According to Brand Marketing Blog, niche brands are better than broad brands.
A niche brand is one that is very meaningful to some people, but not applicable to most people. Niche brands seek to create deep relationships with a subset of potential customers, and ignore the rest.
Broad brands have high brand recognition but aren’t particularly well-liked, as we see in mass retailers, insurance companies, banks, etc.
What does this have to do with you? Food for thought, maybe.
Chances are, your organization isn’t a huge, nationally or internationally well-known one. So why make communications decisions as if you are?
People are attracted to niche brands for a number of reasons – they serve an unusual purpose. Or they foster a sense of community. They make customers feel special and proud to buy from them. Their customers are loyal, sometimes even fanatical.
And smart brands nurture that feeling. They may not have zillions of customers, but the ones they have are valued. That’s the key to their growth. That’s what fuels their success.
So why would you treat every donor the same? Why wouldn’t you spend the time and attention to make each part of your community feel as important as they are?
Think about the nonprofit communications you receive. How many identical mail packs do you receive from different organizations? That makes you feel real warm and fuzzy, doesn’t it?
You can make your supporters feel like they matter. And it’s not that hard. But you have to want to do it.
Start with good data
Keep it clean, folks. I know, I know, it’s work. But your list is critical to building those lasting relationships you’re after. Read this piece by Roger Craver and Nick Ellinger about keeping it updated. Then make sure you do it.
Be careful with data entry, too. If you hand it off to the least-experienced person on your team, make sure you check the work. Be picky.
Why does it matter? Mail that goes nowhere hurts your bottom line. Getting names wrong hurts your supporters’ sense of belonging.
Make a good first impression
If you’re trying to acquire new donors, do it thoughtfully. It may feel wise to spend the least amount of money to contact the most potential donors. But do you want one-time donors or people who will stay with you?
First impressions stick. It’s harder to change a bad first impression than it is to maintain a good one.
Know your donors
Dig into the data you have. Use surveys. And offer quick and easy feedback options all the time. Then listen and respond!
Animal organization? Find out if your donors are dog or cat people. Not sure about salutations? Ask! Then use that information.
Create personas for your donors. Take what you know and create personas for your donors. Better yet, segment and create several personas. Even if you only get to know a percentage of your donors, you can use those you do know to create better personas.
Also – create opportunities to meet your donors. Make it clear in every thank you letter that you welcome their call. (And mean it!) Create free, inexpensive opportunities for your donors to meet each other. Build a community!
Use simple tools you already have to make the most of your communications
I hope you have a good donor management system, because that’s a key investment if you want to raise money. Don’t cheap out here!
If you’re feeling pressed for time and plan to send a generic message, stop a moment. You can personalize those communications and still print them all at once.
Creating a mailing? Variable merges in Excel can do wonders. I know most of the explanations can be hard to get through – but it’s really not as hard as it looks. Write different copy for different segments of your list. Then you can use an IF-THEN statement to make sure each donor gets just the right message.
You can even use Excel to insert images! I collected board signatures and then placed them on personalized letters this way. (These instructions might not work with later versions of Word. You can try this, instead.)
Does it take a little more work? Sure. But it’s so worth the trouble.
Understand what your brand really is
Here’s a hint: it’s not about your logo, fonts or colors. It’s about how people feel about you. And how they feel about you has a lot to do with how you feel about them. Or, rather, how you show them you feel about them.
So build your brand around your mission and around your donors. Be known for treating people well. Raise expectations. Then meet them. Then raise them again.
People are very loyal when you show them you care. And to some extent, inertia helps, too. But first, you need to worm your way into their hearts by letting them know you think they matter.
Successful brands focus obsessively on great customer service. You should, too. One bad impression can wipe out so much good will! Don’t let it happen. And if it does, make it right.
There can be a whole lot good about small and mighty
But even if yours is not a small organization, work to let your donors feel like you are. Not in the reach of your mission or in what you accomplish. But by how personally you treat them. How you make them feel.
The first post I published here was about a large organization’s response to a memorial gift I made. I received a rote thank, including a card for me to send to the friend whose mom had died. Then… to make things worse, there was no way to even contact the development staff. Needless to say, I now deposit their appeals right in the recycling bin.
Don’t let that happen to you. Make treating donors well an organizational value. A rule, not an exception. Spend time thinking of new ways to be sure people know they matter to you.
If you stop treating a dear friend well, the friendship may not last. Treat new donors well, and reward loyal donors with warm, personal treatment.