Branding, Consulting, Marketing, Non Profit Innovation

Quality Control

“I worry whoever thought up the term “quality control” thought if we didn’t control it, it would get out of hand.” –from “The Search For Signs Of Intelligent Life In the Universe”, Jane Wagner

 

A very smart friend of mine likes to explain to clients that a strategic choice is the choice between turning left OR turning right.  “Both” is neither strategic, nor physically possible.  Yet that is so often the choice made in so called strategic planning sessions.  And it’s why so little “strategy” ends up being effective.

One of the classic strategic choices most organizations face is between quantity and quality —  of customers, donors, or constituents.  And most make the wrong choice, for quantity.  Sure, quantity is easier to measure than quality, but that’s the wrong reason for choosing it.

A year ago I surveyed the membership of the major environmental organizations on behalf of a client.  I asked about their strategic choices, and frankly was stunned by how many opted for quantity, telling me things like “Our internal staff goal is to grow gross revenue” or “our goal is to mobilize millions of people.”

Some admitted that after years of acquiring a high volume of low value donors, they were beginning to rethink their goals.

But none of them said they had identified the donors with the highest lifetime value to the organization and were focusing entirely on them.  None.  Some had chosen the illusion they could pursue both, but none had opted for acquiring and stewarding only high quality donors.

For an opposite, and much happier example, visit Montana.  Seriously.  Visit Montana – it’s spectacular!  But I digress.

Tourism is the number one economic driver of the economy of Montana, having pulled ahead of ranching and mining.  Several years ago the leadership of the tourism industry took a hard look at their strategy, and acknowledged that success defined in terms of quantity — bringing in hordes more tourists — would threaten what was fundamental about Montana, spectacular unspoiled nature surrounded by charming and vibrant small towns.

Working with National Geographic, Montana identified a high value segment of the travel market, called “GeoTourists”— people who want to be somewhat off the beaten path, who want unspoiled places, and want their visit to support the preservation of the place, by buying local, eating local, staying local, etc.  Then they put all their marketing against this segment.  An act of courage and leadership, particularly by a government entity answerable to a range of political stakeholders

The results?  After four years of disciplined implementation, they’ve seen only incremental growth in the total quantity of tourists – 6%, but major growth in overall revenue – close to 40%!  Pursuing quality over quantity pays off, generating more revenue with existing capacity and preserving the fundamental Montana way of life.

So the next time you’re in a strategic planning meeting, as the group struggles to choose between quality and quantity, and someone argues for both, tell them to go to………………..Montana!

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Advocacy, Conservation, Marketing, Non Profit Innovation

Do Environmentalists Ever Get Laid – Part 2

Bad pickup lines are the stuff of Hollywood movies (and a particular fascination of mine.)  You know the type, the guy or girl who’s convinced they have the killer pickup line, the one that never fails?

And that’s the second reason I have to wonder if conservation advocates ever get laid – they are solemn believers in the absolute power of message.  And as a result, they spend literally millions of dollars on research and consultants searching for the perfect message, like Ahab searching for the white whale.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  Message is important.  Research is crucial.  And far be it from me to question the wisdom of hiring smart consultants.

But it’s the damage caused by the false hope that there exists some set of words that will have such transformative power, if only they can be discovered.  I’ve sat in hours of meetings with groups looking for “the” message on climate change.  And those meetings have been both sad and funny.  “Drowning polar bears!”   “Your barbecue grill is safe!”   “Changing your light bulb will save the world.”  Conservation advocates are true believers in the fundamental rightness of their own values, and utterly convinced that they can convert everyone to their church.  Utterly convinced that there is some magic phrase or set of words that will magically convert Homer Simpson into Al Gore.

Just look at history.  In a single generation, we completely changed social norms around drinking and smoking while pregnant.  In the 80’s and 90’s the gay community adopted safe sex, (but then began to abandon it in the 2000’s.)  Across the globe, advocates have been able to achieve targeted behavior change, but message is only one part of a complex puzzle.

And yet still the conservation community searches for the perfect message.  The problem isn’t just that it’s wrong.  The problem is pursuing a single strategy almost totally to the exclusion of the broader range of strategies and tactics.  When you bet the house on a single bet, you’re risking everything.

There’s not one audience.  There’s not one message.  There’s just sound strategic marketing & communications, fully integrated and based on data to be sure you’re meeting the customer where they are, not where you want them to be, or where you are.

It’s time that conservation advocates moved out of their parent’s basement, learned the value of authentic engagement with their intended, and practice some adult relationship skills.

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