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.
Katrina VanHuss is the CEO of Turnkey, a U.S.-based strategy and execution firm for nonprofit fundraising campaigns. Katrina has been instilling passion in volunteer fundraisers since 1989 when she founded the company. Turnkey’s clients include most of the top thirty U.S. peer-to-peer campaigns — Susan G. Komen, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the ALS Association, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, as well as some international organizations, like UNICEF.
Otis Fulton is a psychologist who joined Turnkey in 2013 as its consumer behavior expert. He works with clients to apply psychological principles to fundraising. He is a much-sought-after copywriter for nonprofit messaging. He has written campaigns for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, The March of Dimes, the USO and dozens of other organizations.
Now as a married couple, Katrina and Otis almost never stop talking about fundraising, volunteerism, and human decision-making – much to the chagrin of most dinner companions.
Katrina and Otis present regularly at clients’ national conferences, as well as at BBCon, NonProfit Pro P2P, Peer to Peer Forum, and others. They write a weekly column for NonProfit PRO and are the co-authors of the 2017 book, "Dollar Dash: The Behavioral Economics of Peer-to-Peer Fundraising." They live in Richmond, Virginia, USA.