January 19, 2017
Categories: Marketing, PR, and Social Media

Ever wonder why your pet adoption listings fail to generate the interest you expect? Why your fundraising appeals fall flat? Why you aren’t getting much traction in social media for your shelter or rescue group? Maybe it’s time to get out of the animal welfare bubble and understand how your messages are coming across to people who don’t work in the field. Maddie’s Fund® Director of Marketing and Communications Sharon Fletcher has a tried-and-true suggestion!

Much like in real estate, where it’s all about “location, location, location,” marketing and communications depends on “audience, audience, audience.” This is especially true in animal welfare, where the powerful emotional connections people have with companion animals are critical to getting pets adopted and inspiring community members to volunteer, foster, and donate to shelters and rescue groups.

While many adoption organizations do a great job identifying and appealing to the right audience, others struggle with “preaching to the choir” — using messages that appeal to them and others in the animal welfare, but that don’t resonate, or may even deter, people who aren’t in the field.

I call those industry-outsiders “my neighbors,” because my actual neighbors — the people in my neighborhood — are my most valuable focus group to test out new ideas and language to talk about animal lifesaving.  They help me understand how a potential adopter, donor or volunteer will interpret the idea, marketing message or advertising graphic. Will they connect with it? Will the message convey what I want it to convey?

The responses I’ve received from my neighbors, or someone I met in line at Starbucks, have kept me on the right track dozens of times over the years. That’s why the question I first ask my team is always this: “What would my neighbors think?” They’ve actually started referring to our target audience as “Sharon’s neighbors.”

The reason our neighbors are such a powerful test market is that they represent a group of people going about their everyday activities, and connecting with their community in more ways that I even know. Above all, they are our potential adopters, donors, volunteers and foster caregivers.

I generally meet my neighbors the old-fashioned way, while walking my dog each evening, or putting out the trash cans, or picking up the mail. But with technology now, one can even post on your own Next Door app site to poll your neighbors for their honest opinions. And don’t we all love to share our opinions on what matters most to us?

So when you think you have a great idea or a novel concept, test it out. Meet your audience where they are… which could be right next door.