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Clayton Christensen’s Rules

Clayton Christensen wrote the Innovator’s Dilemma. His book is about how to successfully navigate the disruption that an innovation brings to an industry sector.

When disruption comes to your business sector, you save your organization by taking the innovation and building a new business model that is cheaper (even if initially less profitable) and appeals to a new customer base. But then there comes a tipping point when the new operation not only begins to grow profits faster than the old, but it subsumes the old model.

You set up the new operation centered around the innovation down the street and away from the people that are running the old business model. You don’t mix them together. If you’re trying to placate the old customers, you are undermining your new business model and alienating your new customers … and that is death. Leave the old business alone. Let the new business model, built on the innovation, compete directly with the old model for customers.

The Innovator’s Dilemma is required reading in Silicon Valley, the United States’ (and the world’s) preeminent center of innovation. Technology companies understand this. Innovation in technology is the norm. If you’re not willing to destroy the old business model on your way to the new, you are going to lose in the long run.  

It’s the same in fundraising today. The workhorse technology of acquiring new donors and generating annual dollars from existing donors has been direct mail for over 60 years.

You can add digital tools to your direct mail campaign and call it integrated marketing, but when mail dies… integrated marketing is over.

The innovation in our fundraising sector is the Internet. But what works on the Internet isn’t the same old “push-message-advertising” telling people what to do… “Donate Now!”

People that are successful online put up valuable content that people want to read. This is a new form of marketing that is perfectly in sync with the way people get information and communicate using the Internet. It’s called “Content Marketing.”

Why should you pay attention to Content Marketing?

  • Because it scales, just like direct mail used to.
  • Because it connects to people where they are… online.
  • Because it allows you to “monetize” relationships you begin by using your stories.

Clayton Christensen says that the new model (Content Marketing) won’t initially equal the dollars generated by the old model (Direct Mail), but in the beginning it’s good enough… and much, much less expensive.

Drip, Drip, Drip.


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