Discover more from Jewish Work by Rabbi Jeremy Markiz
People Want the Feelings
We are too focused on the product, not the outcome.
Read time: 4 minutes.
When was the last time you were sure that one of your programs impacted a person deeply? How did you know?
We spend a lot of time, especially in congregations, focusing on what we offer rather than the desired impact on our people. If we are in the spiritual wholeness business, are we certain our people are feeling spiritually whole?
By shifting our mindset from "let's add this offering" to making sure our people experience the intended outcome, they are more likely to come back and invest their time, effort, and energy with us.
Unfortunately, it is easier to just come up with new programs.
Our role is to help our people experience "success."
What is success?
I think that most of the time our people are seeking the feeling of belonging. Of course, success looks like a lot of things.
Each program or activity might not focus on belonging, but I’d argue that's what we are trying to accomplish in the aggregate.
Generally, our conversations are like this:
What are the details of the upcoming selichot program?
Do we have all of the parts of the service assigned?
What's the schedule for this upcoming class?
How many seats do we need to set up?
While these are important, our work has to be grounded in the end goal: helping our people get what they need.
We can do better, and this mental shift is how we can do that:
People want the outcome.
One of the most famous economists in the world is Theodore Levitt.
Born in Germany in 1925, he and his Jewish family escaped to the United States when he was a child. He was later drafted into the army and fought in WWII. When he returned, he became a professor and, in 1959, was hired at Harvard Business School.
You've heard of his impactful work. He came up with the term globalization, for example.
One of his oft-quoted statements was:
“People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill bit. They want a quarter-inch hole.”
His point is that people purchase a tool to accomplish a goal. The majority of people who go to the hardware store, using his example, are looking to experience an outcome, not the tool they purchase.
For more than the last decade, when I'm at the grocery store, I buy whatever toothpaste looks most appealing to me at the moment. They will all do much the same thing, and all I want is clean teeth.
They don't want the hole. They want the feelings.
Seth Godin, a marketing giant writes in his book, This is Marketing:
The lesson is that the drill bit is merely a feature, it is a means to an end, but what people truly want is the hole it makes. But that doesn't go nearly far enough. No one wants a hole. What people want is the shelf that will go on the wall once they drill the hole.
Actually, what they want is how they'll feel once they see how uncluttered everything is... They also want the satisfaction of knowing they did it themselves...the increase in status they'll get when their spouse admires the work...the piece of mind...
"People don't want to buy a quarter-inch drill bit. They want to feel safe and respected."
This is the key. People want the deeper feelings.
Whether those feelings are of respect, safety, satisfaction, or belonging, our people are looking to be changed. They want to feel something.
And we spend our time talking to them about the tools they can use.
We're in the drill bit business.
Our drill bits are the services, programs, activities, and events. Depending on your institution, we might include personal clergy time or other offerings.
The majority of people don't want prayer services.
They want what prayer services will do for them.
They want to be able to say kaddish, have time with their friends, and sing with others. They want personal connections, feelings of joy and meaning, and an opportunity to get out of the house.
They want to feel like they belong.
And we're still talking to them about drill bits.
I think about all of the announcements I used to give at the end of services. “Come to this program on Thursdays, come to that program on Monday morning…” Rarely would I say, “Have you ever felt lost? Our upcoming program will make you feel more confident, in charge, and secure within yourself.”
Which announcement do you think would be more impactful?
Include articulating success in your process.
Let us not assume that people will understand the outcomes. By articulating them, we can hold ourselves accountable for getting our people to that goal.
When you plan your programs and activities, explicitly identify what success looks like (not for you, for your people) and how you will know that you've accomplished it. Don't just go through the motions.
In my adult programming model, I required every team to explicitly identify the audience they served and the goal we expected for them. Sometimes the program would change as we refined the goals. They were always stronger afterward.
So not only will our programs improve, our capacity to market them will grow as well.
By shifting your mindset to helping your people experience the outcome, rather than just coming to your programs, you will develop a much larger group of satisfied members.
And satisfied members bring new people.