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How You Can Design and Develop Cost-Effective Marketing Communications


This article discusses how to evaluate your current marketing communications (excluding response rates). As well, we will help you to identify some low-cost alternative communications to augment your "marketing mix."

Ideas for Cost Control

Perhaps the easiest way to trim costs is to determine if you are using the best type of communication for each of your key publics. For example, consider just three possible segments (any organization may have dozens of segments, depending upon size and program complexity):

  • Board members receive the widest range of offerings: e-mail or fax special reports, annual reports and special first class mail catalogs and solicitations
  • High end donors might also receive annual reports, solicitations for special events, catalogs, and donor gifts
  • Prospects receive newsletters and bulk mail communications
Note that prospects do not receive annual reports, or first class mailings for catalogs and other communications. This is because they are least likely to respond to these offerings. It may also be true that your board members and high end donors prefer not to receive these mailings. Try dropping them a post card, or include a request in your newsletter that asks them which publications they would like to continue.

Other Ideas to Consider

  • Use the same communication, but in a minimized version. For example, condense the annual report for your low end donors.
  • Consider pre-printing a shell in large quantities. This works well for a newsletter or other regular communication. You can later add your text in a different color.
  • Consider changing the vehicle of communication. Cable television, the Internet, and major print media can be extremely cost effective for large audiences. The key here is to correctly target your audiences according to what media vehicle is most likely capture their attention.

    For example, in order of increasing cost, press releases can be delivered by e-mail, fax, or snail mail (U.S. Postal Service). Of course each will have different response rates, depending upon who receives the communication. Still, you might consider starting with e-mail, and then following up with phone and an eventual press kit to those media personnel most interested.
Evaluating how to structure the delivery of your marketing communications depends not only on cost, but your marketing objectives. Without question, you will need to use multiple exposure through different vehicles for maximum effect. You may wish to consider the following low cost vehicles as a supplement to your existing marketing program.

Low Cost and Free Alternatives

  • Banner-it
    Banners are low cost signage for businesses and events. When possible, put on your building, a parked van, or special event tent. They are inexpensive to make, easy to transport, and highly versatile.
  • Grocery/Discount Stores
    Talk to the store manager to see if they will print your camera-ready artwork that will be printed on their paper bags. As well, consider using the smaller advertisements that are printed on tape receipts and the ad cards that appear on the shopping cart. These are usually not sold by the store, but by a local or national media company.
  • Display Advertising
    In addition to billboard display advertising, you may wish to consider using the message boards and kiosks available at shopping malls, airports, bus shelters, and transit shelters. Depending on the time of year and the location of the display, there may be selected off months when the display is less likely to be rented.
  • Statement Stuffers
    High-volume mailers such as department stores or cable and utility companies will sometimes allow inserts by nonprofit organizations to be included with monthly statements to consumers. To determine if it is cost effective to participate, it's wise to know the target audience and geographic region of the mailing to determine if the "match" fits for your marketing communication.
  • Tagalongs
    Brainstorm some businesses who have products or services to sell to your target audiences. Ask if you can insert your marketing brochure or flyer in every package or invoice that goes out.
  • Free Samples
    Many nonprofit organizations can use free samples to their marketing advantage. For example, if you are a mental health counseling office, consider asking consulting mental health providers to insert "free sample" coupons in their catalogs, or mailings or provide exposure in client waiting areas.

    Similarly, a consulting firm or individual may offer your services as a "gift certificate" to a good client or friend. This works particularly well with special event or entertainment programs.
  • Readerboards
    Banks, community centers, and shopping centers generally have electronic readerboards that are available, without charge to nonprofit organizations, for items of public interest.
  • Bulletins at Places of Worship
    AA printed bulletin in a church, synagogue, or other place of worship provides an excellent opportunity to promote a special event or funding appeal to an audience that may have special interest in your organization's mission.
  • Large Company and Association Newsletters
    Most companies will gladly advertise volunteer opportunities for their employees and often print other messages in support of nonprofit organizations' events and services as well. Written copy and even photos may be requested by the corporate communications office. If you have a key volunteer within a company, you may wish to make them the contact for implementing your campaign at that level.
Topics: Communications Nonprofit Marketing