moment here. We’re about to switch over to a blank whiteboard. Your mission is to respond to the questions I’m throwing out to you. You should be able to type text directly onto the white board by positioning your cursor where you want your comments to appear, then typing those comments in. The beauty of this is that we’re going to create documents capturing the suggestions we all make so we can post a PDF of those whiteboards on the archive for this session. If you want to save your own copy of the whiteboard, just follow the “file” and “save” options from the upper left-hand corner of your screen and remember to save the document as a PDF onto your own hard drive. (If you try saving it as a Word document as we did during a rehearsal, you might not be able to open it later.) The point is that if you have a copy of these notes later, or if you want to jot down some notes on a piece of paper as we proceed, you’ll have the beginnings of your marketing plan before you leave the session today. So—using the white board, throw in a few ideas about what your own marketing plan might include: *What consistent part of your audience are you currently reaching? *What is one easily identifiable group you would love to reach but are not currently reaching? *What is one thing you and your chapter colleagues—board as well as non-board members—can be doing to better reach your existing members as well as your prospective members? *Who could you engage as partners in your marketing efforts?
The mechanics of creating a marketing plan include pulling together a task force; step by step production of the plan; formal review and adoption of the plan by the chapter board; and a review and evaluation phase so that you know what needs to be updated to keep that marketing plan alive. That should sound familiar: it parallels the strategic planning process—which means you should be able to connect what you are doing with what you did when you created your strategic plan. Much easier than starting from scratch, isn’t it?
If we limit participation to chapter board members, or even a subset of the chapter board, we miss an opportunity for excellence and engagement. Mount Diablo and other groups I’ve worked with make this an inclusive rather than exclusive process. The Board invited non-board members to become engaged at any level that was comfortable for them; there were even some marketing team members who were not current member of the chapter. Mount Diablo welcomed and was grateful for the wisdom and generosity of those nonmembers. The result was that some of them were enticed into a level of long-term engagement that would otherwise not have developed. In a choir the size of ours, we need every voice we can attract if we want to perform at the highest possible level.
Let’s get specific now. Mount Diablo takes a pretty direct and simple approach in its marketing plan. The first page of the six-page plan—yes, that’s right, it’s only six pages; we were really serious about wanting something usable, not something that was meant to be a monument to our ability to produce voluminous reports—anyway, it’s a direct and concise approach. There’s a paragraph about the task force’s mandate to “develop, for Chapter Board approval, a Chapter marketing and communications plan for internal (Board and other Chapter members) and external (prospective members, sponsors, and other supporters) audiences.” There’s a paragraph listing the task force members and their affiliations with the Chapter. And there’s a statement about the context in which the plan was developed: alignment with the Chapter’s strategic plan, as well as with the Chapter’s mission, vision, and value statements. Then we specifically outlined our broad-based marketing goals: meeting members’ needs while attracting new members. Strengthening the Chapter’s position and visibility in the communities it serves. Creating and nurturing collaborations to the benefit of the Chapter, its members, and its prospective members. Few words, yet lots of possibilities. It’s all about dreaming. And dreaming big. With a great conductor and a responsive choir.
Mount Diablo’s plan starts with a concise statement of the chapter’s general marketing philosophy: “ The Chapter should take a well balanced, cohesive, Chapter-wide approach to marketing.” That statement is the foundation for the well-defined goals and measurable objectives that the plan includes. None of this should be difficult for any of us. Creating goals and objectives that position us to determine whether our efforts produce successes are part of our day to day workplace learning and performance efforts. We simply have to take what we already know and apply it to our marketing efforts.
Once the players join the choir, we need to work within a specific, easy-to-follow deadline-oriented timeline—much more in the spirit of what you see in the lower left-hand corner here than what’s in the upper right-hand corner. The Mount Diablo group wanted a completed plan adopted within a few months, so the marketing team that was created as an ad hoc task force had well-defined check-in points with the entire Board throughout that process. Those conversations avoided any risk of creating silos and meant that the organization was implementing parts of the plan before it was even formally adopted—a great way to test whether what was being created was workable or whether it was headed toward being another of those well-crafted unread masterpieces that collects virtual dust on a virtual shelf.
Throughout our planning process, we would do well to engage in the same sort of exercise we do in strategic planning: Engage in what is called a SWOT analysis—the acronym is explained here on the slide we are viewing. We then need to apply the results of that analysis to the plan we are creating. And once we have explored those strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, we’re ready to start looking for potential tools to make our voice heard. Let’s quickly look through some of the social networking tools that our colleagues are exploring and employing to carry that voice to its intended audience.
Engaging our audience through LinkedIn discussion groups including the ASTD Chapter Leader discussion group
Engaging our audience through Facebook including ASTD national and chapter pages
Tweeting to our members and prospective members
Establishing YouTube channels to connect our audience with our offerings
Skype as a way to connect our offerings with our audience
Blogging as a way to strengthen the voice we use to become better connected to our members and prospective members
Augmenting our outreach efforts through free services including Free-Press-Release.com in addition to having media contact lists
Using social tagging to create more awareness of what we are doing and what we offer—a great way to tag our online posting of materials from previous meeting and workshop presentations
The Mount Diablo Chapter has a rudimentary asynchronous online book club which features write-ups of books on workplace learning and performance by those who have presented at Chapter meetings or are members of the Chapter.
Let’s pause before we move into another set of exercises to see if we’ve missed anything. If you have favorite social networking tools that you are using and that we haven’t covered here, let’s get those into the typed chat window so we can capture a few more options.
Let’s take another few minutes to reflect on what we’ve just covered. Again, using the whiteboards I’m about to bring out, let’s continue sketching your own strategic plans by addressing the following questions (and don’t forget that jotting down notes now will take you several steps further in preparing your Chapter’s strategic plan after our time together today comes to an end): *Who should be involved in your Chapter’s marketing planning process? *What strengths, weakness, opportunities, and threats come to mind when you think about your own position in your market? *What can you do to keep your plan on track?
We’ve covered a lot of ground in a short period of time today, and I’d like to leave some time for a final q&a period, so let’s have a quick summary about what comes next in creating the voice that most effectively represents your chapter. As you probably gathered by now, I’m big on suggesting that nothing is absolutely set in concrete. New tools are constantly coming our way—as are new people to help us effectively use those tools. This suggests that we need to be open to updating our plan—quarterly, semi-annual, annually—whatever is need to keep it fresh. Working in the kind of environment that Shelli Bischoff described in the quote at the beginning of our session today, we know we can’t afford to ignore new opportunities that may be coming our way. We also have to evaluate the results of our efforts: Are we seeing the increase in attendance we wanted to see from our efforts? Are we attracting more members and increasing our retention rate? Are our members responding enthusiastically to what we provide as we attempt to meet their needs? Are our members and our guests among our most vocal advocates?
As I’ve said in other contexts, the sort of collaborative effort that leads to success combines short- and long-term planning with a willingness to engage in revisions to accomplish what many other chapters don’t accomplish: Building a foundation that allows for all sorts of developments to meet our changing marketing needs, and Creating the solid commitment to community that sustains us through challenging times as well as through the easy ones. We can do this face to face. We can do this online. And we can use the tools available to us to do it seamlessly in ways that are consistent with our mission, vision, and value statements. Without forgetting to have fun.
When all was said and done, we want to be sure that we are not engaging in marketing just to say we’ve engaged in marketing. We should be meeting the goals and objectives we have set for ourselves. And there should be no mistaking that the voice our stakeholders are hearing is the one was set out to develop.
A final exercise: What steps can you take with your colleagues in the next two to four weeks to create a marketing process that is flexible and sustainable? Again, using the whiteboards I’m about to bring out, let’s continue sketching your own strategic plans by addressing the following questions (and don’t forget that jotting down notes now will take you several steps further in preparing your Chapter’s strategic plan after our time together today comes to an end): *What is one customer-oriented objective that you can incorporate into your marketing plan? *What sort of specific timeline and milestones do you need to establish to reach your marketing plan goals and objectives? *What can you do to keep your marketing plan on track?
Before we move into a final discussion, let’s ask and respond to an obvious question: where would we be without our resources? A few obvious ones: Strategic Marketing for Nonprofit Organizations is a classic, if somewhat highly priced, text that covers the topic in great detail. The Nonprofit Marketing Guide is a fairly new release that also looks to be a great resource. And let’s not forget ASTD’s 10 Steps to Successful Social Networking for Business . The other articles, documents, and sites listed at the bottom of the slide should give you ample food for thought as you proceed.
Marketing 101: Creating the Voice of A Successful Organization By Paul Signorelli ASTD National Advisors for Chapters 14 June 2011
Resources “ The Non-Profit Marketing Plan Walk-Through” (Blattner/Brunner): http://www.scribd.com/doc/73154/The-NonProfit-Marketing-Plan-Walkthrough-Foundational-Interactive-Strategies-for-Any-Business ASTD Communications Toolkit for ASTD Chapter Leaders: http://www.astd.org/NR/rdonlyres/691DC1A7-4A96-44E4-ADD8-68DBEEB3AE98/0/OneVoiceCommToolkit.pdf ASTD Mount Diablo Chapter Marketing and Communication Plan: http://mtdiabloastd.org/services/chapter_public_documents “ Nonprofit Marketing With a Purpose” (Shelli Bischoff): http://www.austincc.edu/npo/library/documents/Nonprofit%20Marketing%20with%20a%20Purpose.pdf
Credits & Acknowledgments (Images taken from flickr.com unless otherwise noted): Title slide: From Theparadigmshifter’s photostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/theparadigmshifter/470341923/sizes/m/in/photostream/ Woman in Bonnett: From Biogography’s photostream at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/blogography/4690606971/sizes/m/in/photostream/ Cheering Crowd: From Diaaphoto’s photostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/21394878@N04/4313493591/sizes/m/in/photostream/ Singer with Arms Outstretched: From Christophe Alery’s photostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/archipel2005/137681516/sizes/m/in/photostream/ Singer in Restaurant: From Prescott’s photostream at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ppym1/2603497212/sizes/m/in/photostream/ Security: From Steve_Rhodes’ photostream at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ari/154891170/sizes/m/in/photostream/ Chartreuse Singer: From Todd_Huffman’s photostream at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/oddwick/2192402397/ Feeding Bird: From Minds-eye’s photostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/craigoneal/4767065593/sizes/m/in/photostream/ Selling Newspapers: From Feureau’s p hotostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/feureau/5676435056/sizes/m/in/photostream/ Social Media: From Daniel_Iversen’s photostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/29148810@N05/5440728270/sizes/m/in/photostream/ Open for Business: From Lee_Reynolds’ photostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/lwr/68954704/sizes/m/in/photostream/ Choir: From More_Good_Foundation’s photostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/moregoodfoundation/5135937036/sizes/m/in/photostream/ Conducting Choir: From Donald_Macleod’s photostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/donaldmacleod/3799798149/sizes/m/in/photostream/ Avoid Making a Path: From Coydogblog’s photostream at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cogdog/2559104976/sizes/m/in/photostream/ Crowded Flowchart: From Neil _Cummings’ photostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/chanceprojects/3323969624/sizes/z/in/photostream/ English Monarch’s Timeline: From Eliazar’s photostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/eliazar/463125003/sizes/m/in/photostream/ Opportunity Center: From Guerilla_Future’s photostream at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/streamishmc/2340150187/sizes/m/in/photostream/ Man With Question Mark: From Marco_Bellucci’s photostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/marcobellucci/3534516458/sizes/m/in/photostream/ Woman Singing: From Zzathras’ photostream at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zzathras777/2765206298/sizes/m/in/photostream/ Question Marks: From WingedWolf’s photostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/wingedwolf/5471047557/sizes/m/in/photostream/ I also want to acknowledge members and supporters of the ASTD Mount Diablo Chapter for the marketing planning process documented throughout this presentation, and for their continuing first-rate marketing efforts—which continue to be a source of inspiration. To learn more about what they are doing or to contact them, please visit http://mtdiabloastd.org .