We hear the terms “disruption” or “disruptive innovation” thrown around regularly by sector experts and industry wonks. Companies like AirBNB and VRBO disrupted the hotel industry. Amazon initially disrupted the book sales market, and people are now speculating about how it will disrupt the organic grocery niche.
At its most basic level, disruption means changing the way that business is done, most often as the result of emerging technology which allows companies to interact with customers in previously unimagined ways. As these disruptions happen, however, ‘previously unimagined’ practices shift from novel to commonplace in the eyes of the consumer.
And, these same consumers? Yep. They’re also nonprofit supporters and donors.
Recently, a Forbes post predicted the Top 3 Disruptive Marketing Trends For 2018:
- Move from cause to brand purpose and place it at the heart of business strategy.
- Drive toward engagement of the heart.
- Remember that customers today don’t buy into things, they buy into stories brought to life through a strategic mix of creativity + technology.
The first two are what nonprofits do best: 1) lead with their mission, and 2) make sure to effectively marry compelling stories (both of challenges and successes) with concrete statistics that draw donors into ever-deeper relationships with organizations.
That third point, though. That “strategic mix of creativity + technology” is where this all gets tricky for nonprofits. The author observes that we need to prepared to “leverage data-driven insights on both the science AND art side of the marketing function.”
So how can nonprofits make sure that they’re ready for this disruption? For more and more organizations, this means consciously crafting a technology ecosystem where they can seamlessly integrate all of their channel data; perform deep tracking and source coding in order to harness extensive behavioral insights; and create one-to-one, personalized communication journeys for their supporters.
We believe that nonprofits can best achieve that “strategic mix of creativity + technology” by leveraging customizable, flexible technology that is built to natively integrate -- rather than settling for the confined limitations of traditional ‘all-in-one’ online-marketing systems. Focusing on creating a flexible tech ecosystem is the key to allowing organizations to access new channels and capitalize on new systems as they emerge -- preparing them to not just be ready for disruption, but to do some of the disrupting themselves.
What do these technology ecosystems look like? Below is the short answer, excerpted from a forthcoming white paper about how to craft digital-first supporter-engagement tech, beginning with a single, unified CRM for all supporter data. (Sign up to receive your own copy of the white paper, From Multichannel to Omnichannel: Using a Single CRM for All Supporter Data, when it arrives in March!)
“Since the dawn of the digital age, organizations have moved through various stages of maturity using engagement technology. A common trajectory started in the early 2000’s with the purchase of made-for-nonprofits, all-in-one software that was supposed to power key “online” functionality (email, fundraising, advocacy, possibly a website, and online-specific supporter data) that would then be integrated with their offline CRM. Since that time, we’ve observed organizations struggling to fit their specific needs and requirements into the all-in-one model, stymied by the limitations of the tools and inability to tailor or customize.
“For many organizations, the choice to move to a single CRM proves to be a critical step in breaking out of the old “all-in-one,” online-versus-offline model. In addition to choosing a single CRM and creating a cohesive model for their supporter data, organizations simultaneously gain the opportunity to choose or build their own specific, single-purpose software (also known as a best-of-breed, or “technology ecosystem,” model). The idea is that instead of giving up control of their online functionality to all-in-one tool vendors, organizations create in-house capacity to select, tailor, and manage their own toolset over the long term. Each specific technology is configured to use the single CRM as its underlying database -- rather than proliferating additional datasets/databases that require custom integrations. The single CRM serves as the brain of the technology ecosystem, and the nonprofit takes responsibility for carefully curating the other parts of the body according to its strategy, needs, and goals.
“We’ve observed that organizations choosing the overall ecosystem model, including a single CRM, tend to experience positive disruption as a result of making this shift. The new technological freedom seems to present an unique opportunity to get clear on aspirational goals and requirements; rethink staff roles and processes; engage outside vendors in more productive and cost-effective ways; and align vision and strategy with technology, across the organization.”
Ready to cause some disruption of your own? Sign up to receive your own copy of the white paper, From Multichannel to Omnichannel: Using a Single CRM for All Supporter Data, due out in March!