Friday, January 19, 2007

Sign This!

Not sure how I missed this.. but you need to go and sign this if you haven't already.

"We, the undersigned progressive leaders, have together identified technology integration as a top priority infrastructure need in 2007. We urge progressive funders, vendors and technologists to support a collaborative effort dedicated to ensuring that our tools integrate effectively, so that we can move forward with innovative, powerful platforms that will help us win."

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Convio Buys GetActive (and Kintera sends out an e-mail)

I've rarely ranted on this blog, but I'm feeling it today so bear with me.

A few disclaimers...
  1. I made a decision to go with Kintera over Convio for both the Light the Night CMS (good decision) and for LLS advocacy (shaky decision).
  2. I've inherited GetActive here at The International Rescue Committee. GA is our current CMS, email and Advocacy platform. They fired Kintera before going with GA.
  3. If you are a vendor reading this, relax. But do not call or email me. Feel free to leave comments on the blog here, I'm sure you'll need to vent or say something just to try to get the last word in. It wont' work, but feel free.
  4. I have no bad feelings towards these vendors and will happily keep speaking up about them either until they go away, or GET IT RIGHT (that would be great to be honest).
  5. I'm leaving the deep analysis to others here, here and here regarding the acquisition.
For my colleagues working in marketing (and IT) at non-profits around the world.

Me: Ask me what I think of Convio buying GetActive - please... I dare you...

You: Umm, Ok. I feel like I'm being set up here but... Marc, what do you think of the recent news that Convio is buying GetActive?

Me: Great question You! I don't care who buys who. I just don't want to have to listen or deal with any of it.

The reason I don't care is simple. Taken collectively their software and services are not what I REALLY need.

I'm the customer and I get to decide what I need, not them. I want USEFUL marketing tools, not crappy, limited email management and "not quite complete" CMS capability.

I want remarkable service that starts and ends with deep industry expertise. Here's a hint to the vendors out there who will invariably read this post... don't ever let me know more about how your software works than your tech folks. Ever.

I want a great user experience.

I want it to be cheaper, and thus easier to convince my management that you are not going to go belly up any day now.

I want TONS AND TONS of flexibility. Ever heard of web services folks? Get with the program. You know who you are.

I do not want to deal with F.U.D either... (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt). I got this little doozy of an email sent to me yesterday, just a few days after the announcement from Kintera:

Has the proposed merger of Convio and GetActive raised uncertainty at your nonprofit – creating concern about the integration of technology platforms, culture, and which platform survives?

Yea folks.. it DOES CONCERN ME. But so does crappy service and incomplete and hard to use tools. So take that.

Deep breath.

Yes, there was a time in non-profit marketing land when the industry really needed a software vendor to swoop in and save the day with an all in one box of stuff that made really hard things like CRM, emarketing, email marketing easy. Not so true anymore. Look around at the quality of marketers and fund raisers now working in the NPO industry. Back in 2001, there was a clear lack of skill players, many NPO's didn't even have marketing as a defined piece of the puzzle.

Things are different now. People like Adam Pellegrini (ACS), Randal Moss (ACS), Patty Goldman (March of Dimes), Adam Hicks (CARE), Simon Moshesvilli (March of Dimes) and Jeff Como (Leukemia & Lymphoma) have flooded the industry brining massive amounts of smarts, process and talent with them.

We're asking hard questions now - like what's the data integration strategy and how do I do sophisticated marketing on a platform of tools. Why can't I easily create RSS feeds, why can't I create integrated Web services that talk to my legacy systems, why can't I easily create a mobile version of my web site?

If you look at the current CMS, CRM and e-mail vendors in the for-profit space you realize that the technology has moved on - the level of sophistication required to compete today far outstrips what these types of all in one vendors provide.

That DOESN'T make it wrong to choose one of them however... the REALITY is that even though the industry is making great strides, we're still extremely limited in resources and funds to afford more sophisticated systems. At The International Rescue Committee, I've inherited GetActive. It happens to be working fine for now - assuming that we don't really want to aggressively pursue our strategies of presenting ourselves internationally. That's because it's not that easy to create micro-sites that leverage existing content but allow internationalization within the existing CMS toolset.

You: umm, thanks I think. You are a tiny bit insane you know.

Me: Yes, I know. Thanks for asking!

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Thursday, January 11, 2007

Is "Fast" the New "Right?"

Great post on this subject over at Acronym that includes terrific comments.

I'm conflicted a bit though. My experiences in working for start ups who's typical goal was to be first to market in any situation (each time that strategy backfired. We were either not first, or not ready with a workable product or service). One of my favorite sayings used to be "The problem with being a pioneer is that you end up with arrows in your back." (not sure who to quote on that).

If "Fast" is the new right, then it has to have at least one caveat.

How about this:

"Fast is the new right if you willing to fail miserably and try again."

Assuming the failure part is OK, then I agree completely.

Check out the comments as well (I added my own) as they are pretty insightful.


Great Marketing in the Oddest of Places

My new job is going well, thanks everyone for asking! One of the "benefits" of my new job is that I get to ride the train from Bridgeport to Grand Central on Metro-North railroad every day (it's working out fine if you're wondering).

When I boarded the train this morning, I was surprised to find a newsletter from MTA on all the seats. I didn't expect much, but was totally surprised to find myself enjoying each article and piece of information.

They did so many good things that I decided to make a list! Each of these good things should be noted and applied to how you market your newsletters, emails and you non-profit brand.

  1. Interactive. The newsletter recapped 2006 results, which were stunning. MTA's 97.8% system-wide on-time performance is pretty amazing. The information also clearly acknowledged that much of the data they collected had been used to directly improve their services. For example, they offer more early AM trains which came directly from the newsletter. MTA was smart enough to ask for input, but smarter for making the results of that survey available.
  2. They have a sense of humor. The newsletter actually made me smile at least a few times. Yes, some of the humor was cheesy, but no matter, it's refreshing to know that there is an actual person behind the writing of the newsletter.
  3. Transparency. The newsletter not only reported on the good parts of the survey data, they actually picked out the bad news and highlighted it, then explained it in detail. Overall condition of the trains declined from 86% to 83%. They go on to explain that there is a huge discrepancy between different lines which resulted in the downgraded statistics. If you are wondering, the outer New Haven line dragged everyone down with an 81%. I wonder if they put these newsletters on that line as well?
  4. It was useful. The newsletter included a courtesy corner which clarified for me that while there is no rule against using cellphones and that courtesy is important. Obvious, but useful. The newsletter also included a "safety rule" of the issue - WATCH THE GAP. I'll be more careful, I promise.
Take a look at your communications pieces... how do you measure up to MTA?



Sunday, January 07, 2007

Top 10 Management Lessons Learned

As I wrapped up my gig as the VP eMarketing at The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, I took some time to jot down some lessons learned. Some background and disclaimers for this series of posts:
  • This was my first Vice President position and I took the title seriously and accepted all the implied and actual accountability that came with it.
  • I'd felt that in the past I wasn't a very good manager and was extremely dedicated about improving my management and leadership skills.
  • I've organized each of these posts into a top 10 for easy reference
Top 10 Management Lessons Learned

10. Check the ego/be humble. I constantly am working on this - getting staff involved more on the front end of projects and letting them drive the bus keeps them happy and growing.

09. Act like a manager, not a friend. This has been an area where I've really messed up before - try giving a bad review that you don't agree with to an employee that you hang out with. Ugh. I managed to find the right balance this time around and it worked out just fine.

08. Take a deep breath. There are times when being a boss really sucks. Doing yoga a few times a week has helped me understand the power of breathing. Long, deep breaths can really help managers get focused.

07. You can't make or force people to do the right thing.

06. It's all politics and that's fine. Even going to lunch involves some measure of politics but it's fine. I learned that politics isn't a bad word, it's just how you get stuff done and how you build good (or bad) relationships.

05. Not everyone wants to be a star. Just because I want to be a star and am always able to give 100%, not everyone can. It's ok if someone on my team just wants a job and isn't out to be an all-star.

04. Don't pigeonhole people. People are complex and fascinating. Having a certain background or experience doesn't mean that they can't do a job that isn't a perfect match. Smart, talented peoiple like to have an opportunity to stretch themselves - give it to them!

03. Being authentic and nice is a good thing. I'm maybe the most accessible guy you'll ever meet - it's part of what I think works for me as a manager and I think people appreciate it. That said, not everyone can be completely authentic all the time. Being nice is a requirement however. No reason to have to spend all your time at work with a jerk.

02. Not everyone can (or should) see the big picture. Some people are just tacticians who want step by step directions. Give them hands on direction and then let them tell you when they are ready for more.

01. Listen. My wife will dispute how good I've become at this and she' be right. I'm not perfect. But this was my number 1 management goal last year and I hope that I did get better at it.

Lessons on execution, communications and IT coming soon!


Friday, January 05, 2007

Your new job is calling...

Ever wanted to be the CTO for an international organization? Now is your chance... The International Rescue Committee is hiring a CTO. For details, email me and we'll chat.

Responsibilities will include setting network strategy (and implementation), developing application and data integration strategies up and everything else that a CTO would do.

Please let me know if you are interested or simply pass along my contact info to anyone you know who might be interested.

The job is in NYC - half a block from Grand Central.


Amen Brother (umm, Seth)

Seth Godin has a fantastic post about one of my favorite topics - strategy vs. tactics. Seth as usual puts it very simply:

Here's the difference: The right strategy makes any tactic work better. The right strategy puts less pressure on executing your tactics perfectly.

Easier said than done though. When I was a product manager, we'd often battle over how to sell our products - the strategic thinkers wanted to sell benefits (increases efficiency 20%) while everyone else it seemed was focused on selling features (built with Java, uses AJAX etc..>).

It seems to me as if the strategy vs. tactics conversation is similar in many ways.

Coming soon on this blog... lessons learned from my previous job at The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and updates on what's going on here at The International Rescue Committee.

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