State of Public Sector and Non-Profit Marketing

Organizations in the public and non-profit sectors have long debated the applicability of marketing concepts and management approaches, many of which stem from private sector notions of consumption and economic choice, as well as an environment in which market forces rule. In recent years, however, there has been growing recognition that marketing can be used to enrich public sector and non-profit management and to better serve citizens and stakeholders.

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Some government organizations are turning to the following specific applications of marketing to better meet their objectives:

  • Marketing of products and services. Many public sector organizations offer products and services for a fee (either on a cost-recovery or for-profit basis to support core public good programs). In this context, marketing is not dissimilar to marketing of products and services that occur in the private sector.
  • Social marketing. This entails campaigns to change attitudes and behaviour of a target audience or audiences (e.g. anti-smoking, energy conservation, emergency planning, healthy living, etc.)
  • Policy/Program marketing. This type of marketing includes campaigns to convince specific sectors of society to accept policies, or new legislation (e.g. anti-tobacco legislation, gun control , funding for the arts,etc.).
  • Demarketing or “don’t use our programs” marketing. This would include campaigns to advise and/or persuade targeted groups not to use government programs/facilities/services (e.g. use of hospital emergency rooms, use of 911 for non- emergencies, etc.).

A major role has also emerged for marketing in the non-profit sector, where it is now used to encourage donors, recruit volunteers, get clients to buy or use products/programs and services, advocate policies to key stakeholders, execute behavior change campaigns, enhance the image and branding of their organization, attract new members, forge partnerships and strategic alliances, and define the very programs and services offered by organizations.

The practice of sound marketing management in these two sectors clearly offers important benefits in terms of responding to the heightened expectations of citizens and stakeholders, engaging target audiences in the development of programs and services that affect them, shifting the focus of campaigns from awareness to behaviour change, better targeting resources, and improving program/service outcomes.

Recognizing the growing importance of marketing in the public and non-profit sectors, The Centre of Excellence for Public Sector Marketing (CEPSM) was launched in 2005, to help public sector and nonprofit organizations overcome the unique challenges they face in their marketing and communications initiatives. CEPSM’s mission is “to advance the marketing discipline in the public and nonprofit sectors”.

The core competencies of CEPSM include:

  • Product, Program & Service Marketing
  • Digital Marketing & Social Media Engagement
  • Sponsorship & Partnership Development
  • Revenue Generation
  • Social Marketing (Attitude & Behaviour Change)
  • Branding Management & Strategy
  • Integrated Marketing Communications
  • Strategic Communications
  • Service Excellence

After 11 years of working with hundreds of organizations in both the nonprofit and public sectors in Canada (and a few international clients), here is my take on the state of public sector and nonprofit marketing.

Generally speaking strategic marketing management, with a few exceptions, is not broadly recognized or practised in the government, nor in the non-profit sectors. In addition, many of the best practices in marketing have not been adopted by government and non-profit organizations.

The government sector, in particular, lacks the culture and organizational support to advance the practice of marketing. Government organizations lack a common understanding of strategic marketing principles, from the senior executive level down. This is evidenced in both the culture and the behaviour.  Specifically, they…

  • are more focused on tactics and implementation than on strategic marketing and planning;
  • do not have a proactive, systematic approach to identifying high value, client-centered ideas and turning these ideas into new products, programs and services;
  • do not tend to measure to improve results and ensure accountability of marketing expenditures;
  • do not support the marketing function both in terms of funding and culture; and
  • have difficulty attracting, training and retaining staff with marketing skills given the culture and lack of organizational support.

Here are some top observations on the State of Marketing in the nonprofit and public sectors:

  1. Marketing function tends to be housed in the Communication function and being run by people with very little background or experience in marketing.
  2. Very few organizations develop a comprehensive marketing strategy. We noted a few cases where organizations do have a separate marketing department with  marketing staff and no evidence of an overall marketing strategy.
  3. Lack of a structured process for identifying, planning and implementing programs, services or campaigns.
  4. Lack of attention to segmentation. Hard to believe that in 2016 we still hear the words “general public”.
  5. Lack of marketing research and failure to develop monitoring and evaluation strategies.
  6. Lack of attention to branding and positioning.
  7. Lack of attention to conducting competitive analysis, especially in organizations where they have major competitors.
  8. Do not take all the 4 p’s into consideration. Mostly focus on communications or promotion.
  9. Too bureaucratic and lack flexibility.
  10. Confusion between marketing and communications, and marketing roles & responsibilities unclear.
  11. Public sector & non-profit organizations with revenue generation mandates lack business and marketing/business expertise and culture.
  12. Lack of staff incentives for achieving marketing objectives.
  13. Tendency to be more reactive than proactive.

Not a pretty picture. I wish I could give better news but introducing a marketing function and culture into a government operation or a non-profit is a major challenge because of the nature of the beast. Marketing requires some risk-taking, moving quickly as opportunities arise, changing direction and most important a focus on clients rather than the organization.

This is not to say that there are not some pockets of great marketing in government and non-profit sectors but they are rare. I’ve blogged about successful marketing efforts in the past and I’ll continue to do so as I see them.

Implications

So where do we go from here?

As a starting point, there is a need to educate senior managers in government and non-profit organizations about the value and applicability of strategic marketing management principles. First, this requires recognition across all levels of government of the value of strategic marketing management both in terms of the potential impact on the effectiveness and efficiency of programs, services and outreach campaigns, as well as the benefit to citizens.

Within government organizations, there is wide recognition of the role and value of the communications function. There is an opportunity to broaden this function to include a broader strategic marketing mandate and to re-position it as a new, expanded role for the communications community. However, it is important that the function is led and staffed with people who have a marketing background.

As we move into the digital age, government and non-profit organizations need to examine the process by which they develop and manage client-centred products, programs and services. Marketing management systems and practices must be adopted from the planning level across. Furthermore, measurement systems must be put in place to track success against marketing objectives and make necessary adjustments to improve performance.

logo-cepsm

The Centre of Excellence for Public Sector Marketing (CEPSM) offers public sector organizations an easy and affordable way to acquire expertise from marketing strategists to help develop a successful marketing strategy. The entire process can be completed in a very short time.

CEPSM’s 3-Step Marketing Consultation and Training Program
How does the 3-Step Marketing Consultation and Training Program work?

1. Orientation
First, we familiarize ourselves with your organization, overall goals, objectives, issues, target audience (s), marketing communications activities, existing marketing research and other information that helps us understand your organization and environment.

2.Training for Strategy Development
Once the initial orientation has been completed we will guide and facilitate your team through a two-day structured training and strategy development workshop using our exclusive CEPSM’s Marketing 101 for Marketers and Non-Marketers to develop an actionable integrated marketing strategy. The strategy will include: a situation analysis, goals and objectives, a strategic market segmentation plan, branding and positioning considerations, the 4 p`s (i.e. marketing mix), key messages, and a broad range of promotional tactics and a performance measurement approach to evaluate the strategy. At the end of the two days, you will have a draft marketing strategy framework.

3. Fine-tuning
At the end of the facilitated two-day session, CEPSM will work with your team on fine-tuning the plan with details such as specific timelines & costs as part of developing the final strategy and plan. In addition, we are available via e-mail/telephone or face-to-face meetings to discuss any questions that arise in the development of the final marketing strategy.
CEPSM also offers a coaching service which includes but is not limited to: additional training – coaching sessions to the management of a marketing program and function. This includes adhoc advice (oral or written) to support your organization in implementing the strategy plus trouble-shooting to ensure the success of the marketing strategy.

What are some other Marketing Consultation and Training Program services do we offer?

One-Day Marketing 101 for Marketers and Non-Marketers Workshop
This workshop provides participants with an overview of public sector & non-profit marketing and takes participants through an innovative session on best business practices on developing marketing strategies in a public sector environment. The workshop will also highlight the importance of market research to support a decision-making framework. The workshop combines a mix of interactive presentations, with group discussions and exercises that will enhance the participant’s skills. The resource for this workshop is CEPSM’s Marketing 101 for Marketers and Non-Marketers Workbook.

The workshop explores the strategic elements of a marketing plan and how to transform organizations from using the traditional communications approach to an integrated, strategic marketing approach. We also explore the most effective methods for acquiring and using marketing intelligence.

The workshop will give participants an overview of marketing best practices and approaches, the benefits of coordinated branding and positioning into the integrated marketing communications process, the benefits of a collaborative strategy and how to optimise shared assets.
The result of these sessions will be to establish a structured process and template for participants to develop a strategic marketing plan for their programs, products and services

  • What participants will learn?
  • An overview of marketing in a public-sector or non-profit environment;
  • Systematic processes and strategic elements for developing and action-oriented strategic marketing plan;
  • How to set realistic, practical marketing objectives and goals;
  • How to develop a “client-based” mindset in a public-sector and non-profit organization;
  • How to use market research to support a decision-making framework;
  • How to develop a system to measure progress, monitor performance and evaluate marketing efforts
  • How to improve the execution of marketing communications strategies

Full service consulting to develop a comprehensive marketing plan

Using a collaborative, step-by-step consulting approach, we work with our clients to develop action-oriented strategic marketing plans that can be implemented within the unique constraints of a public-sector environment. We have worked with countless organizations, large and small, across Canada to create both customized, high-level marketing plans and comprehensive strategic marketing solutions.

For a full list of CEPSM’s Training and Consulting Programs and Services check-out our web site https://cepsm.ca/

For more information, contact:
Jim Mintz, Managing Partner and Senior Consultant CEPSM.ca
Office: 343-291-1137 E-mail: jimmintz@cepsm.ca

Jim Mintz is a Managing Partner of the Centre of Excellence for Public Sector Marketing (CEPSM) where he presently works with several public sector and nonprofit clients.

About jimmintz

Managing Partner, CEPSM Jim Mintz is a veteran marketing professional with many years of experience as a practioner and academic. He is presently Managing Partner at CEPSM and Program Director of the “Professional Certificate in Public Sector and Non-Profit Marketing” at Sprott School ... Specialty Areas: Social Marketing, Integrated Marketing Communications, Public Sector and Non Profit Marketing
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