Modern Marketing is All About Experience

As I was reading this blog yesterday, I thought well it’s here.  For decades we have talked about how impactful customer experience is and should be. We already know how critical it is in establishing donor relationships, but this article really made me think of how nonprofits should really start making a stronger effort to bring technology into the forefront of what they do and how they deliver services.   It is exciting to see customer experience moving to the forefront in every aspect as we move into the future.

So without further ado, food for thought.


Posted January 5th, 2015

CES is a monster, 40 years in the making. More than 160,000 people and 3,500 exhibitors are descending upon Las Vegas this week to check out the latest shiny objects at the world’s largest consumer electronics trade show.

And everything CES has become near and dear to our hearts, given our agency work with consumer electronics brands over the years and the challenge of simplifying the complex.

[Attending CES? Remember to gear up with a water bottle, snack bars, Wi-Fi, backup battery, sensible shoes and the CES mobile app.]



This year’s shiny objects include smart homes, 4K TVs, wearables, connected cars and connected home devices. Surrounding the new gadgets is the Internet of Things (IoT) juggernaut, with 900 connected devices (“things”) showcased at CES that communicate without human interaction using IP connectivity. By 2020 this will be a $3 trillion market with more than 30 billion devices, says IDC, changing how we interact with everyday items. Watch for IoT mentions in keynotes from Samsung (Tizen-OS powered TVs), Intel, Ford and Mercedes-Benz.


Despite being a product-focused event (by definition), CES also reveals signs of how consumers are changing how they interact with brands and how marketers are taking the steps to become modern marketers and engage audiences in a more personalized, compelling way.

Here are five signs of modern marketing at CES.

1. Customer-Centricity Rules

What is a real estate company doing at CES? With a gazillion new gadgets to connect your home, Coldwell Banker is (rightly) betting that home automation systems, media centers and smart appliances will be big in 2015. They also realize they need to get in front of home buyers early in their decision journey, well before they contact a realtor. For products or services that take more research and consideration (e.g., 4K TVs, cars, home purchases) than impulse buys, nearly two thirds of the purchase decision is made before the customer’s first serious engagement with sales [PDF]. With 22% of Fortune 100 companies staffing a Chief Customer Officer, many brands are making the shift from focusing on product features to customer engagement like MasterCard (see below).

2. Experiences Matter

One of the key mindset shifts for modern marketers is the transition from “campaigns” to “experiences” and planning programs to support ongoing customer engagement as opposed to old-school one-and-done advertising. At CES check out the Brand Matters Program and Michael Donnelly’s (MasterCard) talk on digital disruption and MasterCard’s year of Priceless Surprises – and hopefully some color commentary from the Donnelly Family Digital Lab!

3. Decision Journeys Inform

For the hospitality industry, focusing on extraordinary customer experience is nothing new. But upstarts like Airbnb are pushing established hotel brands to be more creative. To better understand their customer’s holistic experience beyond just finding a room, Airbnb commissioned a Pixar animator to storyboard the entire trip experience frame by frame. The empathetic 30-slide deck reinforced the need to optimize mobile booking and create an Uber-esque car service. At CES look for buzz about keyless entry, temperature control via smartphone, smart rooms that greet you, touch-screen room controls and drone-delivered champagne. Brands are turning to journey mapping exercises to align go-to-market teams and ensure consistent, compelling customer engagement.

4. Omni-Channel Orchestration Unites

A huge challenge for modern marketers is how to consistently engage with an audience across multiple screens, devices and channels. Now that using a second screen while watching TV is the new normal (for 56% of U.S. viewers at least), marketers must rethink how they engage with viewers who tweet, email and otherwise “screen stack” during TV shows. At CES, Samsung adds a twist to the second screen scenario. Going forward, Samsung* revealed that all smart TVs are going to run on its Tizen operating system, ditching their old Android-based smart TV interface. The CES 2nd Screen Summit kicks off Jan 5 in Las Vegas.

*Disclosure: Samsung is an nFusion client.

5. Personalization Connects

It’s been 20 years since Benny Landa predicted that “everything that can be digital will be digital.” Today, the digital customer experience has transitioned from banking and shopping to hailing a car and adjusting your air conditioner, spinning off more datasets and more ways to engage customers. As more and more everyday items are digitally connected, our collective data is mashing it together into online hubs. For brands this is a both a “big data” and “little data” opportunity to personalize what, when and how content gets delivered. While at CES check out the Big Data Revolution in Digital Marketing session to get the latest on marketing cloud platforms from Oracle, Adobe and IBM and how they can orchestrate personalized content and guide decision making.

– See more at:

Nonprofit Change Management Tips: KISS

One of the areas I advocate for the most in nonprofit management is surveying and making data driven decisions.  Often these types of activities result in the need for change.  Here are a few tips to keep at the top of your mind when you are getting ready to embark on change.

Tips for making change stick:

1.KISS- This is good advice for all things, but particularly in nonprofit management.  Start with the small things and don’t try to do everything at once.  Your success will most likely be linked to your managing the change piece by piece, not by overnight sensation.

2. KEEP IT MOVING- Constantly evaluate what is and what is not working.  Make changes if you need to make them.

3.KEEP IT TOGETHER- A united force from top to bottom is required for any successful change.  Meet with your teams regularly and see if there are obstacles that you can remove from them.  Your goal is to help your employees become more effective by sticking together.

4.KEEP IT FLOWING- Open conversation is at the heart of every successful change.  Speak to your team members about the change and make sure they know they can talk to you about how they are feeling with no ramifications.  Part if the change may be venting and/or celebrating.  Either way, be prepared to help your team with whatever may come by creating an environment of open communication.

5.KEEP EVERYONE INVOLVED- Getting everyone involved and involved early is key.  Having people at every level involved and let your team members have the freedom to make decisions on how best to implement the change.  Remember, you are all on the same team and keeping it that way will help immensely.

6.KEEP IT A SUCCESS- Remember that change takes time and may look like a failure before it looks like true success.  Celebrate the small victories early on and the big ones are sure to follow.

Take-away: Change is good!!!

5 Simple A+ Gala Tips

For many nonprofits the annual gala is the biggest fundraiser of the year.  I have been to many gala’s and each one seems a remake of the last, but every now and then one stands out from the crowd.  What makes some gala’s worth more than others? And what makes some more memorable than others?  The difference is always in the details, and some of those details are fairly easy to implement.

Here are a few ideas for creating a stand out event, that are inexpensive and effective:

1. Show Me the Way– There is nothing more frustrating than paying a lot of money for a ticket to an event and then not being able to find your seat.  Have volunteers greet guests and show them to their table.  It is an easy way to start the evening off right.  During the trip to the table volunteers can share why you are there, what you are planning to do with the funds raised, and how successful you have been with prior years monies.

2. Breeze On By– Create a simple check-in and check out process for your silent auction.  Insure that you have enough volunteers to man both stations.  You certainly don’t want guests waiting in a long line to check out during the best part of the event or right before they leave the event.  Pre-register guest so that they can be charged while they are at the event without having to wait in line.  Then have them simply pick up any winnings on the way out.

Photo Booths are a fun way to make a gala event memeorable.

Photo Booths are a fun way to make a gala event memeorable.

3. Make It Fun– Do something fun and memorable.  Photo booths are popular right now and they are a great example of adding fun to an event.

4. Surprise and Delight– I like to make sure that each event I do has an element of surprise.  For example, you could purchase keepsakes for each guest, or have a stash of extra drink tickets to pass out during the event (of course, you planned it all along, but the guests don’t know that.)  Maybe a guest appearance by a local celebrity.  FOMO is a very contagious disease.  (FOMO-Fear of Missing Out)

5. Follow-up– I once had the donor of an auction item ask me for a receipt when I picked up the item.  Of course, I happily gave it, but I mentioned that after the event everyone would be mailed a receipt.  She kindly replied that everyone told her that, but almost no one ever delivered them.  Be sure and send hand-written thank-you notes and receipts.

Take-away: What are you doing to make your gala an A+ event?

Galas are very time intensive events, if your organization is making an investment in hosting one, make sure you make it worth it.

Donor Experience Strategy Session Tool

Why not try this innovation tool and conduct a donor experience strategy session?

Paul Williams, author of the Idea Sandbox Blog, has created a simple tool that helps to bring some structure to the planning of brainstorming sessions. He calls it a Brainstorming Brief.

This simple but effective tool appears to be designed with the session facilitator in mind. The idea is to get clear on what you hope to accomplish, invite the right cross-section of well-prepared participants, and be aware of the “frame” within which you need to work, which should lead to better results. I downloaded the brief and edited it to facilitate a customer experience brain storming session. All nonprofit organizations benefit from improved donor experience, but relatively few actually conduct meetings dedicated to that improvement.   Below you will see the template and an example.

Take-away: Use this tool to conduct your own customer experience strategy session.

Donor Experience Brainstorm Brief


Meeting Date:

Brief Date:

Objective / Desired Outcome:

Opportunity / Challenge:


Who Should Be Included:

C – Champions
A – Audience Affected
T – Tasked
B = Buy-In
R = Responsible
I = Informed
O = Okay

What is the Climate / Politics?

With what do participants need to be prepared?

  • Knowledge Ahead of Time
  • Bring With
  • Attitude / Approach 
  • In-Meeting

What can we do that makes working with us easier?

What Are the Measures / Considerations / Constraints


Brainstorm Brief – How To Example:

Provide a title that quickly and clearly describes the meeting.
Example: “XYZ Nonprofit Improving Donor Experience”

Brief Date: Use this to keep track of the most recent brief.

Objective / Desired Outcome: Write specific deliverables of the meeting here. How will success be measured for this meeting? How will success be understood? Keep this short and to the point.
Example: “To think-up five, big, actionable ideas to explore further to build awareness of our key drivers of donor experience.”

Opportunity / Challenge: In one or two sentences, what needs to be addressed? What is so important that it has prompted a meeting? What is broken? What is the problem? What needs to be solved? Keep this short too, you can elaborate in the Background section.
Example:”2012 is going to be a challenging year. We need bigger ideas than ever if we are to stay ahead of the competition.”

Background: Use this space to provide additional background about the opportunity or challenge.

Who Should Be Included:

C – ChampionsThese people will create excitement for this project. They will serve as ambassadors and spread the word for you. You don’t *have* to invite them… but be sure to keep them in the loop.

A – Audience Affected-Who will be affected when the ideas thought up in this meeting are implemented? These could be external such as: customers, vendors, suppliers, etc. Or, they may be internal such as: operations team, front-line employees, leadership, etc. If possible, try to include someone – or a few – from this group. Why make assumptions on behalf of this group when they can be represented.

T – TaskedWho will have activities or tasks to make this idea a reality (builders)? Who will have tasks because of this project (implementors)? Whose roll will be affected?

B = Buy-InWho will be consulted? What specialists should you include who have input and value? Whose buy-in essential?

R = ResponsibleWho is ultimately responsible for delivering this project? Only one name should be in this spot.

I = Informed*Which people need to know about your ideas and decisions? They don’t need to be involved in the process, but want to know the outcomes.

O = Okay*Who needs to provide approval?

*With both the Informed and those who provide the Okay – keep them in the loop. Give them relevant updates that allow them to be ambassadors of your project.

 What is the Climate / Politics? What is the current attitude and behavior of potential participants toward the topic? Are people excited, worried, fearful, energetic, supportive, combative? Does this meeting excite them? Threaten them? 

With what do participants need to be prepared? Here, clearly outline the pre-work needed to for the meeting. Then, communicate these expectations to your participants (ahead of time). This will make your time in-meeting more productive and relevant.

 Knowledge Ahead of Time What should participants do or read before the brainstorm? Industry background, product information, articles, research? Is there something they should experience? Visit the competition? 

Bring With Are there things you want participants to bring? Updates from their departments? A list of their own suggested solutions?  

Attitude / Approach Any additional instructions? Proper sleep the night before? Dress in jeans and sneakers? Leave laptops and mobile phones at the door? Start with a clean slate?  

In-Meeting Is there knowledge or experience you want to ensure the whole group experiences together? Something you want to guarantee they are aware of?  

What can we do that makes working with us easier? As you consider experience it is important to keep in mind that good experiences make working with your organization easier. What can you do that helps facilitate that?  

What Are the Measures / Considerations / Constraints What are the ways you will measure the success of the implemented idea? For example:

  • Meets a timing deadline
  • Logistically possible
  • Ease of implementation / low complexity
  • Uses only existing resources
  • Fits within program of works
  • Doesn’t require additional funding


Edited and reposted from, Bridget Brandt’s