How Can You Drive Viral Growth and Improve Poverty At the Same Time? Enter The Playbook

How do you break through the clutter and drive viral growth, make yourself a leader in your space AND improve your community all at the same time?
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Remember the last time you did some window shopping and were immediately drawn in by what you saw on the display? Like a moth to the flame, you went into the store, checked out a few things, and then BAM - you bought something, or a few things. And of course, it wasn't anything you saw on the window display. Retail stores are experts at enticing you in - it's called the loss leader strategy, it's been around for decades. These products are sold at a loss for overall gains in other areas.

In communications, the "loss leader" strategy has also been used. Instead of items in a window display, communications uses white papers and company blogs to attract consumers to their sites. Once there, the hope is that the user will engage further with the brand or product.

All that said there is a lot of noise now in this arena so how do you break through the clutter and drive viral growth, make yourself a leader in your space AND improve your community all at the same time?

Enter the Playbook - an emerging trend in communications

Move over white papers. I'm seeing Playbooks as the emerging trend in communications using the "loss leader" strategy. Why? Because they're more effective for both the consumer and the business. In fact, companies believe in the outcome so much they'll devote resources to building an entire microsite around it. It's no longer just a simple PDF download.

Take Tipping Point as an example. Tipping Point is a nonprofit that fights poverty in the bay area through due diligence process to determine which nonprofits are the most effective to fund. SF Gives is their corporate giving arm. SF Gives created a digital "playbook" to attract prospects to their site, in hopes that users would learn about them and join their cause against poverty in the bay area.

The SF Gives Playbook was created to help corporations optimize or start their giving program and includes best practices and benchmarks. Playbooks outline a very specific process of achieving something that typically doesn't have a clear process outlined or documented. Playbooks are literally a "play-by-play" of what you should do based on extensive research and industry knowledge. They are simply an evolving "whitepaper" on steroids. However, it can come at a much higher cost so whether it proves the ROI should be uniquely evaluated by each organization.

Modifying the traditional loss leader strategy, Tipping Point was able to drive viral growth with PR, social buzz from CEO's, VC's, tech startups, and tech leaders (notably with tweets to thousands of followers from influencers like Zynga's and Dropbox CEO, Mark Pincus and Drew Houston). The digital Playbook had nearly a 40% download rate! So how do you achieve this kind of success?

5 Tips to developing your own Playbook

Identify and Understand your User Archetype's needs. Through user interviews, Tipping Point could more deeply define their users and their core needs. Truly understanding the user enables you to design products that are based on human centered insights which drives engagement more organically.

Leverage your core strengths. Tipping Point specializes in giving funds to nonprofits by spending on average of 100 hours of due diligence to determine which organizations will drive the most impact before adding them to the portfolio. Essentially the Playbook they created for corporations was a tool for companies to optimize their own giving funds within social impact, a natural extension of their brand.

Involve your stakeholders from the beginning. Meeting with SF Gives partners to understand their challenges and needs allowed partners to have a voice in the developing the product, and gave Tipping Point additional insights on the product roadmap. It also made partners excited to share when it was complete.

Partner with industry experts. Tipping Point sought the help of Boston Consulting Group to create industry benchmarks and examples. Boston Consulting Group was able to develop a comprehensive guide to building or optimizing a CSR program through extensive research and analysis. Their reputation helped give the Playbook legitimacy with new prospects who were unfamiliar with their brand.

Don't sell anything, tell a story instead. If you visit the Playbook microsite, it feels as if you're being given an opportunity to be part of a larger conversation on social impact vs. being sold to join SF Gives. The authenticity stems from the genuine intentions of those behind the scenes at SF Gives. Although they hoped Bay Area companies would join their cause, they believed in the bigger idea of collective impact through optimizing the way companies give, whether the cause was poverty or not.

The Playbook is the new communications loss leader that ironically is helping brands become leaders.

This article is a part of a series exploring communications and media trends in honor of the second annual Communications Week, a week-long series of events celebrating the communications industry, held from October 19-23, 2015. Follow @CommsWeekNY.

Post by Lori Nguyen, a strategist, entrepreneur and design tech enthusiast. Currently she is consulting at HD MADE working on inspiring action with purpose-driven brands.

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