Archive for June, 2010

The most powerful marketing tool

DATE: June 25th, 2010

My husband is the Executive Director of a very small (teeny) non-profit. Basically, there is just him. He doesn’t have the resources to hire a fast-paced, highly creative marketing team — so he uses me.

Every time he initiates a new appeal for funds he painstakingly writes the copy. So this morning I received the copy. It started with how he liked the snow birds (since we live close to the airport the local air show literally happened in our backyard minus the pesky, hissing megaphone). Then it listed some of the cool things the non-profit had done over the past month or so and ended with: “It’s summer, we experience a shortage of funds. Perhaps you could send a gift.”

Because the charity is so small and is basically personalized by Gareth, that letter will raise a few scattered funds. But he struggled to focus on the art of fund raising.

That’s where the mind comes in… the mind is really the most powerful marketing tool we own.

I took the letter and, inspired by the mediocrity of the inspirational quality of the original letter, I took a huge leap into the abyss of imagination and rewrote it. The new letter was quirky (so is he); a little bit funny (he tries, but not so much); inspiring (without a doubt he inspires). Most importantly, letter was fashioned to do only 1 thing: motivate a gift.

When building a fund raising appeal (whether you are using a letter, a TV spot, a web campaign) stay focused and purposeful. Resist the tendency to lapse into reporting. Save that for communication pieces not charged with the task of raising funds.

Your content development should be like a well positioned argument, where the central thesis (my Literature degree shows a little here) is unmistakeably clear.

Your writing should be simple — create a picture for people to see.

Your content should be motivating — inspire your audience to move beyond who they are and what they imagined they can do.

Your style should be chalked full of character — build a brand by developing a unique and intriguing personality.

The most powerful marketing tool is the mind. The mind identifies the need, fashions the argument and paints the pictures.

Learn the “rules” and tricks of marketing. Know them well.

And then let your mind create, ideate, imagine… because those are the campaigns that will motivate response.

Discover Tuesday

DATE: June 22nd, 2010

I did a quick search for amazing things that have happened on a Tuesday.

Would you believe it?

Almost nothing. What’s wrong with Tuesday?

So in honour of Tuesday we are launching a summer learning series.

The first seminar happens on Tuesday July 6…. We invite you to come and chat about Symbolic Gift programs. We know that goats, bunnies and chickens have really caught on — but what about health care, education and social services? What is the future of the symbolic gift program and how can we build stronger relationships with donors attracted by the gift component?

On July 13th we’ll unveil a new sponsorship module for managing sponsorship online. It’s a fantastic opportunity to explore ways digital technology can improve your systems, giving you more time to build personal relationships.

On July 20th we are exploring some down to earth systems to develop major donors.Then on the 27th we are focusing on brand… a much misunderstood topic!

Each seminar is designed to encourage conversation between fund raising professionals. To discover more about the seminars I encourage you to visit

Hope to see you at one of the sessions…. (what is your favourite sandwich again?)

The death of email?

DATE: June 17th, 2010

In a talk she gave at Neilson’s Consumer 360 conference, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg made a bold prediction – the end of email. According to Sandberg, only 11% of teenagers use email on a daily basis. This certainly doesn’t mean they aren’t communicating, just that they’re doing it in different ways. More and more, teenagers are turning to text messaging, instant messaging and social networks to stay in touch.

What does this mean for marketing in the digital age? Many organizations are still developing an effective email strategy – is there any point? The answer is both yes and no.

Despite the melodramatic title of this post, I don’t believe email will be dying off anytime soon. Most effective businesses run through email. At 25, I still rely on email as my primary way of communicating. Email presents a cost-effective way of instantly communicating with a mass audience. Regardless of the habits of teenagers, the target audience of most organizations is still very entrenched in email (Sandberg opened her talk by asking how many in attendance had checked their email in the last 24 hours – every hand was in the air).

For the majority of the population, email still has a lot of life left in it.

But (and there’s always a but), Sheryl Sandberg’s talk should serve as a reminder not to place all your bets on email. Teenagers may not make up your target demographic today, but the obvious fact is that they soon will. It’s extremely unlikely that the entire teenage generation will one day hit a point where they will move to email en masse. As creatures of habit, people most often stick with what they know.

With that in mind, organizations need to be thinking now about what marketing will look like in a “post-email” world. It’s not enough to pull 140 characters out of an email newsletter and call it a Twitter strategy. It’s not enough to use a Facebook profile to link to a boring website.

The rise of social networks has created new expectations for engagement. People can tell the difference between an automated account spouting out links and quotes, and a real person looking to join the conversation.

The new era of communication is increasingly upon us, and companies are learning the hard way that engagement in not optional. Consider the contrast between two Twitter accounts. The official BP (Beyond Petroleum, formerly British Petroleum) Twitter account has almost 15,000 followers. The satirical BP Global PR account is closing in on 170,000. Whether deserved or not, more people are being exposed to BP’s “brand” completely outside the company’s control.

To bring things back to the initial question – what does marketing look like in the digital age? The technology will continue to change all the time, but the principles are universal. People are looking for organizations willing to engage authentically. It may be messy, it takes more work than automated software, but if you want to control your brand, it’s the only option.

Whether in an email, Twitter message or Facebook wall post, communication needs to reflect your brand in a way that’s genuine and open. People of all generations are already communicating – are you ready to join the conversation?

(For more analysis of Sandberg’s talk, see this Fast Company article)

Online and engaged

DATE: June 16th, 2010

In the last ten years there has been a lot of buzz about micro finance. MEDA, a leader in micro finance investments, imagined an on-line solution that would create donor communities that are involved and engaged (

And they didn’t use Face Book!

They came to Barefoot and asked us to dream with them — our ultimate goal was to build a web site that generated funds, engaged donors and would build through viral exchanges.

We called the site MEDATrust.

It’s the perfect online solution:  it provides funding for core programming and engages donors in a conversation around micro finance. The game play of the site actually is an educational resource for micro finance’s revolving loan structure. It also allows donors to build their own unique profile and invite family and friends to join them in funding a series of loans. Online communities share values. The unique online environment focuses on MEDA and micro finance. If the format was placed in an existing social forum, it would be beleaguered with interruptive data from outside agencies and organizations.

The web site is fed by data delivered by the micro finance institution in a developing community. Donors choose to fund specific loans. If the loan is unfunded, the organization uses alternative funds to honour the loan. As funded loans are repaid, the payment is returned to the donor’s portfolio, available to be lent to another small business entrepreneur. The activity of lending, repayment and re-lending illustrates the impact of micro finance. The initial sum of money is used many times to give economic assistance to small business owners.

The web site is much more than a brochure about micro finance. It opens the door for donors to actively participate in micro finance process. That is the key: donors engaged in online process.

To achieve this takes a new approach to communication. Non-profits (and for-profits!) must stop thinking about what they want to communicate with the donor and reposition their communication to what the donor wants to engage with and then provide a creative platform with a user interface that is intuitive to multi-generational users.

More about content

DATE: June 8th, 2010

No one argues that content rules.

But content that no one reads cannot be construed as marketing. The question everyone is asking is: “How do I get people to read my stuff?”

So I did two tiny little tests.

First of all, I went through 30 You Tube videos a client posted. None of the even vaguely reached the landslide of Susan Boyle — but then, I didn’t expect that. The views varied from 1148 to 1. The 1148 seemed to be a bit of an aberration as the average page view was 138. Then I started a little Twitter experiment, tweeting random messages without telling anyone or associating it with my professional life. The Twitter experiment has tri-purposes: first of all, to amuse me, secondly to give me an outlet to shoot out random, non-linear statements that pop into my mind and should not be incorporated into client material, and, thirdly, to see how long it takes for people to find me in the digital haystack.

Both of these trivial events reinforced what I already know.

First of all, getting people to see the content we put up is a complex process. Justin Bieber and Susan Boyle are caught the attention of millions of people, but their success is not easily replicated. Viral is unpredictable. But we do know when it is announced on national TV the numbers soar!

KIVA, a non-profit micro-finance lending site, allows people to invest in small businesses in developing countries. The site has received much attention in the past two years. But it’s been around for much longer. The site had few visits and a small viral following until it was profiled during a 20 minute documentary on national TV. The flood of  visitors after that show shut down the site. Since then, KIVA has experienced significant growth.

So back to content…. in the end, content will rule, but I we need to employ savvy marketing strategies.

Allow me a tirade.

I am completely aware that not all businesses have the funds to engage full brand and marketing houses, BUT I caution against uneducated marketing decisions. I visited a site designed for small businesses and non-profits. There I found: 15 Foolproof ideas for Promoting Your Business (and, yes, I am resisting the urge to play with the irony of “foolproof”). The list includes contests, newsletters, demonstrations, seminars, premiums, speeches…. and so on.

Now I realize that those of you reading this little blog get it, but let’s just step back to the basics.

A newsletter is not a marketing basic. Marketing basics are: understand your brand; know your audience; understand your business goals; choose the tools that will reach those goals.

The simplicity of these four foundational principals is much more complicated than one thinks.

Let’s keep the idealism about content — but as marketers, let’s also continue to get the basics right.

The future of magazines

DATE: June 2nd, 2010

I am driven to write this post because I am facing a screen of copy that is going to be printed into a beautiful glossy magazine. I love writing this copy. I get to write content about cool custom ideas for gorgeous custom homes. I feel like a cross between Sara and Brian (for those of you who are Canadian).

But my writing pushed my brain to stumble on the current debate about publishing.

What is the future of publishing?

My generation — I admit it, I’m old — bemoans the loss of the written word. “What?”  I ask… “is it only written when it carries the scent of the printing press?”

I am immersed in the written word — only I rarely read it on paper. OK, I am an early adopter. Almost no one I know has read Stephen King’s latest novel on their black berry. I did. I may have hesitated if I had figured out that the book was over 900 pages — but I was caught up in the story before I figured it out and I just kept pressing the space bar.

But the book wasn’t any less of a book because I read it on my black berry. AND the black berry is significantly lighter than the hard cover copy.

We are standing at the moment of transference.

In 1454 the world changed. While books were treasured tomes of painstakingly copied knowledge — the printing press suddenly made knowledge and information available to the masses. And it messed up a lot of things. Suddenly the ownership of knowledge was available to the general public, well once they learned to read.

You can just imagine the chatter in the monastery and government offices amongst the scribes — would they be forced out of a job by a machine?

Well, yes, they would.

But the change had amazing ramifications.

Suddenly there were millions of new opportunities to disseminate information.

We are living through the amazing transformation technology — disruptive as it is — of e-ink. In the time it takes me to click “publish” I am able to put this little blog column up for the world to see. For the first time in history the world of publishing is open to everyone.

That doesn’t mean everyone will be read.

Just like the printed novel, e-text success will be based on the number of people who read it. And the number of people who read it will be based on how well the site is advertised. The difference is, the advertising can be done by viral “word of mouth.” (although, that’s not really changed… I can tell you to read Stephen King’s last novel… it was a good read)

The content will determine its success.

Sh*t my Dad Says started as an entertaining twitter feed. Hundreds of thousands of people found it in a myriad of twitter messages. They literally dug through millions and millions of 140 character messages to read this one little feed. The twitter feed became a book on the recommendation of the followers. No, they didn’t write HarperCollins and say “please, please publish this feed as a book.” HarperCollins caught the wave.

So here’s the crux of the whole thing…. yeah, printers and publishers are going to have to imagine a new world. In this new world, content is king. That hasn’t changed. The street crier with the most accurate and interesting tale was still the one who drew the crowds.

For a little side trail into publishing, Dorling Kindersley Books produced this rather clever clip.