Relationship Marketing? Yes!
Unfortunately, ministry marketers can often fall into a trap …
One that takes significant energy, effort, time, and money to escape. Best thing you can do: avoid the trap to begin with.
What is this mistake? Cutting off donors — shutting down channels of communication — isolating them outside the circle of their ministry.
What? No way! you might be thinking. I would never allow such a thing!
Well, here’s the rub: It’s never on purpose. It happens by accident. We inadvertently fail to establish and cultivate relationships.
It comes as a surprise to many ministry personnel that the ideal means of generating response from a donor is to establish a relationship with that donor.
- The phrase “relationship marketing” was so overused and abused a number of years ago that it’s no wonder many avoid it.
- Some hear “relationship marketing” and think “warm, fuzzy letters that don’t really ask people for donations.”
- Some ministries have gone down this muddy road only to find themselves sunk up to the axles in budget problems.
But let’s abandon such a definition of relationship marketing. Let’s look at relationship for what it really is: an essential component of any response.
How, after all, does response occur? Let’s observe the process backwards, to see where the donor’s response came from:
The donor gives. That’s RESPONSE.
What did it take for the donor to give? It took CONVICTION. It took being convinced that the proposition was worth responding to.
By what process did the donor come to such a conviction? It was the process of PERSUASION.
The ministry brought the donor along, at a certain pace, to a place of confidence in the decision she was about to make.
By what means did that process of persuasion take place? It took place by way of COMMUNICATION.
Persuasion can’t happen in a void. It requires a transmission of information.
But if I’m busy, bored, or a bad reader, I can cut off the communication at any moment. The busy wife and mom can turn off the TV whenever the infomercial has lost her attention … or simply exit the “ad” on her smartphone.
How did it happen that the donor allowed the communication to continue?
Answer: There was RELATIONSHIP.
The ministry got the donor’s attention. The ministry cut through the mayhem of the day by relating to the donor — talking to her about something in the realm of her own needs, motives, and priorities. This initial expression of relating elicited an instant, instinctive response of interest from the donor — a bit of visceral feedback.
The ministry went on, transmitting more information, continuing to relate to the donor’s situation, and weaving in the ministry’s proposition. The donor continued to respond with attention.
If the two had been carrying on a face-to-face conversation, the donor would have offered positive responses: “Mm-hm,” “Yes, I see,” and nods of the head.
But that’s not possible in a letter- or email-writing and -reading situation, the means by which many ministries solicit the lion’s share of their contributions. All we can hope for is that the donor will continue to allow the information to be transmitted. In other words, we hope she’ll keep reading.
How can it happen? We’ll see … stay tuned!