MARCOM’s Heading to the GTA!

In my last article, I talked about the importance and role of marketing in the public and not-for-profit sectors. This is especially important in today’s turbulent times when we all have to work smarter to “weather the economic storm”. Marketing provides a business-oriented focus for any organization as well a rational framework for setting priorities and communicating with greater impact.

For anyone in these sectors that is serious about delivering programs, services and campaigns more effectively and standing out from the rest of the pack, MARCOM 2009, June 2-4 at the Pearson Convention Center in Brampton, Ont. is a “must attend” conference. Now in its 11th year, MARCOM addresses the latest trends, strategies and best practices for marketing in the public and not-for-profit sectors. And it’s a great opportunity to learn how like-minded professionals from across Canada are using marketing to improve their organizational processes.

I’m particularly excited about MARCOM this year. As a starting point, it’s the first time in MARCOM’s history that the event will be held outside the nation’s capital. This is in response to the tremendous feedback we’ve received from our colleagues from the GTA who want to see the conference closer to home. This is especially timely this year as many communities in the GTA have been hit hard by the economic crisis and they will truly benefit from MARCOM’s keynotes, conference sessions, roundtables and networking events.

The second reason I’m thrilled is the great diversity we have in our conference content this year which will cover a wide range of marketing issues. The Opening Keynote will feature Arlene Dickenson, CEO, Venture Communications and “Lady Dragon” on CBC’s Dragon’s Den who will dispel myths about marketing being a discipline  solely for the business sector. On the second day, Rahaf Harfoush, Social Media Expert and Member of Obama’s New Media Team will discuss how social media was used to propel the US President to the White House.

Last but not least, I’m extremely pleased to be launching Canada’s first Advanced Sponsorship Planning Workshop as part of MARCOM’s Pre-Conference program. This one-day workshop will explore more advanced concepts related to Sponsorship Marketing and how the not-for-profit and public sectors can maintain or grow their corporate revenues during tough economic times.

I hope you’ll take the opportunity to attend this year’s conference. For more information please check out the conference details at MARCOM.

Planning NOW for what’s coming down the road

Over the past few weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to review several industry reports related to the financial mess we’re in and the message is pretty much the same – we’re in for some nasty business until things turn around (with time frames for turn-around ranging from 6 months to 5 years).

One thing I’ve noticed in an alarming number of the reports, is that members of many industry associations and other not-for-profits are anticipating minimal impact (5%-10% decrease in corporate revenues) from the economic fallout and I find this a scary thought. My fear is that these organizations that think that its “business as usual” are going to be in for a rude awakening over the next 6-12 months when corporate support for their activities takes a nosedive, and many will be in too deep to survive the drop in revenue.

So my advice to any organization that relies on corporate marketing or donation dollars is to adopt pro-active practices TODAY to ensure that your organization is “battle ready” for any curves that might be thrown your way over the next year. Even if the doom and gloom scenario doesn’t transpire, you’ll still benefit from being a leaner, smarter and more responsive organization.

To help organizations adjust their strategies to the new reality, the staff at CMG Canada have put together some key strategies to help our core audience maintain a positive revenue flow during these unprecedented times. On February 24th, we’ll launch the first of three webinars aimed at providing the strategies, tools and best practices for organizations that want to protect and/or diversify their revenue streams. Here’s a run-down of the upcoming webinar program:

Strategies for Sponsorship Success in an Economic Downturn

(February 24, 1:30 PM EST)

This session will explore how the economic climate is impacting sponsorships and what you must do to adopt to the “new economy”. It will also discuss the importance of maintaining a strong brand in this market, how you can leverage your brand to maintain your relevance to corporate sponsors and core tactics for keeping your current sponsors engaged.

Leveraging Your Organizational Assets to Provide More Value to Your Corporate Partners

(March 3, 1:30 PM EST)

This session will examine how you can leverage your audience to find new prospects, how to identify, package and position your complete inventory of assets to appeal to changing corporate priorities and how to customize your investment packages to respond to specific prospect needs.

Promoting and Selling Your Corporate Programs

(March 10, 1:30 PM EST)

This session will explore how to sell smarter in a tough economic climate by demonstrating how to create compelling promotional collateral, how to position your opportunity in a language that business understands and how to overcome the inevitable “we’re reviewing all of our marketing expenditures” objection.

Each webinar is 90 minutes and can be viewed by as many persons as you can fit around your computer screen. Each session will also include worksheets to help you to develop your own plan. To register for the upcoming webinar program, please go to CMG Canada and click on Events and Workshops.



Elements of Effective Partnering

In our work with public sector / not-for-profit organizations, we deal with a wide range of environments related to engaging the private sector through various forms of partnerships. For some of these organizations, it is their first foray into this area and they are naturally cautious towards working with the private sector. For others, there are varying levels of sophistication towards using partnerships to achieve objectives as well as approaches used to manage these partnerships.

Based on my experience working with dozens of organizations on their partnering efforts, the following are critical elements that help determine if an organization’s partnering efforts are going to be successful. These are not new, revolutionary ideas but in my view, one or more of these key elements are often overlooked which results in partnering arrangements that never get off the ground or never reach their full potential.

  • Clearly Defined Mission and Objectives Any public organization considering partnering must be clear in its mission and objectives for partnerships at the institutional level. These elements will provide the framework within which partnerships can be created. Where the mission of the organization and the partner are too diverse, the partnership opportunity should be passed. If the high level missions are compatible, then an analysis of the mission and objectives at the project level should be conducted to ensure compatibility from an operational perspective.

  • Develop a Partnership Policy that Positions Your Efforts and Encourages Partnerships An effective Partnership Policy provides an element of transparency and is seen as a crucial step in developing a positive internal culture. An effective policy needs to encourage consistency but allow for flexibility to assess risk and respond to opportunities. It needs to be written in a way that encourages partnerships and does not inhibit the ability of your organization and for-profit private sector businesses to build relationships based on mutually beneficial goals. Any conflict of interest statements need to be simply stated without being over-dramatic and at the same time, practical so that industry sees value in working with you.
  • You Have to Start with a Plan Prior to seeking partners, you need to have a clearly defined marketing strategy that helps you define your current situation, your target audience, specific objectives you want to achieve and the types of partners that will help you address the gaps in your strategy (e.g. reaching a specific audience, building credibility, offering value-added service, etc.). If you don’t have a road map, how can you possibly know where you are going?

  • Choose the Right Partners If you are like most organizations, you probably have limited resources to manage partnerships, so you want to ensure that the partners you work with are the ones that are most suitable to the goals you’ve outlined in your strategy. Prior to initiating discussions with potential private sector partners, initial research should be conducted to help determine / prioritize partners that can help you best achieve your objectives. A quantitative checklist can help you assess different opportunities and rationalize why certain partners are more desirable than others.

  • Determining the Value and Benefits of the Partnership To create a “Win / Win” situation (as any good partnership is), each organization at the outset must have a clear understanding of the value and benefits that the partnership brings to the table from both a tangible and intangible perspective. In order to create real “buy-in”, both parties must benefit from the arrangement, otherwise there will be lackluster commitment.
  • Governance All partnering arrangements should have a defined governance model that ensures there are checks and balances through the partnering process. These processes should be stated from the onset, so that there are no surprises or unrealistic expectations.

  • Minimal Bureaucracy A bureaucratic and complex process to review and ‘approve’ partnerships will likely undermine any real efforts to secure partners for an initiative. Long approval process can take away any momentum that is developed between potential partners. The key is to get internal approval on partnership concepts, potential benefits that will be offered through these arrangements and agreement templates so that when you move forward on a partnering arrangement, the approval process will be timely and efficient.

  • Evaluation Process Consistent with effective marketing, every partnering arrangement needs an effective evaluation strategy where ongoing progress can be tracked and results measured against objectives. Evaluation can include both quantitative (e.g. audience reach, exposure to messages) and qualitative (organization image, audience satisfaction) measurement criteria. If an arrangement is not working or living up to expectations, it is important to address issues as they arise and not at the end of an agreement when it is too late to make any changes.