Market orientation: Why it matters for your community

With more organisations moving their core business to consumer directed funding models such as NDIS and My Aged Care, change is in the air – for providers and their clients and beneficiaries. For the first time, clients hold the purse-strings – and with them, the chance to exercise true choice and control over the services they receive. For the first time, individuals – not the government
– are the customer.

For a customer-driven market to thrive, there must be sufficient choice available from a range of providers, offering services that fulfil genuine community needs in a way that’s sustainable, ethical, and generates positive social impact.

The approach providers take towards creating and marketing services has great bearing on how well organisations and the communities they serve will fare in the developing social services marketplace.

Approaching marketing by focusing only on activities – like service, sales and advertising – can be risky.

A market orientation can help your organisation to focus your efforts in a way that benefits both your organisation and the communities you serve.

Where are you now – activity or market oriented?

At its core, the purpose of marketing is to facilitate the exchange of value between an organisation and its customers. The difference between an activity-led approach to marketing and genuine market orientation lies in the perception of where and how this value is created.

Do you recognise any of these in your organisation?

Sales orientation

Value is seen to be created by revenue or size of customer base. A focus on volume over differentiation can create the temptation to over-diversify in an attempt to serve everyone – or anyone.

With too many eggs and too many baskets, service quality and relevance is harder and more costly to maintain – thus putting longer term financial sustainability at risk. There’s also a potential human cost if you’re trying to do more than you can manage within quality and safety guidelines. Risk: poor quality and sustainability.

Advertising orientation

Value is seen to be primarily created through brand perception – risking overstatement. A lack of integrity, ‘purpose washing’, or even well-meaning (but poorly implemented) marketing in which reality fails to match expectation, can result in real damage to the interests of the organisation and its customers.  Risk: brand damage.

Service orientation

Value is seen as vesting solely with the features and quality of the service you currently provide. Organisations with a service orientation often do have a strong ‘customer orientation’, and provide excellent care – but If you’re not looking beyond your existing customers to understand how the wider market is developing, your service – however high in quality – may fall out of step with changing needs and expectations. Risk: poor impact.

A market orientation benefits your community

The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself.”

Peter F. Drucker

A market orientation puts current and potential customers and the world as they experience it at the centre of the marketing process. To improve your market orientation, the first step is to develop clear, accurate business intelligence around three Cs[1] – community, context, and capabilities.

1 Know your community

Looking beyond the customers you already know to build a picture of the whole potential customer base – along with a solid understanding their needs and behaviour – is essential. This article offers some tips to help you build a market map.

2 Understand the context

It’s vital to have a complete picture of the context in which your customers and your organisation connect, especially in a complex environment like community and social services.

Go beyond listing direct competitors and take a look at all of the other options your community has to solve their problem. This can include indirect competitors (like informal support), as well as barriers (such as access to funding).

In the process of scanning your context, you may even identify some potential collaborators. If you’re tending towards a sales orientation in an attempt to survive, finding partners who share similar goals but have different competencies is one way to offer your customers a wider range of services.

3 Review your capabilities

What is your organisation good at, really? It can be helpful to get an outside, objective opinion on this from a consultant, or through market research. Research your current customers but also make sure you understand the market beyond your current base. You can learn a lot from customers who have chosen a competing option.

Having a good picture of your unique strengths can help guard against overselling (advertising orientation). You may also find something that you do best of all, that fits the needs of your market perfectly. That’s market fit: the magic ingredient in developing a sustainable position in the market.

A fresh perspective

Adopting a market orientation creates a fresh perspective that puts the needs of your current and potential customers into context. With a market orientation, your organisation is better placed to deliver sustainable social impact through your marketing and indeed, everything you do. That’s good for your organisation and great for your community.

For a fresh perspective on your market, talk to Meg – book a time with me here.

Meg is a Certified Practising Marketer, strategist and expert facilitator with rich expertise in marketing, strategic communications, and business development. Passionate about social impact, Meg helps purpose-driven organisations to understand their markets, stakeholders, and context; develop sustainable business models; and create actionable strategies to drive their mission forward.

Phone: 1300 763 505

[1] You might know the Three C’s model in its original form, as proposed by Kenichi Ohame: Customer, Company, and Competition. When working with social impact businesses, we take a broader perspective extending ‘customer’ to ‘community’, and ‘competition’ to ‘context’. For a more detailed situation analysis, the 5C’s model is also a useful approach.

Should you diversify your income?

We’ve all heard of the expression – don’t put all your eggs in one basket. It’s a valid expression with merit. If you earn all your income from just one source and that goes away, then it’s highly likely that your organisation will go away too. So does that mean you should diversify your income? Not necessarily.

Before we jump into whether or not you should diversify the income of your organisation, we should cover what diversification of income is.

Income can be diversified in two ways

1 Different providers of the income

These are the actual people and organisations who hand over their money to your organisation. The two extremes here would be one customer vs thousands of customers. It worth noting that we are talking about people and organisations that provide income to your organisation and as such this includes grants and donations. Another way to look at this may be one annual grant vs 20 annual grants.

2 Diversification through multiple products and/or services

Yes, multiple products will usually lead to a more diverse set of customers as described above, however multiple products can also diversify a single organisation that provides income to your organisation. For example, a  larger organisation that has multiple needs may buy a range of products and services from you.

In order to have sufficiently diverse income, your organisation must receive income from multiple sources for multiple reasons.

But does your organisation require diversified income?

The answer is actually very simple. You need to diversify your income in proportion to the level of uncertainty that your current income has.

For example, if your organisation has received a ten year government grant and that income is sufficient to achieve your social objectives then there is a strong argument that you do not need to diversify your income at all. Your income is guaranteed for the next ten years, although you will need to think ahead towards the end of the grant term.

Conversely if your organisation generates income from only one or two sources, and you can’t be certain that these sources will continue to provide income to your organisation in the near future, then you need to look at diversifying your income.

Diversification doesn’t come without its own risks

You need to think about the needs of the market and the capabilities of your organisation. Our article on market orientation might help you think through some of the market issues. From an operational perspective, if you choose to diversify your income, your organisation must be able to both offer additional products and/or services and be able to handle the additional workload. If your organisation receives new funding to provide a particular service, is your organisation equipped to be able to deliver the service and, if it is, do you have the right people to be able to deliver it?

Additional income streams may result in additional regulation requirements, operational risks and management demands, all of which may impact the entire organisation. The decision to diversify income and how much to diversify will be different for every organisation. What is the same for every organisation though is that without income an organisation cannot exist and, assuming that your social impact is still relevant, you must do everything in your power to ensure that your organisation has income today and in the future.

Dimitri Matsouliadis
Business Consultant
Phone: 1300 763 505

Communications – do it once, do it right

People aren’t perfect, mistakes happen and that can affect your bottom line directly (in the cost of fixing the mistake) or indirectly, by affecting your organisation’s reputation.  So it’s important to have a system in place to eliminate errors.

“Fast is fine, but accuracy is everything.”

Wyatt Earp

Setting up a quality assurance and compliance system need not be an arduous task. When operational, the system allows your organisation to operate more efficiently, creating better results and allows you to focus on delivering better outcomes for your community, rather than re-doing work.

Why your brand needs a quality system

  • Proof reading your own work is difficult.  After hours working on something you can’t see the glaring error that a fresh pair of eyes can spot.  I’ve seen ‘Course Black Pepper’ on the supermarket shelf – I bet you can name examples too.
  • Course correction – are you actually doing what you intended?  With all the best will in the world, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the detail and forget the bigger picture.  An extra pair of eyes can help you get back on track.
  • Impartial view – whilst something may make perfect sense to you, to others it might not.  Different people may read the same text differently and have different sensitivities – a joke you find funny may offend others. 
  • Compliance – all businesses are bound by competition and consumer law, and any advertising material or statements made by a business must be truthful and accurate. This includes any impressions created by what is said or displayed and fines for breaking rules can be costly.

Three steps to assuring quality communications

1 Decide what content needs to be checked, and to what degree

Whether it’s a Facebook post, a brochure or a newsletter, every piece of communication reflects back on your brand.  They should all go through a quality assurance system but you should have different tiers. Legal and financial documents may be subject to regulatory compliance, and should be reviewed by lawyers or other professionals as appropriate, but they don’t need to see a Facebook post.  Make sure the system you design works for your organisation.  If you’ve never had a quality assurance or compliance system before, use a minimal viable product development technique and slowly improve the system as considerations arise. 

“Everything should be as simple as possible, but no simpler”

Albert Einstein

2 Assign clear roles

Avoid confusion and delays by making sure everyone knows who is responsible for what.

  • Content creator – this person has three tasks which are:
    • Create the brief:  this document lets everyone who is working on the project know:
      • the purpose of the item to be created and reviewed
      • the target segment (in terms of the intended audience)
      • the objective
      • the timeline
    •  Create the content or outsource to a writer or agency to complete the task.  This may be one person or it may be the responsibility of your whole team.
    • Ensure the material completes all steps of the process.
  • Brand champion – someone who really understands your business, what it stands for and, most importantly, is able to read the content from the reader’s point of view.  This will ensure that they provide unbiased feedback and can spot any potential issues or questions that still need answering.  You want your brand champion to be available full time as there will be occasions when you want to respond to news or a situation quickly, so they need to be on hand.  Depending on the size of your organisation and the amount of content you produce, you may need several brand champions, but in the medium-term you will at least need two to cover for annual/sick leave.
  • Other contributors – this is where you can make the process as complicated or as simple as it needs to be for your organisation.  One of the factors to consider would be the cost of making a mistake, for example if you are going to print a document or brochure that is 20% of your marketing budget, then you may want to get another set of eyes to review the document for spelling mistakes etc.  If you are writing something for your website, and a spelling mistake gets through, it can be easily corrected at no cost.  As well as the cost, it is also important to look at the impact of making a mistake, including how it could impact your organisation’s reputation.

3 Choose a process that works for your team

You don’t need expensive software to keep quality on track. Paper based systems can be just as efficient as digital – what’s most important is that it’s easy for your team to adopt and follow.

You can create a quick and agile system for free; either a digital or paper system will work. Here’s my top tips:

  • Digital process – my preferred method is to convert all documents that need approval to a pdf file (go to ‘save as’ and then in the ‘save as type’ drop down menu select pdf).  Each contributor opens the file in Adobe Acrobat, adding a sticky note tool and simply writing ‘approved’, the note automatically marks the person’s name, date and time that the comment is made.  If the content creator only needs one approval then this can be emailed to the appropriate person.  If you need more than one signature then you can save the file on your server and let people know it is there for approval, either in person, by email of perhaps by a tool like Asana, where you can assign people tasks and issue completion dates.  Either way, once approved the files can be stored in a central depository.
  • Paper process – if digital doesn’t work for you, everything that needs approving gets printed out and circulated with each person signing and dating it.  The approved documents then get put in a central depository (e.g. a ring binder) so you have a record of what has been approved, so there is no misunderstanding about what the final version is.

Your central depository also allows a quick reference system for existing materials so why start from scratch if you already have something suitable?

Whether you choose to monitor your communications on paper or online, always be sure to thoroughly check the final version in the medium on which it will appear (printed, on a laptop, on a mobile). Layout and context can change your meaning in unintended ways!

Protect your brand and save time

All it takes is a white board, your key team members and an hour to design a simple quality assurance and compliance system.  A good system should help protect your brand and save time in rework, not be a drain on valuable staff resources.

Having worked for one of Australia’s leading food manufacturers and with five of the top six supermarkets in the UK, I’ve worked across quality assurance and compliance systems of varying complexity.  If you need help getting started or want to discuss managing your brand, you can book a free consult with me here.

Tom Rippon
Marketing Consultant
Phone: 1300 763 505

Planning mission-focused marketing next financial year? You’re going to need this map.

Two hands putting pins on a map

With the end of the financial year fast approaching and budgets being drafted, now is a great time to start reviewing your marketing and engagement strategies, ready to plan your investment for the year ahead.

If you’re providing services under the NDIS, the end of this financial year is a particularly important milestone – 30 June 2019 marks the end of transition of existing disability service clients to NDIS in SA. For many service providers, that’s going to mean a big shift in focus – from helping existing clients transition, to positioning your services to attract new clients to your service. 

Continue reading…

How much time do staff spend managing Facebook?

image of clock with marketing strategy words around it and a yellow background

All businesses need to have a Facebook page, and have employees spending time each day writing posts and monitoring comments – or do they? 

It all comes down to your return on investment, a Facebook page is just a communication channel after all. But in order to understand what your return on investment is, you need to look at your whole marketing strategy. 

Continue reading…

The deeper purposes of a budget

“Failing to plan is planning to fail” – Alan Lakein

A budget may seem like a boring administrative task that “needs” to be done by the finance team to keep stakeholders like the board happy, but a good budget serves a much deeper purpose.

A good budget will help your organisation:

  1. Deliver its social impact
  2. Know if you’re on track
  3. Plan for success
Continue reading…

Is your website still NDIS ready?

esthetoscope and laptop suggesting website health check

As disability services providers started to transition from block funding to individual NDIS plans, there was an immediate need to create new or update existing websites to reflect NDIS services. For many organisations, that was over a year ago, even longer if you were part of an NDIS pilot. So now is a great time to review your website. During this time you’ve been busy adapting your business to meet the demands of the NDIS, streamlining back office functions to maintain financial viability and meeting the needs and wants of the people you support. Over this transition period your organisation and services have changed. But have you reflected these changes on your website? If the answer is no, then you can use our website health check tool to see if you need to update your website.

Continue reading…

Is your workplace toxic?

Danger sign on office door

It was disappointing, but unsurprising, to read recent articles in Pro Bono and Third Sector on the toxic culture at Amnesty’s International Secretariat in the UK. The response of the Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union was similarly unsurprising – effectively stating that toxic work cultures are present in the Australian not for profit sector too.

Continue reading…

Three simple truths to strengthen your organisation for change

Thinking for Change: part three

Previous blogs in this series:

Part 1: Playing with the rules 
Part 2: Finding inspiration

If you’ve been anywhere near a business blog in the last month or so, you’ve probably seen some predictions for the year ahead. While we can’t be sure which predictions will come true, one thing is certain: change will come. When it does, how will your organisation adapt? Will it respond to chaos in “firefighting mode”, or with intention and grace? Continue reading…

Planning for future success

Whilst there’s still work to do this financial year, an eye needs to be cast forward to next financial year – in particular developing your marketing budget.

But, before you can develop a budget, you need to have your marketing strategy in place, and any existing marketing strategy needs to be reviewed, challenged and redeveloped. This will allow you to create a marketing plan and budget based on strategic objectives and outcomes: Continue reading…