At Beaconfire RED we are committed to not only helping our clients solve the challenges of today, but preparing to successfully tackle their projects of tomorrow. As the VP of Strategy & Innovation, I am fortunate to work with a team of talented and inquisitive people to make sure we're meeting this goal.

As part of this work, each year we identify our Innovation Themes—three broad subject areas where we will invest additional energy and time to ensure we remain a cutting edge agency. (I know it's already April, but it has been a long winter in DC).

Below are this year's Innovation Themes. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topics we’ve chosen, or those you think we missed. Please share your thoughts with us!

 

Preparing for a Future of Screenless Interfaces

As a strategist, it is my job to keep an eye on the digital trends of other sectors and look for ways to apply those to the digital work of nonprofits today. Being aware of how people interact with technology in their daily lives is an important clue for the next generation of successful nonprofit websites and digital campaigns.

When I first joined Beaconfire RED nearly six years ago, the proliferation of smartphones was a precursor for our switch from "responsive" to "mobile first". I believe people's rising comfort with screenless interfaces will have an equally profound impact in the years to come.

Already, 1 in 6 adults in the U.S. own a voice activated “smart speaker” and by 2021, over half the searches on the internet will be by voice.* Significant improvements in simple AI, wearables, and voice recognition have us moving rapidly towards our Star Trek future—a world where we interact with technology and the internet without screens.

You can already “ask Alexa” to donate to one of your favorite charities. This screenless world will challenge us to think about new digital experiences and information delivery approaches for our nonprofit clients and we need to be ready. The future isn’t so far away anymore. 

 

Sophisticated Development Techniques and Environments

What does modern web development look like in 2018? How can we change our tools and processes to embrace the latest approaches in solution design, dev-ops, and testing?

Beaconfire RED is constantly exploring and using many industry-standard frameworks and cloud-based services to architect solutions. This allows us to more efficiently create stable and effective applications by taking advantage of the latest technologies available to developers from the open source community as well as enterprise solutions like AWS. Server-less computing, headless CMS, real-time web-apps, and the latest JavaScript frameworks are all areas we're exploring.

To manage our development, we're turning to modern dev-ops and testing strategies. Moving into containerized environments, we are using tools like Docker to create and maintain standardized environments from development to production. Continuous integration (CI) is allowing us to more quickly get features and fixes from version control and in to testing. Setting up hooks and triggers in our CI tools is helping us manage updates, as well as fire off automated regression tests that give us better testing coverage.

Continuing to invest in the development techniques we use for the products we create for our clients will ensure that we continue to deliver reliable and tested products that can be delivered more quickly, securely, and efficiently.

 

Technical (and other) Innovations in Marketing REDUX

We're working harder than ever to bring the right strategies to our marketing clients and ensure success by finding the right audiences to deliver their content to. The volume of marketing technology in the industry is ever growing and gaining sophistication; this is an innovation goal that we aren't over with but continuing to build on. 

To accelerate different parts of a user's engagement pathways, we're using automation tools like NetResults, Marketo, and Hubspot to automate marketing based on website engagement. We're moving clients to easier RFM segmentation in their world of hub and spoke around Salesforce and bringing the work we do with their fundraising teams closer in line with the acquisition and marketing work.

In addition to content being king or queen (or whatever type of government overlord you ascribe to), Beaconfire RED is driven to deliver your content and ads to the right audiences. No longer is an organization's website a "field of dreams" because there are specific technical details that help guide potential website visitors as well as different delivery platforms that bring the client to where their audience already is. We'll continue to experiment with several analytics and audience segmentation tools like Zoomph, Audience Manager, and new targeting options within Google Display Network, Bing, and Fluent.

We're proud of the advancements we've made on this initiative in 2017, but this work is never done and our clients’ missions and campaigns continue to evolve. Technical innovations in marketing are vital to the future of digital marketing, so we're keeping the pedal to the medal this year as well.

*According to research from NPR and Edison Research.

 

Mark Leta, Anthony Veach, Eve Simon, and Sara Hoffman contributed to this blog post.

 


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