Fri, February 06 2009

What you should be reading online

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Author, Robin Hood Marketing

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For this week’s websites/blogs of the weeks, I thought I’d share my go-to resources.  It’s taken me forever to figure out the best places for information on nonprofits, nonprofit marketing and fundraising online.  Here are some tips:

Some places to go for good blog reading:

Alltop’s list of sources for nonprofit news.

And here is Jeff Brooks’ list of Best Blogs for Fundraising.

And Seth Godin.

Here’s an interview with Seth from Mashable:

Other great resources:

Network for Good’s free learning center

Kivi’s awesome

Great time wasters:

Celebrity gossip - ICYDK, Perez Hilton and TMZ

Humor - GraphJam and Funny or Die

song chart memes
more music charts

Feel free to share your own!

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Fri, February 06 2009

My 10 year old’s 3 marketing principles

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Author, Robin Hood Marketing

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Filed under:   Marketing essentials •

Guess what?  They’re assigning marketing homework in fifth grade.  Yep.

Here was my daughter Sophia’s assignment: to invent a fantasy sled and then write a paragraph to market it.  In my unbiased opinion, it was the best piece of marketing I read all week.

This is how she described her sled, which was shaped like a giant globe and had a trampoline, elevator, Egyptian desert, Eiffel Tower replica, kitchen and swimming pool among other features:

Is the economy getting on your nerves?  Don’t want to spend money this winter to travel?  Well, I think you need a Debbie.  This eco-friendly, travel-themed sled gives anyone a cultural experience without worrying about your economic investment and more importantly, all those pesky tourists… Debbie is like traveling without ever leaving the country!

This got me thinking.  Here is what ten year olds like, totally understand.  And it applies to nonprofit marketing.  And fundraising.  And most human communication.

1. YOU MUST GET RIGHT TO THE POINT:  Kids don’t have the corner on the short attention spn market.  So ten year olds don’t waste time getting to the heart of the matter.  Nor should we.  They keep it clear and direct.

2. IT MATTERS WHO IS TALKING: Kids listen to who is real and who is cool.  Guess what?  So do grownups.  Sophia is an authentic messenger.  To her audience - mom and the teacher - she has a lot of authenticity and credibility. 

3. ALWAYS OFFER DESSERT:  Kids are always focused on dessert.  Adults want the sweets too.  Lesson: put the reward right out there, front and center.  Kids get the concept of benefit exchange better than anyone on the planet.  They are pretty aware of what’s in it for them in any situation.  Like travel on the cheap without leaving the country or dealing with tourists…

Way to go, Sophia.


PS:  Sophia could teach those spammers a thing or two.  Lately, I’ve been getting a lot of fake “comments” on my blog from people called “San Francisco Personal Injury Lawyer” or “New York personal injury lawyers.”  I moderate so I can delete people like this.  Not authentic, folks.  Lay off my blog.

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Tue, February 03 2009

5 Keys to Pulling out of the Economic Nosedive

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Author, Robin Hood Marketing

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Filed under:   Fundraising essentials •

This is my latest Fundraising Success column - timely stuff, I think, so I’m sharing it here.

It’s ugly out there, and if you’re the pilot of your fundraising endeavors, you’re getting pretty sick of the turbulence.  Many of us are rendered nauseous by the sight of the goals on our development dashboards.  Some nonprofits are in a fiscal nosedive.  And as any financial pundit worth his market metaphors will tell you, falling is no fun, especially without a golden parachute.

In situations like this, some people panic.  Others get inventive.  Let’s all pledge here and now to stay in the latter category.  As a wise man once said, worrying is not thinking and complaining is not action.

Here are five keys to pulling yourself and your message together to survive 2009.  They are all variations on an important theme: give donors what they want during tough times. 

1. Give donors what they want: to feel good.

That’s right.  Donors want to feel good, especially right now.  They want a helper’s high.  They want to have an impact, make a difference and attain an emotional ROI.  You don’t give that to them with a desperate, doom and gloom message about your dire need.  Even if you’re feeling negative, there is no need to share that emotion unless there is a happy windup to your appeal.  Who can the donor save?  What can they make possible?  How can they be a superhuman life-changer for a small sum?  Tell them that.  It’s good stuff.  It’s motivating stuff.  It works.  DO NOT LOSE SIGHT OF THIS.  Times are tough and if you can make people feel good about themselves and what they’ve done, that’s worth a lot to them.

2. Give donors what they want: to hear from people they know.

Now’s a good time to change up the messenger.  People are going to be in a kind of mental fetal position this year, clinging to their nearest and dearest in this scary world.  So if you put your cause in the mouths of their friends and family, you’re going to get much further than you would messaging alone.  Ask your supporters to spread the word about you.  The messenger will be key this year, and it’s best if it’s not you.

3. Give donors what they want: tangibility.

People are pinching pennies and seeking value this year, whether in the aisles of Wal-Mart or when giving money.  You need to show you’re going to be a very trustworthy, efficient and effective steward of their money, and there’s no better way to do that than to be very concrete.  Where will the money go?  What dollars buy what change?  What good is going to result from a gift?  Answer these questions many times: when a donor gives, after they give, and next time you contact them for help. 

4. Give donors what they want: flexibility.

Not everyone can give as they have in more prosperous times.  So recognize that fact and give them flexibility in how they support you.  How can they volunteer their times or talents?  How can they assist you in spreading the word?  How about monthly giving – modest amounts deducted from their credit cards?  Make it easy for people to help, no matter how hard the times.

5. Give donors what they want: personalization.

Last, don’t forget to do everything you can to personalize your messages.  Donors are going to be hit up for money left and right by desperate parties this year.  If you show you see them as a person and not a walking wallet, you stand a better chance of standing out.  Ask them about their interests so you can cater to them.

I’ll also add a bonus sixth point, which is that if these things aren’t working at all, that tells you something.  One explanation is hard times, but that’s not the whole story.  If you can’t prove your relevance to donors or supporters, you have more than the recession to blame.  You need to call up a few folks and find out why you’re failing to connect.  Or ask yourself if you are targeting the wrong audience.  Or question if you need to join forces with an organization better positioned for outreach.  Keep looking till you know why you’re failing – and then have the courage to fix the underlying problem.  The more you think instead of panic, the greater your chances of pulling out of your nosedive and taking flight.

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Mon, February 02 2009

Watching the Superbowls and I gotta say…

Katya Andresen's avatar

Author, Robin Hood Marketing

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Filed under:   Marketing essentials •

I’m underwhelmed.  The game is way more exciting than the commercials.  That said, I love the Hulu site featuring them to share (like here) and vote. 

Here’s what you can learn from the millions and millions corporate American spent on the spectacle.

1. Pay attention to the national mood.  In the midst of a crappy economy, we saw attempts to brighten things up.  There were lots of job hunting sites (that tried to be funny) as well as let’s-be-happy ads (like the Coke one and SoBe one below). 

2. Remember your audience.  A lot of ads did NOT do this in my view (see below), but some hit the mark like the boring but very effective Hyundai assurance ads (lose your job, you can return the car, we’ll honor that contract with you) and the ad, which seemed to be based on market research showing people are intimidated by the car buying process.

3. Money doesn’t buy good marketing. There were some real duds.  Like TeleFlora and GoDaddy.  TeleFlora was awful - thanks guys for making me have totally negative associations with flowers!  And who CARES if they are in a box or not?!  AWFUL.  As for Bud, I loved Conan but I’m totally undecided about all those darn Clydesdales.  They are adorable, but I gotta tell you the people who loved the ads the most in my household were all under age 10.  Future beer drinkers?  Do regular or prospective Bud drinkers like this cutsie thing?  I’m not convinced.  If you like the horse ads, let me know if you’ll be drinking more Bud now, and I’ll be proved wrong.

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Sat, January 31 2009

The totally annoying, often wonderful lack of control you have in the social web

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Author, Robin Hood Marketing

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I’m reading Dave Evans new book, Social Media Marketing in an Hour a Day.  It’s excellent.  Even though I consider myself somewhat knowledgeable in social media, and even do trainings on the topic, there is so much I’m learning.  I highly recommend it, for everyone from beginners to intermediate social media folks.  I also recommend Allison Fine’s book (“Momentum”) if you want more of the background on the social web.

Here’s a key point Dave makes far more eloquently than I ever have:

“You’ve got to give up control in order to gain a presence in the conversations that matter.”

What he means is, you can’t control the conversation online.  And that conversation REALLY matters.  To be a part of it, you have to cede control and listen, then participate.  And you have to do so honestly.  Because disclosing who you are is key to building trust.

I say this all the time, less succinctly, but I’ll admit this is easier said than done.  When you experience this lack of control, it is not fun or easy.  It’s often irritating.  But you have to do as he says, and over time, you’ll appreciate the experience and its value.

I’ll give you a personal example.  A few days ago, you may have read my post, The Perils of the Pre-Ask.  My point was as a marketer, you should always ask directly for something.  You should not just talk about yourself or have “awareness” as your goal—you should always be focused on getting someone to act in some way. 

It got picked up in a few places.  Peter Panepento of the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s Prospecting Blog interpreted my post this way: that you should always ask people for money.  Then a bunch of people understandably assumed this is what I was saying and that I don’t believe in cultivating relationships or asking for something other than money.  This killed me, since I’m constantly telling folks NOT to treat donors like ATM machines.  It was painful.  It was annoying.  I wanted to yell at Peter for starting the whole thing (sorry Peter, I’m your fan, but I’m just being honest and holding myself up as a case study.)  But I didn’t.  Because that would be wrong.  He was taking my premise, riffing on it and generating a conversation, and that’s what blogging is about.  Kivi picked up Peter’s pickup, adding her own comments, which made me happier.


So I went onto Peter’s blog, identifying myself clearly, thanking the commenters, agreeing with some of their key points, and explaining the interpretation of my post was not what I was trying to say.  (Sadly, I did this a day late because I’m behind on my day job, so that’s not best practice, but better late than never.)

I also sent Peter an email personally (because I know him) and said thank you for the post—and clarified my point.

Now I’m continuing the conversation here.

That’s social media.  I’m a participant, just like anyone else.  So “all” I can do is to participate.

The good news, while that being “just” a participant can feel powerless, it’s quite powerful.  Honestly and directly and openly being a participant can have a really good outcome.  Beth Kanter recently shared another example of this that I experienced.  It’s a good read.  Actually, everything Beth writes is good.  So read her blog regularly if you don’t already.

The moral of the story?  Participate, in the good and the bad, openly.  It’s powerful stuff.  If you listen, you learn.  Those folks have much to teach you, and much to share.  And while it feels dangerous at times, it’s more dangerous not to participate.  As Dave says:

“On the social web, your absence is conspicuous.  Failing to participate retards the advancement of trust.  In fact, it can increase the likelihood of mistrust.”



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