For the longest time, non-profits were urged to market themselves by selling the “sizzle.”
“Our next meeting is in New Orleans!”
“Attend this seminar and get a free book.”
“Renew early and get a free gift.”
Then a recession came along, membership went down, fewer people were attending meetings and everyone watched their expenditures more tightly.
In reaction, we now have association management articles urging us to “sell the steak,” not the sizzle.
Why did we lose our focus and stop selling the steak to our members in the first place? When was it beneficial to the organization to promote peripheral benefits rather than the things that went to the heart of why the association was in business in the first place?
It often seems that when times are good, we start getting sloppy and wander off track from following and honing core association practices and techniques. Instead of focusing on the value proposition of our respective groups, we start promoting ancillary items which, while they may be fun, do nothing to help our members in their everyday lives and businesses.
Questions like “What have you done for me lately?” and “What keeps you aware at night?” are and must remain a non-profit’s focus…in good and bad economic times.
While the sizzle and the smell of a steak is nice, it is the actual taste that makes the difference. Remember the following:
- Keep your eye on the mission and purpose of your non-profit.
- Judge everything you do as to whether it serves the core needs of your members.* Get help from an outside consultant/non-profit management company to conduct a top-down analysis of your organization so you have another set of eyes analyzing your effectiveness.
(Coming up: Steak-selling Tips for Non-Profits & Associations)