You Have a Great Story: Tell it Like a Pro!

I attended a great session recently on storytelling conducted by Brian Harrison, SEMA and Kate Sigety, American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at an ASAE Annual Meeting.

The following are my notes taken from their presentation.

They started by telling the history, the process and the different perspectives of telling a great story for your members, associations and your career.

Here we go!


  • 8.7 million species in the world, only 1 can tell a story, us!  Cave scrolls to books, to TV to Facebook walls.
  • Purpose has not changed in storytelling.
  • What has changed is the delivery (Think social media, instant communications).

The Process

  • Three steps (connect, create, communicate)
  • Connect - with your audience, what are their values, what are their needs and how can you reach them?
  • Create - remember the basics, keep it simple, show, don't tell, build from your mission (think child stories that we remember).
  • Communicate - pick your platforms, produce a dialogue, get feedback, analyze results.

Storytelling Perspectives

For your members - make them care.

  • Stories vs messaging.
  • Messaging without stories equals cold and inauthentic.
  • Stories in support of messaging equals connection and motivation.
  • The best story is one that doesn't require you to tell it.
  • Your stories need to be: engaging, emotional, entertaining and scalable.

For your association - stories will always be told by your members, make sure they are the stories you want told.  Attach emotion to your association's:

  • Member benefits;
  • Annual meeting;
  • Research; and
  • Education opportunities.

For your career - you are responsible for your story, own it!

  • Do you believe in your story?  If you don't, no one else will.  Think passion!
  • What is the "Why" in your story?  The "How" will not survive without a strong "Why."
  • Your story doesn't have to be perfect!
  • Attitude - your attitude affects your story, which is your prophecy.  Create your own narrative.  Integrate into your resume and LinkedIn and be persuasive.

At the end of the day, create stickiness with your stories.  It was a great presentation and their final words - Lead with a story!

Revitalizing Member Onboarding

We’ve all heard the terms, right?

Recruitment, Engagement, Renewal (Retention).

When reviewing your membership application process and onboarding of new members, start with the basics.

Ask yourself these three questions?

  • Is the application easy to fill out?  Do you make it easy for your members to renew?
  • Do you have ambassadors to help you sell memberships?  Think member-get-a-member campaign.
  • Do you send a welcome kit?

Once the initial transaction has taken place with the welcome kit.  Are you connecting with these new members in 30, 60, 90 day communications?

That is an example of drip marketing and an effective way of making sure you keep your new members focused on their membership. These communications should be personal and come from the CEO.  Think segmentation.

How do you personalize? Think segmentation.  Are you listening to them in the recruitment process? It’s important to understand their challenges and be ready to solve their problems.

Differentiation - tell your chambers story at the 30,000 foot level and then drill down to how you can help them with their needs.  At the end of the day, it’s about them, the member, not you.

Always remember to connect, listen and engage with your new members.  Don’t forget to communicate your culture!  What do you stand for in addition to what you are doing?

Think about how Amazon communicates with you if you’re a Prime Member - when you join Prime they don't send you one communication with all the benefits.  They send you three different communications, first is the free shipping benefit, then the movie TV option, and then the Prime Music station, etc.  Again, it’s called drip marketing and it's very effective.

Are you making phone calls to that new member six months in?  Old technology still works and should not be discounted.  Everyone likes a check-in call.

Create a script for your staff team or ambassadors who will be making the calls.  Most calls will go to voice mail, but you've made the contact.  At the very least, end the call with thanking them for being a member and a call back number should they need anything.

And at renewal time, prove your worth - are you doing a year in review document with your invoice?  Are you using video to show value by having your members give testimonials - show the value of ethics, connections, advocacy?

Communicating with your membership on a regular basis should be top of mind for all chambers and your members' lifecycle.

Finally, membership is a team sport - Membership Is Everybody's Business!  Go here for a blog post on that HERE.

Good luck in your revitalized onboarding process!

Simple Strategies to Connect to Your Loyal Members

At a special "Ted Talk" like session, Scott Douglas, Director, Membership and Business Development, National Strength and Conditioning Association, talked about strategies to connect with your loyal members.

He started with a question.  How do you think of your members?  Are they a commodity or are you building a community?

I hope you’re in the building community at your chamber.  While your members are joining to get something specific (i.e., networking contacts, new business, etc.) it’s important that they feel part of a bigger thing, that thing being community and not just being a transactional member or as stated above, a commodity.

Another point he made was are you listening vs connecting with your members.  He went on to talk about how successful top companies have leadership touching their customers.  Is the CEO of your chamber reaching out and making contact with your members on a regular basis?

I think we all listen, in some form, with our members and most of us use the common ways we listen to gain feedback from our members – annual survey, membership growth/decline trends, informal feedback at meetings using focus groups.

A better question he posed was are you listening to the people who never call you?  In addition, anytime you do a survey, you should survey your members and non-members alike.

There was a brief discussion on the term net promoter score – and a lot has been written about that subject over the years.  I see this more in the association world with groups who have tens of thousands of members and not so much at the local chamber. If interested in more information on the net promoter score go HERE.

He ended the talk with a brief discussion on the normal ways we connect with our members - newsletter, social media, and meetings and the less common ways - schedule feedback calls, handwritten appreciation notes, onsite visits.

With social media as it is today, are you taking pictures of the volunteers working at your events and then posting on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, which ever platform your members are on with a note of appreciation? They may just repost on social media for you.

Just a thought!

Key Metrics to Identify Member Loyalty

I attended a recent seminar led by Pam Loeb with Edge Research and Peggy Smith with Community Brands focused on the title of this blog.

Value propositions are shifting from expectation driven to experience driven.  For a book on the experience economy by Joseph Pine and James Gilmore go HERE.

  • Expectations - outcome driven, logical, meets needs, everyone has it, tangible.
  • Experience - influences decisions, emotional, above and beyond, subjective, intangible.

Engagement comes from exceeding expectations, which means being relevant and providing value.

And remember, an engaged member is worth more than a new member.  So true!

Studies show that on average members of associations are 84% satisfied vs 55% feel connected - 20% extremely connected 80/20 rule (great opportunity to grow that connected percentage)

Extremely connected members - have the following characteristics:

  • They care about belonging;
  • Normally belong to more than just one organization;
  • Wants regular communication from you that is targeted and are most likely connected locally; and
  • They’re in their jobs a long period of time and in leadership roles.

Rank and file members - satisfied but less connected, want updates on a weekly or monthly basis.

Value seeking members - majority are critics, lapsed in the past year, little value for reason they dropped - they go by the WIFFM theme “What’s In It For Me.”  Definitely not altruistics – those that believe in your overall mission and that’s why they are members.

Lapsed Members - the following are the top reasons for non renewal.

  • ROI - cost too much or I didn't get anything out of it;
  • Changed industry/employment;
  • Forgot to renew;
  • Company would no longer pay; and
  • Decline in benefits or quality of benefits offered.

What drives retention - code of ethics, industry information, representing your interests, fueling growth of profession, advocacy and raising awareness, certifications, training, networking, fueling innovation, job opportunities, and online continuing education credits.

What’s interesting is that studies show little difference in the above observations no matter what generation your members are from.

A final thought that’s imperative, your website must be mobile friendly and you must be able to communicate differently using segmentation with your members, based on their individual needs and wants.

Drive Value By Keeping Your Members Engaged

There have been many articles on how to get your members engaged in your organization and how an engaged member is a retained member.

A great way to drive value with your members is by focusing on a SoMoLo strategy.  This is a term I have heard over the years – or in other words, make your connections with your members social, mobile, and local.

Most chambers are using Social Media – (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.).

The key is are you making sure all of your communications can be maximized on a mobile device?

And of course the final piece of the SoMoLo strategy is are you focusing on your community?  Speaking of the local piece, there is a saying at Institute for Organization Management, if you’ve met one chamber, you’ve met one chamber.  All the more reason to focus on your local program of work.

Can your members not only receive but easily sign-up for your programs?  Do you have true e-commerce on your mobile site?

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention some stats from the digital space to back-up why it is so important to focus on your SoMoLo strategy:

  • 91% of adults have their mobile phone within arm’s reach - every hour of every day!
  • 72% of consumers who did a local search visited a store within five miles. (Wordstream, 2016)
  • 30% of mobile searches are related to a location. (Google, 2016) 28% of searches for something nearby result in a purchase. (Google, 2016)
  • Local searches lead 50% of mobile users to visit stores within one day. (Google, 2018)
  • Nearly one-third of all mobile searches are location-based queries. (The SEM Post, 2016) (Source:

For a great blog post by Hubspot to get the above statistics and so much more go HERE.

Good luck with your SoMoLo strategy!

5 Myths About Chamber Revenue and One Legend

Chris Mead with the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives recently conducted a webinar on the title of this blog.

The following are his 5 myths and one legend with a follow-up comment or two from me, based on my experience working with chambers over the past 15 years.

Myth #1

Total resource campaigns are trending down - 35% - 40% of budgets are accessed by those chambers who do it.  15% growth in YGM's clients doing campaigns.  This method of raising money has proven to be very effective for many chambers around the country.  Not sure how I feel concerning the monetary benefits given to members, who participate in these campaigns, based on their performance.

Myth #2

All membership events (drives) have bad renewal rates - one or two-day events to gain new members (think a formal member-get-a-member campaign).  Don't forget, the membership dues raised comes in immediately.  You have a year to work on retention.  What better way to sell a membership than have one of your current members telling their peers that they should belong too!

Myth #3

Affinity programs are dead - they're not for everyone but if managed properly they can be profitable.  What's key is that you have a product or service that your members want or need and you have the numbers of members to support the offering of the product.

Think office supplies, printing, shipping, or myth #5 - the travel program.  What are those potential programs for your chamber?  A challenge for the local chamber is doing an affinity deal with a national company when you may have local members who can supply that same product, albeit, maybe not at the same discount.

Myth #4

Obama killed chamber health care and it's never coming back - legislation passed in 2018 to open up the country geographically to offer plans across state lines.  Stay tuned on how that will affect this affinity program.  But don't forget many chambers are in the business and making money.  Association Health Plans (AHP's).  I could make the argument that doing away with the state restriction will allow a national company to provide a plan across the country for the betterment of all. Associations were pushing for this for years.  Let’s wait and see how it plays out!

Myth #5

Chamber travel ran out of gas – they are still going strong. There are so many different trips available today by many different travel companies.

The China trip seemed to be the first that chambers started to participate in over 20 years ago.  Now there are multiple companies providing these trips to many places around the world.

And One Legend

Capital Campaigns - not to raise money for new staff but for something big in your community.  These campaigns are typically multi-year  (3 years or more) to raise a large some of money that it designated for something specific.  Why specific? That's what you're raising the money for, think a new chamber office building.

Thanks Chris for a great session and for anybody who doesn’t know Chris, he’s the author of The Magicians of Main Street and more information on that product can be found HERE.

Driving Member Engagement through Digital Channels

What are you doing in the digital space to drive member engagement?

I recently attended an educational seminar that spoke to this specific issue led by Melissa Harrison of Allee Creative.

Questions during the session addressed, effectiveness, lack of budget, inability to produce relative and timely content, and not willing to give content away for free.

The main message, don't think "free" but thought leadership, relationships and trust and deliver on those attributes.

A message that I did not expect is that print is back. Don't be afraid to send your members some printed pieces on your program of work.  I'm a fan of an all of the above strategize.

Digital channels are not a member benefit.  You are building awareness and building a brand through these channels.

Digital marketing is content focused.  It needs to be relevant content that provides value and you are engaging them, you ultimately want them to take an action.

Digital marketing reaches your audience on their time where they are.  The Internet is always open 24 hours a day.  So choose channels that you have the resources that you can respond to any questions or queries received from members or prospects.

You’re building relationships and trust through the digital channels.

46% of people check their phones for social media sites and their email as they get out of bed.  That might be a good time of the day to send your content marketing?

Four generations in the workplace and your membership.  Guess what, they are all on social media, albeit they use it differently.

While there are multiple digital channels, you need to focus on what you can handle and handle well.  Find out where the bulk of your members are spending their time in the digital space and plant your content in that space.

80% of the vetting process is done online so make sure your digital house is in order and easy to navigate.

Her final comment, "engage your members by creating a digital marketing plan with content that is about THEM.  Make it STICKY.  Make them see you as a RESOURCE throughout the year."

Put a content calendar together to manage your digital presence.  SPROUT SOCIAL is a great source to schedule your social media and has a robust analytics component