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But My Prospects Are Smarter and More Sophisticated

Your Sophisticated Donor is Not That Sophisticated

No They Are Not

Whether you’re Yale, the local Diocese or the SPCA around the corner, your talk should be simple, direct and concise; preferably written in 10th grade English. Make that 9th grade.

“But my prospects are smarter…”

They may be, but the average attention span is not geared for reading anything that requires effort. So if you’re writing copy for your next solicitation, brochure or newsletter, here are some pointers:

  1. Read your copy aloud. If you find tongue twisters or hang-ups, fix them. The letter should read easily and flow smoothly from one thought to the next whether read silently or aloud.
  2. Read the copy to a typical prospect. This could be an acid test. Better yet, create a bond with a donor by asking for help and advice. You’ll be delighted with the results. Be certain to thank them with a small gift.
  3. Have a young child read your copy aloud. Any phrases the youngster has difficulty with should probably be changed.
  4. Don’t fall for the “sophistication trap”. One out of three American adults lack the skill level required to be considered satisfactorily literate.

“But my prospects are definitely smarter than everyone else!”

A colleague at Yale Law once told me that one of his prospects, a well-educated attorney, mentioned how complicated these gift plans were and asked whether he could explain it to her over dinner. (As an aside … she was a litigator in Manhattan earning around 1.8 M a year — not exactly a light weight.)

No matter who the recipient of your marketing materials might be, it is better to err on the side of simplicity. As H.L. Mencken said, “No one ever went broke under-estimating the intelligence of the American public.” In fact, many have gone broke overestimating the sophistication of their customers. If you are stubborn about this, you’ll go broke too.

Not keeping it overly-simple? Read why may dad decided to stop giving.

Write for Passion. Edit for Clarity.

Solicitation letter writing is no place for cold, hard, logic. Most people, even logical people, make important decisions based on emotion, not logic… an important fact the advertising industry uses to its advantage.

People buy on emotion and then justify their choice with logic. I learned this the hard way trying to prove to prospects how great our products were compared to our competitors’ and losing sales to slick, emotional salesmanship. You can’t provoke emotion with a pie chart and a spread sheet. Just look at juries these days. If the glove doesn’t fit a …

Consider this: regardless of the fact that planned giving newsletters do not get read, fundraisers still continue using them. They either have an intimate relationship with their sales person or are emotionally tied to the idea. Logic would prove otherwise.

That’s the reason you Don’t find many hard-core analytical personalities in sales. Most successful salespeople – even in highly technical fields – have amiable, friendly, enthusiastic personalities. They are a “people people.”

Your sales letter should reflect the same attitude, especially in the area of planned giving.

“Cold fish” solicitation letters rarely work. The purely logical, factual approach fails almost every time. An effective sales letter needs to be doubly enthusiastic and expressive because it is ink on paper, not warm flesh and blood. Since the prospect cannot read your enthusiasm in person, it must be conveyed in print. What may seem overly expressive when you write will most likely wind up understated when it’s read.

So, no matter what you think about your prospect’s attention span or sophistication level, the number one sin is being boring. The desirable opposite is being exciting, passionate, a little wild; maybe bold and daring; perhaps even shocking; or you can make your descriptions poetic, romantic and colorful. “Let your creative juices flow and your personality shine through.”

Aggressive Editing

Aggressive editing means cutting out every word or phrase that fails to advance, strengthen, or reinforce your message. You are not editing to shorten. You are editing to clarify, and that will in itself shorten your document.

Learn from “street smart” pros…

Some of the most talented and best-paid copy-writers are those who develop copy-intensive direct response ads for the National Enquirer, earning fees of $25,000 to $100,000 per ad. To command that kind of money, you have to be good at drawing a response… the results have to be outstanding. So if you want to learn about effective copywriting tactics, pick up a copy of the National Enquirer; skip the articles about invading Martians impregnating local fundraisers and just study the ads.

Did we say 9th grade English? Make that 8th …

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