Today we are faced by so many options that many of us are overwhelmed. On an average day, a person might be exposed to over 20,000 different messages. So how do you find the right message to attract your best clients to your nonprofit healthcare organization? In over thirty years of working with organizations, both large and small, I have found the reason so many messages miss the mark is that they really don’t address their stakeholders’ wants but often times try to create interest in their nonprofit or healthcare organization. I have discovered that many people know what they think they want and are interested in investing in it to solve their problems but it doesn’t really solve their primary issue. In other words, it’s logical that people would want it but the solution doesn’t meet their unresolved emotional needs.
Over the years I’ve created a series of questions you might ask to help uncover these unspoken needs for your market. George Washington Carver once said, “How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these.“ I’ve applied this to marketing to mean people’s needs and wants are constantly changing. If you hope to succeed you must understand you r patients’ needs change. You must be willing to share your ideas in many ways if you hope to attract your best stakeholders today. I’ve felt a good marketer has as many different appeals as there are patients.
Here are several great questions to help you begin to uncover your patients hidden and, in many ways, real wants. What do you believe your primary patients value? How do they currently perceive what we have to offer? What position do we have in our best patients’ minds? When you begin to ask these simple questions, keep in mind that you may not be the best customer for your marketing efforts. As leaders of our organizations, we can sometimes be blind to what matters most to our patients. We may be too involved with it to see it clearly.
What knowledge do we need to gain from our patients and stakeholders? For most of my healthcare partners, I try to get them to begin thinking of their stakeholders and patients as customers. It makes it much easier to talk about customer needs than about generic ideas that have limited understanding to people outside the organizations. A great way to start the conversation with your team is to brainstorm with them on what they think your customer wants and, ultimately, needs from your organization. Also, remember that you have many stakeholder groups and all of them may have unique hidden needs. Effective marketers try to segment their messages as much as possible to increase the likelihood of success for their marketing efforts.
The final point to consider is, “Where is this information available?” Today, we have many choices on where we can meet our customers. In my experience, many of my best clients get overwhelmed by the volume of information available. Is it gathered through social media, primary or secondary research, or even through virtual focus groups? One thing’s for certain, if you don’t act on the information as you gather it, you’ll quickly be overwhelmed by the amount the information available from your community. In today’s market, it is critical to act in a timely manner with the understanding that even your mistakes move you closer to the outcome you want. People are much more forgiving in a real-time marketing environment. And in many ways, this provides an opportunity for organizations to continue to grow. In a future blog, we will discuss how to use market research to create better ties to your community, but for today, you must know that it’s available for little or no cost and can be done in ways we couldn’t imagine less than five years ago.
For many emerging nonprofit organizations, the most challenging decision we must make is how to create a message that both appeals and is acted on by our stakeholders. To do this, we must think of our stakeholders as separate groups to whom we target specific messages. By having a more personal message to them we create stronger relationships with them. It takes time and creativity to create stronger messaging but your increased results are worth the time invested. Next week, we will be sharing some changes to Developing Serving Leaders that we are making based on the feedback we have received over the past several months. I’m very excited about them. Come back to see what they are. See you then.