Limited Resources? No Worries. To Grow, Leverage What you Already Have
For most nonprofits growth and, in fact, survival is equated to an unceasing struggle for more resources —revenue, staff, members or customers. The mantra is “more”—more programs, members or revenue will solve their problems. Yet, in today’s economy it is leverage rather than quantity, innovation rather than production that yields solutions. Take the case of Facebook cited in a Fast Company article.
Leveraging customers: To grow beyond a posting site into a social and commercial hub, Facebook needs to enable transactions. To this end, Facebook considered its relationship to small businesses on its platform. The article cites the example
of a baker who would need over $5000 to shoot a promotional video for his goods. The return on the investment in advertising would not justify the costs. By going through a tutorial provided by Facebook’s Creative Shop, this baker could create beautiful, dynamic content for about $50, and increase sales by 40%.
What Facebook is doing here is developing existing customers rather than simply increasing them– converting mere posters into conductors of transactions and thus increasing both the value they derive and the revenue they contribute.
By teaching small businesses how to make more effective video content on the cheap, Facebook is encouraging businesses to spend a little extra to promote it. The hypothesis is that if businesses know they have good creative that drives sales, they’ll be willing pay to promote it and extend their potential ability to reach customers (rather than just posting organically).
Leveraging what you have: In the last 7 years, Facebook’ Creative Shop’s 150 employees have been helping major brands develop Facebook-specific content. The Creative Shop put together a four-person team to create tools and tutorials for small businesses and test that hypothesis. If small businesses were helped to increase sales through affordable and dynamic creative, would they engage more on Facebook’s platform through paid advertisement or content development? The hypothesis was validated and the results have been a resounding success.
This was because, instead of trying to increase revenue directly through more sales, Facebook helped small businesses succeed by better utilizing available resources by teaching two techniques, quoted in this article: 1) Use what you have; 2) Spend very little on what you don’t.
Facebook relied on innovation rather than sales techniques, coming up with creative and inexpensive ways small businesses could promote their products or services, for example: suggesting sprucing up old product shots instead of taking new shots; showing customers “how to snap a photo with natural lighting ;” utilize the right mix of free mobile apps; use simpler techniques for editing to shoot stop-motion videos, “add moving graphics to still shots, and cut together appealing product videos,” etc.
This guided DIY approach saved money, increased return on investment and sales.
Leveraging others’ resources. Converting informal experiences into products
Airbnb has recently announced that it plans to expand beyond just providing lodging for travelers. Specifically, it has introduced a revamped version of its app, to include “Experiences,” “Places,” and “Homes.” In addition to being a host you can now participate in Airbnb as a “curator” of a unique experience in your city–experiences you enjoy and are willing to share with others such as hiking, exploring little known neighborhoods, uncovering local artists or teaching a craft. In this way, Airbnb is converting host’s interests into customer experiences that travelers can book.
Facebook’s Creative Shop collaborated with Airbnb to convert these experiences into its new Experience products via a series of videos of live tours of cities led by Airbnb hosts. “The videos, all roughly 30 to 45 minutes long, take potential customers through activities that only locals might know about.”
Leveraging and integrating the collective: Facebook gathers individuals’ recommendations of restaurants into a guide for consumers as well as promotion tools for the restaurants.
“Now when friends post restaurant recommendations on the business page, Facebook plots out each suggestion
on a map published at the top of the post. Beneath individual suggestions, users see a card with the name of the business,
its rating, price range, and a link to its own Face. …Eventually, Facebook wants its platform to do everything, from booking a hair appointment to finding the right holiday gifts at a local store.”
Leveraging customers that you already have by helping them solve problems in ways that increase usage of your platform or services; re-deploying resources such as staff expertise in new ways; converting informal experiences into content and products; piggy-banking on others’ products/services and re-packaging them into different products for your customers; and leveraging customers’ experiences and content—are all applicable to any organization’s strategy, including associations. What Facebook, Airbnb and myriads of
innovators today are doing is shifting the basis of growth and competitiveness from production to innovation, and from adding to reconfiguring, re-deploying and reinventing.