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How to Reach Your Audience The Analyticals
Tom Ahern

April, 2006

ANALYTICALS: GOOD TO THE LAST OBJECTION

Two questions.

Question #1: When was the last time you sat down and listed all the things that people suspect or misunderstand about your organization?

Question #2: Do you depend on statistics to make your case? Maybe you're keen to send out an annual appeal letter lavishly buttered with service stats? "Our dedicated staff of eight plus our 27 volunteers delivered 1,892 evening meals to 1,230 addresses in six counties, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year." The McDonald's approach: 22 trillion served.

If your answer to the first question is "never," and your answer to the second question is "certainly," then it's time you learned more about "the Analytical," one of the four personality types you'll encounter in every audience - in every brain, in fact, including your own.

[The other three personalities? The Amiable. The Bottom-Liner. The Expressive. More about these in upcoming newsletters. Let me just say this: speaking to all four personality types is ESSENTIAL to successful communications. But I digress.]

The Analytical is an information glutton who feasts on documentation and statistical evidence. Sounds good? Not really. Because the other thing you should know about the Analytical is this: he/she is bad at making decisions.

My point? I have two.


First: Don't waste too much time on Analyticals. Analyticals represent just 25% of your audience - and they're the 25% who can't make up their minds. (There is one important exception to this rule: answering objections. See below.)

Second: If you hope statistics will persuade people to give your organization money, prepare to be disappointed. Statistics are weak persuaders. They aim for the head, not the heart, and leave donors cold.

Focus on the other three personality types. They are 75% of your audience. They are just fine at making decisions. But - warning - they will NOT be moved by a wall of statistics. Statistics are unemotional (not good for the Amiable), abstract (not good for the Expressive), and too easily misinterpreted (not good for the Bottom-Liner).

But let's return to the Analytical and the issue of answering objections.

Here's how the Analytical part of your mind thinks.

A recent survey asked donors to guess how much charities spend on administration (salaries, fundraising, etc.). Donors were extremely pessimistic. They guessed that 60% of every dollar they gave went to administration. I was amazed: even though these donors were willing to give their hard-earned money, they remained more than a little cynical about the good intentions (or efficiency, anyway) of the charities they supported. Guilty until proven innocent, was the essence. Imagine what these donors might give, if they knew that the charity actually only spent 15% on administration and 85% on changing the world for the better?

Why were they so skeptical? Has everyone lost their faith in the basic honesty of others? Nope. (Well, actually they have, according to the research in a bestseller called BOWLING ALONE. But that's another discussion, best savored with beer.)

Doubts and objections are just garden-variety human nature at work. You don't think our species became so grotesquely successful by being gullible, do you? Doubt played - and continues to play - a vital role in species survival.

Be prepared. Any communications - your newsletter, Web site, brochure, and certainly your fundraising appeals - will awaken the Analytical response in readers, especially in people who don't know you well.

And the Analytical part of your audience comes well-stocked with suspicions and doubts (read: misconceptions) about your organization.

How much of every dollar that is donated to a food bank actually ends up feeding the hungry? Is that self-satisfied community foundation really just a club for rich folks? Do all the fancy theories behind a charter school truly cause kids to learn better? Does that in-prison counseling service end up coddling criminals? Are zoos really just "animal prisons" by another name? You get the idea. Your only defense is to answer objections early and often.

HINT: One of the best ways I know to get doubting Analyticals on your side is with testimonial. The Jewish Rehabilitation Center for Aged of the North Shore (MA), a nursing home, fills the margins of its brochure with reassuring soundbites like, "We never considered anyplace else for our parents." The National Parks Conservation Association (DC), which raises some of its income through guided tours, runs in its catalog signed notes from recent customers: "I probably learned more on this trip than any I've ever been on. The guides were exceptional, patient, even-tempered, knowledgeable and FUN."

Got testimonial? Use it.

DO charities spend too lavishly on administration? Not the responsible ones. Example: UK-based Plan, an international child development agency with employees in 43 developing countries (at last count), has a bylaw that sets in stone a 20% cap on administrative costs. The rest ends up in community works: drilling wells, building schools, dispensing medicine, etc.

Tom Ahern is recognized as one of North America's leading authorities on how to make nonprofit communications consistently effective. He speaks frequently in the U.S. and Canada on reader psychology, direct mail principles, good (and not very good) graphic design as applied to fundraising and nonprofit branding. He is a writer and president of Ahern Communications, Ink., a consultancy specializing in capital campaign materials and other fundraising communications. Recent clients include a local Boys & Girls Club, a regional hospice in Maryland, a DC-based black HIV-prevention and treatment center, a national agency for low-income elderly housing, a North American Jewish education association, and one of the country's largest community foundations. He has won three prestigious Gold Quill awards from the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC). Gold Quills are given annually to the best communications work submitted by leading corporations from around the world. Tom is also a magazine journalist. His article on the devastating treatments for prostate cancer won a 2001 Sword of Hope Award from the American Cancer Society. He has his MA and BA in English from Brown University, and a Certificate in Advertising Art from the RI School of Design. His offices are in Rhode Island and France.

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