Thursday, February 12, 2009

Think Before You Drive: A Roadmap for Developing New Products and Services for Your Nonprofit

This photo is by AgendaAkit.
We're going through an excellent process at work to determine which new products/services we should add to our current mix. I thought I'd share our methodology with you. Hope it helps!

BEFORE developing any new products and services for your clients, ask the following questions. The answers below represent my short hand responses to these questions for Triplex Interactive.

1) Who do we serve?

Ans. The 3,7 percent (33,000) public charities with annual expenses in excess of $10,000,000. Why? Because they have the most money to spend on our products and services.

2) What do they need?

Ans. To raise more money online and to save more money on direct mail.

To save time on data management so that they can spend more time on direct service.

3) Who is already trying to help them?

Ans. Convio & Kintera, Tower Data & Fresh Address

4) How are we different?

Ans. Our data is clean, our prices are fair and we're easy to work with!

Ah, this last question, is the key. How are we different? The answer, of course, is the unique value we bring to the marketplace and it's not easy to discern.

Why? Because most services are commodities, i.e. they are easy to replicate and hard to distinguish from one another. Still you must answer this question.

Think about it. Why do you choose one direct mail vendor over another? Why do you donate to Sierra Club vs. The Nature Conservancy?

If you're lucky you have a product or service that truly is a Purple Cow - a term coined by Seth Godin. But if you're like most of us you lay awake a night trying to create products/services that are truly remarkable.

All organizations, even nonprofits, have to do understand where they fit in a competitive landscape and demonstrate a unique value to the marketplace in order to survive long-term. This means staying on top of what other organizations are doing in your space and continuing to improve your own programs and services.

I know this sounds crass. We don't like to think about competing to end genocide or feed hungry people. But the reality is that none of our organizations are islands, especially want it comes to competition for donors and shoppers.

Want to buy shoes from Japan? You can! Want to donate to a charity in Iowa? Have at it!

Do your best to engage in a disciplined process of discernment before launching any new products and services and be sure to include in your analysis a discussion of what your competitors are already doing. In this way, you'll be better positioned to add real value to your clients AND attract the support you deserve and need.


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