Marketing Genius from Maple Creative

Marketing tips, observations & philosophy, plus a few rants and random musings - from those who practice, preach and teach marketing, research, advertising, public relations and business strategy.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Year End Solicitations: A Better Way

This month, I've received a small stack of requests from various charitable organizations. Perhaps you have received a few too?

Let me state for the record: I am a big supporter of community service and charitable giving. This is a core value for me and for Maple Creative. Each and every Mapleonian is personally involved in one or more community service endeavors. It's well documented, and you can read all about it on our Web site.

I have no qualm with the solicitation. It is fine to ask for a year-end donation. That's all well and good. What bugs me is the manner of the solicitation. The way it's typically done is both ineffective and improper. Allow me to explain.

You send us the letter. We have not heard from you all year. In some cases, we are completely unaware of your organization and its purpose. Perhaps you obtained our address from the chamber of commerce list; who knows? The letter is lengthy--to a fault. In it, you proceed to tell us everything you can about the background and the need--both sides, single-spaced, front and back. The problem: we're all too busy to read a lengthy letter.

You enclose the envelope. It resembles a church offering envelope. You hope that we will enclose a check and mail it back to you. The problem: we lack the background and history to be motivated. We're unable to tap into any passion, because there is no relationship with your organization. Plus, many before you have asked, and we may not be able to spare the funds to write the check. There's nothing to tip the scales in your favor.

This bulk-mail, mass mailing strategy is a hit or miss exercise. I can only imagine that the odds of success are lower than 2%.

The better way.... Touchpoints.

What if you had reached out and touched us with your strategic marketing once a quarter? Perhaps you might have sent an informative 1st Quarter letter, introducing us to your organization and its mission. Then, what if you had sent us 2 or 3 more updates (maybe postcards or email messages) throughout the year, educating us about your programs and presenting specific examples of your impact? What if you had offered to stop by and get acquainted with us ... or invited us to an open house or luncheon? None of these tactics need be lavish or expensive; they could (and should) be cost-effective or bootstrap in nature. Finally, then, you justifiably sent us the letter ... the ask ... the call to action.

What if you had done most or all of those things? How might we have responded differently to your year-end solicitation?

I don't know many non-profit or charitable organizations that can sustain their expected revenues on a 2% success rate.

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Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Avoid Mixed Messages in Your Holiday Communications

Right before Thanksgiving, I received this beautiful e-card. It was adorned with a lovely seasonal photo--fall colors, a pumpkin, some squash. You've seen it.

Then, there's a beautiful message. Something to the effect of:

"Wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving."

So far, so good. Thoughtful, tasteful and clever. (Yes clever. How many companies send Thanksgiving cards ... how many send Christmas cards? So, they stood out--in a good way.) Oh, if only it had ended right there.

But the card didn't stop there. As I scrolled down a bit, they proceeded to urge me to remember them for all my labor and staffing needs. Then this: "Did you know that we also offer seminars and training workshops?" Another scroll and I found yet another paragraph of sales language. "Click here for our special ..." Yada yada yada.

Is it a card... or sales literature?Are you really sending me a thoughtful message? Or are you using Thanksgiving as an excuse to hit me with your unsolicited sales pitch?

C'mon people. Employ some degree of restraint and find a measure of good taste. Admittedly, this is a pet peeve; bugs me big time. And it's a way-too-frequent faux pas. Invariably, I'll notice it around the Fourth of July ... and then again around the Thanksgiving to Christmas season.

Marketing geniuses: I urge you this holiday season to avoid such mixed messages. Keep things simple. Keep things separate. Don't mix a heartfelt wish with a sales message.

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Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Tips for Tiger: Handling a Media Mess

Unless you've been living under a rock (or you were "hiking the Appalachian Trail" over the weekend), you know that Tiger Woods is in a tight spot. Figuratively, his ball is in a deep fairway bunker, and he's lying 3 on a tough par-5 ... 255 yards out, with a tree blocking his line to the green.

Yes, something happened at 2:00 in the morning on Friday. We may never know what. Details are sketchy and the story keeps shifting. Today, Tiger released a public statement:

As you all know, I had a single-car accident earlier this week, and sustained some injuries. I have some cuts, bruising and right now I'm pretty sore. This situation is my fault, and it's obviously embarrassing to my family and me. I'm human and I'm not perfect. I will certainly make sure this doesn't happen again. This is a private matter and I want to keep it that way. Although I understand there is curiosity, the many false, unfounded and malicious rumors that are currently circulating about my family and me are irresponsible. The only person responsible for the accident is me. My wife, Elin, acted courageously when she saw I was hurt and in trouble. She was the first person to help me. Any other assertion is absolutely false. This incident has been stressful and very difficult for Elin, our family and me. I appreciate all the concern and well wishes that we have received. But, I would also ask for some understanding that my family and I deserve some privacy no matter how intrusive some people can be.

There are a couple key things to note here:

1- The statement above rings hollow. It lacks contrition. Tiger is not the victim here. He's a public figure; he relinquished his privacy a long time ago. I'm not saying that's fair. It just is. Tiger is also a role model to many, especially many kids. An act like this one equates to him letting down (i.e., disappointing) his fans. He never said, "I am sorry."

2- We haven't seen him. The public cannot judge his non-verbals. We need to see video in order to be able to assess his remorse and his sincerity. Better still, we need to see Tiger with Elin at his side ... happy couple together, working through this together.

With the clear understanding that (1) rehabilitating a reputation takes time and that (2) actions speak louder than words, let's shift the focus toward the public relations strategy. What are the right tactics to use in a situation where a person has made a career-threatening mistake? I would advise my clients and anyone else to adhere to the following ABC principles:

A - Apologize
Admit your mistake and ask for forgiveness. Demonstrate that you have a contrite heart. This is done by speaking in a humble manner and expressing remorse.

B - Be genuine
Show some emotion. No one will forgive an over-rehearsed, stiff emotionless robot. Speak from the heart and use natural, appropriate hand gestures and other non-verbals. Obviously, we don't want to see a blubbering basket case, but genuineness and emotion can be very helpful. This is where television could help.

C - Compassion
Show compassion. The root of the word "passion" is "suffer." To show compassion is to demonstrate that you are suffering with the person (or parties) who were affected. The audience will identify with compassion and respond favorably to it. Perhaps no one understood this better than Bill Clinton who repeatedly emphasized: "I feel your pain." Tiger's last sentence of his statement, calling for some privacy "no matter how intrusive some people can be" simply kills any hint of compassion (for Elin or for his fans).

All in all, the majority of the positive impact, or image rehabilitation, will come in the weeks and months that follow the initial episode. Sorry ... there simply is no quick fix. If Tiger was our client, we would work with him to establish an ambitious, pro-active outreach plan to lead them through this subsequent phase. Ultimately, the key to successfully rehabilitating a reputation is consistently repeating good deeds, rightful and helpful acts, over an extended period, in a manner that reestablishes trust. Hunkering down and remaining invisible will not help to make this go away. The media is not going to let go of this story. Details will continue to emerge, and Tiger (in his defensive posture) will be plagued by such episodes as the story plays out.

ABC Tiger ... ABC!

By the way, The Huffington Post is all over this story, if you want more details and angles.

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