The 5 Top Keys to Marketing Your BranchOctober 18, 2013
Exercise is good for you, and people like to donate to causes they believe in. These twin maxims spurred the AAUW Morgan Hill (CA) Branch to sponsor an annual walk-run event that has been its cornerstone of fundraising for the past 30 years.
Across the country, the AAUW Howard County (MD) Branch raises funds by hosting practice SAT sessions, which the branch coordinates through the Princeton Review SCORE program.
These two success stories, along with other case studies and a range of marketing and branding challenges branches face, got a robust airing during a standing-room-only marketing workshop at the 2013 AAUW National Convention, held in New Orleans last June.
The session covered five key principles:
Know how marketing works.
Mark Hopkins, AAUW chief strategy officer, and Cordy Galligan, AAUW director of marketing and business development, framed the workshop by first defining and explaining marketing and the two concepts that guide virtually all marketing decisions: strategy and tactics.
“The role of marketing is to get people aware that you exist,” Mark explained. “Marketing happens before the sale or ask.
“Strategy is what you’ll do, or your big game plan. Tactics are how you’ll carry out the big game plan,” he said.
Examples: “Our new marketing strategy is to reach out to millennials,” — this tells what you’ll do. “We’ll reach millennials by launching a series of get-togethers using the social media platform Meetup.com,” explains how you’ll carry out the strategy.
Target your markets.
Specific target markets, or market niches, will be different depending on the demographic makeup of the community, Mark and Cordy told attendees. They pointed out that while AAUW wants to be known as “the Coca Cola of the women’s movement” — a message that doesn’t change — each branch needs to carve out its own specific target market based on both the current and future population it serves.
Build an identifiable brand.
Mark and Cordy advised branches to develop a strong brand so that others don’t do the branding for them. Some attendees noted that their branches frequently bump up against the community perception that AAUW is “the university people,” and that one must be an academic in order to be a member. Mark’s advice was to find three words to describe a branch and to consistently promote that message.
If possible, Mark suggested, “Devise two to three messages for the year; then anchor the messages to the branch’s key programs.” Effective messages are whom we serve, what we add to the community, and how we want the community to describe us.
Say no to the veggie soup strategy.
While discussing messages, an attendee said that rather than try to be “veggie soup” and take on too much, branches should stick to a couple of key issues and carry those out really well. The presenters added that branches should plan to repeat key programs year after year and get maximum visibility around these issues and related events.
The Morgan Hill branch’s annual run was a successful case of sticking to a key program. After 30 years, the annual race attracts 1,000 participants, and in a community of 38,500 residents, the expected turnout gives the branch a lot of press and visibility as well as relatively predictable fundraising dollars.
Not far from Morgan Hill, the AAUW Danville-Alamo-Walnut Creek (CA) Branch also focuses on one issue. Members of this branch are known as the “house tour people,” and they raise $18,000 every year from their two-day garden tour program.
Leverage AAUW tools and resources for branches.
The national office helps branches with web content updates and site maintenance for a low annual fee through the Site Resources program. (Editor’s note: AAUW will create your branch’s site and provide technical support for free.) There are also templates and guidelines for writing letters to the editor and op-eds (opinion pieces) and for holding programs on the AAUW website. One such “Program in a Box” is Cocktails and Convos, a networking concept that doesn’t have to cost the branch anything and can attract the prospective members the branch wants to reach.
Rounding out the session were animated discussions about privacy, making it easy for people to renew membership or join AAUW, and remembering to use social media to spread ideas. At day’s end, marketing your branch is frequently about people in your community talking to one another on things they care deeply about.
A small-business strategic marketing, branding, and visibility consultant, Roberta Guise also develops women as recognized authorities in their fields. Visit her websites www.guisemarketing.com and thoughtleadingwomen.com for more information on her work.
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