Will a Marketing Vision Help Your Nonprofit Organization?
Peggy Dyer is the chief marketing officer of the American Red Cross (ARC). And, based on my brief time with her recently at a meeting, she is a good one! She addressed our group and covered many topics, but one that I found very inspiring was the concept of creating a marketing vision.
In her presentation, Dyer discussed the transformation that the Red Cross is going through and the challenges it has faced as the organization has progressed. Today's blog is not about its transformation and what the Red Cross is trying to accomplish; it is about a unique step Dyer took as a leader and how it has paid off.
I believe many of you have created a marketing vision before. It's just what you do, right? Somewhere it is written in a Marketing 101 guide, "CREATE MARKETING VISION," I'm sure.
But Dyer created a marketing vision and then gave it teeth and legs. The transformation that was ahead of ARC would be hard and test everyone at some point. She wanted to create a vision that the team could get behind, a reminder of what the team members were trying to accomplish and something that could be measured on a regular basis.
Their marketing vision consisted of four simple yet powerful words: consolidated, powerful, breathtaking and marketing. But what made this vision unique is that her team came together on what this vision meant. What did it mean to stay true to the vision and make progress against the vision? For ARC, it boiled down to these specific areas:
- Consolidated … brand, customer experiences and processes
- Powerful … data-driven insights, programs and marketing ROI
- Breathtaking … engagement with inspiring content and recognition
- Marketing … people, partners and mission focus
The ARC's vision is clear, understood and, perhaps more importantly, its work was aligned under the four key areas. The only other thing to do was actually measure it. Dyer and her team created a scorecard, and each week they applied a score (in their case it was a five-star scale) that represented their progress toward reaching the goals associated with the vision.
Throughout my career, I have witnessed many organizations go through transformations, attempt to make sweeping changes and adjust their marketing approaches. Many times the new vision represents a change that pushes against all layers of the way the organization conducts marketing and fundraising. It can represent cultural and infrastructure changes. And, perhaps, the biggest enemy of new visions can be time. Time can often change priorities or create lags in effort.
Clearly Dyer and the American Red Cross have prepared for all of these issues and have also developed processes for keeping their vision in the forefront and measurable. Simply put, if you are trying to make significant changes in how you market, you should do the same!
Now, if you are saying, "Oh, we have a marketing plan in place of all the things we want to do," keep in mind a marketing plan is not the same as a marketing vision. Here are some helpful tips for creating a vision that is actionable, achievable and measurable.
- Don't get a mission confused with a vision. A mission is holistic to the organization and is focused on why you are in business. Your marketing vision is a set of guiding principles that is clear enough and specific enough for your marketing activities to align underneath. Your marketing vision represents what you want to accomplish with your marketing and fundraising activities.
- While your marketing vision should never include the level of details that would be represented in a marketing plan, the marketing vision should document (with appropriate details) your intent with your marketing and fundraising and, in some cases, what will not be done. In other words, by knowing what you want to accomplish, what's important to you, and what you will and won't be willing to do, you can then create a marketing plan that is measurable and achievable.
- Your marketing plan may be for a year, but your marketing vision should be for a longer period of time. New ideas are bound to emerge — be they from leadership, volunteers or even within your own team. Your marketing vision is in place to help you determine if those new ideas fit in with your long-term direction.
- Once developed and understood by your executives and the marketing/fundraising teams, it is important to keep it in the forefront. While the ARC focused on a specific cadence of meetings and a goal scale, there are multiple ways to ensure the vision is always top of mind and considered when strategies and tactics are being discussed. But, perhaps more importantly, have regular discussions about progress. Since the marketing vision is always broken down into key focus areas, it is important to review each of those areas and have open/honest/realistic conversations about progress, challenges and concerns.
Major change will not happen overnight, and it will certainly not happen without a vision to rally around, a plan to follow, and goals to celebrate and manage.
Vice President, Strategy & Development
Eleventy Marketing Group
Angie is ridiculously passionate about EVERYTHING she’s involved in — including the future and success of our nonprofit industry.
Angie is a senior exec with 25 years of experience in direct and relationship marketing. She is a C-suite consultant with experience over the years at both nonprofits and agencies. She currently leads strategy and development for marketing intelligence agency Eleventy Marketing Group. Previously she has worked at the innovative startup DonorVoice and as general manager of Merkle’s Nonprofit Group, as well as serving as that firm’s CRM officer charged with driving change within the industry. She also spent more 14 years leading the marketing, fundraising and CRM areas for two nationwide charities, The Arthritis Foundation and the American Cancer Society. Angie is a thought leader in the industry and is frequent speaker at events, and author of articles and whitepapers on the nonprofit industry. She also has received recognition for innovation and influence over the years.