Monthly Archives: July 2011

Favorite Links: July 2011

We’re always in search of fresh thinking on issues that affect nonprofit marketing. Here’s some recent favorites:

Ten Things You Need to Know to Raise Capital for Your Nonprofit
Fast Company

The Case Against Designing Mobile Apps
Imprint

Why Bosses Need to Show Their Soft Side
Daniel Pink, The Telegraph

Are We Our Own Biggest Problem?

By Dan Woychick

Recently I asked a few dozen colleagues a simple question: In the current marketing environment, what is the single biggest problem you face today? Bear in mind that this survey was intended as a qualitative exercise, so I won’t break down the numbers into excruciating detail, but undeniable trends emerged. Nearly 90% of the answers fell into two broad categories:

  • We can’t do everything we want to do or should do.
  • Others within the organization don’t understand what we do.

I’d argue that the two are related.

No time. No money.
OK, there is no silver bullet here. Every nonprofit seems to be understaffed and inadequately funded, and that’s not changing. But, there are other issues exacerbating the situation.

As one person wrote: “The proliferation of channels makes it overwhelming for single practitioners and smaller organizations to keep everything fresh and up to date.” Others expanded on this theme, highlighting the difficulty in knowing which channels are the most effective use of limited time and money.

Sounds like some research would be useful here. Oops! Remember? There’s no money available for that. And yet, some organizations still manage to produce effective marketing. How is that possible?

You can’t always get what you want
I’m willing to bet that if I asked the same group of people which factors are present when they’re most successful, one answer would be similarly common: Clear goals and priorities.

All projects are not equally important, even though they are often treated that way. Part of the blame can certainly be assigned to an organization’s leaders if they don’t provide clear direction. But, as a group, marketing people have to get better at setting expectations and defining project parameters.

Remember the old adage? Good. Fast. Cheap. Pick any two. If you want the project done well – quickly – I can drop everything else I’m doing, but it won’t come cheap. On the other hand, I can finish this project fast for a relative pittance, but it won’t be very good.

The soul-sucking truth is that too often we are implicitly being asked – or voluntarily committing – to do work that won’t be very good. We’ll do each project as well as we can, putting in long hours in hopes of turning lemons into lemonade, but work ethic isn’t the issue here.

We know there is a process that leads to the most successful outcomes, but when we work without clear goals and priorities we are setting ourselves up for failure more often than not. And that leads us to the related problem.

They just don’t understand
If you’re regularly asked to make decisions without adequate information, juggle too many responsibilities, or provide explanation for failing to perform miracles, you may work in an organization that doesn’t understand what you do – or what you’re capable of doing given appropriate support and direction.

Maybe I’m naïve to think that one should tackle this problem at the top: Boss, I’ve identified the biggest obstacle to doing our work effectively. Will you help us find the time – and work with me – to address it?

One of the survey respondents, who is relatively new at his job, is working to educate his organization about what marketing is and how it can help them. He’s planning a series of lunch meetings and presentations over the next year. I’ll be interested to hear how this effort shapes perceptions. Fortunately, he has the support of a “very smart boss.”

In our experience, when nonprofit organizations launch new initiatives, the most often overlooked element is internal communication. So much of the focus, understandably, is on external audiences, that one’s own colleagues are an afterthought. Just remember, internal communications and education must also be good and cheap, so it may take a while. Be patient, but persistent.

Own your own fate
Examining problems from a new perspective can prompt insights – and more questions:

  • In order to do your job better, what if what you need isn’t more time or more budget (face it, that’s not happening anyway) but more understanding?
  • If you’re able to start each project with clear objectives how does that change things?
  • What becomes possible if you know which projects are the most important to achieving organizational goals?

Face it, if these are your biggest problems and you spend no time trying to address them, then who’s really at fault?

Of course, there is one possibility that is almost too depressing to contemplate: You may have leaders that expect fast/cheap work – and can tolerate the trade-offs – because deep down they don’t believe marketing really makes a difference. If, reluctantly, you determine this is the case where you work, either find an enjoyable hobby or look for a new job. Life is too short.

To be continued…
I’ll be writing more about this topic in coming weeks, but what are your thoughts? If these are the biggest problems we’re facing, is all hope lost? Is this simply our lot in life? Or do you have plans in place to address these issues? I’d love to hear about them.

Related content:

We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know

Why Being Certain Means Being Wrong

How to Break Through Bureaucracy to Keep Projects Moving

There Are No Shortcuts

By Dan Woychick

Some problems are so common to the human condition that we’re predictably intrigued with promises of easy solutions. You’re telling me I can eat all the Oreos I want, and still lose 10 pounds in 30 days? Sign me up! Earn up to $5,000 working at home only a few hours per month? Sounds good!

Marketing professionals fall into a similar trap when they fixate on short-term tactics and the latest trends – things that often seem too promising to ignore – at the expense of a well-planned, long-term strategy.

Whether it’s social networks, QR codes, or online publications whose pages magically flip like their paper predecessors, none will ever be a substitute for the more difficult endeavor of creating high-quality, relevant content and delivering great experiences and service.

Maintain a balance
To clarify, this is not an anti-technology rant – everything new is bad – nor an argument in favor of foot-dragging on innovation. Heaven knows, there are more than enough committees perfectly capable of killing good ideas.

It’s just that the initial question often seems to be: How can we use [insert tactic/trend here]? When we should be asking: What are we trying to do? And what are the best ways to achieve those goals?

We need to balance the temptation to hop on the latest bandwagon against forces that delay decision-making or change. As John Wooden, the legendary UCLA basketball coach, once said, “Be quick, but don’t hurry.” In other words, execute without hesitation, but have a plan first.

Know your audience
If you’re driving after dark on an unfamiliar road, you wouldn’t hesitate to use your car’s headlights. It would be crazy – and dangerous – to proceed otherwise. Yet, some  organizations recklessly steer their marketing based primarily on assumptions or scant anecdotal information. It’s always better to shine a little light on the situation, then budget time and resources accordingly.

Be remarkable
There is an oversupply of ordinary in the world. Honestly, what can you do that your competitors can’t or won’t do? What makes you so special? If you can answer that question – better yet if your customers can answer it for you – you’re well on your way.

Spending time only on what’s quantifiable (likes, clicks, followers) is the easy part. Having the vision and leadership to act on what’s important – more likely to be operational issues than your latest tweet – is significantly harder. Hey, if it was easy, everyone would be remarkable!

Earn trust
Staying attuned to your customers and continually rewarding them is a daily grind, not a quick fix. Done well, over time, you’ll earn their trust. And then we can start matching tactics to strategic goals.

Related content:

Death to the QR Code

Is Social Media a Waste of Time?

Flip Books: Weighed, Measured, and Found Wanting