Many times we think of innovation as a gifting that certain people have. We think of Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, Nikola Tesla, Thomas Edison, Einstein, and others… which just leads most of us to think we don’t have that special “gene”. While there are some people who are exceptionally gifted to innovate and think outside the box, there’s also a process that all of us can use to solve problems and innovate toward a better solution.
In the past several decades, several pioneers have navigated a path to build processes that have helped countless people work through an innovation process. This largely began with David Kelley, the founder of IDEO. Since those early years, others have adopted the process, changed pieces, and renamed things (ex: Stanford University, Google, etc.), but all the while continued the legacy of leading innovation.
Key Principle: Innovation is far more a process than a personal gifting.
So what does that mean for me on a practical level? Do you ever find yourself working on a project feeling stuck? Do you ever feel like a project should have more input from others? Do you have projects that just feel so epic that you’re intimidated by them? If yes for any of those questions then there’s a good chance an innovation can help you. Look at this process as a good friend who is going to help you navigate a path to a better solution. And the amazing part of running an innovation… you’re basically guaranteed a better solution on the other side of the process. So let’s take a moment to talk through the stages of the innovation process.
The first stage is setting the foundations for your project. You start by building your scope which includes things like your problem statement, defined WIN, the team to participate, how long of an innovation, what Discovery voices to invite, and general logistics. Strong scope development helps set up the innovation event for success.
The innovation session begins with what we call Discovery. This is where you look outside the world of what’s common for you and your team. Here you explore what others are doing that are outside your industry but who have enough crossover to make you scratch your head and consider ideas from outside.
Here we move to more internal thoughts and perspectives on how to address the core problem/project. This stage walks a group through 12+ “buckets” of strategic thought that are helping to equip the working group to help solve the problem. This interactive stage allows for mass contribution to specific points of your future plan.
Next we move into a phase where you allow each participant to sketch out a few models for how they would see solving this project. We’re always working toward tangible models and visual representations of the strategy. This stage allows individuals to express and share ideas and then presents an opportunity for group members to vote on which bring the most clarity and direction to the project.
The final major stage is where the whole group is broken into two core teams to build prototype projects. Think arts and crafts projects with supplies from Hobby Lobby and Office Depot… seriously. The goal here is to create some solution to the core problem that’s a creative approach to the problem statement.
Once prototypes are complete, the two teams give a short presentation of their prototype and field questions from the other team. This phase helps flush out the two proposed solutions and gives the innovation owner two working models that could be used to solve their core problem (the owner leaves the innovation with the task to compile those two models and create the blended solution that meets their core problem).
And that’s it… it’s really that simple! Now there are all sorts of nuances to the process and how to facilitate these sessions well but this is the basic construct for what an innovation looks like. These sessions are excellent to help you dig into those more complex problems, seek the council of others, and come up with solutions better than you probably could construct on your own… or at the least, put a lot more “meat on the bones” of what you’ve already created.
Cause Machine Solutions
Cause Machine is a platform created to help you better engage your audience. We share blog posts like this to encourage community leaders to work through processes like an innovation to discover how better to engage community members. One of our core principles at Cause Machine is that your strategy should always drive your technology. Our hope is that you have great rhythms to better engage your audience, like hosting innovation sessions. And then we would love to see you bring those engagement plans to life on Cause Machine. Schedule a demo today!
Ah, the great question of when, where, and how… or even why to use technology. So obviously, we’re a technology company but I hope you can hear us loud and clear… the greatest desire in our technology is that it moves people AWAY from the community and INTO relationships with other people. We really do believe that technology is a means to strengthen your community, it’s not the end goal. So let’s tackle these one at a time.
The most significant reason is to allow technology to allow you to scale and grow your reach, impact, community, and engagement. It’s a tool and when used properly, it can help accelerate the work you’re doing. You know on Mario Kart where your car drives over those arrows on the group and it propels your vehicles faster ahead? Well, that’s the picture you should have for what technology does for you.
There are so many ways to leverage technology but where I want to focus our attention is to challenge you to leverage technology in the space where it betters the experience for your community member. There are all kinds of backend systems you could leverage and those are the ones your business will lean to adopt. But your leadership must guide the ship to find tools that better the overall experience for your members.
There’s no great answer to this question other than “when the time is right” but here are some thoughts. If you go too early then might tackle more than you can chew. If you go too late then it’s difficult to infuse. So I recommend that you have some beta testing done already with your community via Facebook groups, Google docs, events, discussions, etc. and most often, one of two things are going to happen. First, you’re going to feel the pain of needing to be on a platform or second, you’re going to crest a critical mass of people (usually around 200) where you want to better organize their experience.
The most important thing though is to have a plan. Technology is designed to serve your strategy so be sure to have your strategy is place so the technology can serve you. If you jump too quickly into technology without a plan, you are most certainly going to get frustrated. Technology solves nothing without your plan… then it can be amazing.
The best way to answer this question is everywhere… well, everywhere that creates a great member experience. Consider how all a community wants to engage - they want to attend events, have discussions, view resources, be educated, and make connections. Dream for a moment on what makes your community a success and then explore how technology can bring that all to life in a more dynamic or scalable manner.
Cause Machine Solutions
Cause Machine is packed full of tools to help you scale your community - tools like event management, member directories, organization directories, job boards, groups, discussion boards, e-courses, and stories. The entire system is designed to help you maximize your community engagement strategy. Plus we have countless resources to better educate and equip you to lead your community well. Schedule a demo today!
So first off… what’s a digital funnel? Basically, it’s the same concept of a marketing funnel just focusing on the context of digital resources. This is how you are leveraging digital resources to guide people into a specific experience or towards a certain goal.
And yes… you need a digital funnel! Digital funnels take time to map out and configure but these can work very hard for you as you engage more members and potential members. Let’s spend some time talking about pieces of your digital funnel and then explore how to order these in a sequence that’s beneficial.
Goal #1 - Give more people exposure to you and the great things you are doing.
Goal #2 - Guide people into a deeper relationship with your community.
Social Media - being present in the world of social media for people to learn about you and make some first steps of connections.
Paid Social Advertising - similar to general social media but this ads the dynamic of paying for ads so more people have visibility on your community.
Website - your online storefront to help people get to know you and what you have to offer - a simple place to cast your vision.
Lead Generators - key assets that people can explore, download, and get to know you better as they explore your unique value proposition.
Calendaring Tools - means for people to schedule a time to meet with you and learn more about what you have to offer.
Webinars and Videos - events or evergreen content available for people to gain a better understanding of you and your community.
Drip Email Campaigns - automations that help guide new people into a better experience with you by slowly “dripping” them content and value.
Remember the most basic map for how you are guiding people: Public > Free > Paid. This is your most basic funnel or pathway and digital assets are designed to help facilitate that at every step. Digital tools help move this process forward and automate certain stages. Of course, our end goal is always to bring people into relationships and personal connections with each other but these digital tools help us archive a greater scale of meaningful connections.
Assessment - assess what you currently have and what you need
Brainstorm - dream about what you could potentially do
Research - explore the tools that can help you make this happen
Recruit - find the right people to help make things happen
Create - build your content and digital resources
Configure - get things set up on the various tools
Launch - press the “on” button and let things start working
Review - track what’s happening, working, or not
Adjust - refine your process as you learn about what’s working or not
You will be amazed at how well these simple ideas and steps will work for you. The most difficult part is the discipline and time to get these created… but you’ll be thankful once it’s all done. And don’t forget to have fun while you build all of this!
Cause Machine Solutions
Cause Machine can be a critical part of your digital funnel - both in early introductions to new people and the place to hang out once they join your community. Cause Machine has tools to help you build your website, create and host lead generators, customize sales landing pages, automate email sequences, welcome people well into a new community, and more. Schedule a demo today!
So this is one of the most fun exercises I’ve enjoyed walking groups through over the years as it reveals a lot about what we’re encouraging people to do and where we are guiding them. This process helps to identify what core needs your constituents have and how you meet those needs… but it also will challenge you in what you bring to the table to them and may result in you having to step up your game.
The best way to think about this is to see five zone areas - I’ll explain the order in a moment and what each zone means.
Zone 4 Zone 2 Zone 1 Zone 3 Zone 4
The exercise begins by plotting out two core areas… what do you have to bring to offer to your constituents and what do they need. Often we focus on what we have to offer without thinking about what people actually want or need. This exercise helps you separate those two thoughts so we can learn best how to then bring them back together.
Once you’ve brainstormed out these two lists, then start to plot them in the various zones to see where they land. HINT: what you’re looking for is how much of a constituent need is what you have to offer. Use this key to help guide you:
Zone 4: All constituent need and nothing you have to offer OR all your resources and nothing of need/want for your constituent. These are the most difficult things to promote and convince people they need or for you to create.
Zone 2: These are the areas where you’re stretched yourself to meet a constituent’s need but it’s certainly stretched you to think outside the box and beyond what you currently had in your arsenal of resources.
Zone 1: This is the most natural intersection of what you have to offer and what people need. This was probably your first great success point and the simplest place for explaining your value proposition.
Zone 3: This is where you want to lead people BUT it’s not where you can guide them to early in your relationship with them… it’s going to take time and most likely, it’s going to come from creating great resources that keep matching the needs of your constituents.
More often than not, there are many items in the Zone 3 column and very few in the Zone 2 column. That’s normal and to be expected. We all have things we believe our constituents need… but they don’t quite see they have the need quite yet.
Building trust and guiding constituents to a greater success always come by first meeting them where they are and then guiding them into resources they may not have known they need. This is how you build trust and what helps built long-lasting value.
Spent time working on how you could be creating resources that meet constituents where they are - it’s going to take some work and time but it’s worth it.
Cause Machine Solutions
Meeting constituents where they are is a challenge and a discipline. It takes time to map this out and understand their basic needs. Cause Machine helps provide the environments to deliver these Zone 1,2,3,&4 resources, experiences, connections, and content to help create your strong value proposition. The asset creation is on you but Cause Machine will help you deliver that in meaningful ways and help you meet your constituents where they are. Schedule a demo today!
First, let’s quickly define these two words…
Nurture: taking care of someone
Leads: New people exploring what you have to offer
My goal here is to unpack how you can better engage your leads and walk with them to see greater engagement in your community. This all starts with an attitude, a perspective, and an approach. And it all comes back to being a guide. The most significant way you can nurture people in your community is to serve them well as their guide. When you think of parental nurturing you think of someone taking care of a child for many years, showing them the way, and helping them mature into adulthood. That’s exactly what you’re doing here - guiding people, walking with them, and helping them mature to where they can be guiding others.
But let’s talk specifically about lead nurturing. First, you need to have mechanisms to attract and capture leads. Leads can come in many different forms - let’s unpack a few. There are SO MANY ideas for lead generation so be creative and come up with your own unique idea.
eBook - a free short book that captures the attention of someone exploring what you have to offer (just make certain it actually provides value)
Courses - similar to an ebook… make that content available in a free short e-course for someone to subscribe to.
Worksheets - create simple worksheets that help make workflow and life easier on your potential audience.
Host a Webinar - host events that provide meaningful content and coaching for free as a means to generate interest.
Free Trials - offer a free trial to something to give someone a chance to come in and “kick the tires”.
Discounts - offer discounts to one of your events or one of your resources to generate engagement.
Refer a Friend - ask people in your community to refer someone else who might fit well in your collective vision.
Live Chat - offer live chat or a live chatbot that would capture someone’s email address to engage in the chat.
Schedule a Meeting - leverage tools like Calendly to have the means to schedule a meeting with you
Solve Problems - this is more philosophical, but focus your lead generators on solving the problems of your potential audience.
Now that you have a lead generator or two created, let’s talk about what to do with those leads and focus on the nurturing part. Here are some general rules of engagement.
Stay Value Focused - it might feel like it’s the time to pounce and “close the deal” but they are still checking you out. Stay focused on the lead generator’s value, the problem it’s trying to solve for them, and additional thoughts on its content.
Automate - when possible… automate. Leverage tools like MailChimp, HubSpot, or ActiveCampaign to spin up an email drip campaign to kick out a series of emails (4-6 is reasonable).
Text + Video - remember everyone is wired differently so consider leveraging both text and video when you create email drip campaigns.
Make it Personal - while you are leveraging automations, also do what’s possible to make it personal.
Next Step - always have something that’s guiding the person to what their next step might be… a Lead Generator is just a step in the process so don’t miss the clarity on where you’re taking people next.
Don’t overthink all of this. It’s enough work simply to put together your plan. Here’s a quick checklist when getting started.
Create a Lead Generator
Make the Lead Generator look nice and branded
Setup the Lead Generator
Create a Drip Campaign
Turn it all ON
Tweak as needed
Cause Machine Solutions
Nurturing members is part of our DNA at Cause Machine. We believe each community has a responsibility to carefully guide their members to a better state and that often begins with how you nurture leads. Cause Machine has various “trigger” tools to help nurture new leads in your community so you can have the technology working for you. Explore more ways how Cause Machine can help you nurture your leads. Schedule a demo today!
COVID-19 changing your community engagement strategy?
We know you want to have a dynamic and multi-dimensional community that thrives through seasons like this.
We want to share a treasure-trove of secrets with you here to help you thrive in a season like this.