FYI Blog

20 Things Our Moms Taught Us About Marketing

Barb and her mom - retro photo

Photo: Barb and her mom circa 1982-ish

Eat your veggies, get a good night’s sleep, drink plenty of water—we always knew that following mom’s rules would keep us safe and healthy. But it turns out mom is also a marketing expert, doling out sage advice for running state-of-the art multi-channel marketing campaigns. Who knew?
Skeptical? We polled the Avalon staff for their favorite “momisms” and discovered that we may have been misreading our moms’ messages all along …

  1. “You can’t please all the people all the time.” Mom was actually talking about strategically segmenting your file to identify and contact those most likely to respond right now. Don’t waste your time on the people who aren’t going to give anyway.
  2. “Technology’s great … when it works!” Translated: Make technology work for your donors and prospects by making it easy for them to get involved and give through mobile apps, social media, and your website.
  3. “Nod and smile.” Mom meant that we have to smile, be helpful, and get along with others—even when we don’t agree. This is especially true when it comes to donor stewardship. Turn that donor with a beef into a loyal supporter!
  4. “Brass might come back in style.” This from a mom who wanted to hold on to her old brass bathroom fixtures during a bathroom renovation—and she might be right. Consider the workhorse marketing strategies that are often derided as tired and far from cutting-edge, like matching gift challenges. These old standbys still work like a charm!
  5. “I have a coupon.” We heard about a mom who—no joke—used a coupon for her late husband’s headstone. And why not? That mom teaches us to offer good value in our membership benefits and see how our members respond.
  6. v3 pickles Barbs mom“No. More. Pickles!” One mom so strenuously objected to pickles that she complained to Panera corporate about always getting one rolled in with her sandwich, even when she explicitly asked them NOT to. Corporate wrote a nice note back … with a coupon. You better believe she kept eating at Panera! When you really listen to your donors, take note of their preferences, and give them what they want, they will reward you.
  7. “Stop worrying about what other people think.” Mom is telling you that being different can be a good thing—so blaze your own trail and don’t hide what makes your organization unique. Celebrate it!
  8. “Well, look at you, Martha Stewart!” One mom, recognizing the value of a little bit of effort, was often duly impressed by her daughter’s measly patio garden or her use of fresh garlic in cooking. You can get the same effect with donor communications. Put in a little effort to say “thank you,” personalize the letter, or recognize past support. Also: spending a little more money for high-touch communications when you’re trying to upgrade your donors will pay off.
  9. “Give him an inch, he’ll think he’s a ruler.” This one’s all about speaking truth to power—limiting sweeping edicts from above like “Let’s do all our fundraising online” and “Find a way to raise money from Millennials.” Stay true to tested and proven marketing best practices, and don’t let uninformed rulers risk your marketing budget on shiny new things.
  10. “Clean up your room.” It was the worst way to spend an afternoon when you were a kid, but now that you’re a grown-up marketer, doing the mundane work necessary to ensure your data is always clean and up to date will pay off time and time again.
  11. “No dessert before dinner.” Your mom was right—there’s a proper order to things. So before you jump into testing, follow the protocols to ensure your statistics will be valid and the test will yield the information you need.
  12. “Don’t forget your raincoat” … or umbrella … or sweater.” In other words, take heed of your environment and take advantage when your mission is in the news. And while you’re at it, develop a contingency plan.
  13. “Plant bulbs when the squirrels aren’t looking.” Simply this: Be prepared to take advantage of strategic, rapid-response opportunities the moment they arise.
  14. “Just because [name of friend] jumped off the [ local tall structure], would you jump, too?!” Here mom is telling you to think for yourself. Just because other organizations are trying a certain trend doesn’t mean it’s wise for your organization to buy into the same fad.
  15. “Measure twice, cut once.” This one’s a no-brainer, but so important. Before finalizing anything, follow mom’s advice and review the details again.
  16. “Rules were meant to be broken.” This was sometimes surprising coming from mom—like when she served banana splits for dinner on a summer night because it was too hot to cook. But she’s right, of course: Be flexible, do the unexpected, and you might be surprised and pleased with the result.
  17. “Children should be seen and not heard.” Think you have to come up with all the ideas? Be quiet and really listen and you’ll see that good ideas can come from anyone—your donors, your interns, and even your mom!
  18. “Many hands make light work” and “Two heads are better than one.” Some moms definitely didn’t subscribe to the “Too many cooks spoil the broth” mode of thinking. Collaboration gets the best results!
  19. “Back on the pad, rocket. Wait for the countdown.” Spoken by a mom with a squirmy toddler. In other words, don’t rush into things. Take a breath, think it through. Simple advice with far-reaching consequences.
  20. “When you pass the salt, pass the pepper, too.” Mom knew you need to anticipate what people want/balance your marketing communications with asks and cultivation and through different channels. Find that sweet spot between communicating enough, but not too much, so you don’t overwhelm your donors and prospects.

Mom always wanted what’s best for you, so take her advice and reminders to heart, because now we know: she’s a marketing genius! Happy Mother’s Day!