Melinda Gates: What we can learn from Coca-Cola

At TEDxChange, Melinda Gates makes a provocative case for nonprofits taking a cue from corporations such as Coca-Cola, whose plugged-in, global network of marketers and distributors ensures that every remote village wants — and can get — a Coke. Why shouldn’t this work for condoms, sanitation, vaccinations too?

In particular, Melinda Gates explores three actions we could all adopt to promote the success of our own projects: 1. Take real-time data and feed it immediately back into your process; 2. Tap into local entrepreneurial talent; and 3. Practice incredible marketing.  How might we as individuals and organizations try on these methods?  Sky’s the limit.  Let’s do a quick brainstorm!

DATA:  You can do frequent paper surveys, online surveys, you can measure interaction and reactions to give-aways, you can host town-hall meetings, offer a suggestion box, sign up for a business Yelp account and receive patron reviews, put a free hit counter on your site and see when traffic spikes, apply Google Analytics code to your website to gather free traffic data, enlist paid web and email analysis services, you can keep well-recorded ledgers of all transactions (especially for tax purposes!), and you can always practice classic curiosity and simply ask people when you see them, “How are you? Did you like what we just gave?  How would you rate how we’re doing on a scale from 1 to 10?  What do you think we can do to achieve a 10?”

LOCAL TALENT:  Ask these questions:  Who knows what I want to know?  Who is effectively reaching the people I would like to reach?  Who knows what motivates the people I would like to communicate with?  How can I partner with these individuals?  What value can I offer them?  What can I do to help advance the lives of the people that I would like to work with?  Suggestions: Maybe you can trade space or low-cost rental, special skills or services, unique professional advice, consultation, actionable information, resources, opportunities, mentorship, shared profits, high quality publicity, educational tools, gift cards for music or books or electronics, an introduction to someone they’d like to meet, and of course, you could always hire!  Even after you figure it out, remember the emphasis is on collaborating with talent, not usurping it.  Appreciate the ideas, know-how, and potential of this local talent, and support them in ways that are mutually beneficial.

MARKETING:  There are lots of ways to think about marketing.  In my opinion, the most important approach to consider is human connection: effectively convey your mission, demonstrate value, and make people’s lives better.  Share the story of your product, event, or service – not to benefit you, the seller – to enhance the life experience of the buyer.  The main character in any marketing campaign isn’t you, the seller.  It’s the buyer!  When you think about marketing in this way, you can begin to see how it isn’t so much about moving units as it is about serving people.  This lens will hopefully also keep you balanced and ethical.  How can you re-frame advertising away from begging or frightening people to support you?  And instead think about what you can do to make people happy, inspired, excited, or feel connected?

The possibilities are endless!  …if you have the empathy and the imagination.  And I believe you do.  Now, check out the video above and see what you think.

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