Why Marketing Matters More Than Ever in the Public and Not-For-Profit Sectors

In today’s economically challenged and constantly changing environment, most government and  non profits are still operating with the same traditional models and these are simply not working anymore.  And with the need for increased efficiency, accountability and transparency in all sectors, along with a requirement to be more strategic in the prioritization and delivery of programs, services and other social initiatives, the need to innovate couldn’t be stronger.

Simply stated, marketing is a process for working smarter. As Phil Kotler and Nancy Lee point out in their book Marketing in the Public Sector: A Roadmap for Improved Performance “marketing turns out to be the best planning platform for a public agency that wants to meet citizen needs and deliver real value.” Public agencies can benefit from bringing a more conscious marketing approach and mindset to their mission, problem solving and outcomes. Marketing is not the same as advertising, sales, or communications. It is these skills and more. It involves a customer (citizen–centered) approach, one that helps address citizen complaints, alters their perceptions, and improves performance. It is a disciplined approach for conducting a situation analysis, setting goals, segmenting the market, conducting market research, positioning, choosing a strategic blend of marketing tools, evaluating results, preparing budgets, and formulating an implementation plan. Here are six key practices that publicly driven organizations and professional associations need to adopt to thrive in these challenging times.

They include:

1. Adopting a Brand and Brand Promise that is Consistently Communicated and Demonstrated

Your brand is what people say about you and too many public and not-for-profit organizations don’t take the time to define their values and more importantly, how these values should be reflected in everything they do, from an association representing their members at the national policy level to a municipality delivering first-rate services to constituents.  Government organizations in particular, can no longer afford to be “all things to all people”  and must begin to articulate who they are, what they stand for and how they promise to deliver on those values.

 2.       Adopting a Client-Centered Mindset

Too often, public or member-driven organizations plan and implement programs without consulting their clients and are left wondering why these initiatives are not getting the anticipated take-up. An effective organization asks their clients    what they want first – and then plan accordingly.

3.       Taking a Strategic Planning Approach Towards Program / Service Delivery

Organizations that do not take a strategic marketing approach are usually operating in a “reactive” mode. Adopting a strategic approach towards program or service delivery forces an organization to focus its efforts on priorities, rather than applying a “bandage” to a wide range of never-ending issues.

4.       Adopting Social Media as Core Audience Engagement Tools

With more than 25 million Canadians on the web, public and non-profit organizations have the opportunity and tools to extend their influence far beyond traditional borders. Simply stated, if you are not actively engaged in social media  and digital engagement, you’re not “in the game”.  

5.       Increased Use of Partnerships to Leverage Resources and Create More Impact

Public and not-for-profit organizations need to focus more on strategic partnerships as a means of leveraging resources, enhancing service delivery and communicating with greater impact. Most organizations don’t have the resources  to implement programs on their own and as a result, end up with mediocre efforts when it comes to communicating message or delivering programs and services.

6.       Taking a Strategic Approach Towards Cost Recovery or Revenue Generation

To be successful over the long-term, organizations need to take a strategic approach towards revenue development.  Many organizations   jump from one “low hanging fruit” to another without any rationalization, creating a “knee-jerk” reaction that usually results in wasted time and effort. Marketing provides a focus by helping organizations identify their value in the market and delivering on that value for revenue.

To find out about CEPSM training programs in public sector or non-profit marketing

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Professional Certificate in Public Sector and
Non-Profit Marketing

There is a rising need for highly skilled marketing professionals in the public and non-profit sectors to effectively bring their organization’s products, services and messages to the marketplace.

The Professional Certificate in Public Sector and Non-Profit Marketing is uniquely designed to equip participants with the information, tools and solutions necessary to skillfully and mindfully navigate their way through the fascinating and complex world of marketing. This program engages participants in a rich learning environment that reinforces theory with practical, real-life examples based upon the extensive experience of the instructors.

Why You Should Attend

  • Develop an action-oriented, strategic marketing plan for your organization.
  • Become skilled at setting realistic, practical marketing objectives and goals.
  • Learn how to communicate messages effectively to key stakeholders and the public.
  • Share experiences with marketers in your sectors and expand your network.

Who Should Attend

Managers working for government, crown corporations/agencies, non-profit organization and associations who are responsible for:

  • Marketing programs, products and services targeted to the public, business and government.
  • Sponsorship and partnership development.
  • Membership development and revenue generation.
  • Exhibit and event marketing.
  • Social marketing, community outreach and public education programs.
  • Strategic communications, media relations and media advocacy.
  • Online and web marketing, social media and digital marketing.

Register Today


Marketing Public Sector Programs has become a Real Challenge

Is it becoming impossible to successfully run effective government marketing campaigns?.

We are now living in an over-saturated communications society with a tremendous amount of  marketing noise. Multichannel, 24/7 media, 400 TV channels, explosion of digital media how do you break through all the clutter? It is becoming a herculean task and demonstrating once more  the importance of marketing  concepts like branding, positioning and  segmentation.  At our Centre our mantra of “strategy before tactics” has never been more relevant. Every day we see lame attempts by non-profits and public sector organizations attempting to communicate to their audiences by using slip shod poorly crafted communication and marketing efforts without any strategy and seriously thinking that they can get their message heard or read. Even in cases when an organization has all the money and strategy  in the world and throws everything but the kitchen sink at a marketing program , there is no guarantee of success.

Take the Economic Action Plan here in Canada.  Last year, it was difficult to turn on the television or radio, glance at a newspaper, or drive anywhere in Canada without seeing marketing touting the federal government’s Economic Action Plan. It was the backdrop to almost every Minister’s appearance day in day out. Not to mention MP’s bearing giant cheques with the logo. The federal government ordered its bureaucrats across the country to track every single sign promoting the federal economic stimulus program.  This exercise began last summer, when the first signs were posted, and now spans eighteen departments and agencies.

Visitors watching Atlantic waves crash into the eastern tip of Newfoundland this summer couldn’t miss the iconic Cape Spear lighthouse, billboards advertised economic stimulus dollars at work, Similar signage blanketed the  the country featuring Economic Action Plan.  source

We’re not talking a few posters here, but 8,587, as of August 27 2010, and counting.   Multiply 8,527 by the price of a medium-sized sign, for argument’s sake, and the government would have shelled out $1,751,748. That figure, of course, would not include the cost of determining the signs’ location, or transporting, installing, and tracking them.

The advertising campaign for the government’s economic stimulus package—which uses a logo of rising green, blue and gray arrows—was launched in early 2009. The campaign includes a slick website, full-page ads in major newspapers and television spots. It cost $89-million last year. source

So what are the results of the most massive marketing communications campaign seen in recent history:

41 per cent of Canadians (57 per cent of Quebecers) had never heard of the Economic Action Plan.

More than half of those over 60 – the ones who normally pay more attention to news and vote more frequently than young people – hadn’t heard of the plan.

And among those who’d heard of the plan, most didn’t really know what it was about.

These results emerged from an Environics poll conducted last April for the Department of Finance.

Why did this program not achieve better  results? Hard to say. Was it because of the quality of the creative? Bad media placement? Bad strategy? Or was it because  as Jeffrey Simpson of the Globe and Mail points out this campaign did not have major impact because a whole lot of people aren’t interested in anything governmental, and/or they’re just misinformed about a lot of things.

So what’s the lesson here? Well one thing for sure the “tonnage” of marketing and communications resources may not matter if the message does not resonate with the intended target audience. Or maybe our expectations are too high and some will interpret these results as being great considering the topic area and the cynicism of  all things government .

May be if they had Stratford Ontario rocker Justin Bieber (and you thought the only thing that came out of Stratford was the festival)  delivering the message we may have had more resonance with young people  ( and their parents?) or Canadian icon  Don Cherry could have delivered the sports bar  crowd. The fact is that delivering messages is certainly getting difficult these days.

Let me know what you think.

Last Chance to Register

The Professional Certificate in Public Sector and Non-Profit Marketing is uniquely designed to equip participants with the information, tools and solutions necessary to skillfully and mindfully navigate their way through the fascinating and complex world of marketing. This program engages participants in a rich learning environment that reinforces theory with practical, real-life examples based upon the extensive experience of the instructors.

7 Course Modules – 8 days over 4 months

The Professional Certificate in Public Sector and Non-Profit Marketing 2011


Take the Marketing Test! You Know You Are A Marketing Driven Organization When…

Have you mastered the latest marketing tools and techniques to meet the challenges you face?

Have you developed a marketing plan for your organization, your products, your programs, your services?

Are you staying ahead by anticipating the changing landscape and developing the newest marketing strategies to move your organization to the next level?

–Take the Marketing “Vital Signs” test and check your organizations vital signs

Marketing “Vital Signs” Test

You Know You Are A Marketing Driven Organization When…

□ You do not use terms like “general public” when referring to your target audience

□ “Plan” is more than a four letter word

□ All marketing activities are coordinated and integrated into an overall plan

□ You focus on results and NOT process and politics

□ Your organization takes “risks”, although ensuring they are “reasoned risks“

□ You do not keep doing the same things every year i.e. programs, services, products

□ Marketing campaigns consistently meet their goals and objectives.

□ You take action when results are not achieved.

□ You have a clear understanding of the needs of your target group(s)

□ You have a dedicated marketing budget

□ Your organization’s brand has value

□ Reinventing the wheel is not standard operating procedure

□ Your organization is focused on “outcomes” not “outputs”

□ Evidence-based decision making is in your organization’s vocabulary.

□ Strategic Alliances/partnerships are a key component of your marketing activities

□ Your marketing objectives are SMART (Specific Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time Limited)

□ Your organization does not use the web as a warehouse to store information

□ You value training in areas like marketing and communications

□ Performance measurement is something that your organization does regularly

□ You are up to date with the latest trends, technologies in the area of marketing and communications

□ Branding is more than a visual identifier

□ You are open to change

□ You see the need to understand your “competition”

□ You use all the elements of the marketing mix (4 p’s) and not just use promotion

□ Your organization believes that the ultimate objective for marketing is not education and creating awareness but behaviour change

If You Scored:

20 – 25 You have the tools, processes and culture in place to be successful and sustainable

15 – 19 You are on the right path, but need to examine those areas where you are weak

10 – 14 You are most likely struggling and need to take a hard look at priorities and processes

6 – 9 You are on the borderline of existence as an organization

This test is the property of the Centre of Excellence for Public Sector Marketing. For those who require a copy in French please contact: Jim.Mintz@publicsectormarketing.ca