Does Your Product (Chapter) Fit Their (PNM) Needs?


by Alex Taylor

Knowing your audience is the first rule of marketing. However, even if you know your audience, your product must fill a need or desire from consumers. Starting with a product that no one wants is a recipe for immediate failure. 

For Greek Letter Organizations, there is a particular set of obstacles to overcome in understanding PMF (Product Market Fit). An easy way to begin is with some simple question asking. Who are these organizations for? Why would they join? Why did I join?

Who are our organizations for?

The target audience has changed over the years, but I believe the modern Greek experience appeals to a naturally curious individual seeking personal development and leadership opportunities. The community that we provide is a shelter to practice leadership and hone personal skills that are highly marketable after the collegiate experience. I believe our organizations are for men and women who desire a place to belong. Men and women who want real, authentic relationships beyond the highly filtered version of reality within which we reside. I believe we are for social development as well. Alcohol has commandeered much of the social development opportunities, but I believe the incoming generation (on whole) are seeking less alcohol. Data supports the idea that incoming students are choosing to drink less. Chapters that focus their social opportunities primarily around alcohol are destined to shrink over the coming years. I’m not telling your chapter or organization how to act, I’m simply giving you evidence so you can choose how to market. 

Knowing who we’re for gives us insight into the ideas we should be marketing. However, if our product in our chapters is broken, no expert marketing can help. Wonder why some thrive and others fail? Look no further than Product Market Fit. 

Why would someone join?

I reference the commentary above to directly answer this question. All research data shows that the incoming generation of college students are interested in the true experience of fraternity and sorority. Chapters that provide real connection with authentic relationships will see spikes in interest and numbers. 

For your chapter, it could be as simple as surveying your own members. Don’t allow people to answer with brotherhood or sisterhood, but ask pointed questions such as:

  • What is one word that you’d like our campus to use to describe our chapter?
  • What are the areas of the student experience on our campus where new students struggle? Where did you struggle as a new or incoming student?
  • What is one word you’d use to describe our chapter?
  • On a scale of 1-10, rate how likely you are to recommend this chapter to a younger sibling or family member. 
  • Were the promises made during recruitment met once you began membership?

These questions are key insights into your member’s experience. Real marketing is not taking a broken product to market. True marketing is involved in every step of the process, including product design. If your chapter struggles to answer these questions, odds are you’re losing membership, or soon will see a dip. Before asking consumers (i.e. Potential New Members) to consider our organization, we must be able to articulate true value in membership. It begins with why. 

Why did I join my organization?

Again, another opportunity to survey your members. I’d postulate that successful chapters have nearly 100% of members able to answer this question without just talking about friendship. Greek Life has become “buddy club” and if all you can offer is friendship, then you are paying for your friends. Here are some mind joggers to get people thinking about why they joined:

  • Describe what was happening in your life before you joined ___.
  • Who is that one person that you think of immediately when you reflect on joining ___?
  • In one word, describe the feeling you had when you joined. 
  • What conversations do you vividly remember while you considered joining?

Knowing why you and ALL your members joined give us ‘success stories’ to use when marketing our chapter. Think about a ride share service like Uber or Lyft. You most likely used it for the first time with a friend that had ALREADY used it before. Or if you’re daring, it’s because you heard success stories from previous users. 

Recruiting people to join your organization is no different! Understanding customer (PNM) needs then developing a product that they can use and spread to others, is step one. Always adapt your product or offerings to continue to appeal to new customers. 

Final step to evaluate your chapter’s PMF is to give it the “Oprah Test”. Would Oprah joyfully shout to her entire audience that they were receiving your product? If not, you need to fix your product, and there are plenty of Greek organizations that should be at the product design stage before you take it to market. 

What tangible value, beyond friendship, does your chapter offer? Why should anyone care? Why did you join? Would Oprah rave about it and offer it FREE to her studio audience?