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.

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“Strategy without tactics is slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is noise before the defeat.”

This Sun Tzu quote, borrowed from the Art of War is thousands of years old  is still relevant today. Marketing is divided into two parts: (1) marketing strategy and (2) marketing tactics. But most people think it is all about tactics.

In my experience when I hear someone tell me that they don’t have enough funds to do a great marketing job , I tell them it is not more money that you need but more strategy. But strategy takes time and skill and marketers are looking for quick fixes. That’s why social media has become the new God … the new messiah.

Marketers and Communicators are out there thinking if only they can sharpen their skills in social media they will have the tools to be successful in marketing and communications but they are dead wrong. Marketing is not about tactics and social media, as important as it has become, is not the messiah.  Marketing is about strategy. Go to any conference and see what people want to learn about. Not strategy… I actually attended a conference in the USA  a few years ago to give a workshop on marketing strategy and some people were a bit disappointed that I did not spend much more time on tactics. Well the truth is you can have all the tactics in the world, but if you don’t spend the time to build a strong marketing strategy all the great tactics in the world are worthless. How many times have we seen at our Centre clients who have hired ad agencies to produce award-winning ads which fall flat on their face because there is no strategy?

Yes I understand that creating a marketing  strategy  takes time and hard work but today marketers and communicators are looking for quick fixes. But there are no quick fixes and don’t let web 2.0 folks or ad agencies sell you a bill of goods. Strategies before tactics is the only solution to being successful in marketing

In his article  The TGIF Revolution is only half the story Al Ries demonstrates that Strategy is the key to success in marketing but most people think it is about tactics which is usually a fatal error. With the new ways of doing things through social media…  or as Ries calls it TGIF (That’s Twitter, Google, the Internet and Facebook.) marketers have lost sight on the importance of strategy. There is no question that these four revolutionary developments have forever changed the marketing function. But will the skilful use of social media i.e.  TGIF make you a great marketer?
Well obviously not.

As Reis points out

Linens ‘N Things didn’t go bankrupt because they didn’t make effective use of Twitter. They went bankrupt because they were a knockoff of Bed Bath & Beyond without a unique identity.

DHL didn’t pull out of the U.S. market because they didn’t buy enough AdWords from Google. They pulled out of the U.S. market because they violated a basic law of marketing, the law of duality. DHL was the No.3 brand in a category dominated by UPS and FedEx.

Kmart didn’t go bankrupt because they couldn’t figure out how to use the Internet to promote the brand. They went bankrupt because they were squeezed between Walmart at the low-end of the mass merchandiser category and Target at the high-end.

Coca-Cola didn’t fail to build a leading energy-drink brand in three tries (KMX, Full Throttle and TAB) because they forgot to use Facebook to ignite the brands. They failed to build a leading energy-drink brand because they waited too long after the launch of Red Bull.

According to Ries,  Marketing can be divided into two parts: (1) marketing strategy and (2) marketing tactics. And to him there is no question that strategy is by far the most important half of a marketing program.

It’s like warfare, also a mixture of strategy and tactics. The weapons of war are equivalent to the media used in a marketing campaign. How often has an army won a war with better soldiers, better guns, better tanks, and better aircraft?


What wins wars are better strategies? In World War II, the Germans had the advantage of the better weapons, the better discipline, and the most experience. Yet their leader, Adolph Hitler, was a rank amateur when it came to military strategy.

I finally got a chance to read Al and Laura Ries book WAR IN THE BOARDROOM… why left –brain management and right-brain marketing don’t see eye –to eye-and what to do about it

According to the Rieses the problem with management is that managers don’t have the brains for marketing.

This reflects a difference in brain dominance. Managers tend to be left-brain dominant, focusing on logical and analytical ways of dealing with the world.

Marketers tend to be right-brain dominant, getting their ideas more intuitively and holistically.

While the marketing department may have a better grasp of how marketing works, say the Rieses, management always makes the final decisions. And that can lead to companies basing marketing strategies on management thinking.

Where the two differ:

•Management deals in reality; marketing, in perception. Most managers believe that producing a better product is the key to success. Yet, time and again, new products with perfect benchmarks fail, such as Volkswagen’s Phaeton (a luxury car with top ratings) and beverage Miller Clear. Miller Clear tasted like regular beer, if you closed your eyes. “(But) when you drank Miller Clear with your eyes wide open,” the Rieses write, “it tasted like watery beer. Perception always trumps reality.”

•Management focuses on the product; marketing, on the brand.

•Management wants a diversified market strategy; marketers prefer to focus in one area.

•Management targets the center of the market, while marketing targets the ends•

Management wants better products, while marketing wants different products.

Management’s response to a rival is often to try to do the same thing better. The marketing response is to do something different and create a new mental category.

•Management wants a single brand; marketing wants many brands. Management wants the big brand name on everything to justify the money spent on brand recognition. Marketing wants to launch new brands, because often the new product isn’t a good match for the old brand name.

In short, the Rieses believe that management wants good products that appeal to everyone, while marketing wants a powerful brand that dominates a mental category.

Because management makes the decisions, marketing folks should learn to speak in left-brain terminology. The book is a good place to start lessons. Examples are well-explained and down-to-earth. As for managers, even the most logical and analytical types should be able to see the reasoning behind “marketing sense.”

Don’t for get to register for MARCOM The premiere educational forum for public and not-for-profit marketers and communicators. This year’s line-up is the best ever.

Also join me for Branding for Associations –

Don’t miss this unique opportunity to learn about the importance of taking a strategic marketing approach within your association. You will learn how adopting a marketing mindset ensures that you are driven by what your members, clients and stakeholders need and want versus what you think they need and want. This series is designed to coach you all year-long.  The first in the series “Branding for Associations – why it has become invaluable” is happening February 8 with Jim Mintz.


Top Federal Bureaucrat Embraces Web 2.0 Technology

Well the penny has finally dropped in the federal government…yesireee. The top bureaucrat in the federal government,  privy council clerk Wayne Wouters states that federal government departments have to embrace the web 2.0 tools and technology that the rest of the real world uses . The introduction according to Wouters would allow more collaboration among workers , levels of government and Canadians. Here is the link to the report.

He goes on say in his report to the Prime Minister, “adopting Web 2.0 technologies such as wikis can help us to improve the productivity of our workplaces and better harness the skills and knowledge of public servants across the country. Moreover, the reality is that newer public servants expect an enabling workplace. They will not stay long if we fail to provide one. Canadians also expect the public service to take advantage of new technologies to help meet their needs in new and better ways. Increased innovation will help us become more effective and efficient. We need new ideas, experimentation and better implementation. However, I recognize that it is difficult to innovate when hampered by unnecessary rules. That is why unraveling the web of rules at both the public service and departmental levels must continue.” (Amen)

Well Mr Wouters how about allowing public servants to have access to social media channels. Many of you who don’t work in the federal government, may be surprised to find out that the majority of public servants at all levels have no access to most of the popular social media channels . No this is not China I am talking about but Canada … a country that was once the world leader in E- Government and  is now years behind most industrialized countries especially the USA which is years ahead of us.

This is clearly a result of short sighted senior public service management who are concerned that left to their devices and allowed access to social media sites like Facebook public servants would be spending  a good portion of their  day on a social media site.  As a retired former senior public servant, I find this absolutely regressive old style bureaucratic thinking. I certainly remember in the 1990’s championing the ability for public servants  in my Department  to have access to the Internet. Some of you may find this hard to believe but government departments at the time were charging managers for every internet site accessible to  staff which resulted in only a small percentage of staff having access to the web.

Mr Wouters also discusses the stifling bureaucracy associated with briefing notes (which are rewritten 10 and 11 times due to the ridiculous approval process ).  He also mentions the levels of approvals required to complete simple tasks. In the field of communications and marketing the amount of approvals now required by departments, especially in the past few years is quite unbelievable. This has tremendous impact on productivity, it takes forever to get anything approved and clearly affects the  final product . If you want to see an example of what happens when you have a cumbersome  approval system in the marketing and communications field see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jVb8EC1Y2xM.

Wouters points out “that government  systems are decades old and in  serious need of modernization to support their  operations. We must be more systematic about how we manage our knowledge and information. These are important government assets that should be captured and shared among individuals and across organizations.” Quite an understatement! Many departments are still working with old versions of Microsoft Office and some are still using Lotus Notes… an abomination .

Finally Wouters states “I encourage deputies, assistant deputy ministers, executives and managers to break down the barriers to effective collaboration,support innovation and the use of technology, and better manage information and knowledge. Enabling people and being more open to new ideas and approaches will be necessary if we are to truly unleash excellence.”

Yes Mr Wouters … Governments have to be open to new ideas, especially when it comes to technology.  You are recruiting thousands of young people in the public service (and there are thousands in the systems) and most are are up to speed on the new technologies and they find it totally regressive to work in an environment  where new technologies are not embraced but rather banned from the workplace.

I just wanted to remind readers of my blog to register for MARCOM Professional Development, taking place June 10 & 11 at the Hilton Lac-Leamy.

If you haven’t had a chance to check out the program  or review the speaker roster , then I strongly encourage you and your colleagues to review the great line-up, make it part of the training plan and register before April 16.

Here are our key note speakers:

Mitch Joel: President, Twist Image

He is a marketing and communications visionary, interactive expert, community leader, Blogger and Podcaster. In 2008, Mitch Joel was named Canada’s Most Influential Male in Social Media. Mitch joins MARCOM to deliver the Opening Keynote on June 10th.

Terry O”Reilly: Age of Persuasion Host CBC Radio.

O’Reilly looks at what animates creativity and how the art of persuasion informs our culture. He delights both general audiences and advertising veterans, pointing to trends and dispatching timeless lessons. O’Reilly is an ad man in love with the promise of advertising but not blind to its shortcomings. Attendees of MARCOM 2010 will hear Terry deliver a keynote on June 11th.

I will be involved in the following sessions at MARCOM:

June 9, 2010 – Workshop

09:00 – 16:30 Social Marketing Planning – Implementing an Effective Campaign

Jim Mintz | Director, Centre of Excellence for Public Sector Marketing

One of the biggest challenges in Social Marketing Planning is the Implementation stage. Many organizations develop great plans, but poor execution leaves them wondering why they didn’t achieve the desired results. In previous editions of MARCOM, Jim Mintz has taken participants through a proven process for developing their social marketing strategy and plan. At MARCOM 2010, you will learn how to transform Strategies into Action! Jim will briefly review the social marketing plan process and then move into detailed discussions surrounding how to successfully implement your strategy. In this tough economy it’s important to ensure maximum impact for marketing dollars; especially when you are moving from planning into implementation where the majority of your budget will be allocated.

You will learn 7 key areas for social marketing plan implementation:

  1. What questions to ask when working with marketing and communications suppliers;
  2. How to develop a creative brief to ensure your communications agencies remain on strategy;
  3. The Do’s and Don’ts for smooth supplier relationships;
  4. Innovative ideas to fully leverage a limited budget;
  5. How to present and “sell” your social marketing strategy to management;
  6. How to approach and capitalize on strategic alliances;
  7. How to evaluate your campaign progress and success.

Take the next step: Join Jim Mintz and move your plan into action!

June 10, 2010

08:30 – 09:45 Session 1: “Leading the Charge” Panel: Learning from Marketing-Driven Organizations in Government

Facilitator: Jim Mintz | Director, Centre of Excellence for Public Sector Marketing
Karen Dufton | Senior Director General, Service Canada, Head, Marketing and Communications
Greg MacDougall | Director, Communications, CATSA
Lisa Allaire | Director General, Production and Advertising Services, Department of National Defence

What is a marketing-driven organization? What are some of the challenges faced in transforming a bureaucratic culture into a customer-centric organization? How do you get buy-in across the organization? These are some of the questions that will be answered by our panel of public sector marketing leaders who will share their experience and expertise on how they are creating a dynamic marketing culture in their organizations and what you can do to advance marketing as a powerful business transformation tool.

Hope to see you there.