Buyer Beware when Hiring a Social Marketing Behaviour Change Consultant

One of my specialties as a marketing strategist is social marketing for attitude and behaviour change. I recently wrote a blog Mistakes to Avoid in Social Marketing (Behaviour Change)

In the blog, I discuss the many mistakes I see organizations make when trying to develop and/or implement a social marketing behaviour change strategy. As a managing partner and senior consultant at the Centre of Excellence for Public Sector Marketing I keep seeing organizations make the same mistakes repeatedly.

One of the top mistakes I have noted in my many years in the business is most social marketing initiatives seem to be run by individuals that have no background or training in either marketing or social marketing for behaviour change.  Many come from the field of communications, public relations or in some cases advertising which may explain why many campaigns are heavy on communications but lack basic marketing principles and techniques in getting audiences to change their behaviour. Many of the campaigns we see tend to be social communications, public education/public awareness or advertising campaigns but few are really social marketing.

I recently saw an article titled How to tell if an agency really does behavior change.

In her article, Sara Isaac talks about the fact that she spends a lot of time explaining what she does. She claims that outside of certain public health circles, few people had heard of the concept of using marketing to “sell” beneficial behaviors. Now, she points out social marketing — a.k.a. behavior change marketing — seems to be the “flavour of the day”. and lots of communications agencies these days are using the behavior change label to sell themselves.

 

Many of these communications, marketing, advertising, and creative agencies have little or any background in developing or implementing behaviour changing campaigns, so it is “buyer beware”.

To assist government and non-profit organizations looking for a company to help them with their behaviour change interventions she has written an article on how to tell if the company you are hiring to do a behaviour change intervention “is the real deal”.

Here are the 4 clues she offers as a way to know if you are hiring the right consultant.:

1. Does your agency talk about research? Ms. Isaac points out that research is essential to every behavior change intervention. Without it you are shooting in the dark, and risk wasting your money or worse. Research is expensive, and there isn’t always budget for every project to do extensive environmental scans or formative research. But there are affordable workarounds.

As I point out in my blog, one of our major frustrations at our Centre is that many organizations running social marketing campaigns do not do audience research, and when it is done, it is not done well. I cannot tell you how many times we are told by organizations that they cannot afford to do proper research but meanwhile spend tens of thousands on implementing tactics.

Social Marketers conduct research to determine current behaviors, identify target audiences, identify barriers and motivations, test concepts and messages, and set baselines for evaluation.

Marketers don’t assume they know how their audience thinks and feels. They do not simply follow their instincts or let their own ideas about what the audience wants drive their programs. Social marketing requires an investment of both financial and human resources. Organizations cannot afford to try out different marketing options blindly; If their campaigns head in the wrong direction, they will have wasted their money

2. Do they talk about the target audience? Her second clue is when your marketing campaign includes “everybody” you are guaranteed to influence nobody to change their behavior. And it’s best to do more than simple demographic segmentation (gender, age, ethnicity) whenever possible.

Segmentation is the key to effective social marketing but many campaigns are not targeted and focused. Very few agencies are familiar with the techniques (e.g. TARPARE) to use to develop segmentation strategies for behaviour change interventions

Most campaigns use demographics and geographic segmentation but with social marketing you are dealing with behaviour change and very few campaigns use psychographic segmentation to develop campaigns.

3. Does your agency focus on concrete behaviors and measurable goals? She points out that the more concrete and simple you can make a behavior, the more likely it is that your target audience will at least sample the behavior (the first step to deeper engagement).

My experience in social marketing is you need to break down big changes into bite-sized chunks for people. Start with baby steps: specific actions that people can sustain over time. Early successes lay a foundation for long-term successes.

It’s hard to simply stop a negative habit, so replace it with a positive one instead. It’s far more effective than trying to go “cold turkey.” Willpower is a finite resource: sooner or later it will be depleted. Everyone’s motivation ebbs and flows; what people need more than willpower is easier behaviors.

The problem with an abstract goal or objective is that there is no specific call to action. It’s important to translate goals into simple, actionable steps. It’s been shown that people are more likely to try something new if it’s similar to what they’re already doing. The use of nicotine gum as a substitute for cigarettes is an obvious example.

When seeking to discourage a specific behaviour think about what can be offered in its place. This step looks at the potential impact of the behavior change. Our advice for encouraging behavior change is to work on one behavior at a time then add others on and go with behavior change suggestions with the highest probability of change.

4. When they talk creative, do they also talk strategy? Ms. Isaac points out that she runs a creative shop. “That means we come up with lots of fun, creative ideas. But a good portion of those ideas go right out the window because they aren’t on strategy or don’t pull the levers on the 12 behavioral determinants that drive our work.”

She advises that If your agency starts talking creative execution before you’ve got your strategy pinned down, beware. You might end up spending your money on something that looks very pretty, and might even get a lot of attention, but doesn’t move the needle on the behavior you are trying to address.

I have had the same experience. At our Centre, we see clients spending hundreds of thousands of dollars, not to mention a significant amount of human resources, without a social marketing strategy. Sometimes they will mistake a communications or advertising strategy for a social marketing behaviour change strategy but in many cases there actually is no strategy just a bunch a promotional tactics weaved together and called a strategy.

So as Ms. Isaac points out behaviour change may be the “flavor of the day”, but a poorly designed campaign will do little to make a difference on the issues you care about — and the world needs effective behavior change approaches now more than ever. Whether you are hiring an agency or going it yourself, make sure you do enough research to truly understand the problem, define a clear target audience and concrete target behaviors, and then set behavioral goals as well as a strategy to achieve them.

To learn how to how to use a step-by-step structured approach to prepare a social marketing plan that is actionable, has maximum impact, and leads to successful implementation; come join us for our Intro to Social Marketing Planning for Attitude and Behaviour Change training we run at our Centre for more information check out our training workshops https://cepsm.ca/services/training/. Our Centre conducts a wide variety of marketing and communications training in various formats, including; public workshops; private, tailored workshops (in-house or at our Centre), private coaching and mentoring services.

MARKETING WORKBOOKS FOR PUBLIC SECTOR & NON-PROFIT MARKETERS & COMMUNICATORS

Two workbooks ideal for marketers and communicators working for government departments/agencies, non-profit/volunteer organizations, associations and social enterprises who are responsible for:

  • Marketing programs, products, programs and/or services
  • Social marketing, community outreach and public education programs

1. Social Marketing Planning to Change Attitudes and Behaviours Workbook

This workbook provides users with an end-to-end planning tool that lays the groundwork for a successful social marketing program to change attitudes and behaviours. The content is the result of more than 30 years of direct experience in the social marketing arena.  It will assist public sector, non-profit organizations and associations involved in marketing, communications, public awareness/education and outreach.

To purchase workbook, go to https://cepsm.ca/product/social_marketing_workbook/

Order Now and You’ll receive a PDF download immediately!

Alternatively, you can register on our MARCOM Conference site to attend an upcoming Introduction to Social Marketing Planning for Behaviour Change Workshop where we offer the workbook as part of 1-day interactive workshop

2.  Marketing 101 for Marketers and Non-Marketers Workbook

This workbook provides users with an end-to-end planning tool that lays the groundwork for developing a successful public sector or non-profit marketing program.

It also will provide you with an overview of public sector and non-profit marketing and highlight the importance of market research to support a decision-making framework.

To purchase workbook, go to https://cepsm.ca/product/marketing-101-for-marketers-and-non-marketers-workbook/

Order Now and you will receive a PDF download immediately!

 

 

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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.

professionals-at-a-boardroom-table

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.

For copy of full report and study contact jimmintz@cepsm.ca

 

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