Who, or what, is your competition? (5 of 15)

competition, unique differentiator[This is part five 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 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.]

Your competition may not be who you think it is.

The next two questions on the 1,2,3 Marketing Tree are:

  • Who, or what, is your competition?
  • What makes you more compelling than your competition?

Before we can answer these questions, we need to ask another question.

What do you need?

Your organization requires many inputs from muffins for the staff meeting to grants for that new program you want to start. But, you are probably only worried about a small subset of inputs due to factors like a high impact on outcomes, supply shortages, or supply instability. Do you need clients? Funding? The attention of law-makers? When you want your voice to be heard, your biggest competition might be another nonprofit doing similar work. Then again, it might be the latest hit TV show.

Your local movie theater isn’t just worried about other cinemas. They are in competition with video games, putt-putt golf, that novel everyone is talking about, and all of the other things you might do with your free time this weekend.

The easiest way to think about competition is to step back from your own point of view and look at things from the point of view of the resource(s) you need and the people controlling that resource. Where else might the resources (e.g. money, time, energy) flow? That’s your competition.

Now think about the people making decisions about that flow. The potential volunteers deciding how to spend their time. The foundation manager designing metrics for grant evaluations. What factors are they considering as they make their decisions? Being more compelling than your competition is about being different in a way that impacts those decisions, i.e. in a way that inspires people pick you over the competition.

Who, or what, is Chirp’s competition?

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

As a reminder, Chirp needs to get more students into their classes. This means they need to be thinking about what else birds might choose to get involved in. They need to know who/what their competition is and what differentiates them from that competition.

Steve the Crow’s bird choir is another organization that draws birds in from multiple flocks for a culturally enriching pursuit. This is the obvious competition. Steep competition also exists, however, from other bird pastimes like digging for worms, swimming in ponds, and pooping on cars.

Like all of us, birds use their free time to engage in activities that they find fun and meaningful. Chirp believes it is both fun and meaningful AND is distinctive in that they offer an opportunity to communicate with other flocks. Within bird culture, however, loyalty is expressed through choosing to be like all of your fine, feathered friends. So, many birds make choices about their time by simply flocking together with birds of the same feather. For this reason, Chirp will also want to show that entering its program can be a fun group activity and tout the benefits the whole flock can glean from being able to communicate with other species. By speaking with other flocks, birds can learn about cats to avoid and bushes with ripe berries.

Albert the Owl has been doing some interesting linguistic studies and has found geographic patterns in the single word songs that different flocks are using. He is proud to be part of an organization that cares about supporting such research and expects his findings to impact the way words are taught to birds in other areas. Steve’s bird choir is not engaging in any research and Albert is at a loss as to how anyone could consider the two organizations even comparable. If Chirp were competing for grant funding, this would be a compelling. From the viewpoint of a student considering entering the school, however, Albert’s research isn’t likely to be something they would participate in. So, as interesting and important as it may be, it isn’t something that makes them compelling to those birds.

In sum…

As you are thinking about who your competition is, make sure you think outside of the nonprofit box. And, as you think about what makes you more compelling than your competition, make sure you are thinking beyond the differences that matter to you and focus on what matters to the people you’re looking to engage in your mission.

So far in this series, we have been talking about some big picture aspects of what your organization is about. As we focus in on what your marketing should be about, some strategic decisions have to be made. That’s what we’ll go over next week.

Analytics on the Brain

analytics, fundraising, statistics, brain science

Last week, I got an infusion of awesomeness from Josh Birkholz and Justin Ware of Benz Whaley Flessner. They did a workshop on navigating the new frontier of social media and predictive analytics.

To make smart decisions for your organization, you’ve got to have analytics on the brain. For marketing, that means looking at what’s working, what’s not and for whom.

Josh pointed out that marketers focus on defining groups of people whereas fundraising data-heads (aka people like Josh who practice predictive analytics) differentiate between groups.

To get people engaged, you learn the art of identifying which types of people are drawn to your organization and create personas based on that. Then you figure out how to get the attention of people who fit that persona.

To keep people engaged, you differentiate by figuring out what works best with different types of supporters in your database.

For-purpose, mission-driven marketing is often more art than science. Organizations generally don’t have the budget to test in a way that produces statistically significant results. However, you can bring some science to the art of figuring out what works with different types of supporters.

Once you’ve created personas for your top 2-3 types of supporters, here are two simple ideas to try:

  • Do A/B testing on your e-newsletters and see what motivates current subscribers to forward it (which eventually leads to more newsletter subscribers and, eventually, supporters).
  • Track which Facebook posts get the most reaction from different types of people, e.g. someone who ‘likes’ you but doesn’t donate, current volunteer, past donor, etc.
Over time, you’ll learn what works with which types of people. You’ll be better able to make decisions about how to align your messaging, content and tactics with current goals.
If you already have plenty of people in your database and want someone super smart to help you make sense of it all so you can better achieve your goals, call Josh. You’ll learn a ton AND have fun.

Match the Non-profit Taglines!

Messaging is an important part of differentiating your organization. And your tagline is an important part of your messaging. It lets people know how you’re different-or the same- as other organizations. Often, it clarifies your Why (aka your Belief Proposition).

See if you can match these famous non-profit do-gooders with their taglines. Did they do a good job of using their tagline to stand out from the crowd?

Quizzes by Quibblo.com | SnapApp Quiz Apps
How did you score? What was the most difficult nonprofit to match?

Word of the Week: Differentiation (lessons from the Academy Awards)

Jean Dujardin, Academy Awards, Oscars
Jean Dujardin differentiated himself by looking dapper in a classic tux. Mon dieux! Photo credit softpedia.com.

For a lesson in differentiation, it doesn’t get much better than the Academy Awards.

When deciding how to stand out on the red carpet, Jennifer LopezJean Dujardin, and Michelle Williams all faced the same challenge mission-driven organizations do: they needed to use their resources wisely to stand out from the crowd.

No matter how famous you are, there are only so many elements to work with. For celebrities, they look at their natural assets and decide how to use dress, jewelry, hair, and make-up to play them up. For organizations, you’ve got a compelling way to make the world a better place and you package it up in your logo, messaging, website, and materials. In both cases, you consider what the competition is doing (or will wear) and if they’re zigging, you zag.

Blending in is fine if you’re an Oscar seat filler. If you’re on a  mission to make the world a better place, you’d better make like the stars and differentiate!

When’s the last time you stopped and asked yourself (and your organization): Are we standing out or blending in? 




Nonprofit Messaging Sweet Spot

Aim for the gray spot!

In preparing for a recent client meeting, I took a stab at creating a visual to explain the ‘messaging sweet spot.’ It ain’t the prettiest picture you’ve ever seen (I’m no artist!), but it gets across an important point.

We usually aim for the middle of a Venn diagram. Not so with messaging, non profit or otherwise! If your messaging lands in the middle, you’re working harder to stand out because you’re using words that your competition is also using. The goal is to stand out, not blend in.

Does your messaging hit the sweet spot?

Do you communicate as effectively as you think?


Do you communicate as effectively as you think?