marketing 101

The Most Useful Tool for Prioritizing Your Goals

Today’s inspiration comes from one of our newest interns here at Signify, Kirsten King. When she approached me about writing a blog post on this topic, I thought it was a terrific idea. I’m a big fan of not only setting goals, but regularly evaluating them.

And one of the biggest hurdles in goal-setting isn’t identifying them, but prioritizing them. After all, you only have so much time, energy, and resources at your disposal. So, you definitely want to ensure that your nonprofit or social enterprise is focused on the right targets.

The exercise Kirsten outlines below is an oldie, but a goodie. It’s also relatively simple. But the beauty is that it will give you a big picture look at your organization, and help you decide which direction to run in. Give it a try, and see your goals come to life.

The Most Useful Tool for Prioritizing Your Goals

Happy (belated) New Year!

So, you’ve established some business goals for this year, and you’re all set to tackle them. You will complete your 2019 To Do List, but it may seem a bit overwhelming right now. Often, you may be wondering where to start, how to prioritize, or where you fit in amongst your competitors and even your donors or customers. If this sounds familiar, then you may need to create or restructure your SWOT analysis.

Creating a current SWOT analysis can help pinpoint what your organization lacks, as well as what it offers. Without this assessment, you may quickly fall behind or feel left out. This could happen if you don’t know what trends are up-and-coming, what other organizations in your field are doing, the growth opportunities that are available, or you may be unable to predict what challenges are yet to come. However, knowing each of these items can give you a distinctive edge, and guide you toward both short- and long-term success.

SWOT Analysis… What’s that?

Now, if you’re wondering, “What’s a SWOT analysis?!”, don’t worry, we’ll jump right into that.  

First, SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. This is a genius marketing strategy—even if you’re new to marketing—because it identifies a nonprofit or social enterprises’s internal strengths and weaknesses, while also looking into the opportunities and threats that are occurring outside of the organization. (These factors you have no control over, but you may be able to use them to your advantage 😉. )

Why is a SWOT Analysis Important?

Performing a SWOT analysis can help you determine what new strategies should be implemented and what problems need to be resolved. You don’t want to waste time developing and planning a new strategy, if it doesn’t fit with the current or upcoming trends.

Having this information gives you a better understanding of what needs to be prioritized and where you stand when compared to others like you. Here’s a great video, using Starbucks as an example, if you would like to see a SWOT analysis in action.

Since business, trends, marketing, technology, and even the way you interact with your donors or customers are constantly changing, a SWOT analysis should be performed at least once or twice a year to ensure you are on the right track, or outline any changes that should be made. These can be performed solo, or with a team, board members, or key stakeholders.

Completing Your SWOT Analysis

Okay, let’s build your SWOT analysis! We’ve even created a free template to help you out.

One thing you’ll notice immediately is the simplicity of the layout. Once you dig into the items below, you may be tempted to include a lot of details and notes. But, at its heart, a SWOT analysis is just meant to give you a quick overview. Think of it as your organization at a glance, and use it to help guide you in the right direction.

Strengths are determined by the positive assets that your social impact organization owns. They may be tangible or intangible resources. Since you have control over these assets, strengths can help your organization stand out.

Strengths include:

  • Unique mission or model

  • Land

  • Location

  • Equipment

  • Copyrights/trademarks

  • Employees/volunteers

  • Funding

  • Marketing

  • Customer service

  • Relationships

Weaknesses can be defined as the characteristics of your organization that are unfavorable or may hurt you in some way. These downfalls could potentially hinder your success in both the short- and long-term. Weaknesses may be easily improved with a little more time, effort, and sometimes money.

Weaknesses include:

  • Outdated technology

  • Slow or poor communication (internal and/or external)

  • Poor signage

  • Little to no online presence

  • Unreliable cash flow

  • Lack of systems and processes

  • Cost

  • Low reputation

  • Small team with big workload

  • Low innovation

Opportunities are the external factors that can help your nonprofit or social enterprise thrive. Options here may be one-time or ongoing opportunities, so it’s especially important to note anything with fixed deadlines or limited availability that need to stay top of mind.

Opportunities include:

  • Partnerships and sponsorships

  • Participating in a current or upcoming trend (or event)

  • Government programs

  • Niche target market

  • Increased interest in your cause

  • New technologies

  • Growing population

  • Few competitors

  • New systems or processes

  • High demand

Threats are external factors that you cannot control. These negatives require quick thinking to develop new strategies.

Threats include:

  • Changes in government policies or funding

  • Uncertain economic factors

  • Aggressive competition

  • Unexpected weather

  • Rising costs

  • Increase in competition

  • Change in population

  • Negative media coverage

  • Loss of large donor, partner, or sponsor

  • Taxation

Time to Strategize!

You can start your SWOT analysis by focusing on internal strengths and weaknesses. This should be easier since you know the ins and outs of your organization.

Afterward, you can focus on external factors like your opportunities and threats. This may call for a bit of research and contemplation. But once your SWOT analysis is complete, you should have a better idea on what strategies to prioritize, implement, or refresh.

If done correctly, you’ll be able to use this analysis to create fresh, new ideas for your nonprofit or social enterprise. And remember, the assessment can always be adjusted to meet the current trends and challenges you may face.

Now, with all of this new information, how will you structure your business goals for the year ahead? Have you determined your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats yet? If not, it’s time to brainstorm new strategies that will help you develop or maintain that sustainable advantage!

Kirsten M King Marketing

Hi! I’m Kirsten M. King, and I absolutely love anything dealing with marketing, from advertising to data and everything in-between. I also love to learn and expand my knowledge on current trends and issues.

I’m currently a senior Marketing Major at Georgia State University. And I hope to take my skills and use them towards a career in project management.




Having this information gives you a better understanding of what needs to be prioritized and where you stand when compared to others like you.

Kristi Porter, founder of Signify

I’m Kristi Porter, and I help cause-focused organizations understand and execute effective marketing campaigns so they can move from stressed to strategic. Your resources may be limited, but your potential isn’t. Whether you’re a nonprofit, social enterprise, or small business who wants to give back, I’ll show you how to have a bigger impact.

Ask the Experts: Understanding Your Audience

Each month, I invite guest contributors to speak about timely, relevant, and sought-after topics that are important for cause-focused organizations like yours to be aware of as you grow. For August, I've invited my friend, Jen Gordon, to share about uncovering the hidden desires of your donors and customers. Understanding your audience will be a key to your success.

Uncover the hidden desires of your donors and customers.

Q. What are the latest trends in your industry?

A. What I’m seeing lately is a trend toward companies identifying their marketing strategy first, and then outlining the tactics they will take to align with that strategy. By “strategy," I mean really digging into the hidden and unspoken desires of your prospect, and developing your approach to that audience around those wants.

In the past I’ve seen marketers using tactics like, “Hey, let’s send out a direct mail piece like the one I saw from XYZ organization.” Or, “Oh, let’s send an email campaign about our next fundraiser,” before truly identifying why their prospects would want to engage the content.

There has always been interest in the marketing world around the psychology of marketing, but today there is a lot more content readily available about the psychological drivers that cause prospects to take a certain action, to leave, buy, or donate. Nir Eyal writes a blog that focuses on consumer behavioral triggers and habits. Though most of his work focuses on software development, the concepts he teaches are applicable to any industry.

Q. What is the biggest mistake you see people making in regards to what you do?

A. One of the mistakes I have seen many times over the years of creating landing pages and sales funnels is that business owners may have a short-term plan or campaign they want to launch, but don’t have a clear roadmap for the year in terms of where they want to be in 30/60/90 days or six months, etc. They generally know what they want to achieve, but the path getting there is often unclear.

Right now, I’m working on a marketing calendar (with some inspiration from this SEJ post) for my own product, the Hope Deck, using Google Sheets, Google Calendar and Trello—all free tools!

Q. What is your best piece of advice?

A. If you aren’t trained on how to uncover your prospect, donor, or customer’s hidden, unspoken wants/desires, then find someone who is. :) Learning how to do this while working on the Hope Deck has completely changed how I connect to, and communicate with, my audience.

It has allowed me to understand how I can bring the maximum amount of value to my customers. I no longer assume that I am a part of my target audience, which I have done in the past. My mind is open to a wider range of problems people want to solve, and emotions they want to feel or not feel.

Q. What is one thing readers can do this week to improve?

A. Start figuring out what your audience really wants—not what they need, but what they want. I created a spreadsheet for the Hope Deck where I am in the process of identifying my customer’s unspoken desires. Don't get overwhelmed. Keep it simple to begin, and then edit or expand it over time.

Q. Anything else we should keep in mind?

A. The best way to uncover these hidden wants and desires is to actually talk to your customers or donors. I’d recommend recording the conversations, if possible, so you can review them later and pick up on details you may miss in the moment. Another option is to get them in writing through emails or surveys. You'll then use their language when speaking to them in your emails, social media, and any other communication pieces, so that it's familiar and relatable.

And be sure to ask them open-ended questions about why they choose to partner with, donate to, purchase from, or do business with you. Most of the time they won’t express their hidden desires outright, but you can infer from their answers what is important to them, and from there brainstorm motivation, emotional triggers, and things like that.

Jen Gordon is a momma, artist, and entrepreneur based in Atlanta, Georgia. For the past eight years of her career, she’s specialized in conversion centered design, working closely with marketers and business owners to increase sales by testing and optimizing their sales funnels. Her geeky passions include finishing stuff, brain rewiring, crafts of any sort, and anything Dolly Parton has ever said or sung. :) You can find her latest creative project, a collection of inspirational postcards, at


Start figuring out what your audience really wants—not what they need, but what they want. Uncovering the hidden wants and desires of your audience will be a key to your success.

Kristi Porter, founder at

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.

Marketing Plan: Is Your Mission Missing Its Map? (Free Download)

Your organization undoubtedly has a mission, but does it have a map?

Marketing Plan: Is Your Mission Missing Its Map? (Free download)

For several years, my friends and I set off each summer on what we called the Chaos Mission Trip. It was completely unplanned (hence "chaos"). We went through several weeks of training leading up to our departure date, but they were focused on personal growth and team development. Meaning, we were prepping for whatever might happen along the way. The trip itself thrived on spontaneity. Every trip was completely different because it changed depending on what direction we went in, who was on the team, those we met on the road, and what opportunities were presented to us. The goal was just to serve those we came in contact with in a way that benefited them.

In contrast, last year I visited Barcelona for the first time. This was a bucket list trip for me! And, as such, I wanted to make the most of it. It also marked my first solo international trip. I'm a planner by nature, and also an introvert. So, I scheduled myself fully each day to make sure I knocked out all the city's highlights. I booked all kinds of tours, and pushed myself outside of my comfort zone to make friends when possible. Every day was packed, and when I left, I felt like I'd accomplished almost everything I wanted to. I wasn't sure if or when I'd return to this amazing city, so I wanted the full experience. 

Both trips served a purpose, but I wouldn't recommend building your business using the chaos formula.

Sadly, that's what I see too often in organizations. Sure, it may not be quite this "chaotic," but there seems to be little strategy behind lots (and lots) of effort.

  • Social media posts go up haphazardly.

  • Emails are sporadic, at best.

  • To Do lists are determined by urgency.

  • Initiatives are based on what's been done before, or what seems best right now.

  • Goals are recycled or undefined.

  • Staffers are overworked, and always in reaction mode.

None of this sounds fun, but it may sound familiar.

However, there is one item that may help ease some of these pains. It's not a magic pill, or a miracle cure.

But it is a way to give your purpose more purpose, you mission more muscle, and your cause more concentration.

It's called a marketing plan. 

What exactly is a marketing plan?

A marketing plan is likely a term you've heard before, but may not fully understand. The beauty of this document is that it provides both a 30,000 foot view and an on-the-ground perspective. It gives shape and structure to all your efforts. It tells you which direction you should go in, and helps keep you on the path for getting there.

Basic pieces of a marketing plan:

  • Objectives and goals

  • Customer or donor research

  • Market research

  • Unique selling proposition

  • Pricing and positioning strategy

  • Distribution plan

  • Offers

  • Marketing materials and collateral

  • Promotions strategy

  • Conversion strategy

  • Partnerships and joint ventures

  • Referral strategy

  • Retention strategy

  • Financial projections

  • Key dates (Not on a lot of plans, but I personally like to include.)

So, in looking at this list, you may automatically see why you've never created a marketing plan before. I get it. Some of the terms can be confusing. And you may assume this will take a lot of time and effort—and, frankly, you'd be right. But remember that first bullet list above? The one with little strategy behind it? Marketing plans are the workaround. Wouldn't it be better to focus your efforts rather than running around exhausted, overworked, and on the path that leads to burnout?

Think about it in your own life. Meal planning can save you money on groceries because you're less likely to eat out or waste food. And running errands in a particular order often saves you travel time. Time and money often top our priority list at home, as well as at work. So, preparation and planning can go a long way to ease some of your daily concerns. They have a beautiful trickle down effect.

In essence, marketing plans are the lens you can use to focus all your organization's efforts. When a new event or initiative pops up, as they tend to do, see where it fits into your marketing plan. Can you squeeze it in? Does it require some editing, or a complete overhaul? Should it be added to the radar, or become a priority? Use these filters to determine it's place in your organization. Depending on your answers, you may want to add it, put it on hold, or scrap it entirely. Without a marketing plan, you may not be able to see the big picture objectively, and how it may alter all other aspects.

Hopefully, by now I've convinced you of the need for a marketing plan.

You may even be asking yourself how you can create one of your very own. (Stay tuned!)

And depending on your job function, you may also be wondering if a marketing plan is best for your business as a whole, an annual event, or an big initiative? The answer is yes.

How do you create a marketing plan?

First, start with one of those targets: the company as a whole, an annual event, or a large initiative. Just choose one to begin until you've practiced and refined your process. If you decide to create a marketing plan for your business as a whole, it will touch on events and initiatives, but you can go into greater detail when you write one for all of the large "buckets" at your business. 

And to make things easier for you, I've created a marketing plan template for you:

Again, this document will be important for several reasons:

  • When your team goes through it together each year, you'll be able to get, and stay, on the same page. Goals, objectives, strategy—everything is laid out right there for you all to see.

  • It'll help you plan and execute more efficiently.

  • It'll help you easily answer questions for employees, partners, contractors, and new hires.

  • It can be helpful to show your board if you need to request a larger budget next year.

  • It's great for accountability, either for yourself, your team, or your entire staff.

I've included directions in each section of the template so you know exactly how to fill it in. I'd say to set aside a few hours minimum to work on this document. Your team can build it together, or you can kick things off and then bring others in after the first draft. And because this is likely new to you, be sure to work on it in a distraction-free space. You'll need to concentrate. It should be really well-defined and detailed so that it's easier to edit or update moving forward.

Remember, it's yours, so add as much detail as you like to be helpful. You'll see how nice it is to keep all of this information in one place! You may also choose to include more detailed explanations, budgets, note responsible parties for each section, add specific deadlines, and things like that. You can also, of course, delete anything you that's not relevant to you, but I'd recommend that sparingly because both nonprofits and for-profits can benefit from this information.

One and done?

Marketing plans are living documents, and should be reviewed at least annually, unless something major occurs. They can be edited and updated as needed, which will likely be minimal changes. The heavy-lifting occurs during the first draft, which should also come as a relief.

And marking plans are fantastic for being able to see information, trends, and outlines at a glance. That's what makes it more of a reference document than a one-time task. This is long-term thinking in action! Be sure to highlight and note any important changes from one revision to the next, such as a major shift in target audience, pricing, or financial goals.


After you've logged the time creating this mammoth, you should be able to see how a marketing plan will direct your organization's efforts. It should give you both short-term and long-term perspective.

Now, your mission has a map. The path has been laid out, and all you have to do is walk it. It's not always easy, but a marketing plan goes a long way to making it more simple.

Next week, we'll talk about what this looks like in action on a daily basis. I'll show you how I used five different marketing plans at my previous job to detail my To Do list. 

In the meantime, check out other recent posts for "Marketing May" where I discuss trends and strategies, as well as marketing 101.

And if you are interested in a marketing plan, but just can't find the time to create one on your own, this is a service I provide. I'd be happy to work alongside you in creating your map. Alternatively, learn the five things to stop doing this week, which will give you more time and energy to work on your marketing and communications.


Your organization undoubtedly has a mission, but does it have a map?

Kristi Porter, founder at

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.