Voice activation is here, and its name is Alexa. Voice activation will spark a revolution in the way we interact with our technology. And one of the by-products will be more human connection. But wait. How many of you have no idea what I’m even ...

BIG’s Blog: Alexa

Voice activation is here, and its name is Alexa.

Voice activation will spark a revolution in the way we interact with our technology. And one of the by-products will be more human connection.

But wait.

How many of you have no idea what I’m even talking about? If so, you’re not alone; I was in your camp six months ago, but tune in, because this is big.

I know you’ve heard of Siri, Apple’s “intelligent assistant” that is voice-activated. Alexa is Amazon’s voice controlled “system”. Like Siri, Alexa lets you speak your wishes. But unlike Siri, the Echo system with Alexa as the interface turns the Echo Dot and Echo speakers (sold by Amazon) into a voice-activated controller for all kinds of products and services. For instance, stream music, dim the lights, read books to you, order pizza, and on and on.

Everything is being connected to the Web, it’s called the “Internet of things” and now using Alexa, voice activation is the interface. Leave your phone in your pocket.

Voice activation tech is hot right now and it will only get bigger and better. Through the end of last November, even before the big end-of-the-season Christmas buying rush, Amazon had sold over 5 million Echo Dots and speakers.  

Amazon pioneered the product and launched it over two years ago but Google jumped in with their “me, too” product last year. Google obviously has the weight of their search and natural language processing behind their product, but Amazon’s Echo is tied to their business model of selling things and with over 5 million already sold, they clearly have a first mover advantage.

For years, people have been telling us that soon we would just talk to our computers, as opposed to entering our queries through the keyboard.

But this is bigger. It is a legitimate revolution and probably not for the reason you are thinking. Alexa uses artificial intelligence (AI)… but then, you probably knew that. But what you might not have thought of is that using voice activation actually changes the conception of our interaction with our technology. And in doing so, it reintroduces the “human” element back into our communications.

Remember when phones were just, well, phones? You dialed a number and a person answered. Then along came computers with email and then smartphones with text and social media with messaging. It is a dizzying array of intermediating communications technologies that allows us to communicate with other people via whatever. But talk has been diminished, and why, because it takes too much time. Writing or answering an email or a text is on our timeline, but if someone calls us, our timeline is interrupted.

With voice activation, now we can employ that most human quality by simply saying our request. But what this does in a subtle way is re-establish the value of human connection, even if the intermediating voice isn’t human.

Alexa is not a person. But she (notice I did not say “it”) has a human voice. We like that. We are comfortable with that. We like interacting with a human voice.

Why? Because humans are social creatures.

As voice activation gets better and more sophisticated, it becomes our technology interface default. It puts us back into the human mode of talking.

We get “used” to talking our way through our days.

You and I already know people that use Siri to get directions, or look things up instead of typing in their request. Alexa just takes this to a whole new level. Alexa can get information and activate directions but it can also activate your Internet-connected stuff.

But once we all shift to voice activated, our expectations and comfort in actually expecting to connect with a human go way up. An intelligent device is a good first start… accent on “intelligent”… since today we all have to deal with voice-controlled telephone attendants. “I’ll get you to the right person, but I just need to ask a couple of questions.” I’ll bet Alexa could answer my question.  

Why is that important? If someone hears or sees something about your organization and does a voice search, and has a question, are you set up to field their question in real-time?

“Alexa, call Native Hope.”

But what’s better than an Alexa answering at the other end?

Smart nonprofit organizations are going to have real live people answering those calls. Not Alexa and NOT an automated voice attendant.

As it gets easier to voice connect and as we get used to voice connecting, people who want to know more about your work or organization or a problem will voice connect.

They will use Alexa to facilitate the connection, but it better be a human answering the phone on the other end.  Think of the last exchange you had with an airline reservation service or phone carrier or cable customer service.

Now compare that to connecting to Netflix? How about Zappos? Real live humans answering the phones. What a concept! It’s the difference between seeing customer service as an opportunity to develop a human connection versus merely a cost of doing business.

Voice activation can open the door, but you better have a person there to begin that human relationship.

We’re going to control our world… at home and at work… through voice.  And your supporters are going to connect with you through voice, they just don’t know it yet… but you do.


Please forward this post to your friends and coworkers…and email me a comment at: mike@big-db.com

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BIG’s Blog:  Preaching to the Converted

With the exception of my post last month, I did not write a single blog post in 2016.


Last year was a transition year for Browne Innovation Group, but also for the maturity of online digital marketing, which forms the foundation of all nonprofit fundraising going forward.

Since the inception of BIG’s Blog, it has been about converting the unbelieving, not in the religious sense, but converting the unbelieving to believe in the reality of the societal shift from analog-based mass media (traditional media) to digital, Internet-based personal communications.

Last year I had two huge “ah-ha” moments. These insights changed my approach to sharing and promoting this change in nonprofit fundraising.

The first insight was that the nonprofit vendor industrial complex – those people and companies historically supporting nonprofit fundraising departments; agencies, consultants, even trade associations – cannot make the leap to the new online world. And it isn’t because they’re not smart. Some are smart like foxes and know that online is taking over, but if they admit the digital online world is the future, then that means their analog-based approaches are dying. And that compromises how they make their living. The other vendors are heartfelt in their belief of “what” they know. They just can’t see or believe that all is changing around them.

The second “ah-ha” was that digital marketing was going mainstream. The adoption of ease-of-use, powerful and inexpensive digital Marcom tools and technologies, combined with the continuing decline in effectiveness of traditional media and methodologies —  and most important — the millennial generation becoming the largest cohort in the U.S. labor force, finally shifted the game.

And though it wasn’t an insight on the magnitude of the other “ah-has,” the insights in 2016 validated and clarified that what was missing in the nonprofit fundraising world was the need for a WHOLE NEW FUNDRAISING BUSINESS MODEL that was built around the shift to the digital platform and driven by CONTENT MARKETING.

Do you read Seth Godin’s blog? 

Last week Seth wrote a post entitled Shared Reality, Shared Goals

He started the post stating, “The best way to persuade someone of your approach is to begin with three agreements: 1) We agree on the goals, 2) We agree on reality, and 3) We agree on measurement. 

We agree on the goals: Your organization’s Development department is tasked with raising the revenue, and you (personally) carry the burden of raising the revenue your organization needs to power your missions.

That one was easy.

We agree on reality: This one may prove more problematic… or maybe not. We are – all of us – living through one of the most technological transformational times in human history. A little over 550 years ago Johannes Gutenberg invented movable type (as in printing type) and ushered in the era of mass printing which changed how the common man could learn and transfer knowledge. Today, the Internet is transforming — and disrupting — our established mass media world of print and broadcast in particular, and communications in general. Very, very quickly, knowledge transfer is moving to the digital Internet. 

So the ways we have communicated and connected with new and existing supporters for years is undergoing a fundamental change. Our existing practices, our existing methods, our existing business model is being undermined. Of course we are trying to keep up by adding digital tools and technologies. But do we have a viable plan? Are we seeing a path to increased revenue? 

We desperately need a Plan … a new comprehensive business model that incorporates online tools and technologies with the practices and methodologies (think Content Marketing) that work with this new digital world and delivers “new supporters” and “increased revenue.” 

We agree on measurement: As Seth Godin says in his blog post, “Because we’ve agreed on goals and reality, we agree on what success looks like as well.” Of course we all agree that we desire to deliver new supporters and increasing revenue using online tools and technologies… but what’s missing is the HOW! 

That’s what this “new” blog is going to deliver…

I’m not going to waste your time (or mine) trying to convince you of the shift to the digital world. That ship has sailed.

This new blog is written for the tribe who is already believers, have already started to shift and are serious about growing sustainable fundraising. And that tribe is growing as the industry’s traditional ways of acquiring new supporters and generating annual dollars from existing supporters plateaus and declines.

Spread the word and pass these blog posts along.

No more “Drip, Drip, Drip”… it’s now full-speed-ahead!

Please forward this post to your friends and coworkers…and email me a comment at: mike@big-db.com

The post BIG’s Blog:  Preaching to the Converted appeared first on Browne Innovation Group.


BIG’s Blog: A New Tradition

December 21st. Roll that date over in your mind, or even say it out loud.

It’s the Winter solstice. The shortest day of the year insofar as daylight is concerned.

But you already knew that, didn’t you?

From here until the Summer solstice on June 21st, daylight grows longer, our days grow longer.

But for now, at this apex of darkness when many of us celebrate Christmas, the Light coming into the world and also the end of one year and the beginning of the new, we kick back. We set our workday cares aside for a time to enjoy friends and family. We give and receive good cheer.

But before we celebrate Christmas, there is the longest, darkest day of the year.

Here is how I get through it: I read Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, by Robert Frost.

I have read it on December 21st for as long as I can remember. It calms me. It centers me. It prepares me for Christmas.

For those of us who work in nonprofit fundraising, 2017 will be a momentous and tumultuous year. I’ll help see to that!


But for now, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost:


Whose woods these are I think I know.   

His house is in the village though;   

He will not see me stopping here   

To watch his woods fill up with snow.   


My little horse must think it queer   

To stop without a farmhouse near   

Between the woods and frozen lake   

The darkest evening of the year.   


He gives his harness bells a shake   

To ask if there is some mistake.   

The only other sound’s the sweep   

Of easy wind and downy flake.   


The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   

But I have promises to keep,   

And miles to go before I sleep,   

And miles to go before I sleep.


Robert Frost, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” from The Poetry of Robert Frost, edited by Edward Connery Lathem. Copyright 1923, © 1969 by Henry Holt and Company, Inc., renewed 1951, by Robert Frost. Reprinted with the permission of Henry Holt and Company, LLC.

Source: Collected Poems, Prose, & Plays (Library of America, 1995)


Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!




Welcome to BIG’s Blog!  Please feel free to forward this post to your friends and coworkers…and email me a comment at: mike@big-db.com

The post BIG’s Blog: A New Tradition appeared first on Browne Innovation Group.


BIG’s Blog: Putting Up the Christmas Tree With a Two-Year-Old

Have you ever put up the Christmas tree with a two-year-old?

My granddaughter just turned two last week and, clearly, she has no clue what Christmas is. But she’s excited and all-in!

Starting at this age, we begin acculturating little ones into the holiday.

How do we do that?

Well, we use all the senses, don’t we? From the smell of pine needles on the tree and cookies baking to beautiful flashing and twinkling lights, to the Christmas carols playing in the background everywhere you go.

But then her little brain kicks in and she wonders, “Why?”

That’s when … in our house … we tell the story of the baby Jesus being born on a cold winter night with the donkey and cows, and the shepherds being awakened by the majestic angelic choir, and the arrival of the three wise men bringing gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the amazed parents.

And, of course, we go shopping in the beautifully decorated stores to buy wonderful gifts to give to those we love.

So we are intentionally creating an experience to connect this new little person to a holiday she knows nothing about.

And it works, doesn’t it?

It fills the senses… its stories and its experience.

It works because it is the way humans are wired.

It’s never just one thing; it’s the whole enchilada that engages people.

But, a question: Are there elements of content marketing that sound similar? Like telling stories, engaging people, sharing the experience, creating opportunities to become involved?

Maybe, that’s why content marketing works.

Because it is the way humans are wired.


Drip, Drip, Drip.



Welcome to BIG’s Blog!  Please feel free to forward this post to your friends and coworkers…and email me a comment at: mike@big-db.com

The post BIG’s Blog: Putting Up the Christmas Tree With a Two-Year-Old appeared first on Browne Innovation Group.


BIG’s Blog:  KISS

Keep It Simple Stupid … the KISS Principle.

If you Google “consider the ant,” it takes you to Proverbs 6:6. The admonition of this proverb is comparing sluggards who waste their time to the ants who store away in-season for the times when no provision is available.

But I want to make another point about “consider the ants.” As Eugene Eric Kim, an expert in online collaboration has written, “They (ants) do two things really well: haul things and then leave trails.” Literally, the entire success of every ant colony on earth flows from the inborn nature of ants to do those two things really, really well.

Ants are a phenomenal example of the KISS principle.

People, on the other hand tend toward complexity. We may say we like simple, but most of us take the simple and make it complex. In fact, I would argue that our neocortex (our Homo Sapien brain), that only we have, defaults to complexity. How else to explain our inner drive to take that which is simple and make it unnecessarily complex?

Of course we rationalize our behavior (another manifestation of our neocortex) by convincing ourselves that “it really isn’t simple, it’s really very complicated.” And why do we do this? Because in the beginning of learning about anything, it is new to us, and anything new is somewhat complicated until we have figured it out.

Our mistake is not recalibrating as we learn. Instead of taking what we have learned and simplifying it down to its essence, we tend to go the other direction and needlessly complicate, rather than simplify.

But the really great minds do just the opposite (E=MC2).

Some agencies and a few consultants are known for their ability to simplify. They are the great ones we know are smart, because they can explain something we’ve never heard of and understand it the first time. 

As a friend of mine once pointed out to me, “Listen for the ability to state the obvious, if you hear it, run!”

What he was really saying is that when he listens to someone explaining something to him for the first time, what is going through his mind is, “I’m as smart as you, maybe smarter. And you, by your dense explanations are A) demonstrating what you think of my intelligence, and B) clearly explaining to me your level of intelligence, of which I am not impressed.” 

And my friend said this to me before the advent of the Internet, where anything is a click away.

In the Internet world, no one has a corner on knowledge… everyone has access.

Hire smart employees, consultants, and agencies.

They’re the ones who can KISS.


Drip, Drip, Drip.


Welcome to BIG’s Blog!  Please feel free to forward this post to your friends and coworkers…and email me a comment at: mike@big-db.com

The post BIG’s Blog:  KISS appeared first on Browne Innovation Group.

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