Friday, October 28, 2011

BIG’s Blog: Form and Function and What We Do Next

This is one of the most important blogs that I will ever write.

Periodically, I point you to other blogs or articles by authors that may have something important to say that connects to the major issues that fund raisers are facing. One blogger that I cite many times is Seth Godin.

He is worth reading just on the basis of his marketing insights, but sometimes he makes a point that picks up on one of my major blog themes with an insight that drives home my message . . . better than I have done it.

Case in point was his blog this past Monday entitled, Form and function.

One of my major themes is the fundamental shift from analog to digital in our fund raising mode of communications with new and younger donors and Godin uses the analog to digital example to drive home his message on Form and Function that when the form changes, so does the underlying business model, which changes the function as well.

Mail ---> email

Books ---> e-books

DVD ---> YouTube/Netflix

1040 ---> Online taxes

Visa ---> PayPal

Direct mail ---> permission marketing

But, then Godin shares the key insight that I don’t want you to miss.

When the form changes, what is the response of the people in the legacy industry? Invariably, the first reaction is to take the new form and bolt it onto their existing business model.

And, says Godin, “In each case they are wrong. Speed and marginal cost and ubiquity and a dozen other elements of digitalness changed the interaction itself, and so the function changes too.”

Wow . . . did you get that? The form changes [example: mail to email] so that email is not just digital mail, its function is fundamentally different.

Godin continues . . .

The question that gets asked about technology, the one that is almost always precisely the wrong question is, “How does this advance help our business?”

The correct question is, “How does this advance undermine our business model and require us / enable us to build a new one (business model)?”

Since the inception of the Browne Innovation Group blog, we have been consistent in telling fund raising organizations that the digital world is fundamentally new and different.

Yes, by all means keep your direct mail fund raising programs as long as they remain profitable. But, “bolting on” digital communications to your current analog (read direct mail) business model misses the fundamental change that digital communications represents.

In the shift from analog to digital fund raising . . . you need a new business model . . . a new plan.

The final question is, “Is it better to develop the new plan today while your current direct mail model is still profitable or wait until your direct mail stops working and then scramble to change?”


Welcome to BIG’s Blog and yes, by all means forward our blog to your friends and co-workers.

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