Marketing & Communications Centre > Marketing Essentials > Help Sheets > What is marketing?

What is Marketing?

Marketing is a word that can prompt a wide range of interpretations and definitions.

Some people think marketing and advertising are the same thing - which they aren't.  Others may associate marketing with some sort of loud, chest-thumping promotional effort - which it doesn't have to be.  More may believe that marketing is a matter of having a name that is well-known in the community - which is a part of the story, but not all of it.

Marketing is the process by which you examine the world in which you operate - that includes your customers, your competition (or other similar groups to yours) and what you have to offer.

It also includes finding out what threats or opportunities exist; what needs your current or potential audience/contacts have; and how you address those needs.

Marketing should be considered as more than just getting donations or members.

It covers the whole range of activities involved in meeting the needs of your stakeholders, donors and "people".  Marketing is about the entire breadth of experiences people have with your group and the way in which people perceive your organisation- from promotional material to correspondence, to dealing directly with staff, members or volunteers.

Marketing - why bother?

With stretched resources in time, money and personnel marketing can sometimes be seen as an optional extra. However, it shouldn't be and here are a few reasons why:

  • Reaching new contacts: Marketing can help you get in touch with people who might join your group, help out, donate, volunteer, advocate or support you in some way.
  • Reaching new audiences: A good marketing campaign can reach new audiences - for example, different age groups, multicultural groups, groups in certain geographic areas or areas of interest.
  • Staying in touch with former/existing contacts: Marketing can help you stay in contact with current members, helpers, donors, volunteers, etc. as well as lapsed or former contacts, whose interest in your group may be rekindled with good marketing. Building public legitimacy, confidence or support: As marketing gets you into the spotlight and your profile increases, public confidence in your group grows as a consequence.  A heightened public profile also increases the legitimacy of your group in the public's eyes and that can increase the support you get from the public and your influence with decision-makers. Brand differentiation: Marketing can enhance the perception of your organisation and set it apart from other, similar groups.

For more information on why you should bother marketing, refer to the help sheet Marketing your Community Group – Why Bother? at the Media & Marketing Centre.

Marketing – what you need to consider

Before you begin a marketing campaign, your group will need to develop a marketing plan that considers aspects of your group's aims, identity and standing.

Firstly, your group should look at:
  • Where it currently stands.
    • What your group does and how it does it.
    • Which parts of the community are members, supporters or stakeholders drawn from?
    • What are the group's strengths and weaknesses?
    • How is the group positioned in the surrounding environment?  For example, are you strong and well-known, and do you have any competition for members, donations or volunteers?
  • What you want to achieve from your marketing.
    • Refer to some of the points listed above in the Marketing - Why bother? section for reasons to market and goals you could achieve through marketing.
  • Who you wish to market to.
    • Know the people or groups you wish to market to - your target audience.
This is going to involve research, or at least some time spent talking to group members and being clear on the position and direction of your group.

Another useful tool your group can to prepare a marketing campaign is a SWOT Strengths,Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) Analysis. More information on this subject can be found in the help sheet A SWOT analysis in preparation for your direct mail campaign, at the Media & Marketing Centre.

And for a more detailed run-down of the type of preparation your group should do before embarking on a marketing campaign, including a SWOT Analysis, refer to the help sheet Developing a marketing plan, Starting out.

Marketing - developing a marketing plan

Once you have an idea of where your group or organisation stands (both in isolation and in comparison to any competitor or similar organisations); what you want to market; and who you want to target with your marketing, it is time to use this information to develop a marketing plan.

Marketing plans don't have to be complex - in its most basic form, your marketing plan should identify how you are going to survive and thrive by achieving the marketing goals you have set (for example, using marketing to increase membership, attract more donations or raise your visibility in the community).

There are a number of individual components that can make up a marketing plan:
  • Advertising - using both media and non-media (flyers, newsletters) methods.
  • Market research.
  • Media work and promotions.
  • Public relations.
  • Membership/donation/support strategies.
  • Community activities and involvement, including lobbying and advocating.
  • Member/donor/helper/volunteer support.
  • Activity and function promotions.
  • Branding through logos, uniforms etc

Your group's marketing decision may be to use only a few of these elements or to spread across most of them.  Whichever way your group chooses to go it should at least consider each of these options before making a final decision.

For more information on developing a marketing plan, refer to the help sheet Developing a marketing plan, Eight Steps at the Media & Marketing Centre.

A final note on marketing and advertising

The concepts of marketing and advertising are often confused as one and the same.

Although advertising can be one of the largest expenses in a marketing plan, it is only one component of an overall marketing strategy and there are plenty of other marketing methods that can be used as an alternative to paid advertising. 

The information contained on this site is subject to change. Our Community will not be liable for any loss or damage whatsoever coming from reliance placed on all or part of its contents.