Why People Ignore Your Nonprofit’s Marketing and What to Do About It

People have a physiological ability to ignore your marketing, but there is something you can do about it, try a little Guerrilla marketing.

The human brain has a coping mechanism that helps people filter out unwanted communication and if you are not careful, the brains of the people you want to reach with your marketing will automatically edit you out of your prospect’s minds before they even have a chance to think about responding to you.

The Reticular Activating System (RAS) of the human brain manages the daily function of consciousness and filters out unwanted stimuli. This autonomic physiological ability is nature’s way of helping humans block out ambient noises and other distractions to aid in concentration.

It’s a handy part of the brain too, there are a lot of sensory events going on all around you all the time. Imagine how crazy it would drive you if you actually heard every noise around you, or noticed everything you saw.

The problem with this is your marketing message is mixed up in all the other noises that surround the people you want to reach and can easily get blocked by their automatic brain filters. Researchers say that people experience between 1,500-3,500 appeals for their attention every day. No wonder brains are filtering out marketing messages-there’s a mess of them!

How do you break through the natural attention filtering of your target audience?

Here are four Guerrilla marketing battle plans for breaking through and getting the attention of the customers you want to reach:

  1. Be patient: It takes a prospect seeing your message nine times before they are ready to act on it. Before they see your message the first time, you probably showed it to them three times. Most marketers quit before their marketing has a chance to work. Keep plugging until you have showed them your message twenty-seven times and you’ll be cashing checks and not just writing them for advertising.
  2. Stop changing messages so much: Just because you are bored with your marketing doesn’t mean your audience is. Chances are they haven’t even “seen” it yet. And if you have something that worked before, why on earth did you change it?
  3. Narrow your target: The more narrow your audience, the smaller the target and easier it is to repeat your message multiple times. The smaller the target, the bigger the bulls-eye.
  4. Stop talking about yourself: Most marketers send out “me marketing” marketing that says “Notice me” and “See how great my product is.” Most people are looking out for themselves, they think “What’s in it for me?” People don’t filter out things that meet their needs. They don’t filter out “You marketing.” Make sure your marketing speaks to your audience from their point of view, with their needs in mind.

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    4 thoughts on “Why People Ignore Your Nonprofit’s Marketing and What to Do About It”

    1. So true, Chris! Many nonprofits have little to spend and often try to be all things to all people. Targeting and narrowing with a good segmentation strategy allows their dollars to go farther.

      Can’t wait to see the new book!

    2. Thanks Josh,

      The only problems with advertising is it never works alone. Guerrilla marketing is about combinations of elements that come together to make your organization’s outreach the most effective it can be. The problem with looking at other people’s ads that “worked” is they worked because they are tailored to the programs, products, or services of the organization in a way that meets the specific target audience’s needs. If what you offer doesn’t appeal to the needs of the targeted audience and the benefits are unclear, no amount of advertising will work. While you can learn a lot from the concepts of good ads, you gain a lot more imitating the practices behind the development of them.

      We will be posting specific examples of good advertising, in the weeks and months ahead with this in mind. In the meantime, if you want someone to look at your strategy with you and explore your marketing goals with you. Take a look at the Guerrilla Marketing Association. There are certified Guerrilla Marketing Coaches and Master Trainers moderating the group and answering questions in the GM coaching forum.

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