Thu, March 20 2008

One of the best websites ever

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Author, Robin Hood Marketing

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Filed under:   Websites and web usability •

When I was presenting yesterday, I met Sherri Sager, a savvy and inspiring government relations officer at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford.  She turned me on to the hospital’s website for kids in response to my talk about the importance of an audience-centric approach online.

lpch

It is a beautiful illustration of everything a website should do:

1.) Engage with an audience from their perspective (this feels like Club Penguin, and that’s a good thing)
2.) Establish trust and authenticity - check out the great videos of kids talking to kids: the right messages and the right messengers.
3.) Provide something of value so it’s “sticky” - kids and parents will come back to this site over and over
4.) Organize navigation according to the audience’s mindframe and interests - you can find all you need
5.) Provide interactive components - kids can make their own avatars and participate
6.) Show, don’t tell: use story and compelling messengers to get your point across

I could go on and on.  Bravo to the Children’s Hospital.  Once again proving, it’s all about the audience, my friend.

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Thu, March 20 2008

Live from New Orleans - NTC

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Author, Robin Hood Marketing

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Filed under:   Social Media •

I was in Miami speaking about social media yesterday at a conference of Children’s Hospitals, and today I’m in New Orleans for the Nonprofit Technology Conference.  Tomorrow Mark Rovner and I are giving a session here called, “The Seven Things Everyone Wants: What Freud and Buddha Understood (and We’re Forgetting) about Online Outreach.”  The gist is that all the technology tools on display here at NTC and all over the web are shiny and sexy, but they only work when harnessed to basic human needs, interests and desires.  In other words, it’s human psychology - not the tools - are what ultimately leads to your success or failure online. 

Or, as my colleague Jono quotes his friend Nicole, “Don’t be a fool with a tool.”  I like that.

You must tap into what people want: they want to be seen, heard, loved, belong, find meaning.  They don’t blog to blog - they blog to be heard.  They don’t join groups because they like Yahoo! groups, they join groups out of a fundamental need to connect to others.

I have a new, simplified explanation for what constitutes web 2.0 or the world of social media.  It’s about three human needs:

1. The desire to be heard
2. The desire to be seen
3. The desire to connect to others

That’s what drives everything from Facebook to Dopplr to Digg.

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Fri, March 14 2008

Gloom and Doom Are Downers

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Author, Robin Hood Marketing

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Filed under:   Fundraising essentials •

This is my latest column for Fundraising Success.  I print it here to share it with you, but also in response to this week’s Nonprofit Consultants’ Carnival, which is hosted by Sam Davidson and focuses on “green” in honor of St. Patrick’s Day.  I think this message is especially important for the environmental movement.

A few months ago, I saw a full-spread, anti-slave labor ad that featured shackled hands, one on each side of the two pages. Attaching them was a strip of paper that formed a chain holding the pages together. It was an arresting image that seized my attention.

Then it got even better. It got interactive. When you laid the pages flat, the chain broke.

But then it got worse. Underneath the broken chain was a message: “Ending slave labor is not this easy.” There was a tiny “ILO” logo in the upper right asking you to visit the International Labour Organization’s Web site to find out “how to help.”

I loved the handcuffs. I hated the message so much I blogged my disappointment. (Hat tip to osocio.org blog, formerly Houtlust Blog, for running the ad — that’s where I first saw it.)

Here’s why I hated it: I felt powerless to help because even the ILO admitted it was not easy to do anything about slave labor. How can I have faith that it will possibly overcome the problem? What in this ad makes me believe I could possibly make a difference? Nothing. I just felt weak and world-weary.

What if instead the message said, “You just took the first step to ending slave labor. Now take another one. Visit http://www.ilo.org – .” I would have felt inspired, not tired. I might have donated money or time.

If you haven’t guessed by now, I am not a fan of fear-based, gloom-and-doom messaging. I think it’s a downer; a downer as in diminished donations, dispirited advocates and doubting audiences. Feeling depressed yet? Me too.

That’s my point. In this edition of my forgotten fundamentals column, I want to focus on hope. And not just because my state is flooded with Obama ads — which I happen to think are very good, regardless of your political stripe. I want to focus on hope, inspiration and aspiration because they are the basis of a long-term relationship.

Here’s the problem with fear. It sometimes works — if we get scared into doing something quickly. But over time, our fear is going to erode, so we might not act again. (Think “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.”) Or, the fearful, gloom-and-doom approach can backfire. It can make us feel powerless. It can make us feel helpless. It can make us feel a problem is insurmountable, intractable and just plain permanent. It can make us want to run away.

The more drama you give your problem, the more risk you take. If the apocalypse is coming, why bother trying to make change? If you scare with scale, you’ll lose. If you empower with feasible steps to set things right, you’ll motivate — and affect social change.

Environmental campaigns often focus on negative consequences. That’s not all bad — but you need feasible, corrective steps paired with the negative consequences. If you’re going to try to fundraise with melting polar ice caps, you’re going to need to convince people their donations can stop us all from drowning. You need them to believe their actions can change things. You want them to feel hopeful — and good.

This logic doesn’t only apply to a good cause; it also holds true for lingerie. A Journal of Consumer Research study from February covered in The Washington Post found that when people buy gifts at the last minute, they are motivated by fear — specifically, fear of being in the doghouse. The whole experience of going to Victoria’s Secret the night before Valentine’s Day in a desperate shopping spree for your honey is negative, and the doghouse-dodging shoppers in the store don’t tend to get warm, fuzzy feelings about giving or about the brand. By contrast, non-procrastinators aren’t motivated by fear, and they tend to feel happy and loving about their gift experiences — and the brand.

In other words, The Washington Post noted, fear rarely wins people’s hearts.

We should keep this in mind. Scaring people into giving is about as effective as a holdup: Someone will hand over his wallet, but he’s not going to feel good about it or you.

Here’s a good rule of thumb: Threaten dire consequences only when there is an immediate, specific and feasible recommendation for remedying them. Show need alongside positive results. Give people a way to channel the emotions you evoke into real change.

That’s what we all want. We want to be able to change what’s wrong. We want to set things right. We want hope that things can be better. We want to aspire to be something more.

The last thing we want to feel is helpless. Remember that, and tap into those human needs as much as you can. Sell, don’t scold. Pair negative consequences of inaction with the uplifting image of action. Show the solution. Convince people that, together, we can handle the challenge, not just hand-wring our way into despair. In other words, break those chains of negativity. We want out of them.

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Thu, March 13 2008

Why People Give Redux

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Author, Robin Hood Marketing

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Filed under:   Fundraising essentials •

I scooped the New York Times.  Not really - but I did post on why people give a few days before the Times published a fascinating article on that topic.  And fortunately I was on the same philosophical page as the Great Gray Lady, who I think it’s fair to say has a bit more prestige than yours truly.

If you didn’t read the article, I recommend it.  (Registration may be required to read it.)  The article looks at rare research into giving through the lens of social psychology and the world of behavioral economics, and it’s fascinating.

Here are the key points:

-People aren’t very rational or clear-headed in how or why they give - it’s an emotional act. 
-Because this “warm glow” theory holds, giving is not a zero-sum game.  In fact, if a Warren Buffet gives $31 billion to the Gates Foundation, people don’t stop giving because they think there is not need - they are inspired to give because of the warm feeling the gift made.  People want to do what other, good people are doing.
-In line with the above idea, people are likely to give toward a campaign goal if you have seed money or a start toward a goal that makes it seem attainable.
-Matching gifts elevate response, but the amount of the match makes no difference.  So even though you’d think a 3-1 match would be more motivating than a 1-1 match, it is not.  It’s the presence of a match that matters.
-Seed money may be more important than matching gifts in fundraising, because it outperformed matching gifts.
-People give more money if they think other people are giving more money—unless the amount other people are giving is so huge they it feels irrelevant.  In other words, there is a donation sweet spot.  If people think others are giving $300 on average, they may give more; if they think others are giving $1,000 on average, it will not have the same inspirational effect.
-People gave more when they were told their donation made them eligible for a prize.

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Thu, March 13 2008

What You Need to Know about Perception

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Author, Robin Hood Marketing

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Many people think marketing is a battle of products.  In the long run, they figure, the best product will win.  Marketing people are preoccupied with doing research and “getting the facts.”  They analyze the situation to make sure that truth is on their side.  Then they sail confidently into the marketing arena, secure in the knowledge that they have the best product and that ultimately the best product will win.

It’s an illusion.  There is no objective reality.  There are no facts.  There are no best products.  All that exists in the world of marketing are perceptions in the minds of the customer or prospect.  The perception is the reality.  Everything else is an illusion.

These are the words of Trout & Ries in their must-own, classic book, The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing.  And it’s a law that certainly applies to us more than ever.

I quote them today because there are constant reminders of this law around us.  As well as cautionary tales about what happens when you do things to shake people’s perceptions in the wrong way.

Does Starbucks taste better that Pete’s or Caribou?  Or is it the perception of its taste - fueled by the ambiance of their stores and their first mover claim to that perception - that explains why there are more Starbucks outlets around?  Is growth slowing for Starbucks because the coffee tastes that much worse than before - or because it isn’t the perceptive experience that it used to be?

The great brands of our sector seek to own certain perceptions.  Kiva.org is about directly helping another person with an hand-up.  American Red Cross was about coming to our rescue - until that perception was shaken.  They are still recovering.

The perception of former NY Governor Spitzer was that he was squeaky clean and ruthless in holding others to lawful and moral standards.  When people learned something that flew in the face of this perception, he was finished - as a brand and certainly as a politician.  The product - his work as governor - is secondary in most people’s minds to the more primary (and primal) issue of whether he lived up to what he projected and what we perceived.

So what do you do about it?  You focus on your audience as much as your programs.  You show why you matter to them rather than trying to convince them to listen to what you do.  You seek to own a unique perception in the minds of your audience rather than trying to dislodge their perception of your competition.  You can fine-tune your programs or re-brand all day long, but until you connect to what is in someone’s heart or mind and create a perception, your “product” doesn’t exist for them.  If you do have a place in people’s hearts and minds, honor that perception with your actions.  People don’t like to have their perceptions proved wrong.  In fact, they hate it because they don’t like to be proven wrong.

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