Monday, November 8, 2010

Mass Collaboration

What are some of the essential strategies for today’s non-profit marketing? You likely know many of them. Using technology. Personalization. Relationship building. Data mining. But there’s one that you probably don’t know. I call it mass collaboration.

All together.
The term is not new. It comes from mass production – the bedrock of industrialization and marketing. Mass production was simple, even elegant in its expression. Make large numbers of very few things for very large numbers of people at competitive prices. Marketing mass production was simple, too. You made a TV or radio ad and put it everywhere. End of story. Back in the 1950s, this worked. Today, it doesn’t. Replacing mass production has come mass personalization. Now, organizations are making things their individual customers want and can change to suit their own personal needs. Marketing has also changed. Now, instead of using a shotgun to send your marketing message, most organizations are trying to find a more narrow group of targets through social media, niche advertising, online ads and more.

But something is missing. Mass production or mass personalization, most non-profits are usually in a position where any kind of marketing is a challenge. The main reason? A lack of resources. They don’t have the cash, the people or the skills to execute even the simplest marketing program. That’s no one’s fault. It’s just a hard reality. This challenge may not be the most important, but it certainly is the most immediate. And overcoming it will be one of the essential strategies for the future.

The key is changing the way non-profits think. As underfunded, understaffed and sometimes unloved as they are, I always find it curious that non-profits are so adverse to seeking partnerships. They are in fact the perfect group for such an endeavour. They are usually community-based. They have some expertise. They need help. What they need is to embrace partnership not only in their service offerings, but also in their marketing.

This is mass collaboration. It starts with the realization that there are others out there who share your goals. They can be other non-profits, governments or businesses. They may be in the same boat as you in terms of resources. But if you pool your talent, time and treasure you will be able to do more than any of you could individually.

How can that help in your marketing? There are plenty of ways to partner. The first is to share resources. How about building a website together to save money? Engage the same web designer, but get them to make two different versions. Likely, that will save you money. How about creating an advertising cooperative? You and your new friends can pool your money and buy ads together to save on costs. A single designer could help, too. Why not even design ads that in fact promote all of the members of the partnership? And, pushing this idea even further, you could hire a communications person or agency that you could share.

On the business side, mass collaboration means more than just sponsorship. It means engaging businesses to help you with things like distribution of your marketing materials and even lending you some of their staff. Instead of just asking for money, why not get your next sponsor to help send an email to their workers, suppliers and customers about your next fundraising event?

So, put on your thinking cap and start thinking of ways to collaborate. That’s the way of the future.

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