Why Desperation Doesn’t Sell (Non-profits listen up!)

Businesses, non-profit organizations, and bachelors take note: desperation will not get you what you need. Some fight feel empathy for you, some might even take pity and give a charitable donation, but desperation will not get you a lifelong customer, donor, or mate!

People like to invest in success. There’s a reason why a busy restaurant with a line out the door will attract more customers than the empty one next door with plenty of seats still available.  A hungry person will usually be willing to wait in line because they assume that the food will be fresher and probably tastier. In fact, a line will attract someone who isn’t even hungry because they want to see what the commotion is all about. An investor or potential sponsor wants to be careful who they align their brand with. A donor wants to make sure that their money is effective in the cause that they’re trying to support. If there is an air of despair, customers will assume that there is a legitimate reason for your lack of success.

When a person roots for the underdog, they do because they still believe there is a fighting chance even if the odds are stacked against them. On the other hand, if the situation seems hopeless, they’ll just assume that nothing can be done. If there is a great or immediate need, it is vital to remove any association with despair but instead frame it with success and optimism. Here are a few suggestions:

  • For the non-profit: Highlight your past successes or focus on progress made with the immediate goal (“Only $5,000 left until we can build the new building, be a part of helping us make it!”). You can highlight why it is a privilege to support the organization, how their gift will be used/appreciated/recognized, or even how their gift will give hope to a dire situation.
  • If you are a business: Talk about how you are the best kept secret about to take over the world. If you’re new, affirm your fresh ideas, products, or service and how they will can solve an old problem.
  • For anyone: get your biggest supporters (even if its just your friends and family) to start talking about you, blogging about you, or writing a simple review on a relevant site. Just like a moving stream is more attractive than a stale swamp, fresh new ideas or activity will beckon potential customers more than old content.

Remember, you don’t want anyone’s pity; you want his or her support. The first and only transaction with a customer shouldn’t be during your “going out of business” sale. You want to create a lasting relationship with the prospect. Whether you are in retail, play in a band, or are part of an organization that fights cancer, you want lifelong fans who will support you and spread your message.

It’s also important not to make any false claims. If your marketing language cannot match your product or service, customers will feel deceived. If you rely on marketing buzzwords or artificial hype, constituents will see right through it.  Failing a customer does not cost you one sale; it will cost you a lifetime of business from that one person (and most likely business from their circle of contacts as well).

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