For many people, "marketing" means "advertising and promotion." However, marketing is more than that. It involves building a relationship with another person -- someone for whom a service or product is procured.
Today, consumers expect to be able to choose from among several options when seeking a service or product. Knowing that your service is in a competitive marketplace and understanding some of the basics of marketing can make the difference in whether or not your center remains a vital, thriving, and effective ministry.
The traditional five P's of marketing are Product, Place, Price, Promotion, and Personality (or image). Over time, we will discuss each of these areas in this column. But there is another marketing P which has emerged as even more important than the traditional five. The sixth P is the Process of Decision-making.
Why does a young woman decide to come to your center? There are a number of factors that likely bear upon her selection of a center. She may be seeking a particular service. She probably has certain expectations gained from reading an ad or talking with a friend. To market your center, you need to understand what potential clients want. To draw new types of clients to your center, you will need to know what will attract clients you are failing to reach.
Keep in mind that marketing involves building a relationship. Football coach Lou Holtz listed three questions as the most important questions each person with whom we strive to build a relationship wants answered. I believe these three questions can help us understand how we can best reach the young ladies we want to see in our centers. Here are the three questions:
- Can I trust you? This is the most fundamental of the questions. We've all heard stories of young women who thought they could trust a father or uncle or boyfriend to love them unconditionally only to find out that that trusted person was looking only for sexual gratification. The women who come to your center must believe that you and your organization are trustworthy. A physical facility that is clean and safe is a beginning. A staff that is reliable and friendly is important too. And the demeanor of staff in scheduling appointments, in receiving new clients, and in counseling all go toward building trust.
- Do you care about me? While many people say they care, only a few truly do. As I have traveled around the country and visited centers in many cities, I have seen that unconditional love is the greatest strength of the center movement. Center counselors, who are usually volunteers, show they care by their demeanor and their words. They show they care because they are faithful in performing their duties with no remuneration. They show they care by doing for motherless women the things that a mother would do. Center counselors provide pregnancy testing, advice, and other services, but they also show that they care about their clients as individuals, and their clients find them quite believable.
- Are you committed to excellence? Because our society is consumer driven, clients have come to expect high quality service. You may be expected to render service at the speed of a drive-through burger joint and with the integrity of a hospital or a doctor's office. Many centers miss the little touches that give a professional and warm feel to the décor. They look dark or shabby, or the staff appear careworn. A shortcoming in any area can give the impression that the service rendered is less than the best. Excellence in service -- even a free service -- is expected.
Not too long ago, an organization in Baltimore did a customer satisfaction survey to find out how many people told their friends about a particularly good or particularly bad service experience. The findings are something we all should remember. A client who had a good customer service experience typically would tell eight people about it. A client who had a bad customer service experience typically would tell sixteen people about it. Because centers often receive a significant number of referrals, we always should strive for excellence. Service is our product, and product will be the topic of our next installment.
Jerry Thacker, B.A., M.A. heads Marketing Partners, Inc., a marketing communications company which produces Today's Christian Teen, Today's Christian Preacher, and Today's Christian Senior magazines. He is a researcher, writer, publisher, presenter, broadcaster, and teacher. He has been a guest on the Janet Parshal and Oliver North radio programs, on Focus on the Family, and on programs for cable television and local affiliates of national networks. He can be reached at 1-800-588-7744 or email@example.com.