#MarketingForGood Drawing

How to Enter to Win:

  • Go to wherever you listen to podcasts.
  • Search for Marketing for Good.
  • Subscribe, rate, and review. (Trust me, it’s easy.)
  • Before submitting your review, TAKE A SCREENSHOT.
  • Post the screenshot on social media using the hashtag #MarketingForGood or email it to info@claxonmarketing.com.
  • For the next 4 weeks, we will randomly select one lucky reviewer who will receive a free 1, 2, 3 Marketing Tree or a copy of Pitchfalls.
  • All reviewers will be entered into a Grand Prize Drawing to win a free Coaching Session with me. (A $425 value.)

All in, this should take you about 3 minutes, depending on how much time you take on your review. My advice: don’t overthink it. It’s a podcast review, not your annual report.🙂


How will you reach your supporters? [12 of 15]

How? Letterpress[This is part twelve of our 1, 2, 3 Marketing Tree Step-by-Step series, written by our fabulous intern, Vicki. If you’re new to the series, you can catch up on previous posts. If you haven’t already gotten a 1, 2, 3 Marketing Tree, now is a great time to either buy the awesome poster-size version or download the free version, so you can follow along. You can find the free version in Claxon’s DIY tools a la carte menu or in the Marketing 101 Toolkit. You can buy the super spiffy poster here.]

Last week, we started our discussion of “How” with some tips for developing your message. Now, it is time to talk about how to deliver that message to your supporters.

The next branch of the 1, 2, 3, Marketing Tree says:

List the top three ways (e. g. flyers, events, Facebook) you will reach your ideal supporters over the next year. Assign who will be in charge of making each one happen and by when. You can keep track of the assignments and tasks on our handy-dandy Mechanism Manager.

If you’ve made it this far through the series, I’m guessing you are a methodical planner anyway. I don’t need to explain to you that each marketing task needs a point person and a timeline lest is fade into the dark, back corner of the storage closet of good intentions. So, I’m just going to focus on that first sentence.

The two key points you will want to consider for marketing mechanisms are

  1. You need to limit the number of channels and
  2. You need to focus on reaching your ideal supporters.

Three mechanisms is a good rule of thumb. Maybe you can get away with two. Maybe you need, and have the resources to support, four. The key is to enforce limits so you aren’t over extended. It would be better to do a superb job on a single platform than to be vaguely present on a dozen.

If you, like me, are delighted at last Sunday’s return of John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight, you may enjoy this article on how he “won the internet.” How did he do it? By focusing on just YouTube and Twitter.

Though limited in its use of social media, Last Week Tonight further provides a quality of content within the social media outlets it engages. In so doing, it challenges the perception that total social media saturation is the best digital strategy.

It also doesn’t hurt that he is brilliant, funny, and covers important topics.

Putting the focus on your supporters rather than mechanisms themselves is a helpful way to narrow the number down. Think about them and how they are most likely to engage in accordance with your goals. It doesn’t matter how popular a social media platform is if your supporters aren’t there and engaging in the way you want. For example, I have social media accounts, but event invites never make it onto my calendar from there. If you want me to come to your event, send me an email. If you have researched your supporters, you should know how to reach them. Use the best mechanism for each target persona, use it well, and then be done.


Chirp, the school for birds founded by Claxon’s mascot, Roxie, is marketing for new students using three target personas. (Check out previous posts for the full back-story.) Each persona can be reached in a different way.

Ruth, the Rockin’ Robin:

Ruth frequents Mrs. Timberlake’s bird feeder to stay abreast of the latest gossip. Roxy has agreed to take on the task of networking there. She loves telling other birds about Chirp so this is a great task for her. Roxie’s plan is to visit the bird feeder at least three times a week and she has created a designed experiment to determine the time of day when the other birds are most likely to engage with her.

Charlie, the Copycat Catbird:

Charlie prefers to be short and to the point and so has started using Twitter. He would appreciate practical tips he can use in his day-to-day life. In order to highlight how cool words can be, Chirp will begin a Word of the Day series on Twitter, noting a useful word and explaining its definition. Myrtle the duck will be leading this effort. She has agreed to post 5 times a week. To ease her task of thinking up words to post, she will be asking her fellow Chirp teachers to suggest words she can use.

Olivia, the Observant Owl:

Olivia plans to attend the annual parliament meeting of owls. Albert the owl will be attending this year to represent Chirp and extol to fabulous learning opportunities at the school. He expects to be able to recruit many of his fellow owls.

What is your message [11 of 15]

How? Letterpress[This is part eleven of our 1, 2, 3 Marketing Tree Step-by-Step series, written by our fabulous intern, Vicki. If you’re new to the series, you can catch up on previous posts. If you haven’t already gotten a 1, 2, 3 Marketing Tree, now is a great time to either buy the awesome poster-size version or download the free version, so you can follow along. You can find the free version in Claxon’s DIY tools a la carte menu or in the Marketing 101 Toolkit. You can buy the super spiffy poster here.]

We’ve covered “What” and “Who”. It’s finally time to work on “How”!

In the first part of the “How”, we tackle messaging.  Here’s what we’ll do:

  • Finish this sentence: We want to be known as the organization that…
  • Imagine you are at a cocktail party. What would you say if an ideal supporter asked: “What do you do?”
  • Describe your organization in 140 characters or less.

As you know from previous posts in this series, good messaging is rooted in a detailed understanding of what your organization does, targets specific supporters, and uses engaging words. But how do you actually create compelling messaging, you wonder? Good question. The 1, 2, 3 Marketing Tree is here to help.

Let’s look at tree branch 3B. What do you say when someone asks, “What do you do?” This question has an unfortunate tendency to elicit lists of activities that make the listener’s eyes glaze over. There’s no reason you need to fall into that trap, however. Instead, pretend they asked, “What does your organization want to be known for?” This answer aligns with the first stop on the Engagement Cycle and is also your answer to 3A. As you develop ways to answer this question, keep your answer to 140 characters or less because that is the length people can remember (and repeat!)

If you’re reading this blog, you likely know that Claxon has a plethora of resources to help you craft messaging worthy of your organization. Here are just a few highlights:

Words, Words, Words!

  • The Wordifier is Claxon’s new tool that helps you amplify your words. The human brain is wired to pay attention to new information and ignore the old. We stop noticing the same, tired word. So, if you use the same word a lot, or a word that is used by a lot of other organizations, people will notice it less than one they don’t see very often. The Wordifier will tell you if a word is overused and it even gives you a breakdown by sub-section. Go give it a try.
  • The Language Lab is our new podcast. Sign up and every week you’ll receive a lovely little audio prompt to reflect on language and life.

Mission Statements

  • Whether you are officially writing a mission statement or coming up with a version to use in your messaging, we have some great makeover tips.
  • We didn’t invent reading ease scores, but we wish we had because we love to use them! You have heard advice like, “Your mission statement should only be one sentence.” The only problem with this advice is that sometimes people try to strain the limits of punctuation to cram as many words as possible into that sentence and end up with an incomprehensible mess. You won’t have this problem though because you can use reading ease scores to make sure your mission statement is understandable…rather than, gulp, technically incomprehensible like the ones in this post.
  • Follow this blog to get regular tips so you don’t use lame verbs like provide or mobilize.



  • Need some extra help? Our chief word nerd, Erica Mills, would love to be your coach. She can work with you one on one or we have group coaching sessions available. (The Winter session is full but you can get on the wait list for the Spring session, which will start in April.)


Let’s take a look at the messaging developed by Chirp, the school for birds founded by Claxon’s mascot, Roxie. (Check out previous posts for the full back-story and follow links for demographic research.)

Mission Statement:

Chirp’s original mission statement is

To mobilize all birds everywhere; regardless of feather size, shape, color, or water repellency; by providing a first class educational experience in language arts which can empower them to talk to other birds with different (valued) experiences and viewpoints, ensuring optimal diversity, effectiveness, and sustainability for the bird community.

Yikes! That is cumbersome and it scores as a 12th grade reading level. Let’s see how they cleaned up that train wreck.

First, they tried starting with what they had and cutting out the unnecessary laundry lists, parenthetical asides, and things that just aren’t core to what Chirp does.

To mobilize all birds everywhere by providing an educational experience in language arts which can empower them to talk to other birds.

This is a little more concise and the reading ease score is improving a bit, but it is still at a 12th grade level. To help with this, they focused on reworking some of those big words and made educate the primary verb.

To educate birds and empower them to talk to other birds.

The grade level is down to 5.8 now, but it feels awkward. Then they remembered the earlier work they did on the 1, 2, 3 Marketing Tree. What is the most important thing they do?

To teach birds how to use words to communicate with other flocks.

This works a bit better as a mission statement and has a grade level score of 4.8. They checked the Wordifier and found that “teach,” “educate,” “talk,” and “communicate” are all in the yellow category. This means that they are used a lot. It would be better to use verbs that aren’t so common, but at least none of them are in the red category. Between “teach” and “educate,” “teach” is easier to say so they are sticking with that. “Talk” is a simpler word than “communicate,” but they felt that the two directional relationship implied in communicate helped the mission statement feel more engaging.


Chirp knows that the important thing about pitches is that you need more than one. You need something short and sweet you can use to introduce yourself, a bit more information if they are interested so they can understand you, then a pitch that will engage them in your work. You also need to tailor your pitches to different target audiences. Let’s look at how Chirp can shape its mission into pitches for different situations with its personas.

Ruth, the Rockin’ Robin:

  • Know pitch: We teach birds how to talk with birds in other flocks.
  • Understand: We do this by sharing how to use new words.
  • Engage: After completing our program, birds like you are able to use words to make new friends.

Charlie, the Copycat Catbird:

  • Know pitch: We teach birds how to be understood by birds in other flocks.
  • Understand: We do this by instructing them how to use new words.
  • Engage: After completing our program, birds like you are able to use words to make themselves heard clearly.

Olivia, the Observant Owl:

  • Know pitch: We educate birds in effective word use.
  • Understand: We do this by teaching how to use new words and avoid jargon.
  • Engage: After completing our program, birds like you have a rich vocabulary and the language knowledge necessary to learn from foreign birds.

Next week, we’ll be looking at the mechanisms you can use to spread your message…Facebook and Instagram and brochures, oh my!

Acrimonious Acronyms

Joe.pic[This is a guest blog post from Joe Sky-Tucker. Joe has been a regular at my coaching sessions for many moons and I never cease to be amazed by his candor, insight and humor. So vexed is he by the uptick in acronym usage that he reached out to see if he could vent on Claxon’s blog. Read on and you’ll see what, without a moment’s hesitation, I said, “Vent on, Joe, vent on!” Dude knows a thing or two about compelling writing.]

Okay people, we have spawned scourge on our lives and language.  It is subtly making us all more stupider like we are from Jupiter…and we are not… we are from Mars (‘cause we get more candy bars, duh).  This scourge is making us create “in groups” and “out groups” and separating us from our missions, visions and values.  All of this with the ease of a key stroke on your computer or a swipe of your smart phone.  Stop it.  Seriously stop it.  Stop using so many (enter favorite swear word here) acronyms.

We can blame texting and lament the damage it has done to our language.  We could stand on principle and say, “in my day” and opine for the days of yore when we spoke and wrote with a lyrical simplicity and beauty that would make Shakespeare himself weep crocodile tears.  But all of those reasons are tired and lame.  This problem has been around for a very long time.  With the advent of the telegraph, the short hand and acronyms were just as pervasive.

We are to blame, everyone, all of us. In the nonprofit industrial complex, it is particularly worrisome as it is affecting our communications in ways we may not fully understand.  We name our programs with a borderline compulsive inclusion complex; worried that we may face perjury charges if we omit something. This inclusion complex comes from a place of good intent, in theory.  In practice, we get program names like the Homeless Teen Therapeutic Education and Arts Group program (HTTEAG).  Then everyone is saying, “The HTTEAG program offers homeless youth a safe place to express themselves creatively…” or “The HTTEAG program provides (that provide’s for you Erica) arts education to empower homeless youth to…”

Now everyone has to learn what HTTEAG means.  The organization that created it knows what it means.  Now they must “educate” us to the proper uses of this gaggle of letters, probably done in a slightly condescending manner, like slipped into a presentation, “Our HTTEAG program is a standout program, oh, right the Homeless Teen Therapeutic Education and Arts Group for the uninitiated” (as though our lives were lost until we are baptized in their acronym hell).  Or it is dropped into a grant application or LOI (Letter of Interest, obviously)(Letter of Intent, also but you knew that too) and now the person reading it has to go back and forth reminding themselves what all of the different acronyms mean.

And it doesn’t just end with one or two, they just keep coming and coming and coming. First we create an acronym for our organization, then the program, then for specific parts of the program.  It dulls the impact of our words, because we are not actually using words.  It is not compelling, it is adequate.  No one ever says, “aim for adequate, being nondescript is awesome”.

Instead, why don’t we name the program “Painting Futures”?  Or something else that would speak to the benefit of the program and remain acronym-free? Why not indeed, nonprofit community? For shame.

This constant use of jargon (a topic for another time) and acronyms creates distance in our language.  Instead of connecting people to the mission of our organizations, we are forcing them to learn our language.  Forcing them to collude with us as we create a euphemistic shorthand for the great work we do.  It’s not LITM (Low Income Target Market), it’s hard working families.  It’s not YOLO (You Only Live Once), it’s called being 22.

I know that acronyms are an inescapable construct of our times and language.  But we do not need to make it worse.  We want people to understand what we do and how we are helping the world.  Through careful and creative (yes grants can be creative, sort of) use of our words we can convey why we do this work and why it is important.  Isn’t that what we all want?

In addition to acronyms, here are some other things I’d suggest if you want to avoid sounding  dumb:

  • “I could care less” when you mean “I couldn’t care less”.
  • Saying “Irregardless” (not a word).
  • Writing “alot” (also not a word).
  • Stop saying, “literally”, seriously let’s ban this word.

Thanks for letting me vent!

Who is your ideal supporter? [10 of 15]

think,design[This is part ten of our 1, 2, 3 Marketing Tree Step-by-Step series, written by our fabulous intern, Vicki. If you’re new to the series, you can catch up on previous posts. If you haven’t already gotten a 1, 2, 3 Marketing Tree, now is a great time to either buy the awesome poster-size version or download the free version, so you can follow along. You can find the free version in Claxon’s DIY tools a la carte menu or in the Marketing 101 Toolkit. You can buy the super spiffy poster here.]

Let’s talk about mind reading, shall we?

The next branch of the 1, 2, 3, Marketing Tree asks us to get in the heads of our ideal supporters. Specifically, it says:

Based on what you know of your best supporters, describe your ideal one.

This step is very, very, very important. Here’s why: When creating marketing materials, our natural inclination is to assume everyone has the same preferences as we do, and we design our materials accordingly. This is an erroneous assumption and a costly mistake. Because, turns out, your supporters aren’t necessarily motivated by the same things as you, nor do they behave like you do.

Luckily, you have a super power that can help you avoid making this extra super bad mistake. You can read minds.

You perform this amazing feat, called theory of mind, by holding a mental model of the mind you are reading in your own head. Imagine sharing good news with a friend. Do you think they will be happy for you? Can’t you just see how their face will light up? You may even have an idea of what they will say. When you do this, you are creating a simulation of their mind and you can then read that simulated mind whenever you want. Admittedly, this isn’t quite as cool as actually being able to read their mind, but it is still pretty cool.

Geeky neuroscience tidbit: Many scientists think that we learn how to do this because of mirror neurons, which are super interesting and the reason you wince when you see someone else getting a paper cut. Whenever you see something happen to someone else, this part of your brain responds in the same way you would if it had happened to you, which can help you understand how someone else might be feeling.

So what does all this mind reading have to do with your marketing materials? Now that you have learned this trick, the nifty thing is that these minds you can read don’t have to be based on real people. If you have ever read a book and come to feel like you know the characters, you know what I’m talking about.

What I’m talking about is creating a persona. A persona is a fictional character based on your target audience. The idea is to include enough details, like career aspirations and relationships, that you can develop a mental model for how your persona thinks and acts. Like the author of your favorite book, make the characters vivid in your mind. Then, as you are developing messaging and prioritizing mechanisms, you won’t be stuck in your own head, but rather that of the person you are trying to engage. .

In developing personas, it is important to base them on good research so that the mental model you create is relevant and useful. (See previous posts on your best supporters and who else you need to reach.) Hubspot has a fabulous free template to help you get started.


Chirp, the school for birds founded by Claxon’s mascot, Roxie, wants to recruit new students. Let’s look at the personas created by the leadership team. (Check out previous posts for the full back-story and follow links for demographic research.)

Ruth, the Rockin’ Robin:

Background & Habitat:

  • Busy, young mother of three
  • Makes herself at home in a variety of habitats from gardens to woods.
  • Frequents Mrs. Timberlake’s bird feeder to stay abreast of the latest gossip


  • Warm and cheery
  • The quintessential early bird
  • Industrious
  • Curious Explorer

Goals & Challenges:

  • Needs to collect worms for her chicks
  • Concerned about nest safety
  • Struggles with addiction to honeysuckle berries
  • Wishes she had more time to chat with friends

Relevance to Chirp:

  • Curiosity will make her open to learning new things
  • Social connections will help spread the word about the school

Charlie, the Copycat Catbird:

Background & Habitat:

  • Proud owner of his own thicket
  • Vacations in Mexico


  • Enjoys imitating the songs of other birds, frogs, and even mechanical sounds
  • Energetic and hardworking
  • Keeps to himself
  • Most comfortable in his gray, respectable suit
  • Not afraid to ruffle a few feathers to get a job done
  • Prefers to be short and to the point and so has started using Twitter

Goals & Challenges:

  • Is considering a move and eyeing a new development by a recently abandoned barn
  • Wants to makes sure he clearly communicates the boundaries of his territory
  • Likes learning new songs

Relevance to Chirp:

  • Already shows aptitude for learning new words
  • Has practical reasons for wanting to communicate better
  • Not as social as most previous students and so will be a good test case for the school

Olivia, the Observant Owl:

Background & Habitat:

  • Living in a barn which she is renting from a farmer in exchange for keeping rats away from the grain stores
  • Married for 12 years
  • Empty nester


  • Observant and thoughtful
  • Foodie who enjoys analyzing what she has eaten
  • Values knowledge
  • Careful listener
  • Avid recycler

Goals & Challenges:

  • Wants learn new things but struggles to find ways to expose herself to novel perspectives
  • Plans to attend the annual parliament meeting
  • Wishes she could communicate better in discussion groups

Relevance to Chirp:

  • Will be a careful student and may be a good prospective teacher in the future
  • Will solidify connection to owl community through Chirp co-founder Albert the Owl.
  • As their first student who is a bird of prey, Olive is a significant stretch for Chirp and will be a valuable learning experience

As Chirp moves forward in developing its messaging, the team will make sure they are optimizing their message so it resonates with Ruth, Charlie, and Olive. Then, in the spirit of  “meet them where they’re at”, the Chirp team will pick the mechanisms  their target personas prefer/already use. For example, when Albert goes to the owl parliament to network, he will want to the pitches he uses to be targeted to Olivia. And, any notices posted at Mrs. Timberlake’s birdfeeder should be tailored to appeal to Ruth. And, of course, they will use Twitter as a way to connect with Charlie because that bird is already tweeting his heart out.

Personas are a great tool for evaluating options and predicting how people will react to you. They are only as helpful as they are representative of the people you want to reach however, so make sure you do your homework. Next week we will move on to developing messaging and will want to make sure the message resonates with the personas for whom you are optimizing your marketing efforts.

Who else do you need to reach? [9 of 15]

Support[This is part nine of our 1, 2, 3 Marketing Tree Step-by-Step series, written by our fabulous intern, Vicki. If you’re new to the series, you can catch up on previous posts. If you haven’t already gotten a 1, 2, 3 Marketing Tree, now is a great time to either buy the awesome poster-size version or download the free version, so you can follow along. You can find the free version in Claxon’s DIY tools a la carte menu or in the Marketing 101 Toolkit. You can buy the super spiffy poster here.]

Last week we discussed your supporters. This week, we are going to wade into murky waters and discuss people who aren’t your supporters. What do you do when you want to reach people who aren’t like your current supporters? Ask yourself if you really do need to reach them and then think long and hard about your answer.

There are three basic cases where you might be thinking of reaching outside of your current sphere.

Case #1: You need to reach a new demographic.

First, make sure you are clear on why you need this new demographic. Is it a good reason? Is it connected to the purpose and strategy of your organization? You will have to work harder to get a new type of supporter. Will the return be worth the investment? Notice the difference between, “We need more Spanish speaking volunteers because so many of our clients speak only Spanish” and “We need a lesbian on our board to improve diversity.” (True story.)

Second, be realistic. If you can target a new demographic that is only a bit of a shift, that’s going to be much easier for you.

Then, research. Lots of research. It is always hard to get out of your own head and look at things from another’s perspective. It’s a much harder task when you don’t have a lot of experience with the other person.

Case #2: You want to raise public awareness.

Don’t do this.

Seriously, don’t. The general public is too broad and vague a target. Be specific. The more focused your efforts are, the more effective you will be. Even if you need to eventually get your message to as broad an audience as possible, break it up into smaller steps.

Approach this as in Case #1. What is a new demographic that shares some characteristics with current supporters? Who could help connect you with a broader audience as you continue to expand your demographic reach in the future?

Erica uses an example of a campaign to stop texting while driving and objects that this isn’t about general awareness, it is about stopping people from texting. I’ll add to that objection that the target isn’t everyone, it is people who text while driving.

When you get to how you are going to reach your targets, you may find that it is more effort than it is worth to differentiate your target from the general public, but that question comes later. You aren’t doing yourself any favors to assume you won’t be able to differentiate or to forget who your real target is.

Case #3: You want to reach opponents.

Caution! Do you need to do this? If not, this is a waste of your precious time.

Usually you don’t actually need to do this. But, some people, not nearly as clever you, get sucked into trying to woo people who just aren’t interested. Their cause is so important that they just can’t imagine how anyone could not support it.

Anytime you see something weird, your brain is drawn to it. At Claxon, we like to talk about how you can use that fact to improve your messaging by making sure your words are interesting. But, don’t let that same tendency be your own downfall. Yes, I know it is super weird that someone wouldn’t believe in what you are doing, but let it go.

If you are struggling with this, Claxon has a handy tool called the Belief-o-Meter that helps you figure out who you should be focusing on and who you should leave alone.

There are rare cases where you do need to convert the opposition. This is usually because your strategy requires support from a significant percentage of the population as with advocacy campaigns or boycotts. If this is you, take everything I said about case #1 and amplify it. Do even more research. Be even more realistic. If you just need someone to not oppose you, be satisfied with that. Don’t expect them to become donors. And, then do some more research.

An interesting, headline grabbing example is same-sex marriage. Freedom to Marry’s goal is to end the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage. They are changing hearts across the nation so that the US Supreme Court will feel comfortable ruling in favor of marriage equality. To do this, they need to reach the opposition.

Why do they talk about freedom to marry instead of marriage equality? Because their opposition responds more favorably to the phrase “freedom to marry.” They know this because they did lots and lots of research. And it’s working. After state campaigns started using their research, in 2012 the general populations of not one, but four states, became the first to vote in favor of freedom to marry.

Freedom to Marry has put in a lot of hard work, resources, and research time. And they have been realistic. They are asking people who have opposed them to change how the respond to polls, not expecting new donors. The investment required to reach the opposition has been enormous, but it is necessary for their mission and strategy.

Example: Chirp

Chirp, the school for birds founded by Claxon’s mascot, Roxie, needs to reach a new demographic. (Check out previous posts for the full back-story.)

After surveying their students, they learned that there was more interest in social mixing between different flocks than they had thought. This was very encouraging, but they also came to a concerning realization. All of their current students are birds that tend to flock. They want to reach all birds, but what about solitary birds? Could these birds be reached? Difficult decisions needed to be made. The leadership of Chirp decided to be realistic about their ability to grow into such a different market space. For this year’s marketing campaign they will target new types of flocking birds.

More research is needed before they can understand the needs and interests of their more solitary brethren. Owls typically roost alone or as a pair. However, they do occasionally flock and so are a good target audience for Chirp’s next phase of expansion. Albert the Owl has agreed to lead research efforts and will be traveling to the next parliament. (Don’t you just adore collective nouns?)

In sum…
Before you try to reach beyond your supporters, make sure you really do need to and be prepared for it to take extra effort. Next time we will be back to talking about supporters as we describe your ideal one and develop personas.

Who are your best supporters? [8 of 15]

fans[This is part eight of our 1, 2, 3 Marketing Tree Step-by-Step series, written by our fabulous intern, Vicki. If you’re new to the series, you can catch up on previous posts. If you haven’t already gotten a 1, 2, 3 Marketing Tree, now is a great time to either buy the awesome poster-size version or download the free version, so you can follow along. You can find the free version in Claxon’s DIY tools a la carte menu or in the Marketing 101 Toolkit. You can buy the super spiffy poster here.]supporters

Now that you’ve figured out WHAT success looks like for your organization, we’re going to move on to WHO you need to reach in order to be successful.

Have you ever wondered what your future supporters will be like? Probably a lot like your current supporters.

In the next three branches of the 1, 2, 3, Marketing Tree, you will:

  • Name some common characteristics of your best supporters – past and present.
  • Figure out why your best supporters say they like you, and
  • Also identify how your best supporters find out about you.

In working through this part of the Tree, there really is no substitute for good data. There are many ways for your perceptions to be biased. Consider creating a survey. I have worked on projects where I thought I knew what supporters wanted. Then I did a survey. It turned out that the most vocal supporters weren’t actually representative of the majority. With this new knowledge I was able to adjust programming to match the interests of the target audience as a whole and check future suggestions for improvements against those broader interests.

The impact of gender differences is an interesting case in point. Women volunteer more than men, but you may be hearing from more men. Men and women talk about the same amount, but they talk about different things. Studies show that men tend to talk in more assertive ways, sometimes interrupting women (no offense, guys). It may just be, however, that women have different conversational conventions from men; being more talkative in small groups or when the topic is children, and more assertive with compliments. The take home point? It’s complicated, so do a survey.

Talking with supporters, one-on-one or in groups, can be another powerful way to connect with your supporters and to learn from their perspective on your organization. In addition to being able to learn what drives their engagement on a deeper level, a conversation can make them feel valued and strengthen the emotional bond they feel with you and your organization.

If you are trying to learn about your supporters in this way, there are a few things you should be mindful of (yes, I know that’s a dangling participle…cut me some slack):

  1. Listen more than you talk.
  2. Give them explicit permission to say what they aren’t happy about. Many people are afraid to mention these things for fear of hurting feeling or seeming rude, but it is often the most important thing to hear. Ask them for negative feedback and tell them how valuable you find it. You’ll still want to focus on what they do like. You are looking for things to use in marketing after all. But, don’t miss this valuable opportunity to learn ways to improve.
  3. Listen more than you talk.
  4. Select people at random. You probably can’t talk to all of your supporters, and if you pick the first people to come to mind you will just confirm the misperceptions you already have from hearing the most vocal people. If you take a list of your best supporters in Excel (all, major donors, long term donors, or however it makes sense for you to define “best”), you can create a column of random numbers using =RAND() and then sort by that column to put them in random order. This is super easy. I promise.
  5. Listen more than you talk. Am I revealing too much about my own weakness here? Seriously though, this is a common bad habit. Let’s work on it together.


Let’s look at how Chirp, the school for birds founded by Claxon’s mascot, Roxie, identifies its best supporters. (Check out previous posts for the full back-story.)

For Chirp’s first avian cohort, the students all came through personal connections with school founders. Birds also came as a whole flock, rather than enrolling just a few students from each group. This exemplifies the social nature of bird culture.

Because Chirp is small, it is possible to talk to all their students. Since the founders were already having regular one-on-one interactions with them in the school, however, they decided that the benefits of an anonymous survey outweighed the benefits of discussing the organization in person.

The lack of opposable thumbs makes writing difficult for birds. To compensate, they took advantage of an online survey builder so that the students could peck their answers out on a keyboard.

When the results came in, they found that the students enjoyed classes where they were mixed with members of other flocks. They most valued the way their new wordy knowledge enabled them to engage with birds from other communities. Not at all what the executive team at Chirp would’ve predicted!

In the coming year, in order to expand, Chirp will have to reach new and different flocks. Thinking about this problem has their feathers ruffled. You may be wondering what to do if you want to expand into a new demographic, raise general awareness, or convert people who are opposed to your organization. We’ll cover that next week. In the meantime: enjoy getting to know your supporters!

What will be different for your organization a year from now? [7 of 15]


[This is part seven of our 1, 2, 3 Marketing Tree Step-by-Step series, written by our fabulous intern, Vicki. If you’re new to the series, you can catch up on previous posts. If you haven’t already gotten a 1, 2, 3 Marketing Tree, now is a great time to either buy the awesome poster-size version or download the free version, so you can follow along. You can find the free version in Claxon’s DIY tools a la carte menu or in the Marketing 101 Toolkit. You can buy the super spiffy poster here.]

Without being clear on the details of what success looks like for your organization, you will have a hard time knowing how you are doing. It would be like going on a trip without planning your route. Just knowing what your destination is won’t help you see that you missed a turn. You need to know what your route is. As you help your organization move towards its long-term destination, you need mile-markers. Like, where will you be one year from now?

The next question in the 1, 2, 3 Marketing Tree is, “What will be different for your organization one year from now if your marketing is successful?”

It is tempting to think that the answer to this is obvious. You want things to be better. You want more money. Or public awareness. Or maybe, you want more volunteers. But, with a vague answer like that, how will you know if you are a little off target? And, more importantly, how will you know when to throw the party when you succeed?

Here’s a handy acronym to help you think through what’s needed for a clear marketing objective:

You need a SMART marketing objective.

There are quite a few versions of what those letters stand for. I’ll talk about what I mean by them as well as embracing a bit of the controversy.

Simple: Now, if you have seen the SMART acronym before, you may already be disagreeing with me. “The S stands for Specific,” you say. I’ll admit, I’m in the minority camp here, but this whole list is about making sure you are specific so that feels like a waste of a perfectly good letter to me. I’ve also seen organizations get into the trap of starting to talk about how they are going to do something too soon. Saying that it should be specific tends to get people focused on “How?” questions like who is going to lead which committee. That comes later.

Measureable: The controversy on this one is that you need what you need whether you can measure it or not. Some things are hard to measure, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t strive toward them. I think this is a valid concern, but when I say something is measurable, that doesn’t mean I necessarily already have a plan on how to do so. Measuring is hard which is why I’m going to have a lot to say about it before we finish the 1, 2, 3, Marketing Tree. Let’s say you are trying to address donor retention by improving the esteem they hold for your organization. If your objective is a 10% increase in esteem, you could know whether or not you hit the mark or by how much you’re off. First, you’ll end up needing to figure out an appropriate survey or indicator, but it is possible to measure that. So, that is a measureable objective. Granted, you’ve just made your job a bit more complicated, but if that is what you need, that is what you need. Don’t head off in the wrong direction just because it is an easy direction to measure. But, if your objective doesn’t seem measureable at all, you need to be more specific about what you are trying to do.

Achievable: This one is about being realistic. Missing the mark is a morale buster. Also, if you and your team know you are probably not going to make it, your motivation can be sapped before you even begin. This doesn’t mean it can’t be a stretch if a stretch is what is truly needed. Stretch goals get an unfair bad rap. When you stretch your body, you make small shifts in your range over time by pushing calmly and just slightly beyond the comfortable. Yet, “stretch” has become a euphemism for extreme risks and wild, unattainable promises. Stretching is good, but we aren’t trying to dislocate any joints here.

Relevant: Your objective should clearly relate to the mission and be in line with the broader strategic direction or your organization. Everyone should know why this is important.

Time-bound: We’ve given you a head start on this one by asking you to define where you want to be “one year from now.” You may be in a situation where a one year time-frame doesn’t work for your project. Maybe it’s a six month project. That’s fine, just make sure you have some sort of time limit or measurements will be meaningless. If your time-frame is longer than a year, set an intermediate goal to help you stay on track.

Marketing Objective for Chirp:

As an example, let’s turn to Chirp, the school for birds founded by Claxon’s mascot, Roxie. (Check out previous posts for the full back-story.)

Last week, we talked about Chirp’s plan. They want to conduct experiments on their teaching methods so that they can set appropriate, research-based standards. To ensure methods will work across a variety of bird subcultures, they need to bring in students from a broader range of flocks.

Chirp’s objective:

We will increase recruitment for the next school year, doubling the number of students in the school from 15 to 30 and tripling the number of distinct flocks represented from 3 to 9.

It is SMART?

  • It is simple. They state clearly what they want to achieve, but don’t go into unnecessary detail.
  • It is easily measureable.
  • Though it will certainly be a stretch, since they are small and in a growth phase, those growth rates should be achievable.
  • It is relevant to immediate research needs, which in turn is relevant to the long term growth strategy. It also supports the general educational mission of the organization.
  • The time-frame is defined. In this case, it is a little less than a year because they need a fresh batch of students before the school year begins.

Now that we know what our destination and route are, it is time to invite people along on this road trip. Next week, we will start on the “Who?” section of the 1, 2, 3, Marketing Tree.


Where is your organization going? (6 of 15)

SWOT analysis napkin doodle[This is part six of our 1, 2, 3 Marketing Tree Step-by-Step series, written by our fabulous intern, Vicki. If you’re new to the series, you can catch up on previous posts. If you haven’t already gotten a 1, 2, 3 Marketing Tree, now is a great time to either buy the awesome poster-size version or download the free version, so you can follow along. You can find the free version in Claxon’s DIY tools a la carte menu or in the Marketing 101 Toolkit. You can buy the super spiffy poster here.]

If you don’t know where you’re going, you might not get there. (Yogi Berra)

Where is your organization going?

If your organization has a well thought out strategic plan, great! You probably know exactly where communications fits into that. If not, never fear! I’m going to take a quick break from the 1,2,3 Marketing Tree to give you a simple tool to fill in that gap so you can move on with your marketing plan.

What the heck is a SWOT Analysis?

A strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) analysis is a framework you can use to assess your position is in the marketplace. The strengths and weaknesses are about the internal aspects of your organization (e.g. resources, skill sets, reputation), whereas the opportunities and threats come from interactions with outside forces (e.g. collaborators, competitors, cultural shifts in a target audience).

Step #1

The first step is to makes lists in each category. This works well as a collaborative group activity, but if you have a hard time getting everyone in the same room at the same time, you can also ask everyone to submit their own list.

You will want to give explicit permission to be critical of the organization. No one will want to sound like they don’t think you’re great. Asking, “If we were to fail, what do you think the reason might be” can help. Don’t worry if there are disagreements. I was talking with an organization recently where some board members felt the large number of programs was a strength and others felt that was a weakness. It is both. The fact that there is “something for everyone” helps them engage with more people, but they also drop some important balls as they struggle to keep up with the juggling act they have created.

Step #2

Once you have lists for each category, it is time for strategy. Compare strengths & opportunities as well as weaknesses & threats. If you are weak in an area where there is a threat, think carefully about whether or not you should be there. You may want to scale back or pull out altogether. If you do continue in this area, you should prepare for this effort taking more resources as you try to convert weaknesses into strengths. Generally speaking, your resources are better spent building on existing strengths rather than turning a weakness into a strength. But it depends on your long-term organizational goals/vision.

If there is an opportunity in an area where you are strong, this is a great place to push for growth. As much as we would all like to pursue all the opportunities and overcome all the threats, that might be a tad ambitious even for an organization as amazing as yours. Hard choices will need to be made and it is wise to be realistic about your capabilities as you make those choices.

EXAMPLE: SWOT Analysis for Chirp

Let’s do a SWOT analysis for Chirp, the school for birds founded by Claxon’s mascot, Roxie. (Check out previous posts for the full back-story.) Roxie met with her friends to brainstorm their SWOT’s and this is what they came up with:



Comparing Weaknesses and Threats:

Given the organization’s age, limited organizational leadership experience, and lack of established policies and procedures along with the flocking tendencies within bird culture, it seems unwise to pursue a strategy of developing a strong centralized organization with an international scope.

Comparing Strengths and Opportunities:

International ties along with their ability to set initial standards makes the development of a certification process a promising avenue for growth. Rigorous trials of teaching methods will create compelling findings as well as ensure superior training for certified teachers.

Short Term Strategy:

Start trials of different teaching methods with incoming students. To ensure methods will work across a variety of bird subcultures, marketing efforts should focus on bringing in students from a broader range of flocks.

In Sum…

A SWOT analysis doesn’t take the place of a full strategic plan. But, if you are stuck waiting for one, I’m hoping this will help unstick you. There are a lot of alternatives and they all have strengths and weaknesses. (ha!)

At the end of the day, it is just a framework so pick the one that works best for you. The important thing is to take some time to ask hard questions about where your organization should go.

Now that you have a game plan for figuring out where you’re going, we can get back to the 1, 2, 3 Marketing Tree. Next week, we’ll be talking about how to set marketing objectives that align with your organizational goals…which is harder than you might think AND very, very, very important!

Marketing is a means to an end. Period.

what are your goals?I teach a graduate course in Nonprofit Marketing at the University of Washington and Seattle University. The third week of class, we spend our entire three hours together focused entirely, exclusively, fully on gaining clarity on the ways in which marketing is a means to an end.

You’d think this class would be a no-brainer. These are super smart graduate students in public affairs and nonprofit management. They are up to their eyeballs in strategic planning, logic models and whatnot. Plus, they are goal-oriented by nature.

And yet this class, more than any other class during the quarter, leaves my beloved students bedraggled and forlorn. Their eyebrows furrowed. Their morale drooping.

This mystified me until I finally realized that it’s one thing to be told you have to set goals and another to set them, prioritize them and figure out how you and your team are going to achieve them.

Far more fun to think theoretically about goals and then proceed, in reality, to obsess about how many new folks are following your organization on Twitter. Never mind that Twitter isn’t the best way to achieve your goals necessarily. It feels good to have hoards of adoring fans and followers. It feels concrete. You can point to it. Each month you can put a spunky little green arrow in your report the board, indicating the upward growth occurring on the social media front for all y’all. #HipHipHooray

Unless you can clearly show how more followers and fans will lead to you achieving your organizational goals–goals like attracting more volunteers, retaining more donors, serving more people–your social media stats don’t matter one wit.

Traffic to your website or your blog. Number of people attending your event. None of these matter unless they support a specific organizational goal. That’s because marketing is nothing more–nor less–than a means to an end.

Start by setting your organizational goals. Then identify the specific ways in which marketing can help you achieve them. Always and forever in that order.

If you feel as befuddled by all this goal setting as my students do, this might help.