In a previous article on branding, I concluded with the comment that for branding to be effective, it has to include – even feature – the concept of “What’s In It For Me?” (WIFM) for the people you are trying to reach. This is even more important now with competing interests creating “noise” that interferes with your message.
Whether your organization is seeking to expand services or its donor base, you must carefully position yourself within multiple markets to manage public perception of your purpose and quality. In some ways, your mission statement is the starting point, in that it should describe what the organization does, whom it serves and what makes it special or unique.
To get to the WIFM, the positioning message should be based on these five important aspects:
1. Target markets – To whom is your message directed?
2. Problem/Solution – What is the concern or need of the user and what is your solution?
3. Benefits – What are all the various ways your services help your customer or client?
4. Unique Competitive Advantage or Unique Value Proposition - What makes your group
or membership stand out in a way the distinguishes your organization?
5. Risk Reversal – What are you promising to deliver that reduces the personal risk of
people joining your group?
Addressing these five points can also be viewed as the branding process, which helps organizations to bridge the gap between strategy and their identity in the marketplace.
1. Target Markets
Target markets are those people who buy or use your service. Look at them from demographic and psycho-graphic perspectives --your clients’ age, sex, income levels, education and psychographics. Secondarily, how you might describe these people? For example, are they creative, frugal, athletic, conservative?
Within the target market, you must know:
- What are they buying or looking for?
- What are you offering that they need?
- When do they buy or seek it out?
- Are there certain times of year they are most active? What influences them to buy?
- Why do they want what you provide? What makes them actually join/buy/donate? There’s an old rule that people don’t move or act until the cost of NOT moving or acting is greater than the cost of moving or acting.
It’s also important to know:
- To what organizations do they belong?
- Where do they network?
- What are their professions?
- What do they do or where do they go to advance their careers?
- What do they do for fun, entertainment or relaxation?
- What do they read?
- How do they like to be talked to: in person, phone, and e-mail?
This is probably one of the most important parts of any Core Marketing Message. You must be able to articulate a problem or need that your target market has and provide a viable, convincing, compelling solution. Above all, your message must be so clear that it just grabs people. And it must grab all of your constituencies, that is, your donors and volunteers, as well as the people who actually use your organization’s services.
The key here is to know the difference between features and benefits. A feature, for example, might be: “Our social workers receive their training at the most prestigious universities in the U.S.” The implied benefit is: “You will work with gifted therapists who are compassionate, caring and effective.”
Features are your organization’s characteristics, the qualities (such as focusing on hiring the best-trained social workers) that create the benefits for the client or customer. Benefits are the results of your features. Ultimately, you need to get results, and results are what really sell. Show people these results with stories about what happened to a client or customer when he or she did or experienced the service your group provides.
4. Unique Competitive Advantage (UCA) or Unique Value Proposition
This is what helps all your customers/clients understand how you’re different and it shows how the difference is a real benefit to them. You must:
- Tell them your problem/solution statement
- Explain your approach to what your group does or how you do it.
- Describe the kind of customer you serve, or the way you provide your service
- Use a special visual identity such as a cool brand name or logo
- Tell them about the speed of your service
- Offer a great guarantee
- Offer a very attractive payment policy
A good UCA will:
- Address the “What’s In It For Me” question
- Clearly identify who the service/product is for
- Communicate something competitors are not
- Convey a difference that is really interesting
- Guarantee a level of performance
5. Risk Reversal
When your prospects are considering buying your kind of service, they have certain concerns or risks they are facing, such as:
- What if it doesn’t work?
- What if I look bad?
- What if I lose?
In essence, Risk Reversal means that you give a guarantee. While some people may wonder how you can give a formal guarantee, it’s important to be able to stand behind your service. All groups should be able to say, for example, “If you work with us in the manner described, there will be a specific result.” The idea is not to set up an impossible hurdle; rather it’s to create a statement that clients can hold onto as a benchmark of what will likely happen if they work with you. It really serves the purpose of getting your organization, the service provider, to make your offering very clear and specific. It doesn’t mean “giving away the store,” but it can help people make the decision in your favor.
Now, with all this information, you have the basis for creating an Ideal Client Profile Chart. Such a chart would describe your ideal clients demographically and psycho-graphically, followed by what kind of problems this population has, the solutions your group offers, followed by where and how to reach them. You would, in essence, have created your organization’s brand and determined who – clients, donors, volunteers – would be best served by it.
Despite some negative associations with branding, non-profit organizations can greatly benefit from learning and applying this time-tested tool used by the for-profit sector. Having a brand does not mean you’ve sold out or abandoned your vision. Your brand is a fully articulated mission that will let you stand out with clarity and integrity.
Alan Siege, MBA, CFRE, has 20 years’ experience in the non-profit sector with experience in writing grants for human service, cultural and faith-based organizations. In addition, he provides business consulting services to small businesses. He can be reached at 718-768-1672, alan.siege@SBMC.biz, or visit his web site, www.SBMC.biz.