Archive for December, 2014

Why facts, features and benefits don’t belong in your copy

“Today’s number one challenge is to leverage better results with less money,” asserts Dooley. Marketers are called upon to accomplish more with less. Dooley has a problem with logic that says “more resources applied equals more success” because this model can get very expensive and may not produce better outcomes. Dooley argues that smarter marketing grounded in neuromarketing is genuinely more effective and costs less. Nonprofit marketers interested in ideas from a unique perspective—many of which are based on the author’s personal experience or conclusions drawn from behavioral science—will find Brainfluence is a path worth exploring.

We asked Dooley at what stage do most marketers fail when trying to apply neuromarketing strategies?

Dooley: Marketers tend to focus on facts and figures, features and benefits, and other logical appeals that are intended to persuade the donor or customer to act. Appealing to non-conscious motivators should be part of the process from start to finish. Using brain-oriented strategies is particularly important for nonprofit marketers. Usually, we buy products because we need them. We don’t have tangible benefits when we make a donation or volunteer our time. If product marketing is half psychology, nonprofit marketing is 100 percent psychology. It’s essential to identify and use the right triggers to get donors and volunteers on board.

In addition to triggers, Dooley addresses how to apply neuromarketing techniques to your marketing or fundraising copy in his book. I’ve excerpted some of his strategies here:

Surprise your audience by using unpredictable words and language in new ways. We naturally predict common words that will follow other ones, especially in a clichéd saying, so varying your words captures people’s attention.

Develop simple slogans that offer savings.

Describe or rename your product or service if it has negative connotations. For example, we often say, “May we renew your support” rather than “Don’t let your gift expire.”

Use real numbers for greater impact. For example, in one experiment, “People believed cancer to be 32 percent riskier when told that it kills 1,286 out of every 10,000 people, versus 12.86 percent of people.” If you are trying to mute negative statistics about a product or service, use percentages.

Try these two magic words: “free” (people will choose it over a bigger savings because it carries no risk, as in “buy one get one free” versus “buy one get one for one penny”) and “new” while maintaining long-term brand attachments.

Use vivid (e.g., disastrous) sensory (e.g., hair loss), emotional/nostalgic (e.g., too many moms and sisters suffering from breast cancer), specific (e.g., 1 in 8 women suffer from the disease) and branded (e.g., “Go Pink”) language to describe your product or service without overdoing it and making the message too long.

Provide vivid stories with action, motion, dialogue, etc., and story testimonials to powerfully sell your product or service. Anecdotes are more interesting and relevant than statistics. For example, the author discusses how unfortunately, anecdotes about vaccines causing autism trumped the mass of statistics disproving this finding.

Make sure your organization does not let negative stories take over—especially with the power of social media.

Roger Dooley states, “This book is all about smarter marketing.” Brainfluence contains practical advice for marketers, managers, business owners and nonprofit leaders looking for a fresh perspective. Each topic in Brainfluence is designed to explore how our brains work and offers numerous ways to directly apply that knowledge to real marketing challenges. Dooley says, “Every nonprofit today has to accomplish more with fewer resources, and many of the topics here will enable them to do just that.” Busy leaders will find this book doesn’t have to be read cover to cover. The ideas are grouped into major categories and each stands on its own so browsers can find what they are looking for.

See also:

Buy-In: Saving Your Good Ideas from Getting Shot Down

Creating Value in Nonprofit-Business Collaborations

Let’s Stop Meeting Like This: Tools to Save Time and Get More Done

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Don’t neglect your message in tough times

“We need to get our message across.” This is a common refrain by many nonprofits leaders and never has it been more relevant, given the current economic situation. In any organization, marketing and communications resources are usually the first budgets to be cut. However, getting your message across and getting people to act on your message has never been more important. Thoughtful, sophisticated communication and organizational transparency are hallmarks that constituents have come to expect from effective nonprofits. You can’t afford to fall silent if you want your organization to retain and engage its constituents.

Even in good economic times, investing in a solid communications plan can often be viewed by nonprofit leaders as too difficult and expensive, unnecessary or beyond the scope of the organization. The reality, however, is that even a basic communications plan directed at both internal and external constituents is critical to an organization’s success. Yet, I’ve worked with a wide range of nonprofit clients who struggle to make communications planning a priority. Some of the most common roadblocks to communications planning include:
Who: Who is my target audience? Who should I reach out to?
What: What should I communicate? What is my message?
How: How do I get my message out (i.e. Web sites, blogs, email newsletters, etc.)?
When: I just don’t have the time with everything else on my plate …

These “Who, What, How and When” questions focus on the symptoms, but not necessarily the cause of an organization’s communications challenges. It’s important for today’s nonprofit leader to keep a broader mission-focused perspective when developing a communications strategy.

Understand who you are

For a lasting message, stay focused on your organization’s mission, not passing fads. Your organization’s messaging needs to be tied to your mission and to the broader organizational strategies and programs you coordinate in order to accomplish that mission.

Because many of your constituents are drawn to your organization because of its mission, the last thing they want is for you to waste resources on activities that do not help you accomplish it. Stay focused with a mission-driven message, and reinforce to your constituents that your organization is committed to the mission they care about. Mission-focused communications will stress that your organization is worthy of your constituents’ time, attention and support.

One way to ensure your message is in synch with your mission is to revisit your mission statement and make sure you have the proper strategies or programs in place to actively achieve it. This may include creating new strategies or programs that will help you maintain your constituents’ support and sustain your organization during these tough times.

Stay relevant

After reflecting on your mission, strategies and desired impact, you can frame your message in the context of today’s economic environment. Since constituents demand transparency, ensure your communications are relevant and directly address the economic conditions that impact your organization’s mission. Don’t be afraid to let your constituents know the truth. Clearly communicating to your constituents that “times are tough and this is how we are responding” is better than saying nothing at all.

Don’t try to reach everyone

Often, nonprofit leaders want to reach everyone they come into contact with by casting as wide a net as possible. But prioritizing your audience – specific to the message you are trying to deliver – is key to a successful communications strategy. I suggest identifying your top three to five key constituent groups and determining a) what kind of information you think they want to hear; and b) what you think they will do with this information. Having a clear picture of who you want to communicate with will help in making your message more impactful.

Don’t neglect your staff

In my communications consulting work, I find that one the most neglected constituencies is the staff, and regardless of an organization’s size, this is an issue for most nonprofits. Small organizations tend to suffer from “forgetting,” or having no time to inform, and large organizations tend to neglect staff due to too much bureaucracy or seeing staff as too hard to reach. This is not true for all organizations, but is something to consider as you develop your communications plan. There is nothing worse for morale than having external constituents know a critical piece of information about your organization before staff does.

Moreover, keep in mind that your organization’s staff is usually the most important element in your brand, so making sure they can speak to constituents about the conditions your organization faces is very important. At a minimum, your staff should know how to respond to constituents’ questions and who to refer to when a question reaches beyond their knowledge.

Embrace new methods

Regardless of your message or audience, one consideration stands out more than ever – the communications methods available to you are endless. The days of the printed newsletter are fast disappearing. Today, communications strategies encompass email newsletters, blogs and social media such as Facebook and Twittter. But remember to stay focused on your top priority constituent groups, not trends, when determining which communications methods are going to be the most effective. As long as the communications methods are appropriate for your target audience, don’t be afraid to try as many as you feel comfortable with, and then determine which works best for you. The new methodologies are either cheap or free, so feel free to experiment.

Review, adapt and repeat

Evaluating and adapting your communications strategy over time is critical to your organization’s success. While there are many metrics that communications professionals suggest you track, keeping it simple can also do the trick. For example, once you have sent out your email newsletter, call up some of your constituents and ask what they thought of your recent communication and how it could be improved. Much like investing in communications, any level of resources devoted to researching your communication’s impact is better than no research at all. Regularly solicit feedback from your constituents and adapt your message accordingly.

While the suggestions above are nothing new, they should guide your organization’s communications planning, regardless of the size or budget of your organization. Staying connected with your constituents will help your organization weather today’s challenging economic climate. Times are tough, but do not bury your head in the sand. On the contrary, it is time to let people know your organization is still on the job.

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Appeal to the subconscious when crafting your messages

Leading scientists who focus on brain activity say 95 percent of all thoughts, emotions and learning happen before we are aware of them. Author Roger Dooley says that unfortunately, most marketing efforts bypass the immense subconscious and instead target the rational conscious mind.

Dooley claims that if you want to promote your cause more effectively, it’s time to stop focusing on just five percent of your donor’s brain. Brainfluence is Roger Dooley’s homage to the value of applying brain and behavior research to better understand the decision patterns of those you seek to influence. The book contains key strategies—100 to be exact—to target your constituency through face-to-face, online, print and other marketing channels.

What is neuromarketing?

Dooley argues that smarter marketing is grounded in neuromarketing. But what is it? Neuromarketing, broadly defined, recognizes the value of brain and behavioral research and employing that research to improve our marketing choices.

Dooley discusses all marketing mediums in his book but we’ve chosen to feature face-to-face marketing in this article since many of you find yourselves cultivating individuals on a regular basis.

Face-to-face neuromarketing strategies

The brain was designed to process human interactions. To maximize these interactions for marketing, do the following:

Build rapport, even on social media, before selling or bargaining.

Use a handshake or touch to build trust.

Speak into the client’s right ear whenever possible. Research shows the right ear is the preferred side to process spoken information.

Smile because it produces unconscious positive emotions.

Demonstrate confidence.

Ask for a small favor first before your big sale or ask, e.g., a tiny trial order, advice, small donation or short survey. People are more likely to respond to the larger request if they’ve agreed to the smaller one first.

Hire articulate people with higher verbal skills because they not only can communicate well, but often they can also predict what a client is thinking.

Use ethical flattery that is honest and specific to the person.

Seat your prospects in a soft chair to model flexibility and serve them warm beverages to model warmth and build trust.

What to avoid whey applying neuromarketing strategies

We also asked Dooley where most of us fail when trying to apply neuromarketing strategies.

Dooley: Marketers tend to focus on facts and figures, features and benefits, and other logical appeals that are intended to persuade the donor or customer to act. Appealing to non-conscious motivators should be part of the process from start to finish.

Using brain-oriented strategies is particularly important for nonprofit marketers. Usually, we buy products because we need them. We don’t have tangible benefits when we make a donation or volunteer our time. If product marketing is half psychology, nonprofit marketing is 100 percent psychology. It’s essential to identify and use the right triggers to get donors and volunteers on board.

Our subconscious is 8 seconds faster

Since 2005, Brainfluence author Roger Dooley has been writing a blog about neuromarketing, exploring many ways marketers can use different aspects of brain science to improve results.

One example that demonstrates the power of our subconscious is based on a study Dooley shares in the book. It shows how subjects who were given a puzzle to solve “actually solved it as much as eight seconds before they were consciously aware of having solved it.” From this study and much of the research Dooley cites, we can gather the vast majority of our behaviors are determined subconsciously.

If neuromarketing techniques are used properly, Dooley claims we can produce better products and services for people. He has selected 100 topics that are applicable to a wide range of budgets and situations. According to Dooley, though some of the ideas in the book come from costly research using fMRI machines (machines that measure brain activity) or other technology unavailable to most firms, each topic provides a marketing approach that is usable by any organization—often at a low cost.

See also:

Content Marketing for Nonprofits



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Making the ask: Is your donor ready or not?

“When you ask for money you are not taking something away; you are giving someone the opportunity to feel good,” explains author and fundraising consultant Laura Fredricks. When you’ve asked your donor when they’re ready, that good feeling can be multiplied. While donor readiness may seem like a foregone conclusion because you’re ready to ask, Fredricks emphasizes there’s more to understanding a donor’s level of readiness. More importantly, if your donor isn’t ready, the likelihood of getting a “yes” is severely diminished.


We recently added Fredricks’ latest edition of The Ask: How to Ask for Support for Your Nonprofit Cause, Creative Project or Business Venture (Jossey-Bass, 2014) to our CausePlanet list of recommended reading for nonprofit leaders. Join me in taking a closer look at Fredrick’s “readiness formula.”

When to ask

Fredricks provides the following readiness formula to determine when to ask people: education+involvement+cultivation+inclination+assets=the right time to ask. The larger the gift in question, the more of every element a person needs. Every person may require a different quality and quantity of cultivation, depending on the involvement he seeks and time needed to make his decision.

Fredricks gives several specific suggestions regarding the formula that are worth highlighting here:

1) Effective cultivation often involves interacting with prospects around their hobbies or interests, such as sending a golf article to a golfer.

2) Some prospects want to “giv[e] to a forward-moving train,” or know your organization is transformational and sustainable, whereas some don’t want you to “waste” your money on them and are more distant, so cultivation looks very different for these two types of people.

3) To determine “inclination,” ask this open-ended question: “Laura, when and if you were able to do something that was meaningful and significant to you with our [organization], what would that look like?” Then, you can ascertain whether the prospect is thinking of money at all.

4) Listen to your prospects to determine a match (“matching the person’s key interest in your group with a funding opportunity”).

5) With assets, do not rely solely on prospect research because it may not reveal all assets, and do not mistake assets for inclination. Gather how prospects spend their money through conversations.

Finally, if a person does not possess all the characteristics (e.g., low involvement due to time or personal conflicts or a difficult economic time) it still may be appropriate to ask for money, since this formula is a guideline. Simply use “gentleness, empathy, and understanding.” Ask people how they are doing in an economic downturn, for example, and give them an opportunity to feel good supporting their community. “In very hard times the only thing people can control is their community.” Also, offer to make it easier or give more time for the prospect during a difficult time, while still stressing the importance of your cause.

See also:

Do More Than Give: The Six Practices of Donors Who Change the World

Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing

A Fundraising Guide for Nonprofit Board Members

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Does your organization have a high impact board? Seven questions to ask

Great boards have a significant impact by adding value not available to their organization’s current resources and means. High impact boards are the key difference between achieving good results and great results. They don’t spend their time micromanaging, listening to reports, approving predetermined decisions and second guessing their staff’s decisions. Instead, they act as a high performance team using their member’s skills, talents, knowledge and expertise to make key decisions and build organizational capacity for producing results.

How can you ensure your organization benefits from a high impact board? Here are seven questions to ask:

1.      Do you have the “right people (board members) on the bus”?

Jim Collins in Good to Great (HarperCollins, 2001) stresses the importance of having the “right people on the bus” for building a great organization. High impact board members have a passion for the mission, vision and the organization. They act as team players using their individual knowledge and expertise to engage in collective decision making. These board members put their egos aside and have the ability to engage in strategic thinking that builds on one another’s ideas, thoughts and opinions. Each board member adds specific value to the board that would greatly impact the organization if he/she were to leave.

2.      Does your board partner with the chief executive officer (CEO)/executive director (ED) to operate as a championship team?

High impact boards have a culture similar to a championship sports team. Their focus is on becoming or remaining number one, so their culture is built upon using the individual skills and abilities of each team member collectively to achieve their goal. Patrick Lencioni, in his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team (Jossey-Bass, 2002) lists these characteristics of high functioning teams:

·        High level of trust between their members

·        Willingness to engage in conflict

·        High level of commitment to each other and their organization

·        Collective accountability for following through on board agreements

·        Attention to producing results

3.      Does your board chair and CEO/ED act as one leadership team?

There is a high level of trust between the board chair and the CEO/ED of a high impact board. They act as one leadership team communicating the same message about the organization. They are clear about the differences in their individual roles and build on each member’s skills, strengths and expertise to complement each other. They feel comfortable disagreeing with each other respectfully at board meetings and putting their unfinished thinking on the table for others to build upon.

4.      Does your CEO/ED take personal accountability for building the board’s capacity and leadership to govern with excellence?

CEOs/EDs of high impact boards understand their critical role in building their board’s capacity to lead. Most board members have little, if any, training in how to effectively govern a nonprofit organization. They often think that their governing role is to manage the day-to- day operations of the organization. CEOs/EDs need to constantly educate their board members about effective governing practices and provide them with the skills, information and support to successfully carry out their roles. The CEOs/EDs must also learn about what motivates each of their board members and about important aspects of their life (i.e. family, passions, etc.).

5.      Does your board have a “Culture of Inquiry?”

Most boards see themselves as policemen or compliance regulators. High impact boards add significant value by engaging together with their CEOs/EDs to determine future directions, impacts and strategies. They have what Nancy R. Axelrod calls a “Culture of Inquiry,” in which they are constantly learning and sharing knowledge and information about how they can have greater impact. They are not afraid to question complex, controversial or ambiguous matters or to look at issues from all sides. They are clear about their decision making authority, as well as about those they have delegated to CEO/ED, which allows them and their staff to feel comfortable discussing any key issues impacting their organizations. They have active feedback mechanisms, employing board and board member assessment processes, that help them engage in continuous improvement.

6.     Do your board and CEO/ED constantly recruit and groom future board leadership?

Most organizations wait until the board chair announces that he/she plans to retire to begin succession planning. They often end up “twisting the arm” of some unwilling board member who is often not the most qualified person, but who is willing to serve as the next board chair. A high impact board, usually through its governance committee, and the CEO/ED, think about who will be their next board leaders when they recruit and select new board members. At least a year ahead of the retirement of their current board chair and other board leaders, high impact boards have identified their next board leaders and have begun grooming them for their jobs.

7.      Do board members feel a significant return on their invested time?

Board members who feel that they are in an exciting learning environment, meeting interesting new contacts and friends, having fun and feeling that they are part of a winning team, are more willing to give of their time, expertise and resources to the organization. If their board service significantly enhances their life experiences, they will make it a high priority in their day-to-day activities.

A high impact board adds significant value to an organization that can be measured in terms of organizational resources, organizational performance and organizational influence. The board plays a leading, proactive role partnering with the CEO/ED, rather than merely serving as an audience for staff or as a regulator providing oversight. If the high impact board vanished, the organization would suffer.

See also:

Super Boards

The Board Game

The Ultimate Board Member’s Book

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