What’s the Cost?

Most of us have been lucky enough not to be caught in the middle of a belt-tightening budget process, but for others in the non-profit world, it’s difficult to avoid.

Whether you’ve been caught in a down cycle of the economy, lost major funding from a grantor or benefactor, or even financial mismanagement, the situation is not very pleasant. If you’re like most organizations, there’s a lot of soul searching, cost-cutting and penny pinching, with every expenditure being scrutinized.

Sometimes this process is a needed exercise in order to weed out some of the excesses that build up over time. This undertaking is a way to cleanse the financial palate of the organization in order to take on a much more lean and efficient approach to delivering the services you provide.

The marketing department usually comes up in the midst of these discussions, usually as a conversation not necessarily over the existence of marketing, but rather the direct impact to the bottom line. As discussions on expenses usually evolve, the direct cost/benefit conversation comes up and it’s up to the marketing department to justify their existence, when in reality marketing needs the same justification for existing as does the accounting functions or any other critical function. But then again, you already knew that.

Well, this post is for all of you that need a little bit of encouragement, or some tools to battle the discussions when inevitably they arise from senior management or the board.

In most medium to large organizations the marketing function belongs to a team consisting of a team leader then a variety of writers, bloggers, media producers, social media makers, digital managers and more. In order to function in today’s marketing environment, you’d better have at least a few people working at all times on the next new thing or else be prepared to back slide into a virtual oblivion as your competition is no doubt ramping up for their next major promotion..

I’m not usually one to take a defensive posture in order to justify the investment in marketing, but if it’s the only way to protect the necessity of marketing as part of your organizations plan, so be it. The only way to succeed long term is for marketing to excel and put the organization on as equal footing as possible with all others.

Marketing on the offense is how I suggest to move forward. When you’re making news and connecting with fans, both old and new alike, your organization takes on a vitality and vibrancy that people want to be a part of. They want to participate. They want to donate. They want you to succeed and to give them more of that positive feeling that they get when they engaged with you for the very first time. Don’t ever let that erode.

But this is not an endorsement for a blank check to be written to marketing. You must install ways to measure your success and address your failures. There needs to be accountability for all departments, especially within marketing. While the truth eventually shows up in the income columns, it is imperative that you access the tools available from Google Analytics to Facebook’s embedded data to the mind-numbingly wide variety of ways to measure every post or interaction. Do this work in order to not justify your existence, but rather to be able to make the intelligent decisions to stay the course on your strategy or change direction before it’s too late.

Marketing is not a necessary evil. Rather it’s the life blood by which your organization can achieve it’s goals. The challenge is not to lose sight of those goals when marketing gets bogged down or otherwise loses its focus as all tend to do at given points in time. Pick yourself up and get back to work because the work you do today is what will get you back on the pathway to success. If you’re lucky, your organization will not have this crisis of faith in marketing, but if it does, you’ll be able to overcome it and set sail for a bigger and better destination.

About

Sean King has been consulting with small businesses and non-profit organizations for 25 years. Currently, Sean is a principal in the Aspire Consulting Group providing solutions and training for arts, events and non-profit marketing professionals and their organizations. Clients include Youth Education in the Arts (YEA!) and a growing list of satisfied organizations. Sean speaks regularly throughout the U.S. including at the IFEA Annual Conference, Arts Reach Conference, AFP, 92Y, CiviCRM User Summit, PA Council on the Arts, Michigan Festivals & Event Annual Conference. Sean serves as the Marketing Chairperson for the Hamilton District Main Street, a program of the Allentown Chamber of Commerce in Allentown and is a Co-Chair of the Arts & Culture Committee for the Upside Allentown initiative. You can follow Sean on Twitter @skingaspire or email him anytime at sking.aspire@gmail.com

Posted in Accountability, Content Marketing, Fundraising, Marketing

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About Sean King
Sean King has been consulting with small businesses and non-profit organizations for 25 years.  Currently, Sean is a principle in the Aspire Consulting Group providing solutions and training for arts, events and non-profit marketing professionals and their organizations. Clients include Youth Education in the Arts (YEA!) and a growing list of satisfied organizations. Sean speaks regularly throughout the United States including at the IFEA Annual Conference, Arts Reach Conference, AFP, 92Y, CiviCRM User Summit, PA Council on the Arts, Michigan Festivals & Event Annual Conference.  Sean serves as the Marketing Chairperson for the Hamilton District Main Street program in Allentown and is a Co-Chair of the Arts & Culture Committee for the Upside Allentown initiative. He also blogs a artsmarketingblog.org.  You can follow Sean on Twitter @skingaspire. Sean resides with his wife Natalie and son Haydn in the global crossroads of Fogelsville, Pa.