business development, fundraising industry

Stop Being Interchangeable

Too many businesses, consultants, professionals, and organizations exist just to exist. They’re the same as everyone else. “We really listen to our customers.” “We take a data-driven approach to your marketing.” “We are driven and willing to do what it takes to get the job done.”

Blah, blah, blah.

Do you think anyone doesn’t listen to their customers? Do you think marketing firms don’t have data? Do you think that companies just exist to do a half-assed job and leave you unsatisfied?

Those aren’t differentiators.

Those aren’t anything special. If you’re writing something like that, I have to tell you, you’re not doing what you think you are with that kind of posturing.

Ultimately, you’re no different than anyone else. I can see it when I read your blog posts, or your website. Most importantly, I see it in your actions.

I know, because you all say the same things over and over and over. Just like everyone else in your sector.

You’re nothing special for that. Instead, you’re just like the rest. Interchangeable.

And that’s a problem.

Because when you’re interchangeable, you’re competing on price. When the results are the same no matter where you go, you go where those results are cheapest.

Don’t do that.

Don’t let your customers do that. Don’t let your donors do that (don’t let them “shop” your nonprofit for a better “fit” for their donation dollars next year).

Set your value, and let others come to you for the value you bring.

Be different.

Be unexchangeable.

You’re interchangeable if there’s nothing special about you.

If you are (or I am) “just another copywriter”.

Or “just another life coach”.

Or “just another animal shelter”.

Or if you’re doing work that others have already defined, have already scoped out, and all you are doing is filling in gaps they have identified.

That may be okay.

But it’s not really interesting.

More important, it’s not really lucrative.

Most important, it’s not really make a difference.

It’s the generic work, the things “anyone” can do.

Those are the 85% – the 90% – the 95%.

In order to move the needle – in order to really change something – you’ve got to stand out.

You’ve got to be different.

You need to be in the top 5%, to be something that exists nowhere else, to bring ideas that exist nowhere else.

And to do that, you probably need to create some of your own opinion material.

Rather than collating everyone else’s work, just summarizing, you probably need to stake out a position that’s different from everyone else.

You need, in the terms of the Army, to “take that hill”, then defend it with everything you have.

Be unique. Demonstrate that uniqueness. Celebrate it. Promote it.

If you’re not unique, find a way to be unique.

Sales calls this the “unique selling proposition”. It exists for a reason.

When I’m writing about nonprofits, I don’t have a pedigree of a degree and decades of working in the sector.

All I have is my observations, and my opinion.

But they’re mine.

I’m not simply regurgitating results from the Giving USA report (though I did review it). I’m not just collating a bunch of statistics from online researchers and presenting them as if they represent my own original thought process.

I’m actually creating a new position – a new set of opinions – on how nonprofits should work.

I believe they should stop measuring “Retention” and instead should measure “Faithfulness”. [Read that here.]

I believe they should do more in the way of forecasting out four, five, or even 10 years, to see what their expected finances will be. That way, they can determine how much they should spend in order to change that future with greater retention rates. [Read that here.]

And I believe they should stop calling themselves “nonprofit”, as if they are identified by their tax status. [That’s a much longer post, and for another time. I’m not ready to back up that point just yet.]

The message is, though, that each of these positions is unique. I take it, I can defend it, I am using these to stake out my own place in this industry.

My blog posts aren’t just collations of “7 tips that everyone else already knows, but I feel like I’ve got to create some kind of content, so, here, take this that nobody really is going to read or, if they do, won’t learn anything new anyway, but, heck, at least it plays the SEO game well.”

I’m actually providing thought leadership.

Which, if you want to be taken seriously, you’re going to have to do as well.

No more of this circle-jerk of linking to “influencers” in the hopes of some kind of a shout-out.

No more repeating what’s been conventional wisdom for decades, just because you need something to fill a content hole this week and you lack for ideas that might change how you do business or work with a partner. ‘Tis better to skip throwing more crap on the pile than to simply regurgitate for the sake of Google.

Do your own research.

Take a risk. Stick your own neck out.

Make your own noise.

Be different.

And make the world better for it.

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This is part of a sporadic series of posts on useless ideas to stop, and what to replace those with. [Stop Saying Thank You] and [Nonprofits Don’t Have a Donor Retention Problem, They Have a Donor “Retention” Problem] are the first two, with more to follow.