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Tricks of the Trade: Integrate the “4 Ps” of Traditional Marketing into Your Plan

Resource Center - Foundation

Editor's Note: This story was reprinted with the permission of Network for Good from their guidebook titled 25 Steps to Fall & Holiday Fundraising Success.

(Nov. 24, 2009) Any traditional marketing 101 course will tell you about the magical quartet that composes the music of the marketing mix: price, product, placement and promotion (or, the "Four Ps"). The Ps provide a framework for professional MBA types to gain their footing and strategize their outreach initiatives to reach their audiences and ultimately sell a product or service.

Meanwhile, we as nonprofit, mission-oriented types often find ourselves looking at the ever-important nonprofit "P" (passion) and losing sight of the rest of potentially powerful Ps and how they affect our "customers"--our supporters and potential supporters.

So, can nonprofits apply the traditional marketing mix and achieve great fundraising results? What's the difference in approach? What four bite-sized marketing tips can you take with you back to your next campaign planning meeting?

Read on to see the overlap between for- and non-profit strategy and the ways to soar to new understanding of nonprofit marketing:

1. Pinpoint your product. In the work you do you're not selling cars or cola, but that doesn't mean you lack a product. In fact, you have two products.

  • The first is what your nonprofit is actually delivering: school lunches for underprivileged children, showcases of local artists' work, bed nets for people to prevent malaria, etc. Nonprofits often confuse their mission for their product: Saving the Earth versus recycling bins for every household. The trick is to make your product into something tangible. It's taking a concept and a dream, and translating that into a tangible, visualize-in-my-head-able thing or service.
  • The second-and oftentimes more elusive-is the value or service you're providing to the donor/volunteer/advocate. Yes, you're providing an avenue for the individual to help someone/something else. But think beyond that: What feelings or benefits are you providing for the donor him/herself? Here are a few examples of things you're providing with your benefit-exchange: happiness, convenience, power, safety and so on. Take some time to brainstorm what your organization is offering behind door number 1 and door number 2. (Hint: "Stopping malaria" is not a valid response for either type of product. Providing a bed net and the proud feeling you get for potentially saving a child's life are the right one-two punch.)

2. Set the price. When translating for-profit-speak to nonprofit lingo, you might associate price with "amount of donation." However, donation amounts are not the whole story. Price comes down to the sacrifice your supporter is making in order to support you--whether it's with her time, money, etc. When you think of your marketing "calls-to-action," the action is the price. Nail that down and you can speak more clearly and openly with your audiences. And, when considering what you're "charging," make sure you know the value you're providing in return. What are the benefits for the supporter? What's the reward?

3. Plan the promotion. Quick: Think of a synonym for promotion! Did you say "advertising"? *buzzer* Sorry, you only get partial credit. The complete answer we're looking for is channels. Promotion refers to the various aspects of marketing communication. By going through this "Ps" exercise with your marketing strategy, you've got the product and how much it costs determined; this third step covers how you're going to spread your message the product and its cost/benefit trade-offs. Are you going to talk about your "products" online? Via direct mail? With a black tie gala? Through paid advertising?

We'll sneak in a bonus "P" to this category: packaging. The success of your promotion and outreach around your products relies heavily on the way you frame the information. What's the messaging? To what audience values are you appealing? What's your communications strategy? (Hint #2: "Facebook" is not a strategy. If anything, it's a "place" and we're not there yet. Hold your marketing-resource horses!)

4. Pick the right place. "Place" is another two-in-one situation. When choosing your outreach tactics, you're reaching out to audiences in two places or ways: 1) where they are physically (ex: in their email, on Facebook, at a convenience store), and 2) where they are mentally (ex: their state of mind). To be at the right place at the right time, make access easy: meet people where they are physically and appeal to what's top-of-mind for them right now. One example of easy access is to accept donations on your website and have a donate button that's simple to find at a glance. That potential donor is on your website and thinking about your organization, your product and the price you've set to get involved; make sure you're in that place along with her.

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