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January 13, 2023

Mission Multiplier: Self-Diagnosis Part 1

Jane Pfeiffer

Hello and welcome to Mission Multiplier. I’m Jane Pfeiffer, president and founder of Fieldtrip. We’re a marketing and branding firm that specializes in helping nonprofit and purpose driven organizations reduce their largest expense. It’s the cost of “IDKs”. It’s the cost when someone out there doesn’t know you. I don’t know what you do. I don’t know that I should care. I don’t know how it impacts me. Or possibly I don’t know if you can help me. So those “IDKs” or “I don’t knows”, create lost opportunities. That’s your biggest expense. When we reduce those, we create a mission multiplier. Today we’re going to talk about how most prospective clients, when they come to us, have already self-diagnosed their marketing problem.

They need a new website, they want to update their brand, or they need an advertising campaign to increase utilization of their services. It’s not that self-diagnosis is totally wrong. They’re usually on the right track. The danger is that they’re almost there, but not quite.

Let’s say you’re shooting an arrow from a bow and arrow to a target a hundred yards away. One degree of error will put you six feet away from that target. When I say that your self-diagnosis is almost there, it is in the right direction most often, but just the slightest miss can off-put it. Feet, miles, and a lot of dollars away from the target that your organization and your mission really needs. We’re going to talk about three things that are wrong with self-diagnosis and I’m going to breaking down one week at a time. Today, it’s going to be about the impossibility to read the label when you’re inside the bottle.

Now, this is not a phrase I came up with. You’ve probably heard it before, and I’m from Kentucky, so there’s lots of bottles around here. Bourbon bottles, that is. Labels and bottles go hand in hand. And yet, as a leader, we’re stuck inside that bottle. And we can’t design the label, the solution, or even know what the outside world thinks of us, if we live and stay in there – Marketing is all about what lives beyond what we know. The first reason that you can’t design the label or read the label when you’re inside the bottle is that, quite frankly, you’re blind.

We all are. That’s not an insult to you. It’s just impossible to see yourself and your organization and your mission from every possible perspective. When you look in the mirror, you can’t see yourself as others see you. Have you ever driven home and you sometimes wonder, “Did I even stop at that last light?” It’s just the drive is so routine that you’ve started to zone out and the things that appear, might just be taken for granted.

You might accept them as a reality. You might accept them as an obstacle when really it’s something else. We become blind on a regular basis and accustomed to the things that we see. Here’s an example- We had a nonprofit client who wanted a website that would generate leads. Their website was in bad shape. It was severely outdated (not even good as an online brochure). Yes, it was holding them back. However, their miss was that they needed to focus on driving leads. When we dug into the process and the root of why they needed leads, we uncovered that their sales profit & process was 18 months to two years long. Something that was really a different concept, but not that difficult.

What we recommended was that it wasn’t more leads that they needed what they needed was a website that would, yes, create opportunities for inquiries, but would do a better job explaining what the organization offered, what they didn’t, and most importantly, the benefit of working with them. The website needed to create not quantity, but increase the quality and have more informed leads so that that sales process wasn’t as long.

The second reason for again, being in your own way is bias. We all have it. We work to rid ourselves of it, or at least recognize it. Your marketing is supposed to strengthen the relationship between those who know you and those who have yet to hear you or experience you. Neither of those audiences are you. When you’re working to expand your reach, “If only people knew about us.” That’s true. Nevertheless, it’s so much deeper. Let me give you an example. We once worked with a financially focused organization, and we asked them to personify their organization. If it was a person, if it walked into the office right now, what would that person look like, do, act? The executive leadership said it’s a suburban mom. She takes care of her children, drives an SUV and occasionally on her way home from work, she stops by the park and lets her kids play as she checks up on email and just enjoys to listen to their laughter. That’s a great visual. Ironically, when we asked the public their perception of the same organization, we had a personification of an elderly couple who was retired would spend their afternoons sitting on a park bench watching young adults build a playground for children.

You can see the disparity between those two views. If we had just taken the leadership’s personification and their views of who they were and run with, that our work would have been way off target. In fact, what we had to do is backtrack and actually work to help them see that this was the outside perception. We didn’t have to accept it as reality, but we did have to recognize it and then decide how are we going to gradually change it towards a more inviting and invigorating brand.

The third reason is that you have to bring the audience to the table. So often I see a board of directors, a leadership team, or a brand committee, a website committee, and they’re all those people who know the organization very well. That’s great. We need those perspectives at the table. More importantly, who is likely not at your decision making table is the beneficiary the people that your mission serves. We have to take their consideration and input. In fact, it takes greater priority than most others input, those who benefit from your mission, are likely not at the decision making table. Furthermore, that’s the opinion that needs to drive the strategy. An example of this is a recovery center for pregnant women. Sure, we could talk about the dangers of neonatal abstinence syndrome or that addiction is hard to beat. What mattered most to the expectant mother who was struggling with addiction is that she was an impossible position. She was facing a choice between taking care of herself and getting the recovery services and support that she needed and then giving up her newborn until she was completed with her recovery. Or she could keep her newborn, but not get the support.

She didn’t think there was an option to do both. That’s what this recovery program offered was the rare opportunity to avoid that choice. That’s what became most important, not the statistics or the guilt or the rationale, but the emotion of not needing to choose between taking care of yourself and taking care of you and being away from your children.

If we had, again, listened to just the people at the table, we would have missed that slight insight that really put the work on target. All of this to say that you’ll likely know what you need from a marketing agency. Just allow space in your mind for a fresh perspective, for a challenging opinion, and to probe beyond what you are assuming or what you see every day.

Get outside the bottle or get help from outside the bottle. Because when you do, you reduce the expense of lost opportunities and multiply your mission. Next week, we’ll talk about reason two: the problem with self-diagnosis. I’m Jane Pfeiffer and visit us at for more.