Years ago, a friend of mine who belonged to a small non-profit asked me if I would come to the next management meeting and discuss marketing planning – what it is and how and why to do it. I was happy to oblige, gathered up my Marketing Communications 101 presentation and arrived eager to tout the benefits of doing what I love.
I quickly learned that this organization was in a bit of a slump. Membership and fund raising were down and the organization’s reputation had declined. Existing members were unhappy too and were looking for reassurance that they were in the right place.
While the declining economy was to blame, it was not the only culprit. This organization did little or no marketing (except for some limited advertising). The management consisted of brilliant numbers people. The problem was that they had no idea how to tell and sell their story in a way that would touch the hearts and minds of their customers — and win them over forever. They also had to come to grips with the fact that changing attitudes and behaviors takes time. Results don’t happen overnight.
The good news is that they listened and, in time, turned their organization around.
Looking back, I think the biggest challenges I faced with this client were convincing them that effective marketing communications must reflect business goals and objectives, be customer driven, and include more than just advertising. Of course, advertising plays an important role, but so do public relations, media relations, sales programs, community outreach, promotions, and internal communications. Today, we’d add social media, content marketing and all things digital into that mix.
I remember talking a lot about “touch points” and the importance of having a constant, yet helpful, presence in the lives of current and prospective customers. It sounds a little “touchy feely” I know, but an effective marketing communications plan puts us in touch with the right people, in the right way, at the right time. We’re in their newspapers, on the radio, in their mail and e-mail boxes, in their Twitter feed, and more. We also have a presence in their communities and their friends are recommending us. We’re touching their lives and building relationships. After all, people like to do business with people they know and trust.
While the exact number of “touch points” needed to convince customers that we’re exactly what they need varies, it usually takes quite a few over a significant amount of time. Whatever the number may be, the right touch can make all the difference in the world.
(Check out this article, “How Many Contacts Does it Take before Someone Buys Your Product,” published on BusinessInsider.com by CityRoom.com for a great take on this topic.)