Are You Marketing Like a Construction Worker?
In last week’s blog, I wrote about how automated marketing techniques produce superior results over traditional marketing. Automated marketing is sonar to the megaphone, scalpel to the machete, shouted raucous come-on to the considerate remark.
Today, I want to look at one of the psychological mechanisms behind automated marketing’s superior outcomes. For that, we need to think about construction sites. We need to think about leering men, shouting at uncomfortable young women walking by. This sort of thing is somewhat top of mind given our current political environment, so I am compelled to “use it in a sentence,” as my first-grade teacher used to say.
The metric that automated marketing uses to measure success is conversions. A conversion is defined as the point at which a recipient of a marketing message performs a desired action. In other words, a conversion is simply getting someone to respond to your messaging. Automated marketing increases conversions by:
- Sending the message at the appropriate time based on the target’s behavior.
- Delivering content personalized to the target based on information tracked in the automated marketing database.
The call to action can be many things—registering for a walk, posting on Facebook, forwarding to friends and, of course, making a donation. Getting messaging from a well-designed automated marketing campaign is like having an email conversation with someone who gets you.
What is it that makes personalized messages more effective? Is it because people pay more attention if the message is attuned to their interests? Yes, for sure, getting someone’s attention is important given the noisy media buzz that we all live with today. But attention alone is not enough. The construction worker shouting at the pretty girl never actually gets a date.
The real value of personalized messaging is that it improves the odds that someone will take action. A personalized message is the construction worker jumping from the scaffold and saying, "Ma’am, I think you dropped your scarf." And once someone begins to respond to you, to move in your direction, it becomes much easier to keep her coming to you, until they’ve walked through your front door, or said "yes" to a date.
Turnkey human behavior expert and my hubby, Otis Fulton, pointed me at the book, "The Wisest One in the Room," by renowned social psychologists Thomas Gilovich and Lee Ross. They wrote, “Heroic actions and lifelong commitments to noble causes often start with small acts. A child volunteers to walk dogs at the local [Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals] because she likes pets. She then responds favorably to a request to donate to the SPCA. Soon she’s soliciting signatures to preserve the habitat for a local species of owl and then joins the ranks of Greenpeace activists.”
Automated marketing tools provide more efficient ways to reach people by delivering messages to which they are more likely to respond, helping them take incremental steps to conversion. Messages about dogs, cancer survivors, caretakers or global warming, coupled with specific calls to action based on what we know about the person receiving it, is powerful. Maybe the receiver is a retiree living on a fixed income but who has an abundance of time to volunteer. Maybe she is a college student who can mobilize her social network to organize a do-it-yourself. These types of personalized outreaches we have all fantasized about, but accomplishing this sort of personalization was heretofore unattainable. That is no longer true due to technological advances.
As Gilovich and Ross told us, that first small act can fuel strong motivation. Traditional marketing is based on the idea that you have to front load motivation to get action. That you must educate people to a critical mass of understanding that then leads to an action. Social science tells us that the traditional marketing approach to conversion is wrong.
Automated marketing stands this on its head in full agreement with social science; it’s all about the conversion, getting the desired action, no matter how small. And there is a reason this approach pays big dividends. It seems counterintuitive, but we know that motivation often comes after starting a new behavior, not before. In other words, motivation is often the result of an action, not the cause of it.
The takeaway? The key to motivating people is making it easy to take that first action. The beauty of doing our jobs in 2016 is that we have technology that makes moving people incrementally attainable. We are the most popular construction worker on site.
Otis Fulton, Ph.D., spent most of his career in the education industry, working at the psychometric research and development firm MetaMetrics Inc., Pearson Education and others. Since 2013, he has focused on the nonprofit sector, applying psychology to fundraising and donor behavior at Turnkey. He is the co-author of the 2017 book, ”Dollar Dash: The Behavioral Economics of Peer-to-Peer Fundraising” and is a frequent speaker at national nonprofit conferences. With Katrina VanHuss, he co-authors a blog at NonProfit PRO, “Peeling the Onion,” on the intersection of psychology and philanthropy.
Otis is a much-sought-after copywriter for nonprofit fundraising messages. He has written campaigns for UNICEF, St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, March of Dimes, Susan G. Komen, the USO and dozens of other organizations. He has a Ph.D. in social psychology from Virginia Commonwealth University and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Virginia, where he also played on UVA’s first ACC champion basketball team.
Katrina VanHuss has helped national nonprofits raise funds and friends since 1989 when she founded Turnkey. Her client’s successes and her dedication to research have made her a sought-after speaker, presenting at national conferences for Blackbaud, Peer to Peer Professional Forum, Nonprofit PRO, The Need Help Foundation and her clients’ national meetings. The firm’s work is underpinned by the study and application of behavioral economics and social psychology. Turnkey provides project engagements, coaching, counsel and staffing to nonprofits seeking to improve revenue or create new revenue. Her work extends into organizational alignment efforts and executive coaching.
Katrina also regularly shares her wit and business experiences on her and Otis Fulton's NonProfit PRO blog “Peeling the Onion.” When not writing or researching, Katrina likes to make things — furniture from reclaimed wood, new gardens, food with no recipe. Katrina’s favorite Saturday is spent cleaning out the garage, mowing the grass, making something new, all while listening to loud music by now-deceased black women, throwing in a few sets on the weight bench off and on, then collapsing on the couch with her husband Otis to gang-watch new Netflix series whilst drinking sauvignon blanc.
Katrina grew up on a Virginia beef cattle and tobacco farm with her three brothers. She is accordingly skilled in hand to hand combat and witty repartee — skills gained at the expense of her brothers. Katrina’s claim to fame is having made it to the “American Gladiator” Richmond competition as a finalist in her late 20s, progressing in the competition until a strangely large blonde woman knocked her off a pedestal with an oversized pain-inducing Q-tip. Katrina’s mantra for life is “Be nice. Do good. Embrace embarrassment.” Clearly she’s got No. 3 down.