Leverage the “power of three” for effective communications

The nonprofit market has become increasingly tight, making it more important than ever to shine when communicating with donors and prospects. Your mailings or website are very often the first impression an individual or corporation receives of your organization. By applying the “power of three” in your marketing design, you can improve your chances that prospective donors will read your message.

The “power of three” is a design theory that, simply stated, says that when people are presented with items in groups of three, they are more attracted to that group than with groups with more or less items in it. For example, three colors in a brochure are more effective than two or four because they are easier and more pleasant for our brains to process.

As marketers who develop a wide variety of advertising and marketing campaigns for all types of industries and clients, we found that when the power of three is applied to a communication message, that message resonates better with an audience. With this theory in mind, we designed three messaging components that we incorporate into everything we do: emotional, intellectual and functional.

Functional Component

This component communicates the functional benefits, attributes and features of your program or service. The functional component provides information about what business or service you are in, such as children’s health services, arts education or providing shelters for the homeless, in addition to where you are located or how many offices you have. This is the easiest component for many marketers to communicate, but it rarely gets the reader to act. Simply providing this factual information will cause most prospects to just file the information away and do nothing. Unless your organization is the only one in the city, country or world that offers this service and, therefore, is in high-demand, your communications need more information to be effective.

Intellectual Component

This component provides the opportunity to differentiate and separate your organization from the competition. This includes elements such as perceived quality and perceived value. The trick here for all marketers is to provide information that is relevant and important for their audience. How does your audience perceive quality and value in relation to your program or service? Do you have any significant intellectual properties for quality and value comparison that are of importance to your audience? If so, be sure they are included early on in your communications piece. Don’t hide these messages–they are important and can move a reader to consider action.

Emotional Component

This is the most powerful aspect of any communication piece and often the one that gets the least amount of attention from organization leaders who, ultimately, have to approve communications and their budgets.
Most organizations tend to associate good marketing with communications that focus on the factual and intellectual aspects of their companies. This makes sense since, after all, they are responsible for running an organization and need to focus on non-emotional business aspects to be successful. But, when it comes to being successful in communications messages, particularly those aimed at prospects, emotional components pack the action punch organizations are looking for.

Emotional components include features such as compelling photography and effective, beautifully written copy (in headlines and body copy). The reason emotional aspects work so hard in communications is that they connect the message on a personal level which, in turn, makes it more interesting and important to listen to.

The communication becomes less about your organization fighting to get the reader’s attention to teach something to the reader wanting to learn more about your organization to become part of it, experience it or obtain what you are providing. When your communications can affect someone to do something, you get results—and that is when your marketing funds are well spent.

Using the functional and intellectual components of your message helps to inform and educate your readers, giving them reasons to believe your organization is important for them to know about. But, be sure to pack a punch with an emotional hook to get them to believe in your organization as an important part of their lives that deserves their donations, purchase or other action of support.

See also:


Nonprofit Marketing Guide

Content Marketing for Nonprofits

Image credits: infairhaven.com, thethrivingsmallbusiness.com, foodnavigator.asia.com, utexas.edu


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