1: Introduction: System Marketing™ is Your Key to Success

Why integrating communications into every activity gives you way more bang for the buck.

System Marketing™ means that your marketing is a system, in the same way that your financial procedures form a system. In either case, the specific task is aware of, and is informed by, the total organization. Everything effects everything – it’s all connected.

System Marketing directs that you align your goals, procedures, and communications to all pull in the same direction, with verbal, nonverbal, electronic, and print messages, and staff  attitudes, all reinforcing the same message. It ensures that everyone in the organizations is speaking with one voice.

Most importantly, System Marketing requires a deep understanding of the marketplace and the customer, and the ability to address the customer’s expressed, implied and inferred needs and desires. This requires research. That research may be a simple as a comment sheet on your front counters, or as complex as a multivariate, blind, controlled test. The cost typically varies with the number of words used to describe the research.

For example, putting a comment sheet on your front counter requires nothing more than a piece of paper, a pen, and some Scotch tape. It will result in some of your customers providing valuable insights into your operation, at minimal expense. The multivariate, blind, controlled test will probably take several people several months, will require a series of letters after the authors’ names, will result in a colorful bound report with footnotes, and will cost appropriately. In either case, when research is done thoughtfully and with well-defined goals, it is almost always worth the money.

Let me give you an example of how research helps. A while back, I was asked to provide a campaign to increase interest and visits to a nice retirement home in Marin County, California. As I talked with the staff, I realized that they had only the vaguest of ideas about why people chose to live there or not. So we started asking some questions.

First we conducted a written survey of the current residents, asking them what they liked about living there. Along with a few other questions, we also asked where they had lived before. From this we gained a lot of insight. As expected, people liked the beautiful grounds and that it was easy to get into town for shopping. The food was good, as were the maintenance and staff interactions. What surprised us was the most important factor in the move-in decision: People who lived there really liked that they could bring their own furniture!

We then sent out a mailing, by postal mail, to a large population. I don’t remember the exact number, but we mailed to more than 10,000 people over 55, within a 40 mile radius of the facility. Why 40 miles? Because that’s average maximum distance from which residents had come. Some had come from further, but more than 80% had previously lived within 40 miles.

The mailing included a brochure illustrated with professional photos, taken on the grounds, of people who actually lived there, sporting the headline, “Come Home to the [Facility]”. We emphasized the hot-button items we knew about from the survey: just like home, extra secure and safe, bring your favorite furniture, close to your friends and, family, and a familiar landscape.

This became the most successful direct mail effort I have ever done. We received a 24% response rate, and a 10% conversion rate, thereby beating expectations by a mile, and filling the waiting list. I am convinced that the research set the tone that enabled this successful effort. But equally important was the participation and buy-in of the staff, the truthfulness of the messaging, and the ability of the intake staff to model exactly what people expected. That’s System Marketing at work!

System Marketing in your organization

Your organization can establish System Marketing as SOP (Standard Operating Procedure). Do the research needed to truly know your customers, the marketplace, and the outside factors that impact that marketplace. Share staff knowledge about current customer-facing processes and communications. Listen to complaints, and don’t dismiss them as trivial. Be sure everybody is involved and heard. Review your mission, vision, objectives and impact statement to be sure they are current and actually reflect what you do and want to do, and how it happens.

Then you can unify communications and attitudes. Why attitudes? Because a large part of your customer and prospect communications is old fashioned conversation, as well as emails and other personal interaction. It is essential that everyone understands and buys in to the official message, and is able to reflect it in every action and utterance. Answering the phone, responding to an email, completing a proposal, talking at the bar at a conference: the language, style, and talking points should all reinforce your messaging. That is reinforced by consistent public messaging, including your website, logo, business cards, brochures, and advertising. When all of this is synchronized, then you have a marketing system and System Marketing.

Frankly, I don’t consider this rocket science. I have been thinking about it for a long time, and have seen the theory proven. Much of this is common sense, and just plain good business, be it for- or nonprofit. This book breaks down various marketing tasks and offers suggestions on how and when to use them. Regardless of the marketing mix you choose, when you keep System Marketing in mind, all of your marketing will be more effective.

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