By Yitzchok Saftlas
One of the most important lessons in marketing was taught neither by an advertising professional nor a business professor. Rather, it was publicized by a sailor-turned-statesman during a cold-war era speech that has since been emblazoned into the pages of history books throughout the globe.
“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard…”
– President John F. Kennedy – September 12, 1962
This historical quote – intended to generate enthusiasm against the ideological battle with the Soviet Union – is priceless. It serves as more than just a political sound-bite; deeper than a philosophical statement; and infinitely more valuable than a mere political opinion. This powerful quote is a genuine exemplification of results-oriented planning and direction.
If nothing more, President Kennedy’s precise vision enabled the USA to overcome the Russians in their quest to win the “Space Race.” By setting a defined goal, the American Nation had a blueprint charted out for them; all they needed to do was follow it. Astronaut Neil Armstrong’s stroll on the moon in 1969 was merely a culmination of the president’s vision.
Now imagine for a moment that President Kennedy would have walked up to the podium, looked directly at the news cameras and said something to this effect:
“We plan on making space capsules that will boast many detailed electrical components. They will utilize advanced rocket thrusters to propel them through space. The space capsules will be equipped with heat shields that will protect them while reentering the atmosphere. Oh yeah, and we’re gonna use them to send a few people to the moon.”
Do you honestly think such a muddled, vague speech – chock full of facts, but devoid of substance or direction – would have given the rocket engineers at NASA proper guidance, inspiration and encouragement? Of course not! It is highly doubtful such a speech would have made it to the headlines of reputable newspapers, let alone to serve as the impetus of putting a man on the moon.
If there was one cardinal rule to be etched into the cornerstone of every institution or organization, it would be the lesson taught by President Kennedy: Market your mission, not your services!
Because strictly speaking, services may change and evolve with the times – but an entity’s mission will almost always remain the same.
For example, a hospital’s mission is to save people’s lives. A hundred years ago, somebody with severe cardiac issues might have only received an unperfected, rudimentary surgical procedure to help alleviate the condition. In 2014, a person suffering from a serious cardiac condition, can opt for a stent, bypass surgery or even a heart transplant that will allow them to enjoy long and healthy lives. You see, the hospital’s methods may have changed – but their mission of saving lives hasn’t.
In the same vein, when an organization in its newsletter, advertisements and brochures, tries to woo potential donors with oodles of technical information such as: “We maintain a caring staff of over 35 special-education teachers”, they are failing to captivate readers with an important message; rather it bores people with random facts that don’t give over a specific point – and most importantly, doesn’t urge recipients to donate.
Now if you were to take that exact same statement and transform it into a message that gives off a powerful vibe such as: “Our educators help disabled children learn to read and gain self-confidence and independence”, it clearly delineates what your organization’s mission is and why it’s important for the reader to take part in your important cause.
When renowned marketing guru, Alan Rosenspan, was hired by a large auto body repair shop to launch a marketing campaign in an industry thick with competition, he refrained from using the clichéd marketing language that others in the industry were using (such as: “Lots of experience!” or “Professional staff!”). Instead, he sent prospective customers a crumpled-up postcard with the following to-the-point sentence: “If your car looks like this, you should come to O’Neil’s Body Shop!”
As you can see, this no-beating-around-the-bush headline zoomed in on what the company’s mission was (e.g. to fix bashed up cars) and kept away from the side details which were obviously important to attract clients, but not the primary selling message (e.g. how many years in business, competency of staff, etc.).
It is of paramount importance for businesses and non-profits to focus on highlighting and emphasizing their mission on all marketing materials.
Because by having a defined mission that clearly conveys to people – be it clients with car wrecks or donors with wallets – what you do and why it concerns them, you transform others from being impossibly interested into possible profit-boosters.
Bottom Line Action Step:
Always communicate your mission, not just your services, to your clients and donors.