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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Friday, January 25, 2008

The Last Interaction

Seth is at it again in his latest post "The Latest Interaction."

"The last interaction, in my experience, is responsible for virtually all of the word of mouth you're going to get, positive or negative."
Yea, totally! I did a big research project for a huge non-profit that I used to work for looking at the entire web experience for a particular event. Guess what we found out...

We found out that the last interaction that donors and participants had proved to be CRITICAL to their overall experience. It didn't matter whether it was an e-mail thank you or a real-world experience after a long run/walk/swim/skateboard etc... that moment in which you have to make the really feel that they are making the world a better place is crucial.

Just today, I re-wrote a thank you letter and e-mail after talking to my client about how important it is to make sure that their donors feel all warm and fuzzy after clicking the donate button.

Don't miss out on this, it's super important - the last interaction you have (each and every time you interact with someone) is going to leave a critical impression. Get it right and you have a chance to get another "date" and to continue the relationship.

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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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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

From Left Field...

It turns out Bill Gates is also a great marketer:
"If you want to inspire people to participate, you have to show more than numbers; you have to convey the human impact of the work—so people can feel what saving a life means to the families affected."
Ummm, YEA!

Thanks Presentation Zen!


Friday, September 28, 2007

Building a Community, Part I: Why Bother?

I am planning on doing a series of blog posts around a new (and until now, highly secretive) initiative that we are working on at the International Rescue Committee.

Full disclaimer, I’ll be as honest and open as possible, but please expect that I’ll reserve the right to gloss of some details and ideas that I feel could be too easily adapted by others, thereby reducing the effectiveness of what we are building, or planning to build.

Part I “Why bother building a community”

If I am being totally honest, the impetus for the creation of an online community at the IRC revolves around something I hinted at in an earlier post. The IRC needs a platform – a way to engage people, build their involvement beyond making donations and coming to various traditional fundraising events and volunteerism. And yes, we’re thinking of a younger demographic as well.

But past the IRC needing new sources of revenue, what the IRC really needs is a way to engage a community of people who care about what we’re up to in war zones in an open, honest dialogue about what they can do to help – and how the IRC will use their involvement to accomplish it’s mission of rescuing and rebuilding lives and communities.

So what is it?

Good question. My team and I have looked at what seems like every community being run by a non-profit. From the super basic of “we have an email newsletter, and that is community” to the uber-engaged organizations like Greenpeace and March of Dimes Share Your Story, there is a ton of variation and differences. And each one was created for different reasons. New ones seem to pop up ever day.

But before I go too deep, let me make a distinction. At the ORGANIZATIONAL level, every business whether it be for-profit or non-profit most certainly has a loosely defined “community.” It’s easy to join this community, sign up for their e-mail newsletter or give them a donation and just like that, you are part of a community. At that level, I guess I’m part of the New Balance community because I wear NB sneakers. Not a very deep connection, but still… loosely defined it is a community of sorts. And this is of course the problem with communities – the connection is often too loose, or based on a shallow or single transaction. It's too easy to take for granted the relationship you think you have with a supporter.

I’m not honestly all that interested in loose, brand communities. Despite the fact that Apple has created a movement and Nike rallies athletes everywhere to “Just Do It” – these communities of consumers aren’t really interacting with and for each other at any level other than as a consumer. We need to do better in order to affect real change in the world.

Nike created, an online community for soccer fans. DVDTalk is a thriving online community for people who love movies and DVD’s. Netflix is as well. Why can’t Blockbuster keep up and why are they shaking in their shoes… Netflix has built a huge community of people who can connect to each other around the movies they love. They can share RSS feeds and rate their favorite movies. That’s closer.

Even closer still is what I helped to build at the March of Dimes. The Share Your Story community was started as a way for us to reach out to a new audience (i.e. mother’s of premature babies). We had just shifted our focus to prematurity, and realized that there wasn’t a dominant community of moms sharing stories, helping each other and telling their stories. Babycenter and iVillage had basic message boards, but they were lost in a sea of other topics, none specific enough to really attract such a targeted set of women.

So we opened the doors a few years ago and let them meet each other, share their photos and tell their stories. Not only did the community build itself (today to the tune of 20,000 people), but it turns out that the community is enormously involved in fundraising. Going back to my original point about the impetus for creating community to drive fundraising I can say that we did imagine a day where the community would raise a few bucks, but never did we imagine to what scale it would contribute (my data is old, but I’m making an educated guess that “family teams” which were created along with the new online community now generates millions of dollars a year via WalkAmerica).

So why build a community? The answer is complex and yet so simple!

Build a community if you are interested in long term brand success – develop brand evangelisgts, loyal donors, advocates and employees. That’s why. Next comes the really hard part… how to do it.

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

12 Keys to Working with a Pro Bono Agency

A new friend of mine asked me to jot down 12 (why twelve?) things to think about when working with a pro-bono agency. If you are thinking of going the pro-bono route to help you with marketing and branding, here is a starter list of 12 things to consider - in no particular order.

Full disclaimer: International Rescue Committee is working with draftfcb. The relationship is amazing, and pre-dated my arrival.

1. What is the motivation of the agency? (i.e. why are they doing this - if it is one person's passion - watch out - if that person leaves, what happens next?).

2. Define what sort of relationship you want. Talk to them and see what is a better fit - strategic branding and consulting or tactical help (ie.. designing web sites and developing technology). Either way, make it clear right away.

3. Utilize additional services to fill your own gaps - think of things like project management, research and media buying/planning.

4. Get your Senior management support before trying any re-branding. My CEO is very serious about our re-branding project - and with his help, the rest of the management team (and board) is enthusiastic. Get buy in from the top dog.

5. Once you get the CEO's buy in, make absolutely sure that you get the board chairperson's full support. Really - you'll need it when you are forced with hard branding questions.

6. Be prepared to tell the agency NO.. we cannot do that! They will come up with really creative ideas that simply won't work. Teach them.

7. Insist that the team be assigned like a paying client (defined team members and roles) and have them TRAVEL and see programs up close. makes all the difference in the world and makes a lot of sense.

8. Make them do tons of research and talk to staff as much as they talk to donors. Any good agency would actually insist on this.

9. Pray the agency has done at least a little work with NGO's before... if not, you'll spend a ton of energy explaining why non-profit marketing is different. It's different in important, subtle ways. Selling cell phones or diapers is different than selling a cause - and the measurement of success is different too - donations aren't sales figures.

10. Listen to what they are saying - if you get the right agency - they are EXPERTS. Listen and be willing to go places that are uncomfortable in order to create break through branding. I recently sent an e-mail that didn't include the new tagline and they called me out on it which I really appreciated.

11. Provide tons of education to staff at all levels - ESPECIALLY middle management. It's not enough to get seniro staff to buy in, you'll need the entire organization to be true believers.

12. Spend some bucks and roll the new brand out in a big way once you are ready.

Got any of your own tips?

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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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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Compelling + Relevant = Action

The real challenge that any marketer, non-profit or otherwise is to compel people to take action isn’t it?

The problem is you can’t compel anyone to do anything if you aren’t talking to them.

Speaking primarily about donors (umm, potential donors) in the United States we’re competing in the noisiest marketplace in the history of humans, and I’m not even complaining yet about CARE, UNICEF and World Vision’s marketing activities. The sheer number of advertisements, entertainment, news and information that floods over the average American is overwhelming. I know I can’t hope to keep up.

Add complex top of mind family issues, money problems, concerns about the environment, Iraq, Terrorists, the price of gas, milk and shoes and it gets even more crowded. Heap on a dose of personal hobbies, thinking about your golf swing, trying to remember to pick up dinner, deciding between poker night or a night with the wife and mowing the lawn and you start to see the problem here.

That’s a lot of noise!

So how can an organization start to “break-through” the clutter? I’m pretty sure it hinges on relevancy. The art of being relevant starts with understanding your audience. But even understanding your audience is a new ball game – with the proliferation of new technologies and the Internet, your donors can hide in a gazillion places burying their heads from you, closing their eyes and insulating themselves in a bubble of their own choosing.

I’m cynical and dubious that many marketers know how to deal with this situation. I find myself at times feeling overwhelmed by the possibilities and challenges of building a set of relevant and compelling messages that will result in new donors.

We’re doing an online study that will result in some new “personas” that will help us target our messaging. We’re opening up dialogues with existing donors to find out why they became donors in the first place and we’re listening intently to the marketplace by constantly asking ourselves if our messages are relevant and compelling. I don’t think we’re there yet, but we’re closing the gap and trying hard to be relevant with messaging that at least gives us a shot of “breaking-through” the clutter.


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

The Merging of Technology and Marketing

I'm finally recovered from a solid NTEN experience, my first ever. I will leave most of the commentary, notes and reflections to the great round up on the NTEN blog and will instead talk about something that is happening to our industry (or may have already happened):

Marketing and Technology are forever merging into one beast.

What is evident from the lack of marketing people in attendance (or so it seemed to me!) is that the marketing folks either don't see how important this is, or have their heads in the sand.


One reason could certainly be how the conference positions itself (The Non Profit Technology Conference or NTC) certainly could throw a marketer off. What marketer would possibly want to sit around with geeks all day talking about code and open-source software?

A smart marketer would, that's who. The reason a smart marketer should attend these types of conferences is simple - but understated.

While technology should never drive strategy, it most certainly does enable strategy.

As a (hopefully) smart marketer, I am fully aware that I need to engage my constituents at a variety of levels in a variety of venues. And while the verdict is out on whether or not "web 2.0" tactics will ever raise significant funds, it's quite obvious that social networking and the entire gaggle of new technologies are acting as an enabling platform that will allow organizations build bridges to their constituents.

What is happening, not to put too fine a point on it is that the geeks are creating a set of tools that allow organizations to extend and empower their ability to build strong relationships.

If you are a traditional marketer, this is an important point.

Think of it this way... in the old days, you'd run a print ad or a tv spot. You'd do all the work up front (focus groups, testing, production etc) then run your ad. And then it was done.

But now, the ad lives on. The web site generates comments and people pass around the URL or the podcast. People blog about you, run badges on their myspace pages and re-create your brand in SecondLife. Not only do you have a customer service and brand maintenance issue, you have TECHNOLOGY to worry about as well.

How does this relate to NTEN? If you are a marketer, decide now to get to NTEN next year - and look me up while you are there!

Special thanks to Erin Anderson, Peter Deitz, Chris Phillips, Carolyn Pizzuto, Jeff Herron and Seth Mazow for being on the 2 panels that I moderated.

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Monday, March 19, 2007

Yes - It's Not Working!

I've recently started to believe the hype around mobile marketing and wanted to try something/anything to see how it all works. I jumped in with two feet and quickly learned that the mobile marketing landscape is pretty much a mess. I read a lot and talked to a few vendors and learned all about the different carriers, the high cost of transactions and different technologies (MMS, SMS, WAP, etc). Because of my relatively small brain, I got quickly confused, just before depression set in. I plunged forward anyway.

We struggled to find the right marketing approach and eventually settled on using a mobile messaging strategy to support an online petition to stop violence against women. The thought was: once users sign the petition they can give us their mobile number (U.S. carriers only please!) and we'd send them periodic updates on how the petition was going.

Before settling on this "information strategy" we considered a donations campaign and even thought through creating an IRC "mobile club" that would give subscribers access to special content (wallpapers, icons and ringtones). We nixed that idea though because of the cost structure (a huge % of each payment would go to the carriers) that it was premature and inappropriate at this time. We also had the thought that maybe we should try walking before running.

In any case, there was good news and bad news. The best news comes directly from this attempt failing pretty badly. With more than 5,800 signatures and 7 registered mobile subscribers we learned that no one is taking us up on our offer. We'll need to really figure out if we've got an audience problem or a value proposition problem (my guess is we have a little of both). I'd much rather have an early setback with nothing at stake in ventures like this.

More good news includes the vendor we're working with. The msgme interface is amazingly clean and simple - and provided me with the ability to quickly test and set up my campaign.

The bad news is that mobile marketing (like anything) isn't as simple as we were hoping. Hope not being a strategy, this shouldn't have been surprising. We'll continue to try to find new ways to build relationships with our constituents and I'll keep letting you know what works and what doesn't.

In the meantime - please sign our petition to stop violence against women!

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

MTA Does It Again

In a previous post, I blogged about how the MTA delivered a wonderful newsletter. Since then, I've gotten another issue from them and two wonderful little surprises.

On two occasions, the train has been late into Grand Central. Both times, as I boarded the 5:01 back to Bridgeport, there were flyers on all the seats apologizing for the delays.

"An Explanation For This Morning's Delays" was the bold headline. The flyer went on to describe in detail why the train was late.

Not only did they deliver an explanation, they gave me a phone number and a web address to visit for more info.

I'm impressed at so many levels. MTA could easily thumb their noses at their customers - after all - am I REALLY going to drive to NYC everyday?

I'm guessing MTA doesn't have a secret Intranet anywhere (read this and you'll probably never walk into Best Buy again, I promise).

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Monday, February 12, 2007


It feels like I've been beating the "authenticity" drum for ages (I have) and that folks just don't seem to get it. Either that or they are a bunch of posers.

After watching Obama on 60 minutes and reading the first few chapters of his latest book, I believe that this guy is the real thing. What's left to be seen is if he can be a real person running a presidential campaign.

This terrific blog post has more on the subject, and Obama's opportunity.

“Building a ‘genuine relationship’ with your supporter base online doesn’t mean simply writing the same boring emails, but writing them yourself. No, it means writing to your supporters from the campaign trail in the same way that you might write to your spouse (without the smoochy stuff) or to a close friend: tell them the exciting things you experienced that day, what they made you think of, a joke you heard, and what occurred to you is really at stake. Some emails could be four pages, and some could be four sentences. Maybe sometimes you should just send a picture you snapped yourself. If you write to people like that, I promise you, they will go nuts."

I'm not making any political statements with this post - I'm simply reiterating to all you non-profit marketing types that authenticity should be job #1 - everything else comes next.

While I'm harping, check out a terrific post by fellow blogger Carey Paris over at Katya's Non-Profit Marketing blog.



Thursday, January 11, 2007

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?