Chapter 7 - Marketing a Mentoring Program
1. Provide guidance for strategic planning of mentoring programs
2. Provide tools for marketing mentoring programs to different stakeholders
3. Supply different marketing strategies for different media
This chapter has been adapted from the High School/High Tech Program Manual
(National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth, 2003).
What is marketing?
The American Marketing Association defines marketing as “a set of processes for creating, communicating, and delivering value to customers and for managing customer relationships in ways that benefit the organization and its stakeholders” (American Marketing Association, n.d.). As this definition suggests, marketing involves a variety of interrelated, ongoing activities that permeate an organization’s operations. Marketing
activities range from creating a service or product that meets the target market’s needs, to promoting the product, to making sure that the customers are satisfied.
People sometimes mistakenly equate marketing with its individual components, such as advertising, sales, or public relations. Although these components may be important in an overall marketing effort, strategic marketing takes a much broader view. It involves designing services or products that meet a specific market’s needs and then getting
those services or products to the target market or customer.
Conduct a Google or Amazon search – or take a trip to a local library or bookstore – and
you will find an overwhelming selection of books and other materials on the subject of marketing. Most of these resources offer excellent information about marketing methods and tools. However, none will offer advice directly applicable to marketing a specific mentoring program. This chapter does just that. Marketing is embedded throughout Chapters 5 and 6 of this document, through the Foundations for Successful Youth
Mentoring. This chapter presents some basic marketing principles and offers ideas for strategies can be applied to a mentoring program.
Why market your program?
Establishing a mentoring program is an important accomplishment, but strategic
program marketing can be the key to the program’s long-term viability. Whether a
program already exists or is just now getting underway, strategic marketing planning can help it to flourish and make a real difference in the lives of the young people the program is intended to serve.
Before deciding how to market a mentoring program, you must first determine why the program needs to be marketed. In the context of mentoring, the ultimate marketing goals might be to
? Increase career exploration and career development opportunities for youth with
disabilities in the community;
? Inform stakeholders about the benefits they will reap by participating in the
? Educate people in business and industry about the advantages of employing
persons with disabilities, including youth with disabilities;
? Increase the program’s visibility among youth with disabilities and their families,
employers, school system staff, funding sources, and staff at One-Stop Career
Centers and other community agencies;
? Persuade youth and prospective stakeholders to participate or “invest” in the
? Establish and convey a clear program identity.
Although the prospect of doing “strategic marketing” may sound intimidating at first, keep
in mind that effectively marketing a mentoring program does not require a degree in
business or decades of marketing experience. Rather, it requires enthusiasm,
resourcefulness, persistence, thoughtful planning, and an ability to persuade others to
become part of the program. Also keep in mind that marketing is as much art as science.
Each situation is unique, so there is no right or wrong approach to marketing – only more
effective or less effective marketing!
Become a strategic marketer
Corporate giants spend billions of dollars to market their products and services. Even
mid-sized companies dedicate as much as 10% of their revenues to packaging and
advertising their wares. Fortunately, the task of marketing a mentoring program requires
more ingenuity than monetary outlay.
The section below suggests a step-by-step process for planning and implementing
program marketing efforts. In some cases, some of the suggested steps overlap and
may be conducted at the same time. It may also be the case that some steps need to
be revisited while gathering information and gaining experience.
The information gathered and developed while proceeding through these steps should
be compiled into a detailed, written strategic marketing plan. Keep in mind that a
marketing plan can be as simple or complex as desired, but should be realistic and
achievable. Also keep in mind that the plan should not be set in stone, but should
evolve as the mentoring program and marketing needs change.
Four steps to marketing your program
Step 1: Analyze the situation
Before diving into marketing a mentoring program, it is important to analyze the current
situation. Gathering information from a variety of sources will give you a better
understanding of the current environment and the marketing challenges and
opportunities of the program. It is useful to understand the hiring, retention, and
competition challenges that local employers face. Understanding the internal and
external environments will also add credibility when speaking with colleagues, employers,
or others about the value of the mentoring program. The “situation analysis” should
focus on both the strengths and weaknesses of the internal (or organizational) situation
and resources and the threats of the external environment that may influence the
marketing strategy and program directions. Take notes while collecting information and
then compile the notes into a written analysis.
Sources of information for your internal and external situation analysis may include the
? The advisory committee or board of directors.
? Youth with disabilities and their families.
? Current employer contacts.
? The business sections of local newspapers.
? The Yellow Pages or other telephone directories.
? The local Chamber of Commerce and other business organizations (e.g., the
? The reference section of your public library.
? State and local professional and trade associations.
? Community-based organizations serving persons with disabilities.
? Employment service agencies (e.g., the local Vocational Rehabilitation agency
and local One-Stop Service Center).
? Other local, state, and federal government agencies (e.g., the US Census
? The Internet.
As part of the situation analysis, be sure to visit employers in the community. Develop a
contact database and plan to conduct site visits with known or new contacts. Let the
employers know you are with XYZ Mentoring Program and that your work involves
assisting youth with disabilities in exploring career opportunities. Initially, the focus
should be on learning about a particular industry, although such visits also offer
opportunities to get to know employer representatives – and for them to get to know the
program. Step 2: Define the marketing goals and objectives
Before choosing the specific marketing strategies, it is important to determine what the
goals are. Use the information gathered through the situation analysis to define the
goals and objectives. For example, if it is learned that most youth with disabilities in the area are aware of or already participate in the mentoring program, but that few
employers are familiar with the program, it would be best to focus efforts on employers,
The marketing goals should define the overall changes you hope to accomplish in the
process of marketing your program. For example, does the program hope to
? increase the number of youth with disabilities who participate in the program?
? build parents’ awareness and support of the program?
? recruit local advisory committee members?
? obtain a grant or other funding to operate the program?
? increase the number of mentors who are individuals with a disability?
? identify guest speakers who are also individuals with disabilities working
in diverse careers?
? engage “untapped” mentor recruitment sources in the community?
After the overall marketing goals have been defined, write down objectives that describe the steps that must be taken to achieve each goal. Unlike goals, which are broad statements of what the program hopes to achieve, marketing objectives should be measurable and time-specific. For example, one of the marketing goals might be to establish new opportunities for the program participants. Associated objectives might be to
? increase the number of mentors at XYZ Corporation to three within the next year;
? establish at least five summer internship opportunities at new genetics research
firms in the community by April. Step 3: Identify your target market
To define the target market, think first about the broad “universe” of “customers” (e.g., youth with disabilities, family members, school staff, employers, foundations, and employment service agencies), and then divide the universe into narrower market “segments” (e.g., members of a congregation active in your community, or members of a community service group such as Kiwanis or a Lions Club). Refer to the situation analysis and the marketing goals and objectives to help define the target markets for the mentoring program.
If the resources and time are limited, it may be helpful to focus initially only on the one or two market segments that will give the mentoring program the greatest benefit. Channeling efforts to reach only those segments will help focus the efforts and ensure that the program can achieve the goals with the resources available. With time, it is possible to expand the program’s efforts to target other markets as experience is gained and as the program grows.
Features to benefits
Because mentoring programs rely on a variety of partners, it is important for marketing efforts to be targeted. This is achieved by translating the program features into customer benefits. Features are defined in terms of products or services. A car, for example, may feature a manual transmission and power accessories such as windows, door locks, and radio antenna.
The customer, on the other hand, defines benefits. Depending on the customer, the benefits of a manual transmission may be in handling and responsiveness or in improved gas mileage. Power accessories may represent luxury or may simply be elements of convenience. Again, the benefits are determined by the customer. Think about express mail. Most people would think companies dealing with express mail are in the shipping business, but in essence they are in the reliability business. Many of its customers are businesses that want the absolute, positive assurance that their valued shipments will be delivered the next day or even the same day. These customers are so motivated by reliability that they will pay a substantial premium over other shippers, simply for their own peace of mind.
Now, think about the services provided by the mentoring program. How could these “features” be thought of as “benefits” to the audience base? This becomes your
marketing “script.” Consider the following program benefits for potential stakeholder groups:
Schools Research findings on mentoring indicate that youth who participate in programs that include stand-alone mentoring or mentoring as one component of a comprehensive intervention have improved outcomes in school attendance, class performance, and postsecondary participation.
Employers Employers involved with youth mentoring have found that mentoring increases employee and company morale; that it develops skills needed for management; that it enhances the image of the company; that it gets the company involved in the educational community and the community as a whole; that it informs and increases the competence of employees; and, most importantly, that it assists in the development of a competent future workforce.
Workforce Development Organizations Career-focused mentoring helps to bring new workers into the American mainstream. Success for these organizations means that workers are employed in jobs that offer the promise of financial stability. Mentoring strategies that engage business with other community stakeholders helps to revitalize the community while building partnerships among schools, communities, and businesses to develop a more competent and prepared workforce.
These are just three examples of how potential benefits can be marketed to school, employer, and workforce development stakeholder groups. For each stakeholder group you identify as part of your marketing plan, you can also customize benefits that resonate with the mission and goals of a particular audience.
Step 4: Develop and implement a marketing action plan
A carefully designed and written action plan will serve as a road map for the marketing efforts, helping the mentoring program get to its desired destination. The methods and techniques chosen to include in the action plan will depend on many factors, including the program vision, the solidity of the existing relationships with employers and others in the community, the size of the program and target market, the human resources, and the budget.
Your written marketing action plan should provide clear, concise direction for your marketing efforts and help you to measure the success of your efforts. The action plan should do all of the following:
? State the broad marketing strategies (e.g., personal contact or media relations)
and tactics (specific activities selected to implement the strategies) you plan to
? Establish target dates for each activity;
? Assign responsibilities and define individuals’ involvement;
? Specify how your marketing efforts will be evaluated, as suggested below.
As you begin to develop an action plan, think carefully about your marketing goals and objectives and carefully choose strategies and tactics that will help you to achieve those goals. Sometimes, a targeted approach aimed at reaching specific types of employers (government agencies or small graphic arts firms) and involving only one or two strategies and a few tactics will suffice. In other situations, you may find that a broader approach that involves several strategies and tactics will be more effective. As you draft
your action plan, be sure to solicit input from your advisory committee, board, colleagues, and trusted representatives of your target markets.
A strategic marketing plan typically includes a(n)
? Introduction: States the program’s mission, describes the rationale for marketing the
program, and summarizes the marketing goals.
? Situation analysis: Describes internal and external environmental factors that may
impact the program’s marketing efforts.
? Target market: Specifies the target audience. Marketing goals and objectives: States
what the goal is in terms of broad marketing goals and more specific objectives. ? Action plan: Specifies the marketing strategies and tactics that will be used to
achieve each goal and objective, sets target start and finish dates, and states who
will be responsible for and involved in each activity.
? Evaluation plan: Describes how the success of the marketing efforts will be
(National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth, 2003)
Marketing strategies and tactics
There are eight primary strategies for marketing your mentoring program and reaching
your target audiences:
1. Personal contact
2. Print communications
3. Electronic communications
4. Media relations
5. Public service advertising
6. Paid advertising
7. Specialty advertising
8. Special event sponsorship
See Exhibit 7-1 for a detailed explanation of the marketing strategies and tactics as well as the advantages and disadvantages for each.
Don’t forget that participants in the mentoring program are your best advertisement.
Involve them whenever possible in special events, personal contacts, presentations, and
the design and content of ads, articles, promotional material, and websites.
Exhibit 7-1 – Suggested Marketing Strategies
? Send personalized letters and a pamphlet on your program or a business card to
selected employers or others in the community to let them know about your program
and to invite their participation in the program or a specific event. When sending
letters, be sure to follow up by telephone to confirm receipt and answer any
? Call or send e-mail messages to people with whom you have an existing relationship
to let them know about your mentoring program and to invite their participation.
Before making contact, know what you want to communicate and what you will ask
them to do.
? Make “cold calls” to canvas employers, schools, and faith and community-based
organizations; let them know about your program, and get a sense of their potential
interest in becoming a part of the program. Even though you may be making cold
calls, be sure to take a warm approach!
? Educate others at your school or organization about the goals and activities of the
? Arrange for site visits to help you better understand employers’ operations and
? Represent your program at community, business, and professional events as a
speaker, host, or exhibitor
? Network at professional conferences, in classes you may be taking, or through your
involvement in community or volunteer activities.
? Visit the websites of employers, employment service agencies, and funding sources,
or call their offices to obtain e-mail addresses. Send e-mails to targeted individuals
to let them know about your program.
? Volunteer to serve on boards or committees of stakeholder organizations.
? Arrange for booth space at conferences attended by youth with disabilities or their
families, local employers, or community agencies.
? Attend or exhibit at high-tech trade shows to meet and network with employer
? Invite target market representatives to become a part of your local advisory
? Ask your current employer partners to tell their colleagues in the business world
about your program.
? Follow up after each contact by sending a letter or by calling with additional
? Focus on building long-term mutually beneficial relationships, rather than making a
Advantages of Personal Contact::
Allows control of results; requires few material resources; allows you to use your
interpersonal skills and known contacts.
Disadvantages of Personal Contact:
Can involve significant time; offers limited reach.
? Develop a program brochure or fact sheet for your program to mail with letters, to
disseminate at meetings or workshops, or to post in targeted locations. ? Create an inexpensive newsletter that periodically updates current and prospective
employers and others about your mentoring program and participants’ success
stories. Produce the newsletter in a print format and post it on your website. ? Design and print business cards and stationery that convey a professional,
consistent program image. Be sure that the business card includes your telephone
and fax numbers, mailing address, and e-mail and website addresses. Carry
business cards with you at all times.
? Develop program progress reports or an annual report to update stakeholders about
program activities and accomplishments.
? Make copies of articles that have been published about your program, and share
them with stakeholders and prospective stakeholders.
Advantages of Print Communications:
Lets you control the messages and timing; allows you to target specific audiences.
Disadvantages of Print Communications:
Requires funds for reproduction; can involve significant time for writing and layout;
requires lead time to develop materials; does not involve the personal aspect of
communication, which plays an important role in establishing and keeping a lasting
? Create a website that informs your target markets about the program and provides
your contact information. Be sure to keep the website current and add new material
to encourage viewers to return to it.
? Register your website with search engines to improve the chances of the site being
found when Web users conduct a search. Register for free on search engines’ sites
(e.g., www.google.com) or pay to use a search engine registration service. ? Disseminate program updates, event invitations, and other information by e-mail. ? Create and send periodic e-mail newsletters.
? Create a video or CD-ROM that explains the program’s goals, activities, and
? Participate in online communities such as electronic bulletin boards and listservs that
are used by community organizations, schools, business leaders, workforce
development representatives, or disability employment professionals. ? Ask employer partners to include information about the program and their
involvement in it on their websites.
? Arrange for reciprocal website links with other organizations (e.g., website of
? Include your program contact information and website address on your e-mail
Advantages of Electronic Communications:
Lets you control the messages and timing; allows instant, low-cost dissemination of
messages; allows you to target specific audiences as needed (i.e., through targeted e-
mail); enables interactive, around-the-clock communication.
Disadvantages of Electronic Communications:
Requires expertise, technology, and time to develop, launch, and maintain a website;
requires staff time to respond to e-mail inquiries, manage listservs, etc.; does not involve
the personal aspect of communication, which plays an important role in establishing and
keeping a lasting relationship.
? Create news by “pitching” story ideas to local media representatives. Suggest
interesting angles for covering your mentoring program, youth participants’
accomplishments, or collaboration with employers.
? Mail, fax, or e-mail news releases or media advisories to reporters, editors, or
producers at local newspapers, television stations, and radio stations to inform them
of program events and activities. Be sure to use the proper format and always
include your telephone number and e-mail address for any questions the recipient
? Write articles about program activities for placement in local newspapers, trade
publications, employers’ in-house or external newsletters, or school system
publications. Before writing the article, be sure to contact the publication to
determine the editor’s interest in a particular story idea.
? Use – but don’t abuse – any connections you may have with local reporters, editors,
? Develop and use a database of media contacts.
? Tap into the expertise of media relations experts within your school system or ask
your employers if their public relations staff can advise you on media relations.
? Invite media representatives to become a part of your local advisory committee.
? Invite reporters to attend your program events.
? Make yourself or your program participants available for media interviews.
? Talk with representatives at your local public access cable television station about
being included in their programming (e.g., in a panel discussion about youth and
Advantages of Media Relations:
Often allows rapid dissemination of messages; involves few or no material costs; allows
you to reach a broad audience.
Disadvantages of Media Relations:
Provides limited control of messages and timing of message release; requires sustained
work to maintain relationships with reporters and others; requires time to communicate
and follow-up with reporters and others.
Public Service Advertising:
? Submit announcements about events, needs for volunteers, and needs for partner
organizations to local newspapers, radio stations, and broadcast and cable television
? Work with program partners (e.g., employers) to develop issue-oriented print or
broadcast public services announcements.
? Use the proper format for the media outlet you are using. Try to limit Public Service
Announcements (PSAs) for television and radio to 30 seconds and indicate the
running time on the announcement.
Advantages of Public Service Advertising:
Offers free promotion air time or print space; can offer wide reach.
Disadvantages of Public Service Advertising:
Offers little control over timing and editing of messages; can involve costs to develop print or broadcast ads.
? Do a cost-benefit analysis for paid advertising, which can be very expensive.
Investigate circulation numbers, who the readers/viewers are, and other relevant
information. (Which TV channel has the highest viewership among your target
audience? Should you run your display ad in the sports section, business section, or
near the education columnist in the newspaper? What day of the week would be
best from an exposure and impact standpoint?)
? Develop a template or “look” for your print advertisement with a graphic designer or
with your mentoring program participants.
? When looking for employer partners, place paid advertising in local newspapers and
on radio, broadcast television, or cable television.
? Place ads in local business magazines, newsletters, and directories.
Advantages of Paid Advertising:
Lets you control messages content; lets you control where and when messages are
disseminated; can offer targeted or wide reach.
Disadvantages of Paid Advertising:
Involve costs to create and place ads; requires repeated ad placement to achieve the
Special Event Sponsorship:
? Invite representatives of business and industry, employment service agencies,
schools, and prospective or current funding organizations to an annual informational
meeting or kick-off event.
? Hold an annual employer or funding organization recognition event, or present
awards to employers, youth participants, and other stakeholders at an annual
? Invite local employers, community colleges, and universities to participate in a career
fair for people with disabilities.
? Create an annual, issue-oriented awareness event that involves program
Advantages of Special Event Sponsorship:
Provides visibility in the community or targeted communities; offers opportunities to
recognize and solidify support of program stakeholders; offers opportunities to make