Seth Godin is pretty smart. He really understands marketing.
In his recent blog post he discusses why we should sometimes avoid “easy leads” and, rather, seek to qualify our leads more vigorously. But when it comes to planned giving marketing, I feel that what he’s talking about and what we’re doing are very different.
First let me point out that my firm used to be a bare-knuckle marketing “hired gun” for some of the toughest businesses in the Washington, DC region. Back then we were mostly doing hardcore lead generation. One of our clients was a home improvement company. For them, we had to find ways to find “highly qualified” leads. The cost of sending someone out to a home to quote on a job that averaged only $3,000-$10,000 was just too high. So, we tested adding questions to our surveys on landing pages. Then we arranged for telephone calls to follow up on every lead (to ensure that both decision-makers of the household were present before sending a sales rep out the door). Then just before the sales person left to go meet them, again we’d confirm that all the decision-makers would be present.
Now, for our marketing planned gifts, the “sale” is very different. We’re not selling a product but rather a life choice and a large investment. We’re aiming to help people align their legacy mission with that of the nonprofit we serve. So we need to widen the funnel a lot. Then we need to cultivate the relationships (possibly for many years) with financial/educational information, mission-oriented information and conversion-oriented options (to get folks to raise their hands) because:
1- You never know which ones of these leads are just tire-kickers and which ones will leave a gift. Some people might say they will not leave a gift only because they don’t want phone calls. They just want to be anonymous.
2- For most folks it’s a HUGE jump forward to request this information at all. By doing so they are moving from the avoidance stage to the consideration stage of a very long and emotional, non-measured (even erratic) decision-making process. Considering the fact that over 50% of Americans never create a will at all, the fact that they are requesting this information is simply tremendous. This point should not be overlooked and all of these leads should be treated like gold.
3- It takes time. Some people will act right away to make a legacy gift decision. But most people will skim the information an organization sends out in response to requests and soon put it all in a drawer. Hopefully it’s near their tax information or their legal stuff. But, yes… that’s right… it will probably sit in a drawer.
4- Here’s where the magic happens. When your organization takes the effort to remind these leads about the planned giving concept and seek ways to get them to educate themselves further about the benefits they would enjoy (for their soul and their pocket-book), something special happens. I know it’s time consuming and tedious. But the largest and most impactful gifts happen in the minds of your donors when you are not there. It’s a slow process. It requires frequency and repetition. It requires well-conceived messages. And it always must include easy ways for people to move to the next step in the consideration process. In planned giving marketing we must treat each lead as if it holds the potential for a $1 million gift. Cultivate a relationship with each one properly over time and, because it’s a numbers game, you WILL end up with boatloads of money for your organization.
5- Most importantly, this “sale” usually happens when no one from the organization is around. Simply stated, most folks don’t need to involve you and your staff in order to make this kind of gift/investment. That’s the hardest part to grasp but the critical reason why this “sale” is so different from what Seth Godin is talking about.
For more on the slow sale concept, read about the tortoise and the hare in planned giving marketing here.
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