Everyone is Dismissed!

Posted on June 4, 2014

Yes…everyone is dismissed because I am taking my blog writing and storing my future ideas in the caps and snow boots closet for the summer.

George-and-Adrianna

It’s been a cathartic year or so writing my blog and sharing with you in a candid, caustic, sometimes controversial manner my thoughts on running a business and my perspective on this intense industry known as direct response fundraising.

Greg will still have his blog and of course you can take the time to read some of my back rants and compositions.

Have a safe summer, take time to relax and enjoy the sun before the “year end” storms.

Thank you for your loyalty and interest.

I am deeply appreciative.

Now go out there and give somebody a hug!!!!

- George

CEO, Production Solutions

CEO, Production Solutions

George Lizama, a founder of Production Solutions and its CEO and chief marketing officer, has spent over 30 years in production management. A recognized leader in the fundraising industry, George served as president of the Direct Marketing Association of Washington (DMAW) in 2010 and received its Distinguished Achievement Award in 2006. In 2008, he received a Washington Business Journal Philanthropy Award for CEO Leadership, partly in recognition of his longtime support of Northern Virginia Family Service.

The Direct Response Vortex…Mother of the Big Idea!

Posted on May 28, 2014

Getting that steady or dramatic lift in a campaign’s response rate or average contribution can’t come from just one magic bullet.

Next big idea

The Direct Response Marketing industry and specifically those in offline and online fundraising continually search for what is known as the “Big Idea.”

The next “Big Idea” can be…that package look, that message, that strategy, that premium or all the above, that provides a dramatic or steady lift in a campaign’s response rate or average contribution.

It is of such interest that several direct marketing associations have an awards category called…The Big Idea.

There have been direct mail packages…telemarketing scripts…DRTV episodes…online subject lines and dialogues that have caused new life in a campaign or succeeded in causing a spike in response such that it became a stand-alone Big Idea.

As the conference season begins, I can’t help thinking about the next Big Idea.

The next Big Idea… how fascinating, and yet how frustrating.

I liken it to mining for gold or winning the lottery or discovering the Holy Grail.

It’s not an easy task.

Personally, I think the next “Big Idea” is a crap shoot. It’s really holding out for something that I feel really does not exist.

There is no, one, single silver bullet…hence there is no one Big Idea.

There is, however, a direct response VORTEX that fosters the ability for a package (or a whole campaign) to stand above all others, or is consistent in obtaining a high response or average gift.

Dreamy_Vortex_27035The Vortex is not one single creative idea, but the intersection or confluence of several variables that always affect the success of any campaign.

Here are the variables that make up the perfect confluence that can give rise to the next Big Idea:

1. Teamwork and planning. One kickoff meeting of ALL players involved in the campaign to establish clarity of roles and expectations. A two hour meeting in the beginning saves so much time and money throughout the campaign.
2. Creative. Solicit creative suggestions and ideas from several sources. No one on staff or subcontracted can CONSISTENTLY provide the best in creative ALL THE TIME.
3. Strategy. One really needs to mine with your list broker and/or your internal data base manager to really identify your target market. Testing is a must but you really, really need to read the data and interpret the information…and then have confidence in the results. Doubt is detrimental here!
4. Execution and production. Suck it up intermittently and pay what you perceive as “expensive” services to receive the best in your creative fulfillment. Always looking for cheap pricing/legacy pricing is not going to get you the Big Idea. The new premium…the new dimensional…the incredible pop-up…the personal touch in personalization is not cheap. Stop being so myopic or provincial!

Let’s face it folks. Nothing goes big without some risk. Nothing goes big without all hands on board and the right crew who knows their role. Nothing goes big with mediocrity and routine.

Sure, I’m ready for the next Big Idea… but first, you’ve got to create the breeding ground by creating the Direct Response Vortex!

 

CEO, Production Solutions

CEO, Production Solutions

George Lizama, a founder of Production Solutions and its CEO and chief marketing officer, has spent over 30 years in production management. A recognized leader in the fundraising industry, George served as president of the Direct Marketing Association of Washington (DMAW) in 2010 and received its Distinguished Achievement Award in 2006. In 2008, he received a Washington Business Journal Philanthropy Award for CEO Leadership, partly in recognition of his longtime support of Northern Virginia Family Service.

It’s In the Way That You Say It

Posted on May 15, 2014

HiRes

Tone and delivery can turn what was meant to be sarcastically funny, into an insult inadvertently.

I am so glad I’m old…I mean mature. (To be “AARP-politically-correct”).

Being mature allows me to really stop and listen to people and really hear what they have to say and not react in a negative way if it’s a disagreement or constructive criticism.

Being gray and long in the tooth gives me the confidence to not get offended…to not really care what people think of me…but truly care that I hear what they are saying to me.

Recently, I was with some really good friends when I made an off-handed remark in jest about one of them being such a control freak and “schedulina” that had he been with us at a bad hotel while on vacation, he would have forced us all to move to another location immediately.

Well…to my utter surprise, my friend went off on me (while I was driving a car and in the company of other friends) and his response went like this…

“George, I really take offense to your comment and I am tired of you implying that I take over situations and become a control freak!”

After I got past the public embarrassment and realized he truly was offended…and after my face lost its flush…I simply said “I’m sorry” and left it at that.

Silence

Say I’m sorry…and then be silent.

I allowed crickets in the car. I felt that keeping my eyes on the road, and not looking at my friend, would not help to communicate my contrition and how I didn’t mean to offend him, but it wouldn’t have been safe.

So when we got to our destination, I pulled him aside and told him I was really sorry for offending him said that I loved that he takes charge in most cases because I have been taking charge for most of my life, and the lives of others, and that it is truly refreshing for him to do so while in my company.

So, here’s a nugget of “good communication” advice.

Through the initial embarrassment of being “laid out,” it’s really important that when there is a misunderstanding…stopping and looking in the offended person’s face, and talking goes a hell of a long way when it comes to reinforcing trust.

His response was that it wasn’t what I said, but it was the tone with which I said it.  I came across as acerbic, implying he is pushy or annoying (which that is not the case).

Wow!

Sarcasm can be a slippery slope

Sarcasm can be a slippery slope

You know, it probably was my tone. I probably did come across (because I was looking straight ahead while I was driving) as flippant and nasty. I am usually full of sarcasm and think it’s witty and funny most of the time…but, this time, under the circumstances, it wasn’t the best way to deliver my brand of sarcasm to a friend. It came across as cold without the eye-contact (remember, had I been looking right at him while I was driving, it could have been dangerous)!

Because I’m mature, I accepted his reaction without blowing up at that moment.  I told him I was sorry a couple more times, but I think when he heard me say…”Gosh, I see what you mean about the tone and will try to work on it,” he felt better.

Years ago, I probably would have screamed myself right into this dude’s face defending myself that he misheard me or took what I said the wrong way.  But, alas, no…he’s a friend I want to keep as a friend, so, instead, I kept my own “pushy” self, calm and collected after his reaction. I also learned a lesson and went down for the count…because I really care for this friend.

So, friends and colleagues, the lesson I’ve learned from this experience is:

BE MINDFUL! YOUR TONE AND YOUR DEMEANOR CARRY A LOT OF WEIGHT IN CONVERSATION. 

And, oh…when you apologize, stop there. No buts…no summaries…silence.

 

CEO, Production Solutions

CEO, Production Solutions

George Lizama, a founder of Production Solutions and its CEO and chief marketing officer, has spent over 30 years in production management. A recognized leader in the fundraising industry, George served as president of the Direct Marketing Association of Washington (DMAW) in 2010 and received its Distinguished Achievement Award in 2006. In 2008, he received a Washington Business Journal Philanthropy Award for CEO Leadership, partly in recognition of his longtime support of Northern Virginia Family Service.

Why Wait To Unload?

Posted on April 21, 2014

constructive criticism1Making the case for ongoing employee feedback: good, bad or ugly.

I’m fortunate in my position as CEO within a privately held direct response company to be in a position that affords me the privilege of being candid and honest with my staff.

I communicate with no hidden agenda or the need to play games (unless you unless you consider negotiation to include restraining myself from lunging across the table and wanting to choke someone who is acting dumb…or using all the techniques I learned in Acting 101 to invoke a sincere stare at someone demonstrating their incredible sense of denial, game playing.)

I can also be candid and honest at my ripe old age by claiming the “older and wiser” card.

On another note, I firmly believe that negative events, conflicts with staff, conflicts with clients, conflicts with suppliers and even conflicts with friends and family are ALWAYS AN OPPORTUNITY TO IMPROVE and even strengthen RELATIONSHIPS…an opportunity to engage in, and not run from that which can be constructive.

Taking this position in life by turning conflict into opportunities brings me to the point of today’s post.

It strikes me as odd that those managers and others who serve as role models and mentors to others do not see opportunities day-to-day, week-to-week to provide constructive criticism and to cite improvement opportunities incrementally, so that there is NOT what I call “annual review log-jam.”

It’s unfortunate having to observe the hand wringing, the anguish, the unneeded stress of a manager who anticipates an annual review with their subordinate, that they would rather avoid . An even greater travesty is the review that may not be particularly negative, but one that may be uneventful or simply satisfactory; you know, neither bad nor incredible (much to the disappointment of the subordinate).

It’s unfortunate to see the look of shell shock from a staffer whose annual review came nowhere close to their expectation. Right?

Ugh.

People you steward and mentor need to be provided constant and ongoing feedback at every juncture, when each opportunity presents itself.

You know, that moment at the end of the day or after a tough meeting when people are closing up. Or when people are just beginning their day.

Take a couple of minutes to let them know where they may have fallen short on something or where they excelled in something.

Do it weekly, if not daily. Do it with a positive attitude…in bits and pieces…and be ready to listen and maybe question.

Little doses of good and maybe some bad…but ongoing.

So, why wait to unload?

With a constant helping hand and an eye for that quiet moment or sense of timing to engage, one can save oneself so much awkwardness and disappointment at the quarterly, bi-annual or annual review.

Most importantly, you will save yourself from surprises (dunno about you, but I hate surprises).

Ongoing input presented in a constructive way is the hallmark of a real leader/mentor. Rocking people’s worlds with shock and awe should be reserved for soldiers on the battlefield.

 

CEO, Production Solutions

CEO, Production Solutions

George Lizama, a founder of Production Solutions and its CEO and chief marketing officer, has spent over 30 years in production management. A recognized leader in the fundraising industry, George served as president of the Direct Marketing Association of Washington (DMAW) in 2010 and received its Distinguished Achievement Award in 2006. In 2008, he received a Washington Business Journal Philanthropy Award for CEO Leadership, partly in recognition of his longtime support of Northern Virginia Family Service.

Thank New Donors Properly if You Want That Second Gift

Posted on April 2, 2014

EfficientVSEffective.

Roger Craver and I were talking recently about the focus on retention in his blog, The Agitator, which led me to kick this idea around with my own team here at Production Solutions. We wondered how many clients have an active acknowledgment program in place and if they do, is it focused on personalization or timing?

Roger offered to guest blog for Production Interrupted on this conundrum, in order to stimulate dialogue from my readers.

Do you find that thanking new donors immediately after they make that first gift is the impetus that leads to that second gift? Or is it the “personal touch” that makes all the difference? Read on to find out what Roger advises and then please share your thoughts and/or experiences below.

- George

_______________________________________________________________________________________________

It’s axiomatic that success in winning a second gift as soon after acquisition as possible will go a long way toward guaranteeing higher retention rates and higher lifetime value.

Unfortunately, few fundraisers understand or follow the process essential for second gift success. Here are some tips.

What you do upon receipt of the first gift will largely determine whether or not you get the second gift. This is why a prompt and proper acknowledgment and thank you process is so critically important.failure vs success

And it continues to amaze me that so many fundraisers view the task of properly thanking new donors as a “cost center.” Talk about penny wise and pound-foolish!

When it comes to acknowledging and thanking donors, an infinite amount of advice abounds in our sector. Some claim a highly personal thank you is essential. Others argue that “personal” isn’t nearly as important as getting something to the donor as quickly as possible.

In our studies, we’ve found donors themselves put a premium on timely thank yous. A slight majority define “timely” as a thank you note arriving within 48 hours, while the vast majority indicated they wanted their gift acknowledged no more than a week after it was received.

Efficiency-is-doing-things-rightA caveat on “timeliness.” Mechanical, mass-produced thank yous that go out fast are generally the norm, or so-called “best practice” in many direct response-driven organizations. The result? “Efficiency” in getting the thank yous is achieved at the expense of “effectiveness,” because timeliness in now pretty much a commodity- common denominator that no longer distinguishes one organization from another, as it once did.

To distinguish or differentiate your organization, I suggest you focus more on the “acknowledgment” aspect of the communication and all that word suggests: communicating why the gift is appreciated, why it matters and how it was put to work.

Please also remember the importance of consistency in building relationships. Your “thank you” should reflect the issue, the project and the purpose to which the donor contributed. So if you’re an environmental organization and bring in a new donor with a message about whales, don’t acknowledge that first gift with a message about the dangers of nuclear proliferation.

Because thanking donors is critical to getting that second gift and to longer-term retention, you’ll likely need to make some changes and compromises within your organization.

For example, if your policy is to have the CEO personalize and sign all the thank yous and the stack is piling up on her desk, then you’ve probably placed your bet on the wrong horse.

Strategically and operationally any organization sacrificing timeliness for personalization (and vice-versa) should change course and figure out how to do both.

Roger Craver

Roger Craver

A pioneer in direct response fundraising in the 60’s…Telemarketing in the ‘70s…Online information services in the ’80…and online fundraising in the ’90s, Roger Craver continues to press for innovation and “positive disruption” in nonprofit fundraising and advocacy.  He is a long time friend and colleague of George Lizama’s and is one of the most prudent, provocative and pragmatic thought leaders in the industry.

 

CEO, Production Solutions

George Lizama, CEO, Production Solutions

George Lizama, a founder of Production Solutions and its CEO/ Chief Marketing Officer, has spent over 30 years in production management. A recognized leader in the fundraising industry, George served as president of the Direct Marketing Association of Washington (DMAW) in 2010 and received its Distinguished Achievement Award in 2006. In 2008, he received a Washington Business Journal Philanthropy Award for CEO Leadership, partly in recognition of his longtime support of Northern Virginia Family Service.