In a recent eJewish Philanthropy post, Rabbi Elie Kaunfer crafts a compelling case for “making a big bet” when investing in the Jewish community. He notes the transformative effects of “big bets” such as Birthright, PJ Library and OneTable (helping young Jews share Shabbat dinners).
Most Federations, however, don’t have the luxury of making one “big bet.” Instead, they face myriad competing demands to support programs and services of undeniable value to both their local and global Jewish communities. How, then, do Federations decide which funding priorities to “bet” on – the ones that will pay off, by eliciting donor support and making their communities flourish?
One key for Federations to creating an effective funding strategy is understanding the priorities of their community – that is, identifying the programs and issues their community believes Federation should support. In our work with various Jewish communities, we have seen significant, often surprising, differences in what communities identify as their desired funding priorities for their Federation, including:
Support for Israel and global Jewry
Social issues (e.g., supports for vulnerable populations including the elderly, Holocaust survivors, people with disabilities, etc.)
Knowing what a community wants its Federation to fund and aligning the allocation process with those priorities can help maximize the impact of Federation’s investments. By incorporating the community’s voice, Federations invest more than just the dollars they’ve raised… they invest community aspirations, which is more likely to translate to greater community satisfaction, participation and financial support. Therefore, it is likely that this “bet” will literally pay off for Federation – with increased growth in the value of individual charitable donations and number of donors.
If you aren’t sure what your community’s funding priorities are, contact us. We can help you find out.
Continuing our series about the common questions that our clients ask us: our first post focused on the higher education sector. This was followed by our post on the healthcare sector. We now turn our attention to the world of Jewish community studies.
For 35 years and counting, The Melior Group has been in the business of answering questions for our clients. And, while the techniques and methods we use to answer those questions have changed over time, many of the questions have not.
So when it comes to our clients in the Jewish community – Federations, synagogues, Day Schools and social services organizations – what kinds of questions is Melior answering, and how are our clients using the information?
At the most fundamental level, our clients want to know how they can make their Jewish communities more vibrant and their members more engaged.
Jewish communities these days often find themselves struggling to be relevant to their members. While the needs of some in the community may be well-served by traditional communal institutions, new strategies and approaches are needed to combat decline and ensure long-term survival.
By using a consumer behavior approach to understanding community needs, interests, behaviors and attitudes, our work provides new insights into what makes these communities “tick”, and how best to leverage those insights to build stronger communities. Community leaders want to know…
What does our community “look like” – demographically, attitudinally, spiritually, emotionally and even philanthropically?
What’s working and what’s not – programmatically and institutionally?
Where are the gaps? What do we need to do better?
How well do community members understand what we do? How can we better engage those at the margins of the community?
Where is the community headed?
The answers we provide have been used by our clients in a variety of ways, allowing them to:
Make informed policy decisions
Launch, grow, and sunset programs
Determine funding allocations based on credible data, not instinct
Bolster community planning efforts
Amplify development efforts
Though our findings can sometimes surprise, they provide a starting point for community soul-searching and ultimately, strengthening.
In addition to the questions we ask, our rigorous approach to figuring out who we need to reach in order to gather the information clients need, and determining the best methodology for gathering information, is central to our work.
Our research can help Jewish communities, their agencies and institutions, explore all of these issues and more. Give us a call or send us an email and let us know how we can help.
Mr. Ey, after touting the growth, success and amazing benefits of electronic communication, offered that “person-to-person contact can be a great strategic advantage, particularly at a time when many of your competitors are relying strictly on electronic pitches. I know they are because that’s how the vast majority of people try to establish or maintain a business relationship with me.” He further complimented someone who actually called him on a telephone to introduce his company.
For so many of us, ‘business relationship’ is really about ‘relationship’… getting to know each other, thinking about the business issues we deal with, considering whether we can actually help one another in some way.
Being in the business of serving clients with market-based information and marketing research for over 30 years, I’ve been so excited about the advances in electronic communications and the ease and speed of delivery of necessary information. Email allows us to quickly advise clients, to ask and answer questions at all times of the day, to assure the highest level of responsiveness clients deserve.
I’ve been reading recently about ‘personalization’ and getting confused as to what it means. I read a review of a study that said that “marketers looking to deliver exceptional customer experience will increasingly turn to personalization as the key driver to maximize customer value… that customers expect that the brands will understand who they are, what their habits are, what they want, etc.” [A shout-out to Altus Agency, the Marketing Minute; referencing Pegasystems “Predicting Routes to Revenue”]
I was hoping that this meant that organizations and their leaders are actually getting to know their customers and providing solutions based on who they are, what they value, what they think about. But, I think I might have misunderstood the concept of personalization or maybe I’m a little jaundiced. How can brands understand us? Isn’t it the people working at/for “the brand” who have to understand their customers’ wants, needs, interests? Shouldn’t we be reaching out to and actually meeting these customers and learning more about them?
Electronic communication has given us at The Melior Group a significant and dynamic platform for introducing ideas, getting prospective and current clients to think about things that might matter, identifying trends and the implications of them for business. It has especially given me access to companies that I believe we can help with our services and those who may not be great fits (with both parties realizing this). I’ve also met thousands of people on LinkedIn and other social media who are doing amazing things.
But, what we’re missing is the emotional and physical nuances that make for a productive business relationship. How are people going to know we want to work for them and them us? Like Mr. Ey, I’m a believer in the handshake, look you in the eye, actually chat, maybe smile (but not necessary) – the “huge advantage” that human conversation and engagement can provide.
In a service business like we have – and even a product-focused business where prospective customers have to choose among many alternatives when purchasing – it is not enough to be able to connect. It is more about talking and engaging with customers, prospects, donors, colleagues, others with shared interests. I really believe that people today want to experience the “real you.” In that way, maybe we can actually “personalize” what we’re offering.
This takes me back to an ad I have long remembered… when I was talking to staff about why it’s not enough to rely on electronic communication… give a look and see how you feel about business relationships.
Marketing researchers often refer the people they study as audiences, markets, populations, demographic groups and consumers. These categorizations are useful when conducting research for a particular product or industry. However, when you constantly describe people as objects and concepts it is easy to forget what they really are: humans. This is why we often like to think of the groups we research as communities. People are not just members of demographic groups – they live in communities with complex cultural traditions and social norms.
As researchers, it is important to understand the context in which people exist in their communities. Ethnicity, income, gender and age are not just demographic identifiers; they are the factors that make people unique. As Randy Bowden puts it on his blog, “Everyone’s different and different people are attracted to different things for different reasons.”
From couples shopping for engagement rings to high school seniors applying to college, we’ve studied an extremely wide range of communities. And each project demands a specific type of understanding. We’ve learned that when you take the time to understand a community and learn how to engage with that community, you get the most valuable information and insights.
For example, it was not enough to research the basic demographics and statistics of a city known for violence and a high crime rate. To truly understand this community, we had to delve deeper and ask more complex questions through focus group research. Why did families move to this city? How do they interact with other residents? How would they react if a crime took place in their neighborhood?
When we wanted to learn more about how mothers grocery shop for their families, we decided that an online bulletin board focus group would be the best way to understand how a community of mothers in a specific geographic region makes decisions about which products to buy.
Sometimes our work helps communities better understand themselves. Recognizing that its community was changing, a regional Jewish service association wanted to learn more about the people it serves and how to meet their needs. Melior worked with a network of organizations to distribute an online survey to community members. This method allowed us to reach as many people in the community as possible.
These examples highlight one of the keys to a successful research study: when research is tailored to the people being studied, the results will be more than data points and quotes – you will garner deeper insights and begin to hear the voice of a community.
It is easy to believe in this world of impersonal online transactions that companies you buy from don’t really know who you are – they don’t recognize you by face or voice. The truth is companies have never known their customers better. Companies might reduce customers to account numbers, lumped in a database with several thousand other account numbers – but with one click, they can access or buy all sorts of information about a customer – purchase history, personal information, financial credibility.
Business sense dictates that companies that have the wherewithal to gather all this “private” information, use the data to further their financial gains – use it to predict future purchases, identify cross sell opportunities and inform marketing initiatives. While gathering customer data is effective when used for marketing, it only works well when customers don’t know this strategy is being employed.
Take the recent example of Target – the big box store swamped select customers with discounts and coupons on baby products. These were not customers who had babies or baby registries, but customers whose purchase behavior indicated that they could perhaps be pregnant. Target conducted extensive data mining and predictive analysis to identify who these customers might be. Not surprisingly, customers reacted negatively – it disturbed people to think that Target somehow thought they were pregnant. Customers felt manipulated, spied on, and angry.
When Target became more subtle in its marketing efforts, continuing to promote baby items to select customers, but this time intentionally mixing up the ads for baby items with ads for unrelated items (like ads for a lawn mower next to coupons for a crib), customers no longer felt spooked. And they happily used the coupons.
Customers want to believe that the discounts, coupons and privileges they are being offered are a reward for their loyalty, not a result of calculated purchase predictions. In Melior’s research on the invisible customer, we learned that only 9% of customers value receiving customized recommendations of products/services of interest, while 50% of customers value receiving discounts and coupons on products and services. Why? Customized recommendations are considered akin to “selling” – making customers wary by highlighting the fact that their behavior was tracked, analyzed and used for possible financial gain. The same recommendations repackaged as discounts and coupons are seen as a benefit – as a special opportunity to buy.
So in the enthusiasm to implement marketing strategies based on data mining and predictive analytics, keep in mind that customers want to feel valued for their loyalty not openly targeted for promotions based on their behavior without feeling that the reward came with a price – no longer being “invisible” to a marketer.
The Internet has certainly made life easier for consumers and businesses; purchases and transactions can be made from the comfort of one’s home or office. However, there is a downside to this trend: customers who once had to be physically present and conduct business face-to-face (e.g., at a department store or bank) are rendered virtually invisible by the conveniences of modern technology. We like to call them “invisible customers.”
In this series of posts, we will explore the impact of invisible customers on retail businesses, service providers and the overall economy. We will also give some advice to those businesses that want to reach beyond the computer screen, build a relationship and reconnect with their invisible customers.
First, we’d like to figure out which industries are seeing the most growth in their invisible customer market. At a brainstorming session of Meliorites, we realized that the possibilities are endless. However, we decided that the banking industry is a great example: over the past several years, we’ve seen a huge push to get bank customers to handle their business online.
Stay tuned for details about our research on this topic. In the meantime, what industries do you think are seeing an increase of invisible customers? Is this a good or bad trend? Feel free to discuss in the comments below!