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Posts Tagged ‘Marketing’

Virtual Events: Six things to consider on the way to the New World

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009

virtual event

My friend Loree Stark recently wrote a great article called “A Whole New World” on Virtual Events in Expo magazine. In this article she gives three great examples of companies that have participated in Virtual Events. She also lists “10 Steps to Get You There” which offers some excellent points on what it takes to begin planning a virtual event.

As marketers, its important we make a plan before we charge into any tactic, virtual or not. Without a thoughtful strategy, we increase our risk of exposure and the chances of missing ROI objectives.

This is normally a mortal sin for marketers, and especially risky in this economy. Adopting reactive postures for short term gains at the risk of long term success is a recipe for disaster.

Before taking the first step into this “Whole New World” its critical now more than ever marketers understand what they are getting into.

Today I’ll discuss a few things to think about as you consider adding Virtual Events into your marketing mix. But first, lets make sure we’re operating from a common definition.

What is a Virtual Event?
A Virtual Event is a gathering of individuals who meet through a computer-generated environment at a prearranged time in order to acquire knowledge, share information, interact with each other and engage in activities of common interest. Whew! That’s a mouthful.

Here are the key elements of the definition that should always be top of mind.

Computer-generated environment: Audiences experience Virtual Events using their desktop or notebook computer, and like anything else done on a computer – the surrounding environment (complete with distractions) competes with the experience.

Pre-arranged time: This drives the critical mass of an audience, which in turn fosters interaction.

Interact: Interaction among audiences and between sponsors drive engagement and to some degree, immersion in a Virtual Event. It also promotes a higher level of value for attendees and sponsors alike.

Types of Virtual Events

Webcast - Live audio, video or multimedia distributed via the Internet or on digital networks. Webcasts can only be considered events when the content is live.

Webinar - A seminar conducted over the Internet. In contrast to a Webcast, a Webinar is designed to be interactive between the presenter and the audience.

Web Conference - A group meeting or live presentation over the Internet. Web Conferences use screen sharing accompanied by voice communication via telephone or VOIP. Text chat is sometimes used to complement, or in place of voice communication.

Virtual Trade Show - Similar to a face-to-face trade show, a virtual trade show includes: an exhibition hall, a conference center for keynotes, panel discussions, and breakout sessions, a lounge for attendee networking and a resource center for distribution of content.

Virtual World Events – Meetings that take place in virtual worlds like Second Life. These can be as simple as a speaking opportunity, or as complex as a full-blown virtual conference, with robust multimedia, multiple speakers and sessions, networking opportunities, product demonstrations, virtual tours, etc.

Why now?
We are experiencing a perfect storm where Virtual Events are becoming a viable tactic for marketers to consider adding to their marketing mix.

  • Economic factors: Brands are looking for lower-cost alternatives to engage their audiences.
  • Technologies and platforms: Several platforms using different technologies are widely available to host Virtual Events. These are simple to use and robust enough to warrant participation.
  • Bandwidth: Broadband technologies make it easier and more effective than ever for audiences to engage and participate in Virtual Events.
  • The speed of business: Virtual Events allow employees to be accessible or present and allow knowledge and content sharing, education and interaction without disruption.
  • Green: The impact of a virtual activity on the environment is far less than that of a face-to-face tactic.

Here are six things to consider:

1.  Virtual Events are not the same as Face-to-Face Events

  • Virtual Events are another (different) tool you can use to qualify and acquire leads, reinforce thought leadership, or distribute information. They are not, and will not behave the same as Face-to-Face events

2.  Virtual Events do not immerse attendees in a multi-dimensional interactive brand experience

  • They are at the end of the day, a two-dimensional attendee experience.
  • Outside of software, attendees cannot experience your product(s).
  • Audiences participating in Virtual Events are subject to the same distractions, as they would have during any other computer-based activity. 

3.  Virtual Events cannot facilitate relationships as well as Face-To-Face activities

  • No one ever got married as a result of participating in an online dating site based solely on that experience (at least I hope not). There was a live in-person courtship that took place. The same goes for valuable, long-term business relationships. You cannot fax a handshake, and a virtual beer lacks flavor. The human experience requires humans.

4.  Virtual Events are best used as part of an overall marketing mix

  • Identify marketing objectives first, and employ the most effective tools to meet those objectives, virtual or otherwise.
  • Avoid one-off activities – understand how Virtual Events strategically fit within your overall program alongside all marketing tactics.

5.  Virtual Events can take the place of *some* live face-to-face events

  • Understand marketing objectives, number of attendees, how technically savvy your audiences are, the degree of interactivity required, etc.
  • Again, your audiences will behave differently at a Virtual Event than they do in a Face-to-Face event.
  • Brands experience a different level and kind of performance from Virtual Events vs. Face-to-Face Events. Plan for this.

6.  Virtual Events can be used to complement live Face-to-Face events (a hybrid model) 

  • Hybrid models bolster attendance, increase access to content, extend the life of a physical event, leverage and reuse assets, increase reach, drive buzz, enhance attendee value and improve ROI.

As Cece Salomon-Lee mentions on her blog PR Meets Marketing, “Going Virtual Isn’t Necessarily the Answer to Replacing Your Physical Events.” Its important marketers “take a step back and look at the larger picture.” Understanding your business objectives, your audience and all the tools in the marketer’s toolbox will help you ensure your marketing mix is balanced, and your relationships with your audiences are addressed appropriately at every stage in the sales cycle.

Retrench or Rejuvenate?

Sunday, February 15th, 2009

As President of the American Marketing Association in Boston, I am uniquely privileged to have my finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the market. Practical business intuition would suggest that a down economy is the perfect time to invest in your company. However, due to the rolling effects of “Black October” and the lack of confidence demonstrated by consumers during the holiday season, some marketing executives are retrenching. It may be tempting to freeze salaries, cut marketing budgets, and take on a “Marketing for NOW” attitude, but now may not be the time.One consequence of marketing for NOW might be to eliminate tactics that are not readily familiar to you as a marketer. New marketing tactics such as social media, online video, digital media outreach, viral marketing and event search marketing are sometimes not perceived as “safe” if they haven’t had a few successes already. With our clients, we’ve found that when executed properly, these new media tactics can increase your lead generation by up to 25%.

A second effect of focusing on NOW is the temptation to axe your nurture programs. These important programs may fall off the budget table because the yield is too far down the road. However, these nurture programs are your future. There are some creative ways to keep your nurture programs running in the background.

The third result of focusing on NOW is that your cuts could create holes in your message. At a time when companies desperately need marketing, cutting important online and offline channels can create unfortunate gaps in your unified marketing message. If you are not careful, retrenching can also create campaign silos, which will eat away at the effectiveness of your total marketing investment.

Marketing is always important, in good times or bad. As your competitors pull back in fear, they create extra space for you to fill. You may have an opportunity to create a bright spot for your brand to shine through the economic darkness. What will you do?

Myles Bristowe
President, Boston Chapter of the American Marketing Association

Chief Marketing Officer
Commonwealth Creative Associates
Framingham, MA

Economic Crisis can be Opportunities with the Right Planning

Monday, October 20th, 2008

It’s that time of year again, the leaves are changing, the nights are cooler, the school buses are rolling, and, if you’re lucky, senior management wants to know what and where you want to spend next year. They aren’t making any promises, but it looks like the current financial crisis means that you should think long and hard about what to spend at all. On the other hand, those that have the resources may come out aggressive and try to take your market share. Everyone is looking hungry, including your clients. Should you go for broke or pace for the marathon? Do you feel lucky? Well, do ya?

A well-thought-out, or even a mediocre-thought-out, strategy involves a lot of thinking and a lot of ideas. Sometimes that takes time, sometimes that takes effort, usually it takes both. I’m right in the middle of our annual planning sessions for the upcoming year, but I have an advantage. I have a fuzzy idea of where we’re going to be in the future. Knowing that helps to plan for the next year because I have a benchmark that I can shift-up or shift-down throughout the year depending on industry issues and opportunities.

At the very beginning, you need to know what do you do, how do you do it, how well do you do it. This involves some internal analysis and navel-gazing. In addition, include external things that impact you, like regulations, customers, even the potential ones, technology, best practices, and finally competitors. Knowing the long term trends in your industry will help you allocate to the right initiatives and helps to plan on where to put your resources to the best effect.

As you begin to plan, you can use a pre-made system, and there are many, many out there, just check your favorite search engine. Here’s one that I don’t endorse, but I liked their web url: Bplans.com. As a note of caution, it is unusual to find an exact pre-made format for everyone’s needs, so take a flexible approach, glean what you can and discard the rest.

One thing to remember, and this has a lot to do with your audience and your role in an organization, I’m focusing on Marketing plans, not business plans. Business plans address financials and other non-marketing topics that marketing doesn’t have responsibility for. If you find a business plan you like, cut those sections out rather than comment that it doesn’t apply. A good place to get the right perspective is to check out the SBA. They have some good plans, at least to get you thinking about how to write your plan.

Finally, spend the balance of the strategy explaining how you’re going to get there. Feel free to borrow other resources in the plan. Let some other departments do some of the heavy lifting - they’ll reap the benefits with you as you succeed. If you have metrics, detail them; proof is better than benefits, which is better than features.

I try to break mine down into three sections:
1. Initiatives - goals, objectives, industry initiatives (client, regulator and competitor), corporate initiatives.
2. Product, services, solution - a description of positioning is the important part as it makes sure everyone is in agreement, or you know who isn’t. I recommend that you discuss market segmentation here, with backup in an appendix. You can also, if there is relevance, talk about changes in distribution, changes in pricing or value, and the other Ps. Use your best judgement when discussing People…
3. Influences - these include external factors such as regulations, competitors, etc. If your products are so mutually exclusive that it makes more sense to discuss these topics in the prior section, go for it. But most firms, and I state this rhetorically, have products that are extensions, complementary, or otherwise tied together, and so a separate section is easier to read than re-stating the same points in each product strategy.

I hold a few sites out on a small list to remind myself of topics I may have forgotten, or new issues that need to be addressed. A very good place to look after you’ve finished your first draft, is the wiki on marketing plans. If you’re like me, I update the plan once a year with notes from the past year, new ideas that we’ve been bouncing around, and any other chaff that comes my way. Since the wiki is updated constantly by donated content from global sources, you can get some good fodder for new ideas or threats to your firm that you may not have thought of or seen yet.

Four additional tips for a lasting strategy (and have learned the hard way):
1. Write it for beyond your known audience, including the timing. I’ve found old strategies that I’ve written switch the e-mail referred to at other companies.
2. Condense the executive summary, the current state, and the future state onto the first page of the document. If you find yourself defining, explaining, rationalizing, and proposing, start again. Finally, the Executive Summary should state any significant change to the current process, like a creation of a cross-departmental-strategy-execution team.
3. Use appendices for tables of data, include expense by product, by intitiative, market move segmentations, etc.
4. Don’t define the obvious. It’ll make your document a dull read and lose its efficacy. If you’ve always sold through VARs, or direct sales into prospects, and continue to do so - then, so what? Don’t waste type, space and reader’s attention span with the mundane.

Finally, be creative, have fun, but make sure it’s professional. This document has your name on it, make it good enough to look at next year as the foundation of your next one. It should be a pleasure to read. It’s a stake in the ground and you’re holding the sledge hammer - wear your best shoes.

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Kevin Flavin has almost 20 years experience in the financial services industry. Balancing the first half of his career as a buyer, he has spent the last ten years as a vendor in a range of roles from sales, product management, but always marketing. He is based in the Boston area. He is also a monthly contributor for the AMA Boston blog.

The crisis continues – Funding the “gap” and redeploying

Wednesday, October 15th, 2008

 Especially if you are a small nonprofit ($ ½ million or less) or you have barely 3 FTEs to run your organization, you are feeling horribly right now. If your budget hovers around $1 million -$3 million, you probably feel like a small nonprofit, no matter how the Dow Jones is doing today.

Get organized to push ahead - Hopefully your fund sources have been diverse so you’re not suffering from the downfall of Merrill Lynch. In the crisis is opportunity, as a wise person said several millennia ago.

This is when having a good database of emails for your constituents - especially donor prospects or civic-minded leaders in your community - comes in handy. If you don’t have one now, create it. Put people to work on this. Name-address-phone-affiliation-email and a column for “notes.”

Email push  - Most people will be generous even in this terrible time. People want to do something positive and feel good about some gesture toward others they’ve made. A well-written email push to prospects could yield $25 to $100 each. If this audience is mainly middle class ($250,000 and above), you may be successful beyond your dreams.

Example: In your pitch, please tell them about the gap you’re experience, how the money would be used, how much money is needed and when you need it by. Assure them they will get an immediate receipt and thank-you and that their help during this time will help your organization continue to operate reliably (supplying services to your constituency groups).

Ask the recipient to kindly forward to three friends or colleagues. Provide a “back-end” (as mentioned last time) to accept credit card purchases online. Be clear about where checks can be sent and, again, your deadline. Include a form to complete if the person wants more information or wants an occasional or periodic update. Evan Shapiro, Meerkat Technology, in Massachusetts, has an excellent tried-and-true back-end for nonprofits, especially theaters and other types of arts organizations.

A premium? Offer a prize for giving that makes the recipient of your request laugh - perhaps a coupon for $20 for take-out for two from your local favorite chicken-dinner place. Offer this for donations @$50 or above. You’re going to make money anyway.  The plus about the premium is it signals the seriousness of your intent, and gets people’s attention.

Redeploy? - Even if you have 3 FTEs (or fewer) you have to be smart and strategic about how you prioritize and focus your daily activity.

Example: If you have been doing a newsletter in-house - consider getting pro bono help from the outside (e.g., a graphic designer) for a shortened newsletter, but punchier and with a simple, clean look. Pour whatever talent you have in to creative fund raising. Give morale boosting small potluck dinners for your program directors, coordinators and caseworkers. Hang together. Be specific about what you can do together to keep your nonprofit viable and lay groundwork for a healthier future.

BasecampTM - This tool will help you through a time of workforce assessment. You may have staffed a lot of board committees or task forces. You’re agonizing over how to keep these going. Basecamp is a platform that organizes conversations, sharing of documents and even writing together. There is a brand-new live chat function; Basecamp is always adding and improving.

The basic fee is $24/month. I have found this level sufficient for most of my purposes to date. It’s intuitive and fun. Feel free to write me with questions about how it can be applied or how it works. Basecamp (run by 37signals) has very good short tutorials and is intuitive to use if you pause for a few minutes to think (and don’t rush yourself).
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Marketers and Technical Folks…Living Happily Ever After

Monday, October 13th, 2008

I’ve spent most of my career marketing for technology companies.  I still chuckle when I remember the old Saturday Night Live skits about the IT guy, Nick Burns (played by Jimmy Fallon), who always had to fix someone’s computer, and it was usually something minor.  One skit involved someone in the marketing department that didn’t know what they were doing on their computer.  Impatient Nick instructed the marketer to get out of his chair with the famous “MOVE!” so he could fix the issue rather than trying to troubleshoot the problem with him.  Seth Godin put it best – “Different people have very different agendas.  The key in understanding someone’s actions is understanding their agenda.” 

Marketers and technical folks often run into challenges, and in the end it comes down to having different agendas.  Marketers and technical folks need to communicate more openly – learn about each others’ agendas – and realize they have common goals of achieving success for their organization. 

What are the challenges between these two distinct groups that often cause them to butt heads and what do you do about it?  Here are some insights and pointers I’ve learned along the way.

Marketers create the brand perception and recognition; technical folks think they already know it.

It’s amazing how many times products have been developed without much customer feedback.  Techies feel they know what customers want, build it and then tell marketers to go out and tell the world about it.  Often it turns out that these products aren’t very user friendly in the real world. 

I have been involved in numerous product development meetings where I’ve seen demos and wondered, “How in the world are users going to know what to do with this thing?”  As a user, I’ve been able to contribute feedback that has been implemented into the products.  I’ve convinced technical folks that although the product has a lot of benefits, unless these products are intuitive and easy to use, they won’t be a success.

Marketers argue “customers won’t want to use this” while techies are convinced “they want it, they just don’t know it yet.”

Technology folks often feel marketing people don’t understand the product well enough to communicate its benefits.  That’s been a fun time for me.   I’ve been told by technology folks in my early years that marketing is “just fluff.”   Try to convince someone like that about the true value of marketing! Usually I will test the product (as a user) and communicate the challenges from my perspective in the way they understand it – documents with bullet points of exactly what I tested, results and recommendations for making the product more user-friendly.   I realize I may be lucky to even be involved in this process compared to organizations where products are created under lock and key away from the marketing department.  I have earned the rights to barge into product development, but it wasn’t without a fight.  Remember, not all organizations have product managers – marketing’s only hope of learning about upcoming products and features. 

What’s a marketer to do?
OK, so there are a couple of challenges between these two strong-minded groups.  We got that.  How do we do our jobs, co-exist and even develop warm and fuzzy relationships between each other? Well let me tell you how I’ve been able to do it.  To date there has only been one way for me.

Make marketing “technical!”
On-line marketing has quickly evolved, and marketers are now able to track marketing efforts better than ever.   Having the luxury of working for a marketing technology company, I can say I’ve become a marketing geek.  I have used on-line marketing in conjunction with traditional marketing efforts to measure marketing programs much more effectively and present data to technical folks that they can use.  For example, through the use of email marketing and surveys, I’ve collected and tracked product feedback that can be communicated back to product development; anything from new feature suggestions to existing features that are hard to figure out.  Another example is working with my technology group doing A/B Testing – testing variable elements of email campaigns to see which produce the best results.  Collecting and reporting measurable results helps bridge the gap between marketers and techies.  Most importantly, it helps techies realize the true value of marketing and why organizations can’t survive without it! 

Marketers and techies can co-exist and learn from each other.  In the end, always keep in mind that despite the differences between these two groups, there is one common goal – customer satisfaction.  If you keep your eye on the prize, you will realize technology folks aren’t much different at all. 

Have you had similar experiences in your organization?  I would love to hear about it!

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Alerting NASA: Planet 2.0 Discovered

Friday, August 22nd, 2008

Imagine a world where your personal and professional contributions are measured by the perceptions of your peers. Would you act differently? Would you become more extroverted or covert in day-to-day actions to avoid getting judged or eliciting potentially negative feedback? Can you fathom a world that no longer measures you on your productivity but rather defines you solely on the assessments of your peers? Could this be the future for all of us in Planet 2.0?

If everything was riding on the words of your peers, would there be a cultural change and would your friends and colleagues become virtual informants? I pose these questions at 2 am on a Friday night (and my first blog submission is already two weeks overdue…) attempting to understand the future implications of Web 2.0. According to Tim O’Reilly, “Web 2.0 is the business revolution in the computer industry caused by the move to the internet as platform, and an attempt to understand the rules for success on that new platform. Chief among those rules is this: Build applications that harness network effects to get better the more people use them, harnessing collective intelligence.” For those of you unfamiliar with Tim O’Reilly, he’s widely credited for coining the term “Web 2.0” amongst his many other achievements.

As a marketer, I am completely fascinated by human behavior, not only buying habits of certain segments but the surge in popularity of viral marketing and the  prominence of highly networked influencers. These people who are classified as “influencers” tend to be just like you and me in physical form and appearance but walk through life possessing clout and credibility that causes others to take action. Tim O’Reilly would be classified as an influencer who through his books and efforts has made certain technologies top-of-mind in many circles.

With my first blog submission, I am by no means attempting to influence you to remove your profile from Facebook or never again critique a book on Amazon.com, but I want you to understand that despite the brilliance of Web 2.0, there are cultural implications of social media that we do not yet understand. I leave you with a question: what are the cultural and social implications of Web 2.0 and does society have a contingency plan or simply a crisis communications plan if as reviewers and auditors of those around us we become too exposed or inaccurately portrayed? The personal brand that you once owned now ceases to exist and metamorphoses into something beyond your control – are you ready for a disaster recovery of yourself? Or, in order to generate positive assessments from colleagues and peers, you start to modify your behavior to such an extent that you eventually lose sight of your own uniqueness. As you can see by these extreme scenarios, the implications of social media are both exciting and petrifying.

My biggest fear is that with all the advancements within social media, we are nearing a long term cultural shift where opinions become the qualifiers of greatness and the human spirit is put into question. Our new web enabled reality is almost like a new planet; let me coin it, “Planet 2.0” for our immediate purposes. Whether it’s a film or book review, Facebook photo, or comment on LinkedIn, your words have the power to permeate cyberspace so be extra careful with your words. The old adage still applies, “the pen is mightier than the sword.” Final comment: social media is viral and operates on a virtual microcosm of influencers. Please take precautions when posting.

Nonprofit Marketing – Using a Plan, Considering Social Media

Tuesday, August 19th, 2008

Hello nonprofit marketers. This short article will review the benefits of a plan, encourage you to engage in planning and help you understand where social media may fit in. See the rudiments of nonprofit marketing in my earlier post Nonprofit Marketing Really?.

A red flag goes up for me when a CEO puts off the idea of communications planning. Or she says, “This (being strategic) is my communications manager’s responsibility.”  Communications planning is by its very nature an organization-wide, integrated enterprise, concerned with constituencies inside as well as outside our agency.

A marketing plan is not a “ho-hum” one-time event. It is a dynamic way to track your progress toward defined outcomes (quantifiable or qualitative) and keep you from tumbling off your seat when additional demands on your time occur. For once, it is a way to be proactive – not reactive as most communications managers find themselves.

Nonprofits fail to realize there are economies to be realized in a strategic multi-layered plan. They sometimes don’t realize they can leverage existing materials to support different marketing needs. Planning helps you identify these opportunities.

Example of using what you’ve got: A national mental health organization was funded for some years by one large federal grant, a risky prospect for a nonprofit. As the grant was about to end, the urgent need to generate new and diverse sources of income put the senior staff in crisis mode.

Staff had initiated a few webinars as a customer relations-education effort. In a strategic planning meeting, their attention turned to webinars as a marketing tool for cultivating other audiences such as clinicians and educators. Staff realized there was a strong match between the professional development needs of busy care providers and the expertise of the organization.

Thus, recruiting and enrolling eager clinicians in webinars (at a minimal cost to participants) provided the basis for generating a council of allies, who could in turn champion the training kits published by the nonprofit for use in a wide variety of settings. These allies can also serve as informal ambassadors for the agency’s mission. Later, social media can be employed, in conjunction with the webinars, to bring together people with similar questions or concerns, consolidating their relationship to each other and to the organization.

Recognition of these potential, interlocking opportunities and the leveraged use of available tools and resources requires strategic thinking. A plan puts boundaries around your strategic thinking and gives you a road map.  Here are a few ways to take steps toward developing your marketing plan.

Become a trusted channel – Like any for-profit, your agency will gain from a disciplined marketing effort. A recent webinar offered by Forrester Research and Umbria refers to being a “trusted channel,” meaning this: Make your organization a trusted communication channel for your audiences. If you gain their trust, you can better guide their thinking and even their actions.

Optimize by using the Internet and social media - In your agency, a marketing or communications budget per se may not exist. You can optimize your scarce resources by using social media. This is a Web 2.0 world – the huge variety of social media (Facebook, Basecamp, iTunes, blogging, etc.) that are advancing communications across the world – and rapidly transforming business, politics, medicine, public health and all the human services. Many of these platforms are free or low-cost. Here are a few key things to think about and execute.

• Know thy audience. Conduct a brief survey or a few focus groups to clarify and confirm your constituencies’ needs and, importantly, how they receive and use information.

• Second, create an informative Web site and have a strategy to tell people about it. Include ways to bring your customer closer (something interactive such as a sign-up for an e-newsletter). Resolve to measure traffic and think hard about ways to increase it.

• Third, reconsider your direct mail. If you are as well resourced as The Nature Conservancy or the Mayo Clinic, print mailings may make sense. Perhaps you are so local (or Internet is unavailable in your area) so that distributing regular mail is a sensible approach.

The humanitarian effort profiled in my first post is now using Basecamp to work collaborative in working groups on new ideas (deliverables) for the next summit meeting.. Discussion, co-writing, communications is all organized by Basecamp. This means no matter where one is – or what time zone – it’s possible to look in on the activity and provide input.

Social media – yes! Skeptical about Web 2.0? Over half of adults are buying services online and a much higher percentage of young people use social media on a daily basis.

And for you skeptics – There is growing evidence that Web-based communications launches a pervasive word-of-mouth, ultimately encouraging the transmission of information in the old-fashioned way – face-to-face. 

How does this happen? When you get an open invitation to a local fundraising event, you might forward this to a dozen or more friends and colleagues. This quickly builds interest in the event or the cause. Recipients can click on the agency’s Web address for more information. This sort of “fast-forwarding” can produce new inquiries for a nonprofit. It can lay a foundation for a conference call to discussions issues in greater depth, or an important breakfast meeting with new donor-prospects.

If your agency’s funding doesn’t grow on trees, consider reducing your direct mail and print budget. You will save trees, and more importantly, probably be more effective. Revert to online communication. Try a brief, focused electronic newsletter, archived and indexed on your Web site. Minimize the graphic art so that it downloads easily, especially by someone without a color printer. Consider offering the option of a text-only file

Think before you leap - The Web may be wonderful for some, but a small nonprofit may solely focus on a strong relationship with the local news media because newspaper coverage generates just the type of inquiries it seeks. On the other hand, for those of us ready to reap the benefits of a lively Web presence, avoid the pressures to blog or to incorporate any other social media unless these tools are imbedded in a well-thought out communications strategy. Compelling narratives about your services or  advocacy effort will stimulate people to sign up for more information. See www.imcworldwide.org as a good example of this.

So, put your toe in the water - You are not behind the curve – yet. It’s safe to say that we in the nonprofit sector are still sorting out the best social media tools to use. Facebook master Chris Hughes said, keep it real and keep it local, mirroring the offline world. Think of the Internet as simply the connective tissue.  Internet aside, on-going your agency’s meaningful one-to-one relationships with clients, the quality of care and your nonprofits distinctiveness and relevance will determine if your organization stays on top.

A final thought - If you push marketing to the bottom of the priority list, you will always feel like you’re not doing enough or that you’re constantly playing “catch up.”  If you have this nagging feeling, your communications manager or your board’s media committee may not be the culprit—the absence of careful planning is.

Consider the biggest hurdle to marketing success in the nonprofit sector: organization-wide commitment to setting strategic goals, developing a marketing strategy to support those goals, and identifying the funds to support the marketing effort. Jump this hurdle and you are well on your way to reporting to your board that your goals have been met.

Marketing Roundup - Seth Godin - A Dumb Branding Strategy

Thursday, April 3rd, 2008

In “A Dumb Branding Strategy,” Seth Godin warns about choosing your company name, which plays a big part of branding strategy. Companies like Party Land and Computer World are meaningless because they don’t add value and are too generic to really stand out. Plus, if you’re not careful what you name your company and you become successful, it’s hard to prevent competitors from copying you. Lesson learned, think smart when naming your company.

Lori A. Rochino - With over 7 years of marketing communications experience, Lori has worked in a variety of industries, including finance, publishing, and fashion. She is currently a marketing specialist at an e-commerce firm and manages web content for the AMA Boston Chapter. She resides in Natick with her husband.

Brand Strategy: Why is defining a company so hard?

Wednesday, March 19th, 2008

As I’m working on a marketing plan for a client, it strikes me how these five words can strike fear and doubt into so many executives - “How do you define yourselves?”

It is a painfully simple question, but the answer is so important.

Many hours can be spent on this question. In workshops, when I ask this question, the initial answer client’s give is often the most honest. Someone in the room inevitably blurts out the answer, and I write it down. Then someone else inevitably adds that the first definition is too limiting, and provides a different definition. Often a much broader one.

To give an example, I once worked at a very large company where the executive in charge decided how to define our business. His definition was the equivalent of defining a bakery as a “flour, water and eggs mixed together and baked for 12 minutes” business. Much easier to say, “We are a bakery.” His answer created confusion. Customers wondered what we were talking about.

Why all of the confusion? Many people, and companies, want to appear to be more than they are. They get caught up in internal thinking, strategic thinking and politics.

For lack of a clear definition, companies broaden their definition to a higher level in an attempt to cast a larger net. As with my example, this only ensures that no one will have any idea what they are speaking about.

So is this a complex question? It does need to be. Customers are looking for a simple answer. They are tired of trying to sort out what companies actually do versus what their Web site says. Give them a break - give them the simple answer. Save the complexities for internal documents.

One obvious question lies in waiting - how do you define yourself, or your business? If you are using more than ten words to define yourself, then you should do some editing. Write back to me and tell me your definition.

-Steven Halling, President

AMA Boston Board Meeting, March 11th @ 6pm

Friday, March 7th, 2008

Any member wishing to have a voice in the chapter is welcome to attend our monthly board of director meetings.  If you are a current AMA member and either want to participate or have an agenda item you would like the board to consider, then please write to president@amaboston.org.

-Steven Halling, President of AMA Boston 

Have you noticed our new tagline?

Friday, February 29th, 2008

Recently we asked you to help us create our new tagline, and we now have a winner!  Thanks to all for their entries and especially to Josh Mendelsohn for concisely describing our chapter with his entry - Marketing Knowledge. Local Connections.

Congrats Josh!

Tracie Hebert 
VP of Brand, AMA Boston

Marketing Roundup - Tom Peters

Monday, January 28th, 2008

Tom Peters - tompeters! Blog 

In the article “We Have Met the Enemy,” Tom Peters alludes to Starbucks as its own enemy since it stands in its own way towards excellence.  Getting unstuck from the analysis paralysis of metrics should prove challenging.  Furthermore, with a plummeting stock and shake up in top management, will Howard Schultz’s return as CEO reinvigorate the brand to what was once a “third home” that created value to customers?  Or has Starbucks long reached its tipping point and will continue to spiral downward?  How much longer will it be until consumers are so fed up with the experience of going to yet another over-crowded Starbucks when one can go to an over-crowded Dunkin Donuts where the good coffee is cheaper, or better yet head to McDonald’s where the coffee is cheap - and gourmet since they’re now adding new premium choices as well as baristas, and it’s even less crowded?

Lori A. Rochino - With over 7 years of marketing communications experience, Lori has worked in a variety of industries, including finance, publishing, and fashion. She is currently a marketing specialist at an e-commerce firm and manages web content for the AMA Boston Chapter.  She resides in Natick with her husband.

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The views and opinions on this blog are solely those of the contributors and do NOT necessarily reflect the official opinions of the Boston Chapter of the American Marketing Association.