Ep 5: Erica Mills Barnhart: Who Are Your True Believers?

On this solo episode of Marketing for Good, Erica talks about the reality of missions statements, three types of people in marketing, and channeling your energy and resources into being totally authentic to attract people who believe what you believe.


This is a transcript of Erica Mills Barnhart’s interview with Dana Van Nest on the Marketing for Good podcast. You can listen to the episode here and listen to more episodes on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you enjoy listening to podcasts. Enjoy!


true believers, mission statements, manna, marketing, target audience, marketer, attract, convert

Erica Mills Barnhart 00:05

Welcome back or welcome to the marketing for good podcast. I’m your host Eric Mills Barnhart. Do you know who your true believers are? I know of one true believer in marketing for good. Her name is Beth Russell and she is the Director of Family Matters in Mount Vernon, Indiana. Want to know how I know she is a true believer? Because the other day I sent out an email about this very podcast. In it I said that words to me were like manna from heaven. I spelled manna with one n. Beth took the time to reply to that email, and let me know that manna with one n did not mean what I meant it to mean. Okay side bar, if you’re a true believer in the movie the Princess Bride, which I am, you just said out loud or in your mind “I do not think that word means what you think it means”. I know you did. I did. Okay, back to Beth. She sent the dictionary definitions for manna with one n and with two, she didn’t just send an email being like you got it wrong Erica, she took the time to educate me. With one n mana means the power of the elemental forces of nature embodied in an object or person moral authority, prestige, totally not what I meant. I ment manna with two n’s as in divinely supplied spiritual nourishment. How cool is it that Beth took time out of her very, very, very busy life serving families in Posey County, Indiana, to let me know that? She is a true believer in the power of words, just like me, and what they can do for your mission. Now, I don’t know if Beth is responsible for writing the Family Matters mission statement. I, of course, you know, when I got this email, I went on their website. I want us to learn more about them. Okay, but just listen to how clear this is: Family Matters builds stronger families in our community through information, education, interaction and involvement. Boom. To their true believers, that mission statement is manna with two n’s from heaven, because it is so darn clear. I talk about mission statements a lot on this podcast and in general and in life. Because so many are unfortunately, so, so, so, so bad. I wanted to share an example of one that is clear, compelling and repeatable that is the gold standard for mission statements. If you want more on mission statements, if you have any inkling that yours is not serving your mission, which based on my research, at least 50% of mission statements do not, you might want to read the article I wrote for Stanford, for the Stanford Social Innovation Review, bad, great mission, bad statement. You can go on SSIR.org and search for it and you’ll find it. They’ll give you a lot on mission statements. Now, okay, back to this idea of true believers. The word believer came into the English language in the 1540s, and it meant one who has faith in religion. It’s in around 1600 that it transforms into the definition that we would recognize and that we mainly use today which is one who gives credence to something without personal knowledge. Listen to this last part, when firmly persuaded of the truth of something, when firmly persuaded by the truth of something, the truth of your vision, the truth of your mission, the truth of your work, and the important impact it is having on the people you serve. True believers believe what you believe and they believe and how you are approaching your mission.

Erica Mills Barnhart 03:47

For instance, Family Matters, their believers believe in strong families. YWCA believers believe in eliminating racism and empowering women. American Cancer Society believers believe that a cancer free world is possible. What do you believe in? What does your organization believe in? Get clear on that and then communicate it so clearly and so consistently, that your believers are drawn to you like moths to a flame. When they hear about your mission, they can’t help but get involved. When a moth sees a light it can’t help but fly towards it. It’s in its DNA. Now, here’s here’s sort of a heartbreaking part of this, which is not everyone will believe what you believe they just won’t. When it comes to marketing, there are in fact, three different types of people, believers, agnostics and atheists. I heard this a long, long time ago, from Guy Kawasaki marketer extraordinaire, one of Apple’s original evangelist and marketer for good. He’s incredible. So it just it just stuck with me ever since believers agnostics and atheists. We’ve covered this first part believers they believe what you believe when they hear about you, they are like, yes, please. Agnostics may believe what you believe, but it’s going to take longer there’s more energy and resources to kind of get them on board. Atheists do not believe what you believe. They do not believe what you believe. This doesn’t make them a jerk or whatever. It’s just they have a different belief system. Right? TOMS Shoes isn’t trying to convert fashionistas who only care about wearing what’s fresh off the runways of Paris. Harley Davidson isn’t trying to convert moped lovers. Like I’m not trying to convert people who think marketing should be used to manipulate you into buying crap that you don’t need. I think marketing should be used for good period full stop. Me and Harley Davidson and TOMS shoes are in alignment on one very important thing, we get who our true believers are, we are clear on who we are and what we stand for, and we channel our energy and resources into being totally authentic to that, into attracting people who believe what we believe. Now. I’m sure there are some of you, you may be one of them who are out there, you’re like, yeah, but Erica, I want to tell you about Steve. I use Steve as a placeholder for for these stories that I’ve heard so many times, and I, I love these stories. These are stories about somebody who was an atheist. They didn’t believe in your work. They didn’t believe in why you’re doing or how you’re doing or wherever it was. But you kept at it, and over time, Steve went from atheist to believer, and now he’s like, yes, he’s into you and what you do. My response to that story is always a question and the question is, how much did it cost you to convert Steve? And how many believers could you have engaged for the same amount of effort? Marketing comes down to opportunity cost for everything you do, you have made a choice to not do something else. For every Instagram post that goes up, for every tweak made to your website, for every e-blast that goes out, something else didn’t happen. That’s not you know, it’s not good or bad, it just is. And as a leader, your job is to manage in a way where you are maximizing the return on your investment of time, energy, resources, blood, sweat, and tears of you and your team. Whether or not you are a team of one or a team of bajillion, if your team is spending their time converting atheists, I guarantee you that’s a low return on your investment. There’s there’s so much more to say about target audience and ideal supporters and identifying and segmentation all these things. But for now, I want to leave you with this: be true to who you are, to what you stand for, and your believers will find you, and when they hear about what you’re up to, they will be chomping at the bit to get on board. Once they are on board, they will attract other true believers, that’s part of what is so cool about staying committed to your true believers. It’s in this way that you will grow this community of believers that will fuel your mission along with you.

Erica Mills Barnhart 08:36

If you are listening to this and you’re you’re like not sure who your true believers are or you’re like struggling with this idea that you wouldn’t try to market to the general public, how can everybody not love what you do? By the way, the general public, never a target audience. So if you’re struggling with any of that, how to attract your true believers head on over The Marketing for Good Facebook group and let’s figure it out together. Let’s do that. Thank you for being a believer in Marketing for Good, thank you for listening to this podcast, and great big huge gratitude love bomb to Beth Russell of Family Matters for serving families in Posey County, Indiana and her team along with her and for letting me know how to spell manna properly with two n’s. Do good, be well, and see you next time.

Do you communicate as effectively as you think?


Do you communicate as effectively as you think?