- Tue, August 05 2008
- Filed under: Marketing essentials
I’m back from vacation! It was excellent to take a breather.
Hot off the presses, here is my latest Fundraising Success column. It’s inspired by a car I once blogged about here. By the way, no offense if you have a hippy car. In fact, if you DO have one, send me a photo via email and I’ll send you a copy of Robin Hood Marketing:)
Some time ago while driving in my home base of Washington DC, I stopped at a red light next to a Honda Civic of a certain age. An old age. The hatchback and bumper were covered top to bottom with bumper stickers. You know the kind of car I’m talking about. There’s one in every traffic jam – especially if you live in a college town. It’s a compact car chockablock with a bewildering array of declarations of belief. Maybe you even drive one (not that there’s anything wrong with that).
It’s fine to drive such a vehicle, really, but it’s not okay to operate like that in the office. You see, that car got me thinking. I can’t get the image of the thing out of my mind. I think the reason is, that car is a rusting symbol on wheels of so many of the mistakes we make in our sector.
Too many nonprofits are the equivalent of what I call the hippy car. Here’s what I mean.
1. We’ve got a bumper sticker marketing strategy.
As nonprofits, we tend to declare what we believe and think that’s persuasive. It’s marketing by mission statement, and it’s annoying to others.
Slapping a bumper sticker on a car is a way of declaring your views that is one-way. You speak out and everyone else is left to listen (and smell your exhaust). That’s your prerogative as a vehicle owner, but it should not be your style as a marketer.
If you are a very loud preacher for your cause who rarely breaks to listen to your audience - or take in their perspective - you could end up with an audience of one. Yourself. We should be passionate, but be in a conversation with potential supporters. Good marketing is not a stickerfest, nor is it a monologue. It’s a give and take.
Don’t have a bumper sticker marketing strategy – go for more of a carpool experience. We should all be on this ride together.
2. We’re getting ourselves written off as hippy dippy or irrelevant.
Tthere’s something about the whole package of that car that lacks credibility for most the drivers idling alongside it. If we’re passionate about a cause, we may wear it on our sleeve, or on our bumper, with great pride. Such zeal can be good and bad. Good, in that passion can be wonderfully persuasive. Bad, in that too much passion (especially the angry, slightly raving kind) can start to sound coo-coo.
If we push our agenda into people’s faces with this level of subtlety, we’re going to get dismissed as “out there.” I get a certain feeling when I see cars like this: “Wow, that looks like a nice, well-intentioned person, but hope I don’t run into them at a cocktail party because they’d never stop talking.”
I guarantee that the Ford SUV with the Support our Troops ribbon and the unmarked Accords and Camrys around the hippy car were not converted to a single cause on the car because the message delivery and messenger have that icky polemic feel. Don’t have a tone that says finger-wag.
3. We’ve got too many stickers.
The driver of the car I saw was apparently one busy dude, because he supports about ten causes, five indie bands and a score of other unidentifiable organizations, secret societies or issues I’m not hip enough to recognize.
He also somehow found time to brake for squirrels and leprechauns.
Wow. I wish I had those time management skills.
But seriously, this is a great example of way too many messages. Remember, people can usually only handle about one message at a time. And you’ll be lucky if you can consistently get your supporters to attribute one idea or concept to your organization.
The more messages you heap on to your message delivery vehicles (pun intended), the more you seem like a raving, wide-ranging, unfocused mess. People will react to your communications the way they would if you’d stuck bumper stickers all over your body – they’d run the other way. Or cross to the other side of the street.
In other words, no one is going to stick around (ha) long enough to figure out what on earth you stand for if you declare yourself like this.