There is a palpable tension in the behavior and social change worlds between people who believe that all marketing is evil and those who believe marketing can be used for good. This tension gets played out in program planning meetings, conferences, policy debates and resource allocations (such as found in RFPs and TORs). Not everyone who works to solve wicked problems needs to be a social marketer; yet, learning some basic marketing skills may work to their advantage.

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I just came across this article by Liz Elfman in which she describes 5 reasons for why everyone needs marketing skills. I’ve lightly edited it to better frame it for a social change world. I have also included links to other posts that provide you with more ideas.

1. You’ll Learn to Listen
Marketers are constantly listening, looking for ways to maximize opportunities, leverage relationships, and connect to people. And while anyone can be a good listener, doing so as a marketer requires a fair amount of analysis—it’s an active process, not a passive one. By being trained in customer analysis, focus groups, and audience alignment, you’ll start to learn how to really listen to what your priority groups and stakeholders want.

2. You’ll Make Better Decisions
Knowing how to find and interpret data about your priority groups and stakeholders means that you’ll better understand your problem – and how to address it in new ways. Not to mention, you’ll also get in the habit of cutting through a lot of extraneous noise and honing in on the numbers and consumer insights that are most important.

3. You’ll Gain Tact
The best marketers learn how to gain insight into different personality types and take different approaches for engaging with them, based on what makes them tick. In other words, they learn how to be tactful.

4. You’ll Get Scrappy
Everyone is on a shoe-string budget. Ruthless prioritization of resources is a must for small and large governments and NGOs. Being creative about who you select and concentrate on, how you reach them, and how to do more with less will ultimately help you turn into an efficiency machine.

5. You’ll Become More Aware

Marketers have to be aware of what’s going on in their world. This means they read, go to parties, try to figure out what’s going on in pop culture, and generally pay attention to the zeitgeist. No matter what industry you operate in, learning to check in with your surroundings can only help you. While it’s tempting to get bogged down in the details of your specific position, training yourself to focus on the bigger picture will ultimately help you do better in that role. Not to mention, you’ll probably end up getting interested in a lot that’s going on around you, which makes you a more interesting person all around.

If you want more reasons why you and your colleagues should learn to think and act more like marketers, consider reading Daniel Pink’s To sell is human: The surprising truth about moving others.

And if you’re ready to dive deeper in how you can apply marketing to your environmental, public health, transportation or social issue, explore the USF Social Marketing Conference and Training Academy to be held 15-18 June 2016 in Clearwater Beach, Fl.


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