Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Vine, Instagram, Tumblr, Google plus… shall I keep going? Don't worry – by the time you read this, there will be at least three other new ones that your organization absolutely must be on if it's to reach donors.
Now try this: website, email, digital advertising… period. That seems a little more manageable doesn't it? And questioning a plan’s manageability (shorthand for “can we effectively implement this?”) is what you should always do when it comes to reviewing strategic plans from your Direct Marketing consultant. Your plan shouldn't have 87 different channels, because that means one of two things: you’ve done all 87 well and your ROI is awful, or you’ve taken scarce resources from proven, forgotten workhorse channels like direct mail, telemarketing, DRTV, and face-to-face so you’ve only done a mediocre job and again your overall ROI is awful.
In an increasingly crowded space, the winners will be distinguished from the losers because of resource allocation based on strong analytical evidence, effective and meaningful testing, and adherence to universal fundraising principles.
There'll always be a “next big thing,” but until the next big thing becomes the right thing for your organization, then it isn’t worth sacrificing that letter in hand. You should always be testing the mix to find the right blend, but no two blends will be the same. What works for them may not work for you. Truly the next big thing isn’t any one new digital network or technology; the next big thing is your success when you resist the hype and don’t lose sight of what your organization stands for and where to find people that are going to support it.
When Steve Jobs returned to Apple after founding and then being fired from it, he inventoried the computer product line and discovered Apple offered nearly 100 different models. He walked to the whiteboard at the front of the room, drew a box with four sections, and said that Apple would only offer two types of computers: a laptop and a desktop and each will only have two models – one for personal use and one for professional. From that moment on, Apple’s return to prominence began. It’s now the most highly valued company in the history of the world. We might think of them as the pioneer of the tablet or the iPhone, but it all started by getting back to basics.
Find what works, do it better than anybody else, and before you know it, you won't be asking what the trendsetters are doing. Everyone else will be asking you what trends you are setting.