Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Marketing Strategies for Social Enterprise

In the social sector competition and marketing are becoming increasingly more relevant. In the realm of social enterprises this could not be truer. When all things are said and done, social enterprises are businesses. The nuances of those businesses are what set them apart from other profit making businesses, but one thing that is shared is the need to compete and market oneself effectively. Thomas Wolff, the author of Managing a Nonprofit Organization in the 21st Century offers a nonprofit definition of marketing. He expresses that marketing is seen as effectively engineering the satisfaction of all constituents who will assist the organization to successfully accomplish its mission, while meeting program goals and achieving financial stability. The process of marketing is executed by conducting market research, establishing a brand, and finally implementing a marketing mix.

In order to develop an overall marketing strategy or plan, a nonprofit organization must have the facts n how well it stacks up against the competition; how it is perceived in the community; how its programs, activities, and products are regarded; and how it might command a bigger share of customers, clients, funders, or other constituents (Wolff). Marketing research is the vehicle to which all of these questions are answered. To begin the market research process an organization may decide to segment the population to create a “target market.” Target marketing is the process whereby decisions are made about which groups an organization will choose to serve. Each segment of the target market that is identified as being important to the organization needs to have a marketing method applied to ensure their needs are being addressed. Market segmentation allows nonprofit organizations and social enterprises alike the ability to control whom they serve by choosing where it is most effective or most important, according to organizational mandate or mission, to spend limited resources, as opposed to letting the limits of their funding arbitrarily make that decision for them.

Once a target market has been identified the organization can move onto conducting extensive research on those members of the population. To successfully analyze the environment, an organization should seek to determine what market related questions they would like answered.
Preliminary research may have to be conducted to ensure that all necessary questions are asked and all marketing objectives can be met. Following the preliminary question formulating phase, a formal research plan must be created. This includes creating instruments that will allow the organization to successfully gather relevant data (e.g. surveys, questionnaires, phone interviews, etc.). Of course after all the data has been collected, it must be analyzed and taken into consideration as the organization moves forward.

Branding is also important to the marketing process. It is the process of establishing the organization’s public image. According to Stephanie Krick, a professor at the University of Central Florida, the goal of the brand is to create a positive and favorable organizational image in each target audience. These positive reactions are based on an individual’s beliefs, ideas and impressions of the organization’s services, programs and management styles (Krick, 2010). As mentioned in a previous post on, a strong brand is the main component in being noticed, which is why it is crucial for nonprofit organizations to get their image right.

So, the research has been conducted, and the image has been created, now comes the task of actually reaching the target audience. This is done through an intensive process called a marketing mix. Within this process an organization has to determine why someone chose to buy a product, purchase a service, pay for programs, or even make a contribution to a nonprofit organization (Wolff). To answer these questions, a marketing mix consisting of four elements must be facilitated. Those four elements are the four P’s of marketing: Product, Promotion, Price, and Place. Once these decisions have been made an organization will then tailor its products, services, and messages, adjust its prices and delivery systems, and promote itself in ways that truly serve the target market.

Photo credit: The Text Works

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