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Alexandra Bornkessel 6 min read

Have Questions, Not Answers for 2011

In the nonprofit arena, the word "marketing" can have a bad rap. But you can help change that--and with good reason.  Marketing, in particular, social marketing can make all the difference in your organization's work come 2011.

What is social marketing?

First, let's start with the basics. Social marketing is an evidence-based and theory-backed approach to achieving social change. How? By applying marketing principles and techniques to influence and change attitudes, beliefs and environments to change behavior and achieve good. Whether looking to inspire a community to advocate on behalf of your cause, volunteer their time, donate--bottom line--involves behaviors. This is the opportunity social marketing can provide.

Social marketing also takes a holistic view--whether you want to change the behavior of an individual or create community-wide change, social marketing can offer direction. In short, social marketing can be described as the science behind social change.

So...What is this "science" you speak of?

Thankfully, it's not rocket science. Similar to commercial marketing, a social marketing approach prioritizes the consumer--learning what they want, need and would respond to (working upstream) rather than trying to "push" a product, service or message "at" an audience (working downstream). This is crucial--and a main reason that social marketing has been found to work--and why, social media marketing can be an effective tactic of social marketing. (Note: They are not the same thing.)

Also at the heart of social marketing--is what is often referred to as the "4Ps" - price, product, place, promotion. Fellow social marketer Nedra Weinreich also adds a few additional "Ps" to consider when it comes to social marketing--publics, policy, partnerships and purse strings. To learn more about the social marketing approach, download this free, Basics to Social Marketing guide.

Go Beyond The Message

For 2011, I propose the following challenge. When it comes to the work of doing good, many often default of the marketing "P" of promotion. This translates into developing a message and pushing it out to any and all. The problem? We are left with too much untapped potential! This has resulted in what I refer to as "awareness-building fever." Don't get me wrong--awareness is an important element in driving social change. But it is not the end all be all. We can go beyond awareness.

So, how do we address this problem? Go into 2011 with questions--not answers. The guide I shared earlier has a list of 10 questions to ask yourself about the mission you want to achieve. But if you want a jump start, here are some to get the mind going:

  • What problem do we want to solve?
  • What behavior(s) are we wanting to change?
  • Once someone is "aware" of our mission, what action(s) do we want them to take?
  • When was the last time we talked to or experienced the environment of those we want to reach and engage?
  • What barriers are consumers facing that prevent them from getting involved?
  • What does success look like?
  • Are we asking the right questions?

Now, what's one question you plan on taking with you in 2011? Let's share them in the comments and try to revitalize our work and multiply our effectiveness, together.

Alexandra Bornkessel (@socialbttrfly) is a social marketing believer and an aspiring global citizen. She blogs at SocialButterfly about how social marketing can drive social change and works at IQ Solutions, Inc., a consulting firm that advises public health agencies, nonprofits and foundations.