UPPOPR: The Xerox Way!

Early in my career I had a manager that taught me the Xerox way of running a training session.

To give you some background, I was training groups of 30 phone bank staff on a legislative issue and teaching them how grassroots works on Capitol Hill. These trainings were happening on a daily or weekly basis.

We were running “patch through” or phone campaigns for Fortune 500 clients and following up with email confirmations.

I've taken this tip and instilled it in many presentations I’ve given over the last 20+ years since my days in the grassroots business.

It’s amazing!

The following training tip keeps you focused while at the save time laying out the goals and expectations you have for the attendees, on the subject manner at hand and succinctly tells them what you want them to know before they leave the session.

It’s very simple:

  • Utility – explain the overall project. 
  • Product – explain how each fit into the plan of action. 
  • Process – go over the agenda for the day. 
  • Objective – set the expectation of what you want them to know. 
  • Proof of Ability – explain past successes and this project is no different. 
  • Review – go over the process and objective again.

Attached please find a template you can use, just fill in your content. Do yourself a favor and start using this technique today.

Good Luck!

Sample UPPOPR.

Box Stores: How Do I Get Them To Join?

As stated in a recent chamber educational session I attended with box store executives on a panel, they said it’s all about advocacy.

The big box stores are dealing with business issues at the local, state and national level as it relates to running their business.

It can be as simple as a street light or street sign or as complicated as a new road project or a new regulation that will affect the entire company.

Are you helping them before the city council, the local planning and zoning committee, or at the state capitol?  Even Capitol Hill in Washington, DC could be the place where they need your help.

If you are, it’s highly likely they’re members of your chamber.  If you’re not involved in the advocacy business at those levels, they’re probably not members or they’ve got an excuse why they are not members.

The days of the big box stores joining the local chamber for the sake of joining are over.  It’s all about what you can do for them.

Remember, we all listen to the same radio station WIIFM - what’s in it for me.

Dial them in to your chamber radio station and get them on board as members today!

Innovation: Are You Pushing The Envelope?

Are you building a pipeline of new member programs, products and services through innovation?

Your members expect it from their chamber.  That’s a reason why they join.

Don’t go in with your eyes closed, set a plan: 1) Process; 2) Culture; 3) Resources; and 4) Fail Forward.

  • Process – set-up a mechanism so you can capture ideas from staff, volunteers and your members.
  • Culture – you need a cheerleader within the organization that can articulate the need for creating an innovative atmosphere.
  • Resources – commit the resources needed (staff and actual dollars) that shows a commitment to succeed.  If you show a commitment your board and your members will follow.
  • Fail Forward – this may be the most important part of your success.  Learn from any failures and “fail forward.”  Remember, the story of the “yellow sticky notes” by 3M?  It was an outcome from a different project that failed.

In my blog post “Delivering Value,” I use the term “pushing the envelope.”  If you have a background in military flying you know what that term means.

Create a form that outlines what the new project may be that takes into account the resources needed (staff and money), the time expected to bring this new program to fruition and what success will look like.  Think of it as a scorecard on the new projects business plan.


It will be ok to fail as long as you show your members that you are learning and trying new things to stay cutting edge for them.


Remember, make sure you’re always delivering the “core good” to the membership while pushing the envelope, and continue to innovate while keeping your members in mind on how you can better serve their needs.


That’s worth paying dues for, just ask any business person.  They took a risk when they opened their doors.  That’s what entrepreneurship is all about.


Start that new project today!

Incubators: Are You Supporting Your Local Entrepreneurs?

Does your chamber have a program to allow folks with an idea to get it up and running from within your chamber?

A number of chambers across the country are providing such a venue or “incubator” for new business ideas to take hold.

What a great way to get new members.

By supporting these start-ups it will position you to potentially get a lifelong member.

As chambers, we should do everything possible to help the entrepreneurs in our communities bring their ideas to market.

Today’s start-up will be tomorrow’s job creators and your future community leaders!

In membership, we talk about the lifetime value of members and a great way to fill that pipeline of prospective members is with businesses that got started through your "incubator" program.

Here are four examples of incubator programs at local chambers of commerce:


Help get that new business started this year!

How Long Do You Keep Lapsed Members On The Books?

If you don’t know, I bet it’s spelled out in your Bylaws.

While not scientific, I’d suggest most organizations are either 90 or 120 days, which means your real membership numbers are inflated by 25% to 33%.

I’m not a fan of counting non dues paying members as members!

Have you ever thought about dropping members on their due date?

Why not?

Don’t let your members play the membership game with your organization.  I’ve been there!  They wait one day past their 90 or 120 grace period, go off the books and then rejoin with a new due date.

They just got 15 or 16 months of membership for the price of 12.  That's no way to run a chamber.

And by the way, how many of you offer a 25% discount in connection with an upcoming program that they can save even more money?  It's happening all the time all across the country.  

In addition, you’re spending money on these (essentially) non-members who are not contributing to your bottom line.

Something to think about!

For more resources on lapsed member campaigns go HERE and HERE.

Board Meeting Tech Tools

As we delve deeper and deeper into the technology needs of meeting tools, I recently came across an article with many tips.

As chamber executives, we’re always looking for ways to do things more efficiently and saving money at the same time is always a nice bonus!


We’ve all heard of Google docs, Dropbox, Skype and conferencecall.com, but what about some of the lesser known tech gadgets?


I researched minutes.io and was fascinated at the ease of use this program delivers.


With up to 12 board meetings a year, why not have a tech tool that can help us deliver "the minutes" in real time vs. going back to the office and trying to remember the conversation from your handwritten or typed notes.


You may have found a better tool, but if this is something you’ve been struggling with, writing timely minutes, check out this tool at www.minutes.io.


Finishing your minutes in minutes!  Now that’s something to write about.


For a comprehensive list of neat board tech tools go to www.askbethz.com/tools.

The 80/20 Rule

Much has been written on this subject.

We’ve all heard it before, 20% of your members contribute to 80% of its success and carry 80% of the load, work/financial, etc.

Remember, you can’t be all things to all people.  So don’t go down that path and try to be.  Focus on your core competencies.

Here are a few provocative statements/ideas:

  • Have you ever fired a member?
  • Told a potential member that the chamber may not be the place for their resources?
  • Kicked any "Sacred Cows" to the curb?

Again, focus on the 20%, that’s your core business.  Don’t apologize to the 80%.  And this goes without saying, you must always deliver the core goods (value) to your members.

That’s why the 20% back you!

As talked about before, a recent study by the Western Association of Chamber Executives (W.A.C.E) identified the following as what members want from their chamber:

  • Advocacy
  • Networking
  • Business education
  • Support the local community
  • Economic development

This is a great place to start your next conversation with your board on what core competencies your chamber should be focused on, the rest just might be considered white noise.

Until next time!

Membership Dues Points

What are your dues points?  What works best for you?

Studies suggest the following three models to be the most widely used in order of popularity:

1.  Tiers - Gold, Silver, Bronze
2.  Full-time employees
3.  Annual budget/sales

There are pro’s and con’s to each, it’s your responsibility to find out what works best for your organization.

Do you have the following membership categories in addition to your current membership?

  • Students
  • Retirees
  • Lifetime members

Also, do you have a minimum dues point?  Have you ever sent money back because they didn’t pay the minimum?  While I’m not an advocate of sending checks back, there are costs to membership.

Again, something to think about!

For more information on membership tiered dues models from Kyle Sexton go HERE.

Net Revenue vs. Gross Revenue

I was recently reading an interesting article on the net revenue vs. gross revenue thought process.

Past blog posts have addressed:


...which all focus, in different ways, on programs that your members value and where you’re making money.

When looking at your programs many suggest you look at the net revenue for each of your programs (including fully loaded costs, i.e. staff) not just the gross revenue.  Be smart about where you put your chambers resources.

The more you focus on net revenue the better your spread will be at the end of the year and you’ll be able to put more money to reserves.

And we all know in today’s economy anything we can do to improve efficiencies and improve your bottom line will be well received by your board.

Which would you rather have a bigger gross budget or a better net profit in your next budget cycle?

Managing Volunteers

For most of us, each year we get a new chairman with their ideas and set of priorities that may or may not align with the current program of work of your organization.

I think we all can agree that if you have a challenging volunteer it can make for a long year.


We all (volunteers and staff) come to the table with different personalities, strengths and weaknesses.


Open communication is the key!  If you keep your lines of communication open and transparent, your organization will be better off for it.


There are resources available that may help with this volunteer/staff relationship.  I am especially fond of the work the Tecker International folks have accumulated on the subject matter through seminars and publications.


Don’t ignore it.  Address it with open communication.


For more information on the subject matter from Tecker International click HERE.

Why Do Our Members Walk Away?

Do you ask them?

With overall chamber retention rates ranging from 70% - 90% percent, the list of lapsed members is a group of members we need to understand why they walked away.

And remember, they’re your warmest leads!

If you’ve done the survey, you’ve probably received the following responses:

  • Not in the budget this year, cutting back on subscriptions and dues;
  • Didn’t attend any events or programs this past year; or
  • No value.

It’s time to dig a little deeper.  Do some focus groups.

Invite six members who recently dropped their membership, take them to lunch and ask some open ended questions.  Then, just listen.

As the CEO, it’s important you get the facts.  One more thing!  Don’t ask them to rejoin at this luncheon.  Just thank them for their time and honest feedback.

Reach out three or six months later.  Send the “we want you back letter.”  Incorporate their feedback on how you’ve addressed their issue/s in your letter and attach an invoice at their last dues point.

Ask.  Listen.  Respond.

That’s a recipe for success!

For a previous blog post on needs assessment tools to determine your members reasons go HERE.

Transparency

In today’s world being transparent is expected.

Don’t hide behind closed door sessions, private meetings, and this goes for staff and volunteers too.

If everybody can see the big picture, everybody should be able to support the organization and its mission.

This is especially true when something goes wrong (i.e., a program or event loses money) or certain members aren’t paying what they should.

Can we all say scorecards?  See previous post on scorecards HERE.

Transparency is about filling out a plan on what the chambers challenges and opportunities are and setting a proper course of action to deliver value to your members.

Remember, your members are business people and make business decisions every day.

If a program is not working, being a transparent organization is a great way of shining a light on that loser, or sacred cow, and kick-it to the curb.

Past post on sacred cows can be found HERE.

Be transparent, your chamber will be better off for it!

Succession Planning

As a chamber CEO it’s probably not on your radar screen to think about what the chamber would look like after you leave.

Some chamber execs stay a couple of years and some stay well over 20 years.

In either scenario you should have a succession plan in place for your chamber.  This is good for you and the organization.

I will take it a step further and say you should have a plan for each critical position at your chamber.  When coming up with a plan, it’s important you at least cover the basics.

The plan should at least include:

  • A press release announcing a transition;
  • A timeline for the selection process;
  • A job description for the open CEO position; and
  • A communications plan to keep your members informed on the process.

It’s important to be transparent in the process.  The other important thing is don’t make any knee jerk decisions.

You have the time to review your program of work and clearly identify the direction your organization should take.

There are many reasons why CEO’s leave:

  • New job
  • Retirement
  • Contract not renewed

No matter the reason, your chamber needs to have a game plan to move forward.

The chamber will be around a lot longer then you or I. Do what’s best for the organization.

Formalize a succession plan today!

For more resources on succession planning by the Annie E. Casey Foundation go HERE.

3 Elements of an Effective Blog Post

I recently attended a social media breakout session that focused on three key elements of writing an effective blog post.

And boy did I get some great ideas!

While there may be other elements to think about, they suggested that if you focus on these three, you’ll be well on your way to that next great blog post!


So when it's time to write your next blog post think of these three elements to capture your audience:

  1. Title
  2. Images
  3. Content

Title

Title matters and it’s important to focus on its length, is it compelling and does it tell a consistent story?

  • Length –Keep it short, no more than 8 words or less.
  • Compelling – Know your audience and create a title that makes the audience want to click/read the blog.
  • Telling – Article should follow the title and must be relevant.  The title should tell people what they are going to get if they read the article.

Images

Images are a key part of your blog post, and the image needs to be engaging, relevant, and shareable.

  • Engaging – Show action.  Charts and graphs are not always good. The image must add to the story.
  • Relevant – Don’t mislead readers with your image and title.
  • Shareable – Will your friends and colleagues share your post to their networks? That’s where you get your bang for your buck – think viral.

Content

Content is key, I’ve said it before in a blog post HERE.  Focus on your audience, the length and flow of your blog post.

  • Audience – Know your audience and content.  Make it targeted.
  • Length – 90 seconds is all your audience will spend on a blog post. Keep your message short and tight.
  • Readable – Don’t use acronyms, however, mini titles can be effective throughout a blog post and the use of links can be effective too, both internally or external.

I hope some of the tips mentioned above help you write that next great blog post.

At least it gives you something to think about the next time you put pen to paper or should I say fingers to keyboard!

For more information on how to write a great blog visit the folks at problogger HERE.  For a great resource on how to grow your blog go HERE.

Social Media Redux

If you haven’t had a chance to read my previous post on social media Is it Just White Noise you should give it a quick read.

As stated before, it’s making noise.  We all need to continue to pay attention to what your members want and the channels they're using to communicate.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s the fact that tomorrow will bring a new gadget, app, social media trinket with shining stars for you to engage in and potentially use as your new shiny tool to attract members.

I find myself chasing the elusive “next best thing” from time to time.  At the end of the day, you could probably keep up with all the different social media tools out there (i.e., Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, Pinterest, Ning/proprietary site, Wiki’s, blog, etc.), but you’d be exhausted and I’m not sure all your members are on all of these platforms.

My advice, pick the two or three that make the most sense for your chamber and focus on tying them together and communicate a succinct message while maintaining a consistent brand.

Communicate that brand using all communication vehicles you’re used to working with (i.e., website, newsletter, magazine) and add the two or three social media tools you’ve decided to focus your resources on to communicate with your members.

Social media is just one more avenue we can use to communicate effectively with our members.

Let’s not make it the only way we’re communicating with our members!

For additional resources on social media go HERE, HERE and HERE.

Do You Have a Membership Renewal Sales Plan?

Or do you just send that auto invoice and hope for the best?

Use this renewal process as an opportunity to further engage your member.

Most chambers I know have the customary 90, 60 or 30-day auto-invoice.

Do you call your members 120 days out to give them an update on the chamber’s accomplishments and how their dues contributed to that success?

Maybe this is the time to ask for an increase in their support of the organization!  If you give them a reason they just might do it.

BTW, who makes that call?  Here’s a great opportunity for your membership committee volunteers to do some real work.  Create a script for them.  Keep it simple.  Communicate what the chamber has done over the past year:

  • Thank them for being a member;
  • List three accomplishments on behalf of the business community; and
  • Tell them why their financial support is so important.

…and then finish with “The Ask.”

Get a commitment for an upgrade to the next level of membership support and get that updated invoice in the mail.

For more information on membership retention visit ACCE’s website HERE.

What's Your Most Effective New Member Recruitment Channel?

If you’ve been in this business any length of time, I’m sure you’ve tried them all:

  • Direct mail
  • Member-get-a-member campaigns
  • Personal visits
  • Phone call campaigns
  • Chamber sponsored events
  • Email
  • Social media

The first thing that you need to do is apply some metrics to your results. It’s important to segment your audience and stay focused, and set a frequency (number of times a year you’re going to communicate/pitch) that prospective member, which ever vehicle you to choose to communicate.

In my experience, the first four bullets represent the methods that most chambers historically have used in recruiting new members.

It’s important to find out what works best for you and your chamber.

Measure your efforts!

For more information on membership recruitment visit the Marketing General Inc. website HERE.

The New Chamber CEO

There have been many articles and blog posts on a new chamber CEO’s first 100 days. 

Some chambers may have a formal onboarding program for the new CEO with an official plan of action for the new chief staff over their first 100 days.

If they don’t, and knowing while there’s no one list that fits all, here’s a few suggestions that should help you get started in creating your to-do-list when you start that new job.

  • Meet with every board member in their office;
  • Review staff resumes and job descriptions;
  • Meet with each staff person individually and as a group;
  • Ask specific questions and listen to everybody;
  • Don’t make any changes overnight; and
  • Communicate your vision to all (staff, volunteers and the community).

Remember, you’ve heard the saying, if you’ve met one chamber, you’ve met one chamber.  Tailor the above suggestions to the needs of your specific opportunity.

Create your list today for your next opportunity.

Good luck!

For additional resources go HERE and HERE.

New Member Welcome Kits: What's in Your Box?

Ok, you’ve signed up that new member.  Now it’s time to engage that new member.

It’s time for the “new member” kit.  First impressions are very important.  Take the time to put some thought into your first new member communication.

Many new member kits include the following:

  • Thank you letter and membership card;
  • Certificate of membership;
  • List of upcoming events; and
  • A volunteer form.

Use this communication to ask the new member to become active.  Ask them to do three things:

  • Register on your website for an upcoming program;
  • Put their new member certificate in a prominent place for their customers to see; and
  • Tell us what issues are important to you as a small business owner.

Now it’s your turn to continue that dialogue throughout the year.  First year retention is your goal.

Engage that member.  Retain that member!

Are You a Connector?

As chamber executives we wear many hats!

We’re advocates for our small business members, we educate our members through our programming, and let’s not forget that networking thing we do. 

Being a connector is the business of today’s chamber executive.

We connect people for many different reasons.  We connect people to:

  • Solve problems
  • Generate business
  • Create a better community
  • Educate/influence our government officials

I wrote about it in a previous blog post HERE - the statement that your network is your net worth.  If you have a strong network, you’ll be a great connector. 

The more people in your network, the more people you can connect.  That’s the position you want to be in as a chamber executive. 

Position yourself as the go to person in the business community!

What's The Top Reason Your Members Join?

We’re all busy running our chambers in an effort to deliver value to our members.

What’s your priority?

What do your members want?

I suspect new business opportunities and a friendly business environment.

As reported in a September 2012 toolkit by Western Association of Chamber Executives (W.A.C.E.), there are five main areas where chambers focus their resources:

  • Advocacy
  • Networking
  • Business education
  • Support the local community
  • Economic development

I talked recently about staying focused when recruiting new members. You should equally stay focused on determining what your member’s want.

Ask them what they want, what they’re willing to pay for and then deliver on their answers.

Don’t be afraid to drop a program or two!

For more information on how to conduct a needs assessment and links to survey tools go to this previous blog post HERE.

Social Capital: What Are You Worth?

Network = net worth!

In today’s world I’d suggest this means two things:

1.   Who’s in your inner circle?
2.   Who’s in your Outlook contacts?

Today, you must also include your “social media” network.

Do you have a presence on the Web with a blog, Twitter account, Facebook or LinkedIn, to name a few?

It’s so easy to link them all together with today’s social media tools.  That’s your new network.

Your network is your net worth!

Yes, not only is the rolodex important, but now it’s important to have a reputation in the social media space and be recognized as a leader that goes above and beyond those inner circles and that's why you should be using social media to raise your profile.

What’s nice about the social media space is that your network goes with you wherever you go.  You take a new job across the country - that network goes with you.  That network can help you solve problems and generate new ideas for your new organization.

Also, think of it as an extension of your resume.  I think we can all agree that social media is here to stay in whatever format you choose to participate.  Be a curator of chamber knowledge and share that with your colleagues.

In essence, you’re creating your own brand that transcends any current chamber job you may currently be employed in today.  That’s powerful.

You’re worth it, invest in your future and in the future of your local chamber, grow your net worth by expanding your presence in the online space.

Your network is your net worth and that network has no geographic lines!

Strategic Planning

The strategic planning process has evolved over the years.

I’d like to focus on the process in today’s post.  We can no longer create plans that are three, five or ten years in scope.

With today’s technology and the needs of our members changing so fast, our plans should be one, two and three year plans with the option to tweak as needed throughout the year.

Strategy is the key word in the strategic planning process.  The following statements have been attributed to strategy.  Do any sound familiar?

  • Plan of attack
  • Position yourself for success
  • Clear vision
  • Simple consistent long-term goals
  • Live in the present, build towards the future
  • Shape the playing field
  • Understand your organization and its needs
  • Creating incentives

What’s the scope of your strategic plan?  Do they include elements of the above attributes?

If you’ve not gone through a strategic planning process recently now’s a good time to start!

For more information on strategic thinking and planning from the folks at Tecker International go HERE.

How to Stay Ahead of the Competition

With over 7,000 local, regional and state chambers of commerce in this country, you need to look no farther than the next community for your competition.

That’s right!

The next town, county, region, are all fighting (marketing) for the same small businesses to become members of their organization!

Now that we can agree that competition is all around us.  What are you doing to stand out amongst the crowded field?

I’m reminded of the Hedgehog theory put forth in Jim Collin’s book, Good to Great.  The three items I took from the Hedgehog theory are:

  • What do you have passion for?
  • What are you the best at or can you be the best at?
  • Where do you make money?

This is just another way of focusing on your brand.  What do you want to be known for?

  • Advocacy
  • Education
  • Economic Development
  • Networking
  • Ribbon Cutting
  • Other

Remember, you can’t be all things to all people.

Focus on the important stuff identified by your board – and then execute that program of work.