“Yes” is a bridge too far for some of your prospects. They don’t know you (yet), they don’t know what you can do for them (yet), and they don’t know if there is a “gotcha” hiding behind your invitation (if there is, you have bigger problems).

You are guaranteed to get more positive responses from a “Maybe” than from going straight to Yes. But before you change your strategy, consider what it takes to turn those Maybe’s into a long term relationship.

They don’t have to say Yes. And many won’t.

In the movie “Dumb and Dumber,” Jim Carrey’s character goes looking for a “yes” but gets a “maybe.” The object of his desire says he has a one-in-a-million chance of getting a yes, to which he responds, “So you’re telling me there’s a chance.” It’s become a classic phrase, usually meaning a slim chance of success. 

If you’ve presented your prospect with a good enough reason to give you permission to communicate (a free download, a no-cost newsletter, some other piece of persuasion that’s sufficient to collect contact information), your chances will be much better than poor Lloyd Christmas (Mr. Carrey’s character). But you’ll never convert 100%, so before you embark on your Maybe campaign, know what long term success will look like. 

Consider this comparison:

Let’s assume your direct-to-Yes campaigns deliver a 1.5% response rate. Out of 1,000 prospects, 15 people say yes and pay you some amount of money to engage.

A “Maybe” campaign will absolutely deliver more conversions, but you have to consider how many of those will turn into monetized constituents. 

For example: Out of those same 1,000 prospects, if you get five times as many people to engage with your “maybe” offer, you will see a 7.5% response rate. You’ve got 75 people kicking your tires. If you are able to persuade just 20% of those maybe’s to move to a full engagement (pay your money), your Maybe campaign is equal to a single direct-to-Yes campaign. 

But remember you don’t have to do it all at once. Those 75 people are part of your prospect pool and you can attempt to persuade them multiple times. In our experience, a 7.5% lead response rate is at the low end, and a 20% conversion is definitely conservative.

Then calculate your costs to nurture and convert. Even digital communications have a cost to create and deploy. Does the cost-per-conversion of a Maybe meet or exceed your direct-to-Yes campaigns? 

But even if they are equal, there are valid reasons to include a Maybe campaign in your acquisition strategy.

What’s a Maybe worth to your organization?

Beyond a direct conversion to a dues- or subscription-paying customer, your Maybes have value. 

If you are an advocacy organization, they become part of the audience you represent. We call that your “sphere of influence” and you can count them among your audience when you make the case to regulators and administrators. 

If you are utilizing paid media, they become part of your audience modeling. You know who they are, and can use them to find others like them. 

If you have an advertising strategy, they increase your circulation (just manage everyone’s expectations that they will not be as responsive as an audience of fully converted customers).

But the primary reason you are gathering these Maybes is to have more qualified people to tell your story to, and ultimately turn them into monetized, engaged constituents of your continuity organization.

Don’t assume. Earn the Yes.

Congratulations. You convinced a prospect to give you permission to communicate (a “Maybe” tactic). Now it’s time to earn their trust, persuade them that affiliation with you will fill a need or deliver value they won’t get elsewhere, and choose you. 

The great thing about a campaign that starts with Maybe is that now you have time to really trot out your best features and benefits. You have the prospect’s permission to talk to them. What a privilege. You persuaded a qualified candidate to come part way; now all you have to do is convince them that a full relationship is even better.

So before you launch that Maybe campaign, get your ducks in a row. Make sure you have a solid nurturing series in place. Train your front line service people on persuasive language and how to look for the Yes. Develop an appealing array of offers to try. Share the opportunity to nurture these potential constituents with other areas of your organization. A Maybe might resist one path, but embrace another (some people might be better prospects for donation than membership, or event attendance than donation, but just keep giving them options).

Don’t give away too much.

Yes, you want to convince your prospect that affiliation will deliver value. But don’t do it by giving away the privileges that come with affiliation. Never let these Maybe respondents think they have access to the content, privileges and benefits that a fully-converted Yes gets. 

Think of your Maybe respondents as guests at an event. You want them to feel welcome, let them see that others have similar interests and experiences, or that the organization really is that popular with its constituents. But don’t let them attend the private sessions, or have front-of-the-line privileges. That’s something to aspire to (or at least pay-to-play). 

Be generous with your perspectives and summaries of your content, just don’t let them read the full document for free. Introduce them to an expert in their field, but don’t let them peruse the directory. In other words, give them a taste, not a full meal deal.

Find a cadence that sustains their enthusiasm and doesn’t drive them away.

They weren’t thinking about you before you persuaded them to say “maybe.” And they still aren’t thinking about you (much) after they respond because the commitment threshold was low. But they are willing to give you a chance, and now is the time to woo (intelligently). 

It’s easy to blame email frequency for disengaged prospects. “I got too many emails” is an answer given to unsubscribe surveys. But that’s a cop-out, we say. If you have something worth saying, something relevant, something that improves their day, then frequency isn’t the problem. 

But…watch your metrics closely. You don’t want to come across as over-eager or desperate. Your messages could even be in the wrong order. Consider that your audience is taking the slow route to engagement instead of jumping in. Maybe…you just have to start slow and spend your early communications earning trust instead of rushing to their wallet.

Tell your story, tell it well, and the conversions will follow.

That Maybe respondent has given you a gift. They are willing to listen, and a much larger percentage is going to say Yes than if you were talking to an unqualified audience. Even if they don’t say Yes right away, you can imprint your story and, when the time is right, they will step over into full affiliation. 

Slow down. Enjoy the journey. Entertain the crowd. Success will follow.