Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Youth in Microfinance

Now here's an interesting marketing idea - not marketing to clients, but to other external stakeholders and particularly, youth.  Check out The Hillsdale Effect - they're a pretty remarkable bunch!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Engaging the Private Sector

I just interviewed Elisabeth Rhyne from ACCION about her new book and upcoming presentation to the Silicon Valley Microfinance Network on Engaging the Private Sector in Microfinance. While her book is geared more toward folks in the private sector, it may inspire some ideas for how MFI managers can engage with the private sector as well. If you're in the Silicon Valley, I encourage you to see her presentation in Santa Clara on September 15th.
For more information, read the interview here.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Does technology make your head spin?

For better or worse (I think better), technology is more frequently becoming a key part of product development in the microfinance world. However, for many of us, technology is confusing and intimidating. I grew up in the Silicon Valley, but after being away for 14 years working in microfinance abroad, I find myself sadly behind the technology curve. In an attempt to get myself up to speed on technology in emerging markets, I attended a presentation by Stephen Goodman of Sun Microsystems at the Silicon Valley Microfinance Network.

Read my interview with Stephen Goodman about "Technology and Emerging Market Models" here.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Elevator pitch madness!

Now that I'm thinking about elevator pitches, I keep encountering new formats. Here's one more:

1) Name
2) Name of company
3) What good I do
4) A success story

For example, "My name is Maria Montara with More Money MFI. I help small business owners increase their income through microlending. One client of mine took out a loan for $100, increased her inventory of used clothing, repaid it, took out another loan, and after one year had increased her income by 50%."

Friday, July 31, 2009

An elevator pitch format

I recently learned of an interesting format for elevator pitches. To review, elevator pitches are quick, 30 second statements about what you do - short enough for an elevator ride and interesting enough to generate more conversation. This format breaks the pitch into three pieces:
  1. I work with… [describe target clients/market];
  2. Who have the problem of/opportunity to… [describe problem your product solves or opportunity your product enables them to take advantage of];
  3. I help them…. [describe benefit clients receive from your product].

For example, "I work with women business owners whose growth is limited by lack of capital. I help them expand their businesses so they can improve the lives of their families and communities."

Note that the above elevator pitch doesn’t mention microcredit at all! But it does create curiosity by encouraging the person you’re speaking with to ask, “how?” One could, of course, add to the pitch a bit about microlending, e.g. “I help them expand their businesses with small loans, so they can improve the lives off their families and communities.” Either elevator pitch “works”.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Product Innovations - Microfinance and Water

What does Matt Damon have to do with microfinance? Read about Water.org's innovative microcredit initiative on Mykro.org and find out!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Your vision and product development

Let's face it, frequently vision statements are exercises that end up on the shelf. Nice to trot out when the auditors come by, or to post on our websites, but not things that we actually use. But should we?

I came across an interesting article today about a bank which has successfully navigated the recent subprime crisis because it stuck to its philosophy and avoided certain types of new products. It's food for thought, and can be found here.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Donor marketing: Your MFI and the Internet

When we think of donor marketing, one of the first things we think of is our MFI's website. And rightly so - the Internet has an international reach. But it isn't enough to have a site, one needs content, and that content needs to be regularly updated. Yes, bells and whistles and shiny graphics are nice, but really what keeps folks coming back is up-to-date information they can use.

Look at your donor or funder needs the same way you'd look at your client needs. What do they care about? What benefits can you provide them?

Next, leverage your website content through social marketing tools such as FaceBook, which enables organizations to create their own web pages with links back to the original website, updates, and to even create "fan groups" so friends can publicize you.

Want some inspiration? Check out the Bridge2Rwanda site, and see how it leverages FaceBook and other types of web media to promote its cause. Okay, it's not a microfinance site, but don't you wish it was yours?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Donor marketing: Just one thing

When I was managing an MFI, something I struggled with was donor marketing. Okay - let's be honest. What I struggled with was getting new donor funding. A colleague of mine operating in another country seemed to have no trouble, however. Donors funded him on a regular basis. Finally, I swallowed my pride and asked him what his secret was.

He talked to them.

Yes, it was that simple. On a quarterly or bi-annual basis he'd make an appointment, sit down with the donor, tell him or her what his MFI was doing and then ask what was happening in the donor world. Invariably, when funding came available for microfinance, they would think of him and his MFI.

Should you fear that your sales skills aren't good enough to "shmooze" a donor, let me tell you that neither were my colleague's. He's not a "shmoozer", not a smooth salesperson by any means. What he is, however, is open, honest, and in general a very nice person.

You don't need glitzy sales skills to have a successful donor meeting. What you need is a genuine passion for your MFI, understanding of your environment (donors want to hear about your challenges too), and the ability to tell your MFI's story: the facts, the figures, trials and successes.

Donors want to meet with you. Sometimes it seems that their whole job is to have meetings - trust me, they won't mind spending thirty minutes with you. They'll be happy to be able to report upward on what they learned about your MFI and the industry in your region.

Action item:
Write out a short agenda for a donor meeting. What will you tell them about your MFI? The state of the industry? Now, pick up the phone and make some appointments!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Marketing the informal economy

I was going to start a series of posts on donor marketing, and then I saw this article in the March 14-15th edition of the Wall St. Journal: "The Rise of the Underground," by Patrick Barta.

The article starts:

"Economists have long thought the underground economy -- the vast, unregulated market encompassing everything from street vendors to unlicensed cab drivers -- was bad news for the world economy."

Yes, and donors have thought so too. How many times have you, as an MFI manager, heard a donor asking how many of your borrowers had moved into the formal economy after taking out a loan? Or government officials demanding that formal licensing be a condition of a loan?

In my opinion, the "problem" with the underground economy is that it doesn't pay taxes (formally) at least to the state. That isn't the fault of the business people within it, however. In my opinion it points to a failure on the part of the state -- to provide clear and understandable ways to formalize one's business, and to make a case that the benefits to registration outweight the advantages of going "informal."

So how should MFIs address this issue when a donor or government official laments about our informal borrowers? This article makes a good case for the informal economy, but I'm curious to hear your thoughts. Let me know in the comments section!