Marketers: Stop Reading from the Right Side of the Menu!

Posted on Aug 13, 13 in Blog Financial

This idea was recently planted in my head by a successful non-profit industry executive, Tim Shaw. Tim has spent his career working with non-profit organizations at various levels of management from fundraiser to CEO. He is now Chief Development Officer with THINK Together, a PSB client.

In our discussion about the challenges that organizations face when it comes to allocating adequate funds for their marketing support, he said that many organizations read from the “right side of the menu.” In the non-profit world, this often happens.

The right side of the menu…rather than the left

Think about the typical restaurant menu. The entrées are generally listed on the left side and the pricing is listed down the right side. It’s usually a column listing.

If you read the left side of the menu first, you are identifying which entrée you want and then identifying the price secondarily. When you read from the right side of the menu, you are letting price determine what you select.

There are few (if any) companies that have an unlimited marketing budget. The budget pressures we all face are real.

Tim’s comment sparked a few cautionary thoughts for me that are worth sharing when a company engages in “right side of the menu” thinking to drive marketing decisions:

1) Limiting your marketing limits your true potential

You wouldn’t say, “I only have $5000 for marketing, therefore I only want to sell $50,000 worth of something.”

If you let budget be the sole determinant of what marketing initiatives you will implement, you reduce your chances for success. Instead, look at marketing the way the most progressive companies do in all industries (non-profit, for profit, not-for-profit): evaluate goals and then objectively assess what it will take to accomplish those goals from a cost standpoint.

After knowing what is required to accomplish the objectives, the costs either make sense or they don’t based on the ROI for the initiative. Either it’s worth it or not.

Most good business planning starts with this goal/objective/expense approach and marketing decisions should follow the same logic.

2) Your messaging sends the wrong signals

We talk to many clients. Marketing budgets are always stretched. Because of this the marketing investment is often scrutinized. I’ve seen two distinct schools of thought on the messaging strategy especially in the non-profit or not-for-profit arenas:

The sympathy platform This usually stems from an internal philosophy that the marketing “can’t look too professional” or people won’t join the cause. Professional resources can’t be too polished or the company will be seen as wasteful, arrogant or unworthy. If things look too good, somebody is wasting money.

This is an older school of thought that comes from the bootstrapping early days of non-profit solicitation.

However, asking for participation and support using the sympathy approach can come off as begging, when asked in the context of a donation. Although people will contribute out of sympathy, the question becomes will they engage and follow?

Probably not.

The aspirational platform – This approach comes from a position of strength and power. It showcases that the organization is successful, highly motivated and worthy of an investment by the participant. When you ask someone to invest in your cause, they expect to receive…and you expect to provide them with a return on their investment. The feeling when you connect to an aspirational organization is one of empowerment and energy.

Most organizations want to be perceived as aspirational, but it is more work and does cost more.

As things begin to improve in our economy, and margins begin to return, it is important to assess whether your organization continues to read from the right side of the menu out of habit, necessity or both. And, most importantly, that you aren’t letting the pricing/cost decision drive the outcome of your marketing and/or the vision/image of your company.

Your marketing communication efforts and the quality of your materials are a direct look into the soul of your company. Your public will judge you accordingly.

For some recent examples of non-profit organizations using the power of the aspirational platform in their marketing, see our recent work with Rivals United for a Kure and Think Together.

Originally Published on CUinsight.com



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