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Selling the Invisible: A Field Guide to Modern Marketing

by Harry Beckwith

Most marketing books are aimed at businesses that sell stuff, which makes them fairly inapplicable to the NonProfit world. “Selling the Invisible” comes the closest I’ve seen to helping market what we NonProfits do. That’s because “Selling the Invisible” focuses not on marketing products, but on marketing services, which makes it a great book for NonProfits.

“Selling the Invisible” is not a how-to book. Instead, it is a thoughtful guide, providing insights on how marketing works and how prospects think. The chapters are short - more like snippets than chapters - each with a single thought that moves you towards the next thought. I have read this book a number of times, and I can never get past 3 or 4 of its tiny chapters without stopping to scribble down notes, or to consider just how our clients (and our own organization) are currently doing things.

The book starts by asking first things first: Are you sure what you have to market really is worth telling people about? Have you surveyed clients to find out if your service really is a quality service? Are you really providing what the community needs? Beckwith aims right for the heart.

Once you are convinced you have a quality organization to talk about, he moves you through all the thought processes that should go into that marketing. But don’t expect to move quickly. Expect your brain to light up in thought. Keep a note pad handy.

Here are just some of the things I love about this book:


Under the heading “Fran Lebowitz and Your Greatest Competitor,” comes this quote:

“Your greatest competitor is not your competition. It is indifference.”


and under the heading “The Value of Publicity,”

“There are six peaks in Europe higher than the Matterhorn. Name one.”

The last chapter is a discussion of other books that can help round out the reader’s understanding of marketing. Because Beckwith takes a systems approach to the subject and not a “sell-the-widget” approach, many of these books are applicable to the NonProfit world as well.

As someone who spends a lot of time combing bookstore shelves for business books that translate well to the NonProfit world, “Selling the Invisible” is one I would strongly recommend.

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