A solid foundation


Years ago, at an office Christmas party held at a local dinner theatre, I found myself and a member of our board of directors seated at a table with two women we did not know. During intermission we went beyond the basic introductions. Our dinner companions wanted to know more about our organization.

I gave a boilerplate answer, possibly because I started writing boilerplates way back in 1996, but evidently the delivery was anything but rote because one of the women smiled and commented that I obviously enjoyed my job and believed in the work of the organization.

Knowing, and being able to explain, why you do what you do is at least as important as being able to explain what you do. Equally important is being able to articulate in a concise way, and without slandering your competition, why or how you do a better job than others in your field.

There are so many great presentations on LinkedIn SlideShare; it’s a great resource. I ran across one recently and didn’t have to go beyond the third or fourth slide before finding a nifty exercise that could get you started on a more-focused marketing effort.

The presentation is on Small Business Promotion*, and the exercise is on the topic of Value Proposition. The producer, McGraw-Hill, defines the latter as “small business owners’ unique selling points that will be used to differentiate their products and services.”

I think the exercise would also help non-profits as they develop a mission statement, but there are so many resources out there for mission statements, that may be a topic for another post. Still, if you manage, direct, or are on the board of, a non-profit, I suggest you give it a go.

Complete the following, filling in key details about your business or organization in parentheses:

For (target customer), who (statement of the need or opportunity), the (your business name) is a (product or service category) that (statement of key benefit) unlike (primary competitive alternative). Our business (statement of primary differentiation) is available (where).

Here’s an example:

For the pet lover and frequent traveler who wants the very best for his animal friends, P.T. Friendly’s Pet Sitting Service provides flexible, professional in-home pet care for residents of the tri-county area. Our well trained and bonded staff care for all kinds of pets, including reptiles, arachnids and other animals that our competitors sometimes refuse. Our services include feeding, bathing/cleaning, meds, exercise/engagement, and transport to your veterinarian in case of emergency. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, and on the web at yourwebaddress. Phone XXX-XXX-XXXX.

Note the phrase “other animals that our competitors sometimes refuse.” No names are given, and the use of the word “sometimes” means you don’t have to worry about someone calling you with a challenge.

Need other ideas …

  • Is your business in a small town? Emphasize if yours is the only product/service available locally.
  • Training, certification and recommendations from respected people in the community are other ways you can separate your business from the rest of the pack.

A bonus to this little exercise is that, when you have the statement above perfected, you have the start of a blog, brochure, the “about” section for a Facebook page or Twitter feed, and a boilerplate for press releases.¬†And you will always be ready to answer the question, “what do you do,” concisely with detail and enthusiasm.

If you find yourself struggling to complete this exercise, drop me a line. I’d love to help.

*Small Business Promotion: Capturing the Eyes of Your Market, 2009, McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.







Claim your square in 2016


Whether they are digital or paper, calendars usually involve squares. Fifty-two weeks and 365-days’ worth of them. Does your non-profit have claim on at least one of those squares? If not, make that a promotional goal for 2016.

I’ve always been a tad cynical and skeptical of “awareness” campaigns. October has been a sea of pink for years, and like other writers, I’ve wondered if it makes a lick of difference.

If your non-profit already is a force for positive change, the answer is, absolutely.

Cultures, nations and religions have their biggest days/weeks of the year. Your mission should as well. It is a time to share facts about the important cause of your work and to tell stories of real lives that have been changed because you were there doing that work.

Find your time on the calendar, or make it yourself, and plan a solid campaign of education, celebration and appeal for support. Start with a goal and a call to action for current and potential supporters. Next, collect facts about your cause, the work itself and the impact you are having in your community. Brainstorm volunteer-driven activities, visuals (for example, autism awareness uses the symbol of puzzle pieces), how to involve clients, etc.

Psychology Today has a great awareness calendar that may be helpful. Here are just a few “causes” that could apply to different organizations:

  • Random Acts of Kindness
  • Mentoring
  • World Health
  • Stress Awareness
  • Family Support
  • World Kindness
  • Scholarship
  • Self-Awareness
  • Children

If you can’t find a fit, brainstorm with staff, volunteers, clients and board members to create one. It could be the date your organization was founded or when ground was broken on a facility. Maybe there was a specific date that your organization reached a milestone in the number of clients served, bags of groceries given, children adopted, animals rescued.

Research the date to make sure it’s not already crowded with other causes, then approach community leaders and request an “official” declaration day for your organization or cause. Contact the mayor, county executive, board of education, hospital, college, etc. Plan a ceremony around the announcement to kick off your campaign.

With even a modest budget and some dedicated volunteers, you can stake claim to a space on the calendar that can raise awareness of the good work you are doing. If you need ideas or assistance, please contact me.



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