go small not big

Ever heard the slogan or tagline: “HALF THE PRESSURE, TWICE THE SPEED”? No fair Googling, just hang with me a minute. I hadn’t either. If I were guessing, I might have suspected an ad agency or sales group. Maybe a real estate sales office. Better yet, a car dealer. Would you believe it is the tag for a brand of pencils? Again, don’t jump away, hang on a bit longer.

I had the opportunity a few days ago to present some of our thinking at a seminar hosted by The Center for Nonprofit Success. The seminar was: “Social Media: Tips and Tools for Using Social Media to Build Support for Your Mission”. Well, if you follow our blog and know Oneicity well, you know I couldn’t do that without a bit of a curve ball in my presentation (OK, it may have been more of a brush-back pitch). I titled my presentation: Why You Should Ignore the Whole Social Media Fad. I really needed the group thinking with me and not thinking the same old thing.

You have to give The Center a lot of credit for not canceling me based on my title alone.
They’re gutsy people!

My point was that Social Media isn’t a silver bullet and that it won’t fix many things wrong with organizations. Obviously, we’re huge fans of Social Media but only as a part of an over-arching strategy not as the “be all, end all.” Anyway, one of the points I made after I gave the crowd the 4 reasons to ignore Social Media, was that they should never “think big” but rather “think small.”

Which takes us back to where this began. Remember, “Half the Pressure, Twice the Speed”? I know you Googled it, but I’ll pretend you didn’t. Those words are connected with Blackwing pencils. I think I’ve seen one. Apparently these are “THE” pencils. To some, Blackwing is to pencil as Ferrari is to car. Turns out that Blackwing has been out of production for a while. And now they’re back! Woohoo! Are you excited? I wasn’t. But there are people who are really, really excited. I stumbled across a blog about the pencils — complete with reviews, comparisons and even a discussion of that terrible eraser on the previous model (maybe that’s why I didn’t use Blackwings, I need great erasers!). Anyway, here’s my point: Blackwing rolled out this release by finding people who loved their pencils and had influence. Blackwing connected with these devoted fans and used that fan base to build from.

That’s thinking small first.

Which is my point for nonprofits and Social Media. Don’t think big, think small. You can think big all you want to once you have a small base of devoted supporters telling the world about your great work and cause.

Start with people who love you.

Maybe the tagline for this post should be: “Half the Audience, Twice the Impact”.

Focus first on who loves you most. Give them the tools and permission to cheer for and about you.

Then find a few more who are convinced you’re changing the world.

Then think Big. Really big. Because the ball will be rolling.

Oh and if you want to see the slides from my “Ignore Social Media” presentation you can find them on our slideshare (it won’t be like you were there but you might find them interesting).

What about you? Have you ever heard of Blackwings? What do you think about focusing on your core donors and equipping them to cheer for you? Let me know what you’re thinking, even if you want to drop me a note using your favorite pencil.

Steve Thomas
Partner, Oneicity

(photo credit: freakyman)

Steve Thomas

Steve Thomas

6 thoughts on “go small not big”

  1. I like the Blackwing slogan and I’d love to see nonprofits adopt it as the way they keep their supporters engaged! Your comments are right on about keeping close to that circle of supporters. Especially those who are deeply passionate. My favorite line in your post: “Focus first on who loves you most. Give them the tools and permission to cheer for and about you.” Hear, hear!

  2. @Lori — Great to hear from you. Thanks for your encouragement. I nearly softened that line.

    It is hard to keep clients (or anyone) focused on their fans or groupies or best donors. The “people who might love us” are so seductive. And certainly, NPOs always have to be acquiring new donors. It’s just better to keep who you have and THEN find new donors.

  3. Steve,
    This is great. I SOOOOO agree with you.

    I’d apply the same thinking to program strategies. Instead of trying to do dozens of different initiatives and only scratching the surface, many small NPOs would be so much more effective if they tightened up their vision of community impact and then implemented a knock it out of the ball park strategy to get there. (Surprise, a baseball metaphor).


  4. @Gayle — since our work is typically only connected to program work at the highest level I hadn’t thought about how the Go Small strategy would apply there, too. Good suggestion.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  5. Steve,

    This is a great post. I often think about the pace people set for themselves or for their organizations. For instance, I can travel 90 miles an hour for a full hour or I can travel at 60 miles for an hour and half to travel 90 miles.

    We all make these calculations when we are late or under pressure. Do we really value the risk that is involved traveling 90 miles an hour for a full 60 minutes. How many curves and cars will cause me to take greater risk.

    Sometimes the hare makes it passes the tortoise who has crashed along the way. I think going small and focusing your attention is so meaningful. I also wonder if slowing down has the same effect.

    Dave Sena

  6. @Dave–I’m the wrong guy to be talking about driving slow (sometime I’ll reveal my theory about being lost and driving fast). But, in terms of organizational strategy, you and I are thinking alike.
    Thanks for dropping by, I do like the way you think.

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