Why the best marketers know very little about the technical aspects of planned giving

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Greg Warner is CEO and Founder of MarketSmart, a revolutionary marketing software and services firm that helps nonprofits raise more for less. In 2012 Greg coined the phrase “Engagement Fundraising” to encapsulate his breakthrough fundraising formula for achieving extraordinary results. Using their own innovative strategies and technologies, MarketSmart helps fundraisers around the world zero in on the donors most ready to support their organizations and institutions with major and legacy gifts.

There’s an acronym — K.I.S.S. — that seems like it might have been developed just for marketers:
K – Keep
I – It
S – Simple
S – Stupid!

For example, consider automobile marketing. The best marketers of cars don’t worry about learning everything they can about how the engine works, how torque gets created, or what compounds were used in the manufacturing process for two reasons:
1. The average car buyer really doesn’t care
2. That’s not why the average car buyer selects a car

Not much discussion about torque in this ad

Not much discussion about torque in this ad

Just about every financial decision is based mostly on emotion. Yes, emotion— not pragmatism. For a big purchase (such as an automobile), buyers depend on:

  • Their personal preferences (such as red vs. green, sporty vs. functional)
  • Opinions of others (social norms)
  • Fuel economy (practicality to avoid “pain”)
  • Fear (safety)
  • Etc.

After all of those concerns have been considered, then a very small number of buyers might possibly want to look at some details such as how the torque gets produced. But most won’t.

Similarly, when “marketing and selling” (or raising) major or planned gifts it’s all about emotion. If you find yourself trying to communicate details about the process, you might want to reconsider what you’re doing because you might lose your supporter’s interest on-the-spot.
Keep it simple— stupid!

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6 responses to “Why the best marketers know very little about the technical aspects of planned giving”

  1. Scott Park says:

    Thank you for the reminder, Greg. If I were ever to get a tattoo , I think it would be this, that’s how important I believe this concept is. I would point out, however, that HAVING the technical knowledge about planned gifts doesn’t preclude one’s ability to be a successful marketer. One need only be selective about when and where one shares this knowledge.
    Great post!

  2. James Hohn says:

    Greg, Thanks for comparing gift planning officers to used car salespeople. It is true that we do not need to dazzle the prospect with mind numbing details, but if we want a “place at the table” with the donor’s trusted advisors we better know what is under the hood.

    • Greg Warner says:

      Hi James- Thanks for your thoughts.
      First, I didn’t compare a donor’s trusted advisors to used car sales people. Re-read the article and I think you’ll agree.
      Second, even if I did, that wouldn’t be so bad. My lead developer’s dad sells used cars. There’s nothing wrong with him and nothing wrong with that profession. He likes to help people. He’s very honest and honorable. I can’t stand by while you make it sound as if your profession is better than his. It isn’t. He is a good man just trying to earn a living. And I bet he’ll leave a planned gift someday. But he probably won’t consult an advisor. He’ll do what most people do who don’t have enough to warrant an advisor’s counsel… he’ll leave his gift by simple beneficiary designation.
      Third, “marketers” of planned gifts don’t necessarily need or want a place at the table. Their job is to build awareness, generate leads, and cultivate them. Their job is to generate planned gifts from the people who don’t want to or need to talk to an advisor about their intentions. Again, re-read the article. It’s about whether or not a marketer needs to know the details for planning gifts. It isn’t about whether a sophisticated advisor needs to know those details. I have yet to find a super-skilled donor advisor who is also really great at marketing. If you are one of those, then you are a “unicorn”. Congratulations on your exceptionality.

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