Buying or buying-in? Watertight Marketing for charities and Not-For-Profit

Buying or buying-in? Watertight Marketing for charities and Not-For-Profit

Bryony ThomasWe offer not-for-profit organisations and social enterprises a massive £3000 discount on our Marketing Masterplan programme, where they can grab themselves the +Events package for the price of the Virtual programme. We started doing this after I presented at the ELLA Foundation last year, and found myself applying the methodology in a completely new context – getting vulnerable people to ask for help, and bringing volunteers on board. Accredited Consultant, Ros Conkie, has taken this further in working with two such charity clients recently, so I’ve asked her to explain how it applies. ~ Bryony Thomas

I’ve recently found myself working with a couple of not-for-profit enterprises that have been looking to increase the uptake of their services. It’s been really interesting applying the Watertight Marketing methodology to a charity and a community interest company (CIC), since neither is actually selling anything.

So, does the ‘sales funnel’ model apply when you’re not selling stuff?

Is the ‘buying process’ relevant when people are not ‘buying’ something?

It would be easy to assume that the answer to both of the above questions is ‘no’ but, in practice, the process that people take to buy into a free service is essentially the same:

  • Awareness: they hear of the service
  • Interest: they realise they need the service
  • Evaluation: they make contact with the charity or CIC
  • Trial: they have a first meeting with an advisor, counsellor or service provider
  • Adoption: they take up the service offered or they access other support services
  • Loyalty: if the service is not something that people would use more than once, hopefully they will offer a testimonial or refer others to the service.

Investing more than just money

A person who is choosing to take up the services of a charity might not be asked for money to access support, but they will certainly need to invest something, even if it is just their time.

One of the charities I worked with wanted to increase the number of people accessing a service that supports victims of abuse. In contacting and using this service, that person will be risking far more than just money. They might be risking their personal safety and potentially the safety of their children; they might be risking their financial and social stability; they might be risking their dignity and self-respect in acknowledging there is a problem that they need help with.

These considerations put the decision squarely in ‘considered purchase’ territory on The Buying Decision Continuum.


considered purchase

See: How considered is the decision your buyers are making?

Helping a person buy into a service like this, which could so devastatingly change their life even if it will ultimately be for the better, is not an easy task.

The ‘buying into’ process

When we stopped thinking about the sales funnel as a “buying process” and started thinking about it as a “buying into process”, it suddenly transformed our strategies for increasing the uptake of services of these two organisations.

We began talking about the “client engagement journey”, mapping the Logic Sandwich onto our communications at the different stages of the process and making sure that our marketing messages and content were appropriate for the relevant stage in the funnel.

Volunteers as ‘buyers’

A second way that we applied Watertight Marketing within a charity context was using the buying process as a model for how volunteers join the organisation.

Again, the process is the same:

  • Awareness: they hear that the charity needs volunteers
  • Interest: they want to find out more about volunteering
  • Evaluation: they assess whether they have time volunteer and whether this particular charity is one they want to commit to
  • Trial: they undergo the relevant training
  • Adoption: they undertake their first voluntary experience
  • Loyalty: they volunteer regularly, with commitment and enthusiasm

Using the Thirteen Touchpoint Leaks , we identified that one charity was losing a lot of volunteers at the Adoption and Loyalty stages.

We identified that Leak 1, Forgotten Customers (or, in this case, ‘Forgotten Volunteers’) was an issue as well as Leak 2, Poor On-boarding. The charity in question implemented processes to ensure volunteers were adequately supported when they first joined the organisation, received regular communications, and were offered opportunities to get back into volunteering if they hadn’t for a while.

Watertight Marketing for Charities and Not-For-Profit

The Watertight Marketing methodology fits not-for-profit marketing like a glove (not all that surprising when you realise that Author Bryony Thomas began her career in charity fundraising). By simply substituting a few of the terms – ‘buying’ becomes ‘buying in’ and customer becomes service user or volunteer – the framework can be effectively applied to any organisation aiming for long-term success.

© Watertight Marketing Ltd

Ros ConkieBy Ros Conkie – Watertight Marketing Accredited Consultant. Ros is a strategic marketing consultant who particularly enjoys working with clients whose products or services are bought in a considered or thoughtful process. She is based in Portishead and supports clients across the South West. See Ros’ full profile

Questions: Drop Ros a line on Twitter @rosconkie

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