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Making Change Happen | 5 Marketing Lessons for Your Social-Impact Career

Nisha Kumar Kulkarni profile image

Nisha Kumar Kulkarni

Making Change Happen | 5 Marketing Lessons for Your Social-Impact Career

In his Seth Godin describes marketing In his 2018 book This Is Marketing, Seth Godin describes marketing as "The act of making change happen."

Unless “marketing” is part of your job description, you likely don’t identify as a marketer. However, Godin suggests thinking of marketing not as advertising, but as a force to make the world better through generosity, empathy, and emotional labor. Ultimately, it is a way to help the people you want to serve—just like social-impact work.

Read on to learn how Godin’s marketing lessons can be applied to your social-impact career.

Lesson #1: Make a promise with your story

“All effective marketing makes a promise,” Godin writes. Your promise is the connection between the change you want to make in the world and the people you want to serve. In other words, it’s how your experience and skills can help others.

For many of us, this kind of marketing is front and center during an interview. As a job seeker, you are promising that your unique experience and strengths can help a potential employer solve their problems. If your interviewer tells you, for example, that a key goal is to double the fundraising results for a specific campaign, you might bring up your advanced database management experience—your promise could be to reorganize and reformat donor records so relevant information is easy to find when a new campaign is launched. You can clearly talk about your passion for this campaign, pitch your skills, and let your interviewer know how you can efficiently help them secure more funding.

Lesson #2: Understand “the cost of being human”

Godin suggests that we invest in “the cost of being human,” or the time we take to interact with and acknowledge others, even if there are quicker ways of doing our work.

In the social-impact field, this is directly relevant to donor, member, and supporter relations. A loyal supporter base is one of an organization’s most valuable assets. While not everyone is able to show their support in the same way, consistency—rather than currency—demonstrates commitment.

So how can you ensure that your supporters are in it for the long haul? Instead of sticking to a rigid script or sending the same thank-you note to each of your organization’s supporters, think about how else you can acknowledge long-time contributors. For instance, you could send someone a personal, handwritten note or invite them out for coffee.

Lesson #3: Seek advice from your critics

Maybe you just had a bad job interview or your idea was rejected at a team meeting. It’s easy to take rejection personally and to feel discouraged. But Godin says that while you may not be able to change a critic’s personal opinion, your ideas may be better received elsewhere or after being further developed.

A rejection after a job interview isn’t a reflection on your abilities or character. To learn and grow from the experience, Godin suggests asking for advice, not feedback. For example, you can reach out to your interviewer with a thank-you note and say something like, “I really enjoyed talking with you about [TOPIC DISCUSSED]! What advice would you offer for how I could be a more attractive candidate for your organization?”

If your manager rejected an idea you proposed, you can ask her for advice as well. “I was really excited about this idea and I was hoping you’d like it too. How could I adjust my idea to make it more relevant to our project?”

Lesson #4: Your price is a signal

“Marketing changes your pricing. Pricing changes your marketing,” Godin writes. How does your marketing—your ability to make and deliver a relevant promise—affect how much you get paid?

The promise you made in your job interview can directly affect your salary. It’s up to you to show how your experience and skills can deliver desirable results. Ideally, the abilities you have—and your continued motivation to learn new and necessary skills for your job—will be the sort of help your organization needs, and you'll be rewarded through salary increases and promotions.

Lesson #5: Show up with a smile

Even if you’re fortunate enough to be in your dream job, your work will always include a tedious task (or two). All jobs, Godin says, require some degree of emotional labor. In other words, we need to be conscious of how we manage our feelings and interactions with colleagues, even when we’re feeling tired or frustrated at work.

Maintaining a positive and professional attitude is important for keeping yourself and your team motivated and ensuring the success of the project at hand. Taking a coffee break with some friendly coworkers or taking stock of the good aspects of your job through a short gratitude practice can go a long way.


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Nisha Kumar Kulkarni profile image

Nisha Kumar Kulkarni

Nisha Kumar Kulkarni is a writer and creative coach in New York City. She helps women living with chronic illness and mental health challenges to pursue their passion projects without compromising their health.


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