This week, the experts at Washington D.C.’s SCORE chapter help a start-up founder build a viral marketing campaign to lure more customers. 

The entrepreneur

In 2007, Greg Warner received a newsletter from one of his beloved charities seeking fundraising leads. He took a dim view of the impersonal mass-marketing approach and decided to call them to see if the effort was working well. It wasn’t.

Feeling a duty to offer assistance, Greg provided a new strategy to improve the effectiveness of the charity’s lead generation and using the strategy the organization generated more highly qualified leads—and found more gifts—than it had previously uncovered in any single marketing campaign.

Knowing the Council of Economic Advisors projection that the greatest transfer of wealth in U.S. history was looming, and seeing the success of that initial campaign, Greg decided to act. He paired his understanding of Internet technology and savvy marketing to form MarketSmart, which would help non-profit organizations increase the pace and scale of their fundraising efforts.   

The challenge

Greg Warner, founder and CEO of MarketSmart, based in College Park, MD:

“Raising money for good causes is not easy. The growth of the charitable sector has led to competition among myriad charities to gain the support of wealthy donors.

“Fundraisers need to know who they should talk to among those with the capacity to make the most impact, when they should reach out to them, and why they might be interested in giving to their cause.

“The good news is that we are growing. Many charities are now using our services including City of Hope Cancer Research Center, The California Academy of Sciences, The Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, Human Rights Campaign, Human Rights Watch, The United States Holocaust Museum, and more. This shows us that MarketSmart adds value and is in demand.

“Our challenge now is human resources. How do we grow the organization from a team serving dozens of customers to a team serving hundreds or even thousands of customers, and one that uses best practices to deliver quality and satisfaction to our clients?”

The advice

Hal Shelton, SCORE mentor, Washington DC Chapter:

“In scaling the organization, what worked at first might need adjustments. You started, somewhat through budget constraints, by hiring smart, inexperienced people with passion, character and integrity. They likely relied on your coaching, as they could not learn best practices from each other.

“Now that they know what works and are familiar with the company culture, they can be involved in training additional new staff. Also consider hiring some experienced sales team members, now that you are profitable. However, you need to be sensitive to how their responsibilities and compensation fits in with the team that has been with you for a few years.

“Continue to maintain the appropriate balance between marketing and sales, and between sales and the rest of the organization. Your team prides itself on customer service, so you should be able to on-board new clients, service existing ones, and upsell many of them.

“While you cannot be intimately involved in every aspect of a larger organization, you can make your presence felt and promote the company culture by practicing ‘management by walking around.’ By interacting with your team regularly and through your incentives, you can foster an environment where each person (staff and customers) is treated with dignity and respect, where all believe that everyone has the best intentions, and everyone has an opportunity to grow, learn and accomplish their goals while achieving the company’s larger mission.”

The reaction

Warner: “Thanks Hal. It’s so true that what worked first to launch the company is certainly not going to work to scale it.”

“I especially like the idea of ‘management by walking around.’ You’re right on target there. A leader can’t possibly know everything that is happening on each employee’s desk all of the time. But by getting involved, asking questions and coaching, one can uncover problems and nip them in the bud.

“I think the key is trust. That’s where dignity and respect come into play. If people trust me, and if they trust that I have their individual interests as well as those of our company in mind, they’ll allow me to help them grow, learn and accomplish their goals while helping to grow the business.

“Also, we decided to create a Wiki page on our private server. So when someone learns something they think others will someday need to know, they post it on the Wiki. It’s a handy searchable encyclopedia of ‘how-tos’ for every part of our business.  Our staff has been uploading checklists, tutorials and sometimes they even create videos that show others precisely how to accomplish a task.”

SCORE is a nonprofit association dedicated to entrepreneur education and the formation, growth and success of small business nationwide. The Greater Washington DC Chapter provides confidential counseling and mentoring from more than 50 successful executives from across the region.