That’s because, as I interact with the staff of some non-profits, I hear more often these days statements like, “we need to improve our services to our current members before we pursue growth”, “we already have the members who matter”, or related to marketing, “we don’t want to sell to our prospects and members they will be drawn to us by word of mouth if we only provide value.”
There is a kernel of truth in each of these statements, but they can also become the road to organizational disaster because they make stagnation and decline permissible instead of a warning sign it should be.
Here is the case that I made for growth in my presentation. Since the leaders I was speaking to were all associated with religious organizations, I decided to begin my discussion by drawing from the wisdom of some ancient religious texts.
The first taken from the Jewish Tanakh (an acronym for “Torah, Prophets, and Writings”) or the Christian Old Testament says: “And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’”
This is one of the first recorded commands. But even more, fruitfulness and growth almost seem to be woven into the DNA of mankind.
The second text says, “Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Again, there is calling to take what we have been given and not bury it in the sand, but generate a good return or producing growth.
In a modern day context, Michael Treacy in his book Double Digit Growth puts the issue of growth this way, “Companies decay when they stop growing”.
I also shared with this group that there are some very practical reasons why growth is important. I highlighted some of these in my post Characteristics of Growing and Declining Associations.
When we look at marketing instead of growth issues, everyone can site poor, unethical, or ugly marketing examples. But these examples do not define marketing. Marketing is actually a tool – like a hammer. A hammer can be used to build a beautiful home or it can be used as a weapon. So the tool of marketing should not be judged by how one person or organization uses it.
Here is my operative definition of marketing: Marketing is the discipline of establishing a product and communicating it using the best message, to the best market segments, with the best marketing channels and techniques to maximize the return on investment.
Putting the best product in the best person’s hands in the best way should make sense for any organization.
Well that is my short defense of growth and marketing. Feel free to point out other perspectives.