- Thu, August 18 2011
- Filed under: Marketing essentials
I got this email today:
Hi Katya –
I subscribe to your blog and get your great tips every morning! I’m wondering if you could give any advice on marketing a non-direct service organization? My agency’s mission is to provide training and technical assistance to community clinics and hospitals to improve access to and the quality of perinatal care for underserved women. Perinatal is the period from conception to one year after birth. Some projects we are currently working on include increasing health literacy among underserved expecting women to empower them in taking a proactive role in their prenatal care, working with community clinics to implement more evidence based perinatal services and programs and emphasizing the importance of healthy living for moms-to-be and new moms.
My challenges are:
- Our work is highly technical and so it has been difficult to reach donors outside of the health community i.e. corporations and individuals
- We are not direct service so people have a hard time understanding what we do
- We don’t have a way of holding events or site visits because we are not direct service
Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!
I’m posting this question on the blog, because it’s a theme I commonly hear. Many organizations feel they are providing a service that’s technical and removed from feel-good outcomes. Here’s my advice:
1. MAKE IT ABOUT THE WELL - OR IN THIS CASE, THE BABIES.
While I was living in Ukraine, the government tax authority launched a campaign to motivate taxpayers to stay honest and continue paying their taxes. The tax authority developed several ads. One was a cartoon illustration of a bee in front of a hive with a slogan celebrating the fruits of a collective contribution to the government. It looked like an ad for Honey Nut Cheerios with worker bees starring as the cereal mascot. Another was a photograph of a new well and water pump where city residents could fill containers with fresh water from the well. An accompanying slogan thanked taxpayers for making the well and other city improvements possible. In one of my trainings, I placed the ads side by side and asked a roomful of Ukrainians which was more effective given the tax authority’s marketing goals. Not surprisingly, they were unanimous in their judgment that access to fresh water was far more personally relevant, and therefore motivating, than a role in building a metaphorical hive.
This example seems obvious, yet in our communication we often focus more on hives than on wells. We talk about saving the earth, ending poverty, or creating a great society. Every day, we have to remind ourselves that the hive is what we’re building; the well is what our audience needs to see. Here’s what I mean about how this applies to babies: If you are helping to train people who help mothers, and the end result is healthier babies, tell the story of the babies. It is why you do the highly technical, complex work in the first place—healthier babies. People don’t need to understand the ins and outs of your work—they need to be able to relate to its RESULTS. So tell those stories and your role in making them happen.
2. USE HUMAN LANGUAGE.
When I worked for a big nonprofits years ago, the program department would talk about “lactating women.” The marketing department would translate that to human terms: “nursing moms.”
You used a lot of technical language in your email—“health literacy,” “perinatal,” “underserved women.” When you’re talking about your work outside your peer network, try to avoid terms like this. They get between the heart of your work and the heart of the donor.
3. FIND ONE GOOD STORY.
If I were you and meeting with a corporation, I’d tell the story of your work through one baby. Or one mom. Tell me all about that mom. What was her struggle? What was in the way of her hopes and dreams of a healthy child? How did you help her take care of the baby in her belly so it came into the world screaming with strength and life? How did you help that mom those first sleep-deprived months, till she saw her son take his first ever steps? When you translate your work to what it meant for a real person, people will relate.
It’s okay if you trained the nurse that helped the mother. Or set up the program she visited. You can make all that clear - but keep the focus of the story on the person who makes your work matter.
You could also tell one great story about a nurse you trained. Make her the hero of your tale - why did she get into nursing—to help moms and babies? How have you made her better able to do the work that inspired her in the first place? What great day did she have with a mom or baby, and how did you make that possible?
At the end of the day, think about it this way. The makers of Kleenex don’t talk about snot, they show people weeping over big moments in life, clutching a Kleenex (just ask my friend Alia). Car makers don’t talk about how they made that rack and pinion steering, they say how it keeps your family safe. Good causes should do the same—don’t tell the tale of your technical programs. Show how they make someone’s life better. Own and tell the story of one person who can make your “product” come alive.