Wednesday, April 15, 2015

M is for Marketing

I’ve read the books; I’ve taken the classes; I’ve attended the seminars and listened to the experts, and I have decided that everyone has an opinion when it comes to marketing.

Twenty years ago I was hired to be the administrator in a non-profit Christian home for the elderly. At the time, the home had already been operating in the red for quite a while and, just like congress, the former administration had tried all the typical tricks to put it back in the black.  They thought that they could just spend more money and raise more revenue by increasing the rent. That didn’t work.

One of the first budget items I looked at, then, was for marketing and advertising. We were overspending thousands of dollars on every little gimmick that came along. There were trinkets and pens, and calendars. There were expensive one-time ads placed in high school yearbooks (seriously, for an old folks home?), There was a continuing, high-priced, weekly newspaper display ad that was unattractive, too verbose, misplaced in the wrong sections, and distributed far beyond our local community. There was even an ad in a Jewish publication in New York City (New York City?). That would never reach our target market. This was a Christian home in Southern California.

The advertising needed to reach our target market, but the organization didn’t know what that target was. So, over the next few years, we began to bring it into focus.  We directed our advertising to local, conservative Christians.  The word, "conservative" characterized both our political and theological world view because we believed that they are compatable and inseparable.     

The name had to be changed. The former name, Casa de Verdugo, was hard for most people to pronounce it had no local significance or meaning; it didn’t convey any idea, to the uninformed public, about who we were or what we did; and, most importantly, it did not distinguish our Christian home from any other home in town.  We changed the name to Valley Christian Home.

We changed our newspaper ad to appear in the local paper’s senior section. The ad format featured a new, short anecdotal story every week.  The stories all ended with a spiritual lesson and a verse of Scripture.  Each story was limited to 300 words (most people stop reading after about 30 seconds). It soon developed a regular following.

We developed a slogan to include our name and describe our function in just eight words; “The VALLEY’S only CHRISTIAN HOME for the elderly.”

We formed a young ladies' quartet to sing conservative Christian music concerts at local churches and other community organizations.

We did everything with a single purpose in mind; we wanted to make our Christian home known to our target market - the local, conservative Christian community.

I have no doubt that, for the most part, our advertising reached the intended mark but one day as I was walking into our building, I was shocked to see this car parked right in front of our entrance where everyone could see it. The owners were sitting in our Marketing Director’s office looking to place their mother in our Assisted Living Facility.

  Go figure!  I guess some people just don't read labels.  By the way, we did admit the resident.


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