Tue, February 26 2008

Mickey Mouse Marketing

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Author, Robin Hood Marketing

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Filed under:   Marketing essentials •

I read an interesting story in the Washington Post today.  Apparently marketing staff from Disney are training Walter Reed staff in customer service.  The hospital serving wounded soldiers has made headlines for its poor conditions and crippling bureaucracy.

The Mouseketeer Marketers apparently say it’s all about the audience.  No magic there - just smart marketing.  Customer service makes all the difference - just ask Snow White.

[Kris Lafferty, a trainer for the Disney Institute], who was a Navy lawyer before she started a second career with Disney, led the audience in a discussion of similarities between Disney and the Army hospital. (Both are dedicated to “making people feel better”; both are “subject to media scrutiny”; both are named after famous people named Walter. )

The Walter Reed employees learned the Disney lexicon. Employees are called “cast members.” Customers—or patients—are “guests.”

Then it was on to what Lafferty called the “Disney difference”: “You have to know and understand your guests.”

Much of it involves paying attention to details that matter to patients and visitors, Lafferty noted. “If I go to the doctor’s office and all the plants are dead, I don’t have a good feeling,” she said.

A wheelchair with frayed padding on the arm rests leaves a lasting impression, Donnelly said.

As a contrast to the irate Donald Duck, the trainers showed a slide of a beatific Snow White, holding a broom in a spic-and-span room and surrounded by happy animals. (Lesson: “You can’t sweep it under the rug,” Lafferty said.)

During breaks, some Walter Reed employees expressed surprise at the relevance of the training to their jobs.

“This is good,” said Jan Yatsko, head nurse for vascular surgery at the hospital. “It’s not what we expected.”

I think it’s sound advice - at a price.  Apparently the Disney training is around $800,000. So let me save you some money: Listen to Snow White.  Your customer service really, really matters.  It’s true in the Magic Kingdom, it’s true for the famlies of wounded soldiers, and it’s true for charities. 

The main reason donors quit supporting a charity is HOW THEY WERE TREATED BY THAT CHARITY.  How people experience you when they give, when they call you and when they benefit from your programs is everything.  Give to your own charity and see what happens.  If you provide human services, use them as a visitor.  This may be depressing.  I have yet to work for any organization that is consistently fantastic at customer service - and it’s especially hard for small, underfunded organizations.  But we can’t afford not to try better.

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Tue, February 26 2008

The small business/nonprofit connection

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Author, Robin Hood Marketing

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Filed under:   Marketing essentials •

A couple of months ago, Erick Brownstein of Ideablob.com wrote me with an interesting question: Are the challenges of how to start, run and develop small nonprofits different than those of the small business owner? 

He thinks not.  Here’s what he said:

Just as the vast majority of small businesses in the US are really ‘micro’ businesses with less than five employees, nearly 80% of the approximately 1.5 million US nonprofits have less than $100k in assets and/or revenues. Oftentimes, it’s one person running the show and these individuals are seeking support for issues ranging from health insurance to marketing to technology. Regarding what’s necessary for success, there are far more similarities than differences between the small nonprofit and the small business.

Advanta Bank recently launched Ideablob.com, an online community where people from diverse industries with different interests can help each other grow and develop their ideas…with a $10,000 monthly prize for the idea that the community votes as the best.

Originally conceived as a place for small business owners and entrepreneurs, the site has been attracting significant participation from small nonprofits. But what’s in it for them? Vying for the monthly prize offers a fun and engaging way to get feedback from supporters as well as other ideablob community members. In addition to the chance to win the money, these finalists (with Advanta’s support) have generated significant publicity for themselves. Several of the finalists have been nonprofits and last month’s second $10k ‘best idea’ winner was Marci Bossow Schankweiler, president and founder of Crossing the Finish Line (CFL), a PA-based small nonprofit that provides excursions for young adult cancer patients and their families. 

“If a company can do something that is good for its customers, that in turn is good for the company.” For Advanta, this is an experiment in the new landscape of social media where clearly defined business models aren’t yet established. For those who run small nonprofits and small businesses, Ideablob is an experiment in exploring the value of openly sharing new ideas with a wide range of people and their varied perspectives and an interesting tool for promotion and engagement.

I think this is quite wise marketing on the part of Advanta, and I’m intrigued by what Erick says.  When I was writing Robin Hood Marketing, I often turned for inspiration to marketing writers who catered to small businesses.  Like Duct Tape Marketing.  I think Erick is right that we—small business and nonprofits—have a lot to learn from each other.  Here’s some evidence: someone posting an idea and the responses they got. 

And apparently nonprofits have some good ideas: 7 of 8 of this month’s finalists are nonprofits.  Try it out.




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Mon, February 18 2008

Why a good story sells (even sweaters)

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Author, Robin Hood Marketing

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Filed under:   Cause-related marketing •

My beloved writer cousin Elisabeth just sent me this email yesterday, which I’m reprinting with her permission:

I just totally thought of you—I had a “marketing moment” looking through this catalog from “Fair Indigo.” Have you ever heard of it? I hadn’t. It’s “fair trade clothes” which sort of look like Ann Taylor Loft with maybe a sprinkle of J. Jill. Lots of t-shirts and stuff, “made fairly in Buji, China,” etc.. But as I was going through, I started dog-earing pages and making these grand plans to overhaul my wardrobe, and I suddenly realized I was going to buy a ton of stuff not because I really like the clothes (they’re ok) but because I want to buy tons of new clothes while congratulating myself on improving the lives of women in Buji, China. Almost every page has a story about how great these factories are, and what a difference they’re making. I was getting so into it when I realized, what a great marketing angle and application of K. Andresen’s marketing principles! Even the cover line is “Fair Trade Fashion helps change the world,” and here I am in the kitchen with Alistair thinking, I’m a world-changer! Let’s get that sweater in latte, too!

I love this story because it shows that good stories - and especially stories about good - sell just about anything.

We buy so many things because of their storyline, and we are especially likely to spend when we aspire to be a character in that story.  Imagine helping raise someone out of poverty on the other side of the world just by being fashionable - that’s being a heroine.

Remember this!  Your storyline is essential.  If you have a corporate partner, your cause-related marketing effort needs a compelling storyline.  If you’re about to email an appeal - check if there is a story there.  Is the reader going to feel a part of it?  No?  Then start rewriting now.  You need a good protagonist, a high-stakes conflict or challenge, and a resolution with meaning.  Even fashion catalogs have them.

You can check out Fair Indigo’s fine website here.

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Fri, February 15 2008

Listen to Your Valentine

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Author, Robin Hood Marketing

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Filed under:   Fun stuff •

Since it’s a day when we’re focused on winning hearts, I’m going to take a moment to highlight in red what we all adore: being recognized and loved for who we are and connecting with those we love.

Treat those you want to reach in this world with that kind of affection.  Listen to what they say.  Acknowledge and appreciate who they are.  They will respond in kind.  Great marketing is about love.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Tue, February 12 2008

The Bus Stop Broadside

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Author, Robin Hood Marketing

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Filed under:   Marketing essentials •

I just started writing a monthly column for Fundraising Success Magazine.  Check out the current issue here - it’s pretty interesting stuff.  Be sure to read Jeff Brooks’ column on “protecting victims.”

Here’s mine:

Imagine you’re waiting at the bus stop on a busy street in your town. It’s a cold day, and you’ve got your hood up and your head down. You’re thinking about a lot of things. That you’re going to be late to work if the bus doesn’t soon appear. That you forgot to pick up your dry cleaning. That all that holiday overconsumption has made your pants too tight. That your spouse doesn’t look at you the same way anymore. That you forgot to feed your daughter’s guinea pig this morning.

Then I walk up and interrupt your thoughts. I’m a complete stranger, and I say: “Greetings. I’m Katya, and I’m a good person. I was born in 1967. My mission in life is to raise my children well, love those around me and leave the world a little better than when I entered it. I need a friend, and you could be my friend. Will you be my friend today?”

I imagine that you would think I was nuts. And quite the narcissist.

Yet we fundraisers launch into this kind of creepy plea all the time. I have a stack of year-end appeals from December on my desk, and too many sound just like my stranger at the bus stop. Here’s the template:

Holiday greetings.
I’m writing from XYZ Nonprofit.
Established in (year), our mission is to (mission statement).
We need money.
Give us money.
Thanks in advance.
PS: Give us money.

I think this is nuts. And narcissistic. And it sounds like the bus-stop broadside. Fundraisers can and should do better. We should beware the bus-stop broadside fundraiser in all of us.

Why? People are busy, and their thoughts are not on us. They’re thinking about their weight, their job, their spouse, their children, the guinea pig, their place in this universe. If we interrupt them and ask for their attention, we had better do it well. We should not start a conversation with a monologue on our merits. We should acknowledge our readers’ presence and speak to their interests. We should not solely focus on what we want from them. We should focus on what we can achieve together.

If this sounds like common sense, well then, you’re on to me. This column, a new one here at FundRaising Success, is going to focus on the common sense we always forget. It’s about forgotten fundamentals — those immutable laws of marketing that are so easy to recognize and so hard to remember to do. And the fundamental we forget most often is this: To succeed in fundraising, we need to focus on our audience and not just ourselves.

I can speak with great authority on this topic because I’m constantly forgetting this fundamental. I forget that not everyone wakes up first thing in the morning thinking about online giving, which is the focus of my work at Network for Good. It slips my mind that my cocktail party companions might not share my zeal for all things marketing. I have a recurring case of mission myopia. The only cure is self-awareness and regular booster shots of an anti-nonprofit-narcissism vaccine.

Last year, Network for Good processed its 100 millionth dollar for nonprofits; a huge milestone for us. I started to draft a press release, but sanity prevailed. “Who would care?” I thought. No one, I realized. So I thought about why people should care. And what I realized was we were sitting on a fascinating set of data about giving. What if we celebrated our $100 million mark by analyzing our $100 million in giving — who gives online, where, what time of day, etc. — and sending our study to media and nonprofits? It would help media covering the charity beat, and it would help nonprofits fundraise more effectively. The result? A lot of attention and coverage of our work that continues to this day.

I was reminded of that study a few weeks ago when I was drafting a year-end e-mail to Network for Good’s friends and funders. The occasion was our sixth birthday, and the purpose of the note was to talk about the great things we’d achieved the past year. Then I realized that our birthday wasn’t really an occasion at all. Who cares, besides the people in my office, that we’re 6? And why should we be beating our chests, taking all the credit for the good we’d done? I was doing the bus-stop broadside.

So I started over. I drafted a heartfelt thank-you to our friends and funders for all they’ve done to make us what we are. The e-mail talked about how much we appreciate their investment of money, time and moral support — and the incredible returns that have resulted. It celebrated the difference the audience had made, and people loved it. 

Here’s the bad news. It’s hard to do this. Our tendency as fundraisers who love our cause is to talk about our cause.

Here’s the good news. When we do the work of thinking about how our cause relates to our audience, wonderful things happen. It’s worth the effort. We turn our preachy monologue into a respectful, engaging conversation. People respond because they want to have a relationship with us. We become great fundraisers, and we might even make a new best friend at the bus stop. FS

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