Relevance of Marketing to Government and Social Service Agencies

by smartamarketing

Dr. Brian Monger

Growth of Agency Interest in Marketing

Although marketing is appropriate for all government and social service agencies, it becomes increasingly important as more of an agency’s financial costs are shifted directly onto clients and personnel start to recognise that clients have gained control of at least some of the resources that the agency needs to survive. Reduced tax support, increased reliance on revenues derived from direct user pricing, and increased critical scrutiny by citizens causes many agencies to conclude that they have real problems and need to improve their marketing.


Their traditional ways of operating were no longer receiving the necessary level of support from appointed or elected officials, or from citizen taxpayers. It became clear that agencies and professional helpers who could not attract satisfied users or clients were unlikely to survive. This feeling of crisis provoked agency personnel to explore marketing concepts and techniques and to accept them as a promising framework for planning and implementing service delivery.


Crises force reappraisal of existing operating methods and persuade managers that existing methods/formulas for success are often neither effective nor efficient in meeting the needs and wants of today’s clientele. This has been an effective stimulus for action and change. It has forced many agencies to examine the opportunities offered by marketing concepts and techniques.


Now that agencies are experimenting with broader Modern Marketing (not just Promotion/Marketing Communication), the remaining challenge, can be expressed as follows:


To further increase acceptance of marketing tools and concepts among public sector managers will require better understanding of modern marketing and the marketing of marketing itself (internal). The task is two-fold. First, it must be demonstrated that marketing is applicable to their organisation/agency second to specific situations. Third, government/public sector managers (like their business counterparts) must be educated to recognise the scope and complexity of Modern (market focus) Marketing


Marketing does not require government and social sector agencies to implement a series of highly sophisticated new activities or assign substantial new responsibilities. Indeed, it can be argued that agency personnel are already marketers because they already perform some tactical marketing activities. For this reason, the appropriate question is not whether an organisation should practice marketing or not, but rather whether it will practice it well or poorly.


A commitment to marketing offers public sector agencies three major benefits.


First, because marketing is a systematic process and offers a framework for decision making, relationships between actions previously regarded as independent are likely to become more apparent. Marketing activities are coordinated to achieve goals and objectives that otherwise might not be attained if they were pursued in an uncoordinated fashion. If, for example, a marketing problem or opportunity is seen only in information terms, or program terms, or distribution terms, it is unlikely to be optimally resolved.


Optimal marketing decisions require that all marketing activities and their interactions be reviewed simultaneously and integrated action taken.


The second major benefit is that some of the concepts and techniques used by marketers in their decision processes are often unfamiliar to public sector managers because they have not been exposed to these tools in their formal training. Familiarity with these marketing tools is likely to lead to improvements in decision making.


Finally, a commitment to marketing is likely to result in more popular and legislative support. To the extent that marketing improves the satisfaction levels of client groups, an agency is likely to receive improved support for its activities from legislators.


Interested in this topic? See also my previous article on Government Branding

And check out the Government Marketing Seminar


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