Tag Archives: marketing

stone soup

image by flickr.com/mtsofan

image by flickr.com/mtsofan

Tonight I came home starving.  I opened all the cabinets, peered into the fridge, looked out on the porch for any forgotten, orphaned root vegetables, and eventually came up with a delicious meal that mainly involved left-over chicken tenderloins and egg noodles.

Now, I used to be a professional chef.  I can do the Iron Chef thing with the best of them.  But I’ll admit that I usually would prefer to be able to buy the freshest produce, the best cut of meat, the obscure fresh herb or seasoning that makes a dish really rock — and often makes it an official “secret” recipe.

But in hard times, I can’t.  I need to rely more on noodles and ramen, less on nori and rabe.

When I put together a marketing plan, especially under restricted financial circumstances, it’s the same issue.  How can I best allocate these (extremely) limited resources to achieve the best possible result?

That’s why social media marketing is something that can really shine in a recession.  Done right, done thoughtfully, it can wring more value out of a marketing dollar than traditional means can.

Better yet, it can be done with assets that you may already have in your kitchen organization.

Look in your cupboards: what do you find?

  • An employee knowledgeable about how to engage your customers on Twitter?
  • An employee who can write a blog on a consistent basis?
  • Awareness that your market segment is active on one or more social networks?
  • A little bit of time?
  • A little bit of willingness?

Sounds like soup to me.

I’ve written about this before, back in February, when things didn’t look nearly as grim as they do today, and when the Interactive Marketing team at Forrester Research published a free report titled Strategies for Interactive Marketing in a Recession.

In short, the report maintains that interactive marketing:

  • Provides measurable results
  • Costs little to maintain and use
  • Keeps customers engaged, even when they’re not buying

Check it out.  It still stands up, even all these horrific months later.

Give it some thought.

What ingredients do you have on hand?

What flavors will work magic for you?

What kind of soup can YOU make?


re-imagining museums

Photo by _Robert_C_

Photo by _Robert C_

Museums are changing.

That is, the smart ones are.

Museums are getting involved in social media, just as many corporations and brands are: some of them brilliantly, some less so, as we all stumble up the learning curve and discover that online communities are not just another place for an “e-blast,” an impersonal press release, or an automated newsfeed.

So yes, museums are using the tools of the internet to reach audiences old and new, to build their brands, to raise awareness of their programs, collections, and exhibitions. For a look at how museums are using microblogging tools like Twitter, take a look at Beth Kanter’s recent interview of Amy Fox, otherwise known as @museumtweets.

But a few of them are taking that extra step, and playing around with the implications of social media — exploring community-driven content, collective intelligence, crowd-sourcing, and more — and integrating it into what they do and why they do it.

Take a look at what Nina Simon is doing over at Museum 2.0.

And don’t miss Seb Chan’s work at Fresh + New(er) in Sydney, Australia.

And be sure to notice what Jake Barton is doing over at Local Projects.  You’ll recognize some of his projects, and, if you’re at all like me, wonder with barely concealed impatience and excitement as to what he’ll do next.  Wildly creative projects.

I’m starting to frame some research around this phenomenon, as part of my MBA program at the Simmons School of Management in Boston, so I’ll have quite a bit more to say on the subject over the months to come.

In the meantime, if you’re in the Boston area, and want to help get my research started, why not join me for an hour’s conversation about museums and Web 2.0?

I’m running two informal focus groups this coming Thursday and Saturday.  Details are below.  What do you think about museums, technology, community?  What can a museum be?  What should it be?

Thursday, October 23
6:30 – 7:30 pm
Room W-205
Main College Building
Simmons College
300 Fenway
Boston MA

Thursday Focus Group RSVP:


Saturday, October 25
1:00 ­ – 2:00 pm
Room W-205
Main College Building
Simmons College
300 Fenway
Boston MA

Saturday Focus Group RSVP:


Recession-Proof Marketing

Josh Bernoff and several of his colleagues (including Jeremiah Owyang) at Forrester released a free report today about why interactive marketing can and should withstand a recession.

Of course, a recession is nothing but a period of widespread, sustained decline in economic growth. It’s when times are tight for both you and your customers (donors, constituents, etc.), and are expected to remain so for some time.

Sounds like daily life for most nonprofits, doesn’t it?

So this got me thinking that the message in this report was just as applicable to cash-strapped nonprofits, struggling to reach donors and their dollars, as it was to businesses trying to make prudent plans for some less than exuberant economic times.

Wisely side-stepping the thorny question of whether or not the US is currently heading for, or is already in, a recession, Josh et al provide a brief and compelling case for holding on to your organization’s interactive marketing projects, despite looming budget cuts and customer restraint.

To sum up (and I do recommend you read the report, it’s free and a quick read), interactive marketing:

  • Provides measurable results
  • Costs little to maintain and use
  • Keeps customers engaged, even when they’re not buying

Measurable, inexpensive, and effective. So when you’re looking to trim your marketing budget, it might be wise to treat your social apps investment as meat, and paid advertising as fat.

Why? Because paid advertising is less measurable, more expensive, and less engaging than interactive media.

Sure, you can measure the return on investment in your direct marketing campaign, your annual appeal, your print advertisements. But how high are those numbers? What’s the pennies on the dollar return? And what is the minimum amount necessary to spend in order to achieve results?

This, I think, is a point worth emphasizing, and one that isn’t mentioned in the report. Interactive media has a lower expense-to-return threshold than traditional marketing does. Simply put, it costs less to begin to see a measurable result.

Of course, straitened economics are a daily and persistent reality for most nonprofits. So this report really offers nonprofits a very sound rationale for keeping interactive marketing in the budget even during those periodic downturns in donor activity.

In fact, incorporating a solid core of measurable social apps marketing methods into your nonprofit’s marketing plan becomes nothing less or more than a smart, strategic move in uncertain economic times.

And aren’t they all uncertain economic times?

half the billboards

Tim Davies wrote this post about the ROI of social media versus the ROI of printed materials, which Beth Kanter pointed to here.  It’s an interesting poke into the idea of establishing the ROI of social media, and asks what is the return on printed pamphlets or brochures?

Of course, many brochures, leaflets, postcards, etc, go unread and unresponded to.  A return rate of perhaps 5-7% is, I think, considered decent for direct mail campaigns, depending on the quality of your list.

This got me thinking about something a mentor of mine likes to say, which is that

We know that 50% of our billboards work.  The problem is, we don’t know which 50%.

This is, of course, true for all advertising.  And the 50% part is pretty optimistic, honestly.

A great point that Tim makes is that, unlike a blog post, a brochure can’t tell you if it was read or not.  A brochure hardly ever gets sent back to you with comments on it.  People can’t find your brochure by googling your organization’s keywords. Even if you do have most of your brochure’s content on your “corporate” website, Google is likely going to ignore it unless you update your website’s content daily, like a blog.

Do you want people to be able to find you when they are searching for something like you, whether or not they know you exist?  Google prizes fresh content, and nothing serves up fresh content like a blog.

A blog, of course, is only one form of social media.  But it’s one that most mainstream folks have at least heard of, and have some sort of handle on how it works.  It’s a good first dip into social media, mostly, I think, because the traffic measurements are built right into most blogs.

Some say that you should get social media neophytes started with an RSS feed, for instance by setting up an “ego-search” on the person or organization in question.  This is a good idea, as long as you know that people are, in fact, talking about the person or organization in question.  If not, that might be a less than rewarding experiment that proves the opposite of what you are trying to prove.

And what are we trying to prove?

That there is a conversation going on out here, whether you know it or not.  If you’re not a part of it, you are going to become more marginalized, not less.

The evidence clearly shows that traditional methods of marketing — especially in the nonprofit sector — are fading in effectiveness, and fading fast.  As donors and members slowly, inevitably change their habits, doesn’t it make sense to be ready for those changes?

The best way to get started is to start eavesdropping.  Start listening in.  Choose some blogs to read and read them every day, whether in a newsfeed or not.  Comment once in a while.  As I’ve said before, the time to start learning a new language is not the day you get your passport stamped.

Ceci n’est pas une pipe

One of the news articles I tagged for re-reading last week was this one from the Wall Street Journal – it’s from August 2007, but was recently tagged by somebody with the nptech tag.

The article includes a nice round-up of online places — social networks and other tools — that young people have been using for charitable and philanthropic endeavors. I’m especially interested in the evolution of sites like DonorsChoose.org and Kiva.org, because I think these person-to-person charity and micro-loan networks are among the most compelling new developments in philanthropy in a long time.

Because I work so much with artists and cultural organizations, I’m naturally curious about how this type of philanthropy could be tweaked to benefit these groups.

Sure, you can donate art supplies directly to an art teacher on DonorsChoose.org. But what about a new fire escape to the children’s theater down the road? Or framing and mounting supplies to the new artists’ co-op downtown?

I’d love to see something that connected donors and individual artists and smaller cultural organizations like this. Bigger cultural organizations have online donation systems, capital fund drives, and special earmarking funds. But a lot of small nonprofit arts organizations just know that their pipes just burst, and if they don’t fix them stat, they’ll have to cancel the next five months’ worth of children’s music/dance/drama classes.

For example.

The other thing that jumped out at me in the WSJ article was the bit at the end about the Salvation Army’s attempt to join the fray on MySpace, with a profile page for a character/personification of the brand called “Red Kettle.”

It so happens that I am reading Naked Conversations right now (finally), so this reminded me right away of the case study they made of Claire, the brand-personification of Vichy (L’Oreal) that “wrote” a blog for a brief, ill-fated time. Here’s the section of the book that talks about Claire.

Notice that it’s in the chapter entitled “Doing It Wrong.”

If there’s one thing that’s true about the new media, it’s that truthfulness and transparency are paramount. Even if you’re transparently personifying a brand, as with a cartoon character or whatnot, and you expect everyone to be in on the joke, it just doesn’t ring true.

A brand isn’t a person. I know it’s a standard marketing exercise to figure out what kind of person a product would be if it were a person, but that’s exactly where it should end: as an exercise. At least where social media are concerned.

The interwebs are now populated by People. Real, living, breathing people who, more and more, use their real names and faces and interact as real people. With other real people.

A brand isn’t my friend (or fan) on FaceBook. A brand isn’t someone I will follow on Twitter. A brand isn’t, in short, a person. It’s an abstract idea. Same goes for a product. A car is a car. A pipe is a pipe. A cigar is, in fact, just a cigar.

What doesn’t work in blogging also doesn’t work on social networking sites. If you want to promote your product, or your brand, you, or your CEO, or the guy in the cubicle down the hall who helped develop it, should write a blog, should build a profile, should twitter. As yourself/himself/herself.

Be who you are. Authenticity is legal tender.