Monday, February 18, 2008

Words that Drive Me Crazy

A rant, just because I feel like it... (find out who I'm blaming for my ornery mood at the end of this post).

Words matter, I know! But the abuse of short-hand terms makes me crazy. Web2.0 is classic abuse. It's become a catchall for anything "conversation related."

I abused the term platform back in 2001/02 while at a technology start-up. It's making a MASSIVE comeback to it's own detriment. It's so innocuous and generalized that it simply is a useless term. Let me ask you this...

  • Is Windows a platform?
  • Is Google?
  • Is Microsoft Office?
  • Is Facebook?
Yes, of course they are... so someone please tell me - what do you mean when you say platform?

Social Media Strategy
Using this phrase is 99.9% of the time a shield to mask the fact that we have no idea what to do next. We'd rather talk about our "Social Media Strategy" than discuss the fact that we don't control our messages anymore.

The "New" something
Regular readers should know by now that I'm a Seth Godin disciple. However, didn't we go through the "New New" thing ages ago? Didn't I read a book about that? Godin is talking about "The New Marketing" and Jaffe's agency is "a new marketing company." It's all shiny and new, isn't it? I'm not saying they aren't both absolutely RIGHT... but this post is about words and how they drive me nutso.

So Who is to Blame?
This is the 2nd ornery post and/or comment I've made on my blog since I started Joseph Jaffe's new book Join the Conversation. The guy is spot on and the book is brilliant. But it's putting me in a bad mood. He's partially to blame, and I'm going to tell him so when we eventually meet.

But Jaffe didn't make me write this blog... no... the catalyst was this podcast from 1to1Media. Anyone want to play a new marketing terms drinking game with me as we all listen? (Was that over the line?).

What words drive you crazy - please share!

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Made to Stick... sticky as glue

I read "Made to Stick" while in Seattle and San Diego last week and want to marry it. Really. I loved it that much. So much of what I have been unable to articulate myself is right there inside this amazing little book. Go get it right now and read it! Seriously.

The authors have outlined a practical and effective checklist that you can use immediately once you understand the principals that have been laid out.

Here's the SUCCESs framework... read the book and get it all...

  • Simple... find the core... the one true thing.
  • Unexpected... you need to surprise people to get their attention in the first place.
  • Concrete... drop the intellectual, academic stuff straight away and explain yourself... understanding drives action.
  • Credible... credibility (various forms) will let people believe.
  • Emotional... it's not enough to believe... people have to ALSO care about you.
  • Stories... getting people to act isn't about facts and figures, it's about great storytelling.
I can't speak highly enough of this book, it's simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional and weaves great stories. Go for it.

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

OK - We Have To Talk About This

Armstrong foundation to launch fitness Web site

Innovation to the extreme? Perhaps! I so love this idea it hurts.

"If we were going after a broad category like health and fitness ourselves, we wanted have the best brand," he said. "We would not take on a category this fat unless we had the LiveStrong brand." (The "he" in that statement is Richard Rosenblatt, the former head of

Let me try to process this... what the guy who used to run is saying is that he needed a partner and a non-profit brand to do execute his business strategy, right? Voila. Music to my ears! That's selling the value in a big, big way and is something non-profits can get better at.

Lance himself was quoted as saying "I don't think we've ever met our full potential on the Web when it comes to the site, but that's not our expertise. Our expertise is fighting cancer."

This is a stunningly simple and powerful statement, don't you think? I think so!

Here's two questions you can ask yourself right now...
  1. What is (or isn't) your organization doing that it should be doing?
  2. What are you doing that is outside of your expertise (like building software perhaps?) that you should be outsourcing so you can focus on what you are really good at?
Have fun coming up with answers for those two doozies. Please comment, I want to talk about this with someone.


Friday, January 25, 2008

The Direct Mail Business Model

Wired Magazine has a great feature this month called "Why Things Suck!" which I absolutely loved. One of the things that suck as you might guess is Junk Mail. See where I might be going with this post yet? I pulled a few of the more interesting parts of the Wired article here for easy reference - but check out the entire thing - it's worth a look.
Your name is on a list
And you have no one to blame but yourself. You refinanced a mortgage or got a new credit card. You subscribed to a magazine or donated money to a charity. These organizations sell their lists to aggregators.
How dare you donate money to a charity? Sheesh.
The math kicks in
Let's say you're soliciting donations. You buy a list of 5,000 names for $500. It costs you $2,500 in labor and postage to mail your plea. Of those 5,000 envelopes, 94 percent will be recycled and 5 percent will be misaddressed. But 1 percent will prompt a response. That's 50 people. And that determines how much you have to earn from each one: You spent $3,000. You need your 50 suckers to cough up an average of $60 each to break even. (It also works for email, though the response rate is much lower: 0.2 percent. But sending junk email — spam — is nearly free.)
Does this look at all familiar? I thought so! Look, I'm not saying you should stop (not unless you want to stop raising money). I just don't yet see how our past and our future is going to reconcile. If the customer is in control, than this just isn't going to work for much longer.

PS -I hope you didn't miss the e-mail kicker at the end (0.2 percent?!)


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Great interview in today's WSJ (paid access) with Marc Benioff, the CEO of who is talking about software being built on "platforms" yet again.

Thing is, I get what he's saying and buy it, big time. Two years or more ago, I was at a event where they first launched Dreamforce and had a long conversation with a sales guy there who didn't buy it. He told me he was focused on selling and that this new platform wasn't ready for prime time. In some ways, he was right - adoption never took off.

Today, it seems as if more and more companies are using web services and web based platforms for real, mission critical applications. Benioff points out in the interview that there are more than 20 companies now selling "software-as-a-service," up from only Salesforce just a few years ago. Now he's talking "platform-as-a-service." While he admits that this is a long process (perhaps 10 or more years to become mainstream) it's worth noting that the big boys (Microsoft, Oracle etc) are all now moving into this world as well. There seems to be a ton of momentum around this idea.

For non-profits (and others), I think it's time to think outside the box when looking at companies like not just for their pre-packaged CRM solutions, but for their visions of the future as well. It's also time to start making sure that your existing vendor solutions are thinking about opening up their black boxes. As we all move further and further into this hyper-connected world you'll have to make sure that you can actually connect, swap data between systems, applications, partners and more.

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Neo, Do You Believe?

Was catching up on some blogs that I love to read and finally made my way back to "Don't Tell the Donor" who had a great post called "tick, tick, tick..."

Holly Hall from the Chronicle notes:

In first three quarters of last year, donations made in response to direct-marketing appeals failed to keep pace with inflation, growing by a median of 1.4 percent, meaning that half the groups achieved greater increases and half fared worse. The number of people who made gifts declined by a median 1.4 percent since 2006. Meanwhile, the organizations recruited a median 6.2 percent fewer new donors, on top of a 10-percent decline in new donors for the first three quarters of 2006.
Look, I am NOT saying that direct mail isn't important here - but I am asking you some serious questions, because folks, the writing is on the wall and has been for a few years. How many more postage increases can you handle? How much more tolerance for the price of paper can you swallow? What happens when donors start asking you to stop killing trees because of how much paper you are using?

Here are two good questions to ask yourself:
  1. Is your organization really committed to the online channel? Prove it... do you have an organization structure designed for success? Have you broken silos down? Have you made the INVESTMENT needed to get the RETURN so that ROI isn't just three letters but an actual goal? Have you shifted some budget from direct mail/traditional channels to online? Why not?
  2. Have you really thought through how you are going to replace a big chunk of your direct mail revenues over the next 3-5 years? Have you written a number down and assigned a person to get you there?
I do believe it is Seth Godin who continually re-frames risk - is there a greater risk in not doing something about declining direct mail or greater risk in taking small steps in a formal way to start to figure out a digital strategy?

Red Pill or Blue Pill time (again)...

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Saturday, January 12, 2008

Introduce Your Right and Left Hands

Anyone seen the new IBM commercial that talks about virtual worlds, economies and avatars? I'm confused by this ad. I've read report after report of how IBM is investing serious energy into virtual worlds including Second Life. This commercial seems to be making fun of such an "innnovation."

Is this a case of the left hand not knowing (or caring) what the right hand is doing? Perhaps it's IBM's attempt to be self-deprecating (that would be odd, eh?). The commercial itself is fine, I just can't believe that IBM would send such mixed messages in the marketplace.

When you look at your own messaging, is it possible that you are doing the same thing? Is it possible that your traditional mail is so different from your online messaging that you could actually be contradicting yourself? Could the personality your organization shows on Myspace be so different than what is on your corporate web site, or so completely foreign from your local offices that you are actually confusing people?

It's probably worth a look!

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Friday, January 04, 2008

Marc's Favorite Posts from 2007

In no particular order, here are my favorite posts from 2007 - a year in which I again didn't blog enough (or by some accounts, blogged way way too much). It was a tough year and I learned a lot about marketing, myself and the world. I also played a lot of golf (but no where near enough by my count).

Ok, here goes...

Favorite Post #1 - Great Marketing in the Oddest of Places
A post about the good work that the MTA does with their newsletters and keeping their customers informed, and laughing.

Favorite Post #2 - How the New Web Transforms Your Organziation
"Marketers do not have the right to interrupt you."

Favorite Post #3 - Authenticity
It appears that it is working for Obama in a big way, eh?

Favorite Post #4 - Best Development Resources
I still get 7 or so hours of sleep, really.

Favorite Post #5 - Yikes, it's not working!
I love failing, because it means I'm making progress.

Favorite Post #6 - Causes vs. Organizations
I still think I'm right... yea, definately.

Favorite Post #7 - Leave the Ivory Tower, Now!
And wow, the Africa trip really proved my point on this one.

Favorite Post #8 - “Edge”tion – Another Look at Causes vs. Orgs
Lots of discussion, comments and goodness from this post... horrible title though.

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Friday, August 31, 2007

“Edge”tion – Another Look at Causes vs. Orgs

"Edge"tion - the unlawful combining of "Edge" and "Attention" designed to create a way to examine non-profit marketing success.

I used to be a consultant and was in love with charts and graphs that would clinically break down everything into neat quadrants and classify things. As I’ve continued to get a great response from my original causes vs. orgs post, I’ve done more and more thinking about the topic. I hope you enjoy this post, I had a lot of fun trying to write this up.

In what I think is a great way to contradict oneself, but to continue the conversation, I’ve constructed an argument where I will try to explain why you can still be successful without a specific issue/cause message. I’ll also point out that there is an inevitable drift for any organization, who wants to grow larger and do more with their resources towards focusing on the organization itself, and not the cause (or multiple causes).

As a way to classify and get specific about what I'm talking about, I’ve developed 4 types or categories of organizations as shown below.

Edgetion - How non-profits create market success
(Click to view full size on Flickr) - Download data set (Excel)

Type I – “Radical Attention Hogs”

Type I organizations are typically (but not always) newer/younger organizations that were created with a specific cause or issue in mind. Invisible Children’s focus on Child Soldiers in Uganda is a great example. Radical Attention Hogs (RAH’s) command attention from a younger set of constituents who are highly motivated by radical thinking, singular focus and purpose and a certain “cool” factor. Organizations that fit into this type have both huge opportunity and huge amounts of danger ahead (Peta, Greenpeace for example). They must capitalize on their initial success by putting processes in place – the lack of which may have initially helped create their success.

At some point, if the issue they are focused on goes out of style or change is truly affected (i.e. a cure for breast cancer or heaven forbid peace in Darfur), “RAH’s” will have to either find a new issue and dilute their original focus (and most likely, the very reason for their success). In thinking about this, I also believe there may be a natural migration from being a “RAH” type to a platform player. Invisible Children’s night commute walk and innovative school programs have huge reach already but their challenge will be to continue to grow the program even as Uganda falls out of favor for other issues like Darfur, and Iraq.

Borrowing from another vertical within non-profit land, Susan G. Komen continues to act like a “RAH” by continuing their singular focus on breast cancer. From a marketing perspective, it’s easy to understand why Komen has become a successful organization. They are highly focused on their issue/cause and have built a huge community to support it.

Type II – Platform Players

Type II players are more established organizations at one point may have been “RAH’s” but are now so broad (bloated?) and have so many different issues that they have started to focus more of their messaging and marketing on their own organization or event platform. My friends at the March of Dimes are Platform Players (“PP’s), as are my other friends at The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Both of these organizations clearly have an issue or cause they are focused on, but spend much or all of their time marketing either their own brand or their hugely successful event platforms (WalkAmerica and Team In Training, respectively.)

In the international aid world, Save the Children is a great example of a platform player with their child sponsorship program. Because “PPs” are typically more established, they are also a lot larger in terms of total revenue. By way of contrast, Invisible Children raises less than $20 million per year and I can’t even find a published number for Save Darfur. Compare that numbers to LLS’s, ACS and Save the Children’s hundreds of millions of dollars and you can really start to see what scaled up organizations are capable of raising. Additionally, while IC and Save Darfur do get quite a bit of attention, they can’t even touch truly radical attention hogs like Greenpeace or Peta.

“PP’s” will also very typically have a multiple event platforms AND heavy corporate sponsorship programs. Autism Speaks is rapidly moving from “RAH” to platform player with the help of NBC and their walk program (and a super smart CEO who I need badly to catch up with sooner rather than later). Looking at their numbers though, suggests they have a ways to go still on the marketing front.

LLS’s Team In Training raises more than $100 million annually and has strong corporate sponsors to help raise both money and awareness. Additionally, LLS has created multiple event platforms that each raise additional millions of dollars a year. Their Light the Night walk platform (again, with strong corporate support), Pennies for Patients and Hike for Discovery are all great platforms and models that work.

Interestingly, for those of us working for international aid agencies, I’m having a hard time finding more platform players. Outside very traditional gala style events there isn’t much out there. The Night Commute walk from Invisible Children has huge potential if they can figure out how to broaden their message without killing their effectiveness.

Here are 3 key takeaways from the first 2 types:

Takeaway #1: Being a platform player is not a bad thing. One of the joy’s of this blog post for me is that I have a way to think about how my more radical ideas can fit into the IRC’s culture and help to drive us forward. Cool – and more on that in another post.

Takeaway #2: Radical Attention Hogs really do hog all the attention. Aside from being totally obvious – it’s important to note that like Ralph Nader, they dilute the amount of attention left for other perhaps more effective organizations. Emerging and younger“RAH’s” take the lion’s share of the blogosphere and are free in a very real sense to take risks in the marketplace that platform players simply cannot take. Save Darfur and Invisible Children both have a significantly greater amount of technorati mentions than does IRC and Mercy Corps, but can't touch the larger organizations overall operating budgets.

Takeaway #3: There is an inevitable migration from being a “RAH” to a “PP” – either you become a platform player or lose focus and end up in Type III..

Type III – The Undecided’s

It is harder to come up with examples of undecideds for the very reason they are in this type. They don’t get much attention and aren’t very edgy in their marketing and messaging. The International Rescue Committee is squarely in this type despite our new, bold logo. We’re certainly not a “RAH” – either because we can’t or won’t focus on specific issues and causes, or because we haven’t clearly defined how being focused on refugees is a cause unto itself. Perhaps I should get on that instead of writing this long ass blog post?

IRC also is not a platform player because we do not have an actual event or corporate platform (excluding grants, private foundations etc which is off topic). What the IRC does have is huge credibility and reach with our 24 offices across the US, massive volunteer corps and wonderful reputation, we could easily jump into a “RAH” mindset or create a national platform (walk, run, golf, whatever). The point of course, is that we’re undecided and will remain in Type III until we decide to get out.

Autism Speaks was a “RAH” until just a few years ago when they merged with another autism organization and created a national walk platform, put together a corporate sponsor package and started working with celebrities. As the pieces fall together for them, they will continue to grow faster and faster. Same goes for Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation who recently started pushing their walk platform, and who along with their specific focus and and creative leadership has a great chance for long term fundraising and marketing success.

CARE is trying hard to go from undecided to “RAH” with their “I Am Powerful” campaign. Focusing all their marketing messaging on women is a smart move. It focuses the entire organization, gives them a clear message and will attract lots of people who don’t care about CARE, but do care about women’s rights and empowerment.

Takeaway #4: Undecided’s can jump to either or both type I or II. Given how big some of us undecided’s are – we can easily create fundraising platforms using proven models on a national scale. What I love about this takeaway is that I’ve found a loophole in my own logic from my original blog post. You can in fact be very successful by focusing on yourself (or a platform) as opposed to picking an issue or cause. Alternatively, we could try to go the route of CARE – and focus the organization onto a single, but large cause or issue.

Type IV – Loudmouths

I hardly need to say anything about this type and am not sure I even have an example of one. If Greenpeace were advocating for war and not peace this would be them. Is there an organization that is lobbying FOR climate change and getting attention? Inauthentic organizations can become type IV loudmouths if they hire a good marketing or PR person. Note that this does NOT include organizations who you do not personally agree with – political or otherwise. Just because you are a pro-lifer doesn’t mean that the other side isn’t entitled to their opinion. Hmm, is that a good example?

Can’t we all just get along?

Disclaimers: For this exercise I’ve used the bloggers prerogative (just like a moderators prerogative to ask the first question) to use some highly suspect math and science in developing a working theory (just like my friend Allan did here with his LinkedIn experiment). In my case, I started with 15 different organizations and/or platforms. I took their Alexa rating and their technorati results and ranked each from 7 down to -7.

The third number is much more subjective. I’ve looked at each of the organizations web sites and in a very general sense gave each organization an “edge” rating. This edge rating is supposed to reflect their radical/hot/cool/slick their communications, marketing and design approach.

To borrow briefly from a different industry, it’s the difference between Apple and Microsoft. Apple gets a “7” in the edge rating while M$FT would rank slightly lower. Well, OK – a lot, lot lower.. Besides being fun (and again, totally subjective), it gives us the “edge” rating that ranges from 7 down to -7. Overall usability was considered, but only peripherally. I obviously have no way of knowing how these sites perform from a conversion perspective, which would dramatically change the rankings I presume.

All data was pulled at approximately 10:30, Thursday August 30, 2007. This was the longest, hardest blog post I've ever written. I hope you will leave some feedback and comments.

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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Telecommuting and Managing Teams Remotely

Is there anyone out there who manages a team remotely?

What systems do you use to stay in touch? How do you keep momentum around projects, new ideas, brainstorming?

Long term, how do you develop strategic solutions and collaborate effectively?

Since our office has been closed because of the steam pipe explosion in NYC, we've all been working remotely, getting together just once a week. It's not too horrible personally - no commute, ability to see kids, have breakfast at a table etc. Professionally though, I'm feel like I'm struggling, even after a week.

While this will be over for us shortly (they are saying we'll be back at the office this week), I'm now curious as a manager what's what on this topic.

I know someone out there is managing a team of marketers remotely, but the question is are they reading my blog?


Thursday, June 28, 2007

Beth Interviewed Me

I did a phone/web interview with Beth of "Beth's Blog" today and it gave me a chance to pause and reflect on how far I've come over the past few years in how I use analytics and statistics to drive business results (not without a lot of help from some friends).

Far too many non-profit marketers look at Google Grants as funny money (I do not) and let their IT folks manage the analytics package. It's a huge mistake.

If you are a marketer, you need to own both of those and use them to test messaging, drive results and optimize your marketing strategies.

If you can wrestle control (and some budget) away from revenue/direct mail and prove that the acquisition costs are dramatically lower, that's a good idea too!

I also love the title she chose for her post - "Does Playing Video Games Make You Smarter about Google AdWords Campaigns? Yes!"

I don't have much time lately, but I'm pretty well hooked on the golf game I got for my kid's Nintendo DS, which I happen to carry with me. Who's DS is it?


Friday, June 15, 2007

How Do You Prioritize?

I'm so slammed, I can't even find time to blog. I worked from home yesterday and spent much of the day simply going through lists and digging up e-mails in an attempt to figure out what I SHOULD be focusing and working on.

I made the list a few different ways and finally settled on a pretty good system (I think what I came up with is close to Covey's quadrants, but I can't find my copy of the book, and too busy to look for it).

I made 4 quadrants labeled:

A: Urgent/On Fire
B: Important/High Impact (this is the key area to my success, right Mr. Covey?)
C: Delegate
D: Defer

Surprisingly, the Urgent list wasn't as large as I thought it might be - and the High Impact was chock full of amazing opportunities. I took a moment to circle those 4 or 5 that really stood out - that demanded my attention either because it was on fire (and about to burn me), or because it would have a dramatic impact.

This seemed to work! I now have a list of 2 "A+" items, and a managable handful of "A's". Whew.

Back to work.

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Measure Twice, Cut Once

It's been too long since my last post. I've been doing some thinking about measuring stuff lately and pulled out an "article" I wrote for another blog that never got published.

Measure Twice, Cut Once

The art of benchmarking and establishing numbers based best practices is easier said than done. Using metrics to guide decision making (“Business Intelligence”) also requires a commitment to build systems that produce reliable and timely numbers as well as a staff who can understand what they mean and build action plans that will improve them.

Over the past few years, I have been involved in several projects designed to help non-profit organizations become more efficient, build better best practices and become more effective in their marketing efforts. Establishing benchmarks has been difficult for two key reasons.

It’s proven to be very hard to build consensus on what to measure and how much weight to put behind the measurement. For example, do we measure individual participants renewal rates as part of the overall event more than, less than or equal to corporate participation?

Understanding the data model and the technology needed to generate the numbers has also proven to be quite difficult without some IT spending on business intelligence tools. For example, it’s been very hard or impossible to quantify the value of a web lead vs. a telephone lead because the systems that collect the data do not have a way to exchange data or track users through the system. Putting better technology in place takes time, but is crucial to building a complete metrics system. In the past, the staff had generated information manually and used gut instinct to manage the ebb and flow of the campaign. Learning to trust data that was generated by the systems was a mind-shift and required some time and learning.

As part of a team working on developing a metrics system for a charity walk program I saw this play out in first hand. Led by the COO who was demanding accountability, we had several meetings that helped us to establish both the philosophy of a metrics system and to flush out what exactly we intended to measure. The initial meetings were frustrating. The lack of common terminology between departments a misunderstanding of what a solid metrics platform meant had to be dealt with first. Some key team members didn’t understand the value of transparency or how to managing by the numbers in a collaborative fashion. After many weeks of massaging how we collected and reported on the different data points, consensus was reached and we started generating weekly reports. Once the data was freely available, feedback was immediate – local staff loved to see how they stacked up against other local offices and national staff finally felt as if they understood how the campaign was progressing at a macro level.

Over time, the project will evolve, and will start to generate actionable information to help the campaign staff drive up acquisition and retention rates, leading to a more robust and profitable event with more oversight and accountability for everyone.

At the International Rescue Committee, we've just started producing a monthly web metrics report and are now trying to pull in additional data points from around the organization so we get a better, 360 degree view of what's happening. It's a long road to hoe - but a required one!

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

David Weinberger, NTEN Keynote

If you ever have a chance to hear David Weinberger speak, jump at the chance. If you've not read or heard about "The Cluetrain Manifesto" you should stop reading this crappy blog and go read something that'll change the way you think.

Not since reading "Being Digital" way back when has any single book affected me so much. Needless to say, I was excited to hear him speak at NTEN.

Here's the one thing I'd like to repeat from his talk. It's simple. You are going to shake your head and think to yourself... so, yea, I already knew that. Oh yea? I'll give you a chance to prove it in a second.

Here's what he said:
Read it again.

One more time.

Let in sink in. Feel it? Get it? Are you with me?

Maybe I'm over-reacting here a bit, but that's profound!

Now, prove to me that you really get it. Do you encourage linking to and from your site or do you try to hoard inbound links but never link out? Do you link directly to great partners, vendors and bloggers who have something to say about your organization or provide value?

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

How the New Web Transforms Your Organization

I spent the afternoon yesterday with Seth Godin and a collection of very impressive non-profits discussing "How the New Web Transforms Your Organization." I'm really, really sorry you all couldn't be there. I've done two other Seth Godin seminars in the past, and each time I come away with a few pages of notes and noodles about what I should be doing.

If you haven't read any of his books or read his blog regularly, you should start there. I take for granted that everyone knows about permission marketing, purple cows and such.

I can quickly summarize the afternoon and Seth's core in one sentence. It's a message that comes down to a very simple premise but one that comes with some very difficult organizational choices that you'll have to make if you buy into the dogma.
"Marketers do not have the right to interrupt you."
Duh, right?

Think again. Behind that statement is a set of strategies and tactics that will force you to confront the core of how your organization makes money. Running TV, radio and print ads, sending direct mail and spam like e-mail campaigns are dead ends.

Instead, you'll need to start looking at your "members/donors/whatevers" not as things you own, but relationships you have.

  • You don't "own" email addresses, you BORROW them.
  • You don't have the right to send me one more e-mail that isn't authentic, personal and relevant.

If you don't get this premise, then your "members/donors/whatevers" will simply go away.

The core of Seth's argument centers around permission. The way you get permission is by "dating." The analogy is a good one and one worth exploring briefly.

Here it is from a guy's perspective:
  • You see cute girl on the subway every day
  • You flirt a bit
  • One day, you sit next to her because the seat isn't taken
  • You make small talk about the weather and notice that she's listening to Sheryl Crow on her iPod
  • You burn bootleg Sheryl Crow CD give to her one day in passing
  • She thanks you with a big smile and you ask her if he is interested in coffee -she says yes!
  • After coffee, you ask her to see a movie and she says yes again!
  • 6 months later you are seriously dating
  • Assuming you don't screw it up smart guy, you are married in a year
  • You have your first child 2 years later
  • You celebrate your 50th anniversary 47 years later (at which Sheryl Crow is playing)
Notice what didn't happen first in my example... what you didn't do was you didn't ask her to marry you the first, second or even third time you saw her. This works because:
  • It's authentic (you are acting like a real human being)
  • Personal (how sweet was the Sheryl Crow move?)
  • Relevant (she was looking for the right guy to come along)

Ok, so what does this mean for non-profit marketers? Let's start by looking at what we currently do with "our" email lists. I'll be the first to say it, we spam the hell out of those lists. I'm guilty of it, and you are guilty of it.

I think what we need is a new model of building permission.

Make permission is the foundation for your donor pyramid.

What this means is that at the top of your funnel, you need to work extra hard to build permission. But here's where it gets tricky - having permission IS NOT the right to ask for more money! It's permission to communicate with your "members/donors/whatevers" only where you have something authentic, personal and relevant to say to them.

It means that you have to create an entirely new way to think about cultivation.

Here's a sample of how any typical NPO might currently treat you:

  • You sign an online petition to save the whales, reform immigration policy or stem-cell research
  • You get an automated generic thank you (you never hear from the NPO again about how or if your signature helped affect change)
  • A few months later, you get an email newsletter with generic information about mission, personal stories and a small ask for a donation
  • You ignore it, but do not unsubscribe
  • A month later, you get another generic newsletter, you ignore it
  • Three months later, you get a printed quarterly newsletter (you must have entered your address when signing that petition). You glance at it, but trash it.
  • A few weeks later, you get a direct mail piece from that same organization. It includes mailing labels, but you chuckle because the last time you sent a letter was NEVER. Everyone you know is on email and you pay your bills online.
  • You start getting direct mail pieces from other organizations that are sort of just like the one that you signed the petition for. What's going on here?
  • You get the next monthly email newsletter and finally fed up, you click unsubscribe.
  • The next month, you get the latest edition of that same email newsletter and while you hate to do it, you click the report as spam button in your email software.
So what's the solution? Strategically, it's pretty obvious but the trick is how and where you start to build a permission list. When I was at the March of Dimes, we built an amazing list of moms of premature babies through our Share Your Story web site. Those names were off-limits as I personally developed relationships with many of the moms themselves. The results were astounding - loyalty, money raised through family teams and in-person reunions.

I don't have all the answers but here is a list of stuff that I'm working on...
  • Mining our email list for folks who signed up but have never made a gift - and figuring out what else we can ask them for (cause money isn't it)
  • Looking at our Advocacy communications strategy and and making sure we don't jump to asking for money too quickly
  • Looking for folks who'd be interested in blogging about us
  • Building a list of folks who really want a conversation with us directly
  • Looking at alternative ways to engage folks - on sites like myspace, facebook, Second Life and others
I know that many of you don't buy all this and that you are convinced that all you need to do is buy one more list or send one more letter and you will be able to continue to grow your organization. I don't believe you!

I'd love to hear from you - comment away.

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Thursday, February 08, 2007

The Top 7 Executional Lessons Learned

I apologize for the long delay - here are some more lessons learned from my time at The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. My first list was all about management. This list is focused on the art of getting things done: Execution.

Without further delay, here's the list:

07. Yes, leverage past experiences, but don't harp on it. People get sick of "when I was at company xyz, we did things this way" pretty fast.

06. Process works. Really, believe me - I'm a total convert. Weekly meetings, goal setting, tracking progress etc... it's all good!

05. Measure stuff. I've learned my lesson that not everything is measurable, but even so - once you start regularly looking at your progress in quantifiable terms you will see things that you couldn't have possibly seen before. Develop a dashboard and distribute it widely!

04. Not having money in the budget is NOT a good excuse for not doing something. Nothing happens until someone does something. Figure it out and get going.

03. Don't "big things up" - say you have a great idea that will set the world on fire, raise a ton of money or bring your organization lots of publicity. The LAST thing you should do is start selling the idea up the chain of command. Instead, figure out a way to small the idea down into chunks and get something launched fast.

02. Experiment a lot (refer to #3 - small things down and get going already!)

01. Execution is more important than strategy. If you aren't moving your feet, you aren't getting anywhere. That's NOT an excuse to ignore strategy by the way :)


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.


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

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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