This past weekend I was invited to a Mary Kay party by fellow VM blogger Katelyn. It was a blast, but while I was there I couldn’t help but make some comparisons with work (shows how much I love my job 🙂 ).
Mary Kay parties are designed to sell Mary Kay makeup and products, but they do it in a way that focuses entirely on what the customer needs and wants. When I arrived, I chatted with the other women, which gave me a chance to relax, catch up with old friends, and make some new ones. Then we sat down to start trying and learning about the products, and each of us had a tray matched to our personal skin type and coloring. Everyone applied the products themselves, no professional makeovers were to be found at this party. And all of this personalized attention and instruction really paid off– I ended up buying a product, and I felt good about it. It was something I needed, I learned how to use it, and I had fun with some other amazing women while making my purchase.
This is marketing at its best, and the for profit industry has perfected it. They realize that you must find a way to meet the customer where they are at, and work from there to get them to take the action you want, whether it be to buy a bottle of foundation, turn into the McDonalds drive through when you are hungry, or make the decision to go to Whole Foods instead.
I didn’t just come to these realizations all on my own… I had some help. Since the start of my year at VM headquarters, I have been working on developing training materials for our VISTA program. Our VISTA members work on a variety of capacity building projects, and one of them is helping nonprofits to market a program or initiative. In my research on this topic, I came across a book called “Robin Hood Marketing: Stealing Corporate Savvy to Sell Just Causes,” by Katya Andresen, and I have fallen in love with it. It has made me more aware of all sorts of marketing factors and influences that I encounter in my daily life, as well as sparked my imagination to think of ways that those marketing tactics can be applied to make the world a better place, not just to make some CEO a few extra dollars.
Robin Hood Marketing does not bore you to death with charts and graphs and long winding chapters on the importance of tracking ROI (return on investment). Instead, Andresen uses real world examples from the private sector and then applies them, through case studies and simple steps, to the nonprofit sector.
I know, I know… you’re thinking, “but we’re a nonprofit– we’re doing good work! We shouldn’t manipulate people into doing things for us, they should want to do it because it’s what’s right!” Unfortunately, we live in a world where the right thing is not always the obvious thing, and many people can convince themselves (I do it every day) that the easy thing is the same as the right thing. I could walk a mile to the grocery store, or I could order a pizza with the coupon that just came in the mail… hey, I’ll order veggies on it to make it healthier 😛 If we do not specifically try and get our message out in a way that is going to be noticed and received by the people we want to reach, our message will get lost amidst all the other pieces of junk mail, spam, and gossip that we must endure every day. When the Haiti earthquake hit, nonprofits collected record amounts of donations because they teamed up with cell phone companies and allowed people to donate by texting- they could take the action while they were most moved , and get an immediate sense of satisfaction that they had done something to help.
Andresen has a blog where she talks about all things marketing, and her book is available there as well… I highly recommend you check it out!