Growing Membership in the Digital Age

I recently participated in a webinar by my friend Rick Whelan with Marketing General Incorporated.

I've written about their annual membership benchmarking survey before and the latest survey can be found HERE.

He talked about how this new digital age offers you the opportunity to reach out to many folks that you may not even know about.

The Direct Marketing Association recently stated that each person gets 2,500 impressions each day.  Wow!  That's a lot of clutter.

Communication channels are clogged with messages.  You must be able to target by demographics - profession, jobs, experience, age, specialties, certifications.

You must define what your prospective member pressing needs or challenges are and have the tools to fix it for them.

Value Proposition: What's in it for me (WIIFM).  Your members are thinking - how can I be smarter, save time, save money, and solve a problem.

So what messages are you using to attract new members?  Do any of these ring true:

  • We're the place to get info you can't get anywhere else;
  • We can solve your problems; and
  • Here's how you will benefit from membership (not what they'll receive but how they will benefit).

For a previous blog post on that subject go HERE.

He talked about how you need to identify the right people, at the right time, and the right benefits/solutions to make the "membership sale."

He also went on to talk about the membership lifecycle.  And there has been much written about this, but this was his definition:

  • Awareness - tell your target audiences who you are and what your value is, invite them to engage with you.
  • Recruitment - find your target audience, invite them to join you.
  • Engagement - Give them something for their money, deliver value, encourage usage of your resources.
  • Renewal - invite them to renew, early and often.
  • Reinstatement - invite them back, new and improved products and services if they happen to lapse.  A large number of our members will lapse at some point in time.

While there are many marketing channels to fill the funnel of prospects: events, telemarketing, database marketing, direct mail, social media, webcasts, app, online advertising, and email marketing.  Decide on what channel works best for you to be successful?

Find out what is working for your chamber, in your community, because it might be different than another chambers success in another community. Track and measure everything you do!

A great resource on membership trends by Marketing General can be found HERE.

What I took away from this webinar is that all ages join organizations but for different reasons - check out MGI benchmarking study to learn more HERE.

And don't forget what Seth Godin has said in the past, "Everyone is not your customer."

Until next time!

Prospects That Have Gone Dark

I recently participated in a webinar on the title of this blog post conducted by JP Moery of The Moery Company.

For more information on JP or his company go HERE.

While he talked about a number of things you can do to re-engage that prospect that went dark, here's what I took away from the webinar.

First, are they really a good prospect or just a name of a business on a sheet of paper?

Not all businesses will be interested in the work of the local chamber.  The key is to find the ones who are.  And oh by the way, it's ok if some businesses don't want to be members.

The key I've always said in past blog posts is getting the right members to engage with your chamber.

He also talked about having a formal sales pipeline for prospects and the ability to track your interactions?  Are you tracking your communications with your prospective members in some way?  Some organizations are using salesforce or another customer management system (CMS) tools to track, keep notes and plan their outreach?

Another tip from JP, in addition to tracking your interactions, it's important to have a list of answers to the most common responses on why they are objecting to become members.

To that end, develop a set of talking points for common objections.  We've all heard them before, right?

  • Too expensive - you can't afford not to be a member - show value - you have different price points to get them involved, it all depends on what level (think tiered dues) they want to engage and sell that membership.
  • Too much time - don't give them too much information and overwhelm them - focus on what they want or what they would value and laser focus on that specific issue.  It's about what they need and not what you want to sell.
  • Send me the information - are they just using this as a way to get you off the phone or off their premises.  Your response, I only want to send you information that you need to solve a specific problem or help you generate business.  Ask them what that might be and tell them you’ll send it right away.

Another tip mentioned as an ongoing way to stay connected to your prospects is to send teasers to your prospects - a webinar announcement, a white paper, an action item to keep your chamber on their radar screen as a potential member.  Or an invite, as a guest, to an upcoming program is another tact you can use.

As a side bar, I recently ran across an app (Slydial) that allows you to automatically leave a phone message on a prospects cell phone with membership information and ask them to call you back if interested.

Why is this exciting?

You can tailor your pitch on a specific issue that they may be interested in and it allows them to respond to you on their timetable.  And, if they call you back, you know they're interested, or as we like to say, a hot lead!

And by the way, this is not a robo call, it's an individually left message by your membership sales staff.

A final thought - membership recruitment is an ongoing process and the more touch points you have with a prospect will only help you build a relationship that will hopefully end in a membership, if not now, in the future!

Economic Development

What role is your chamber playing in this sector of your community?

Do you have an economic development component to your program of work or do you rely on a separate entity in the community to do that?

At the end of the day, all chambers are in the economic development space whether it’s a formal public/private relationship or you’ve just taken on the role through your work in workforce development and on infrastructure issues.

In my experience, the metro chambers main focus is economic development.

While state chambers mainly focus on advocacy work at the state capitol and the local chambers are in the networking business at the local level, it’s the metro chambers that focus on economic development.

That’s not to say that all three chamber entities don’t do advocacy, economic development and networking, but each has a main focus and that’s what makes them a state, metro or local chamber.  Our roles are defined by our members and geography.

Did you know that there is a certification for economic development professionals?

Did you also know that many chamber CEO’s have their CEcD certification?

For more information on the certification and how you can get involved in the economic development space go HERE.

Trust: Are You a Key Broker in Your Community?

Is your chamber viewed as a trusted entity in your community’s health and well being?

As stated in the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives Horizon Initiative: Chambers 2025, the chamber can play the key role as the convener of business community, the public and local government.

As chambers, our role is to advocate on behalf or our small business members and what all small business members want is a thriving community where all can prosper and grow.

When a community (businesses, public and government) all work together to improve the lives of all is a place I’d want to live, wouldn’t you?

Part of being that convener is having the trust of the community and to be able to play the role of identifying the issues that need to be addressed in a factual and non controversial way.

I’ll finish with the word relevance!

We talk a lot about this in the chamber space.  Are you relevant?  Well, what better way to be relevant than to be the “trusted” leader in the community that gets a seat at the table whenever an issue needs to be addressed.

For a copy of the Horizon Initiative: Chambers 2025 go HERE.

Until next time!

Communicating the Value of the Chamber

What are you doing to keep the program of work your chamber is doing in the public’s eye in your community?

Do you have a regular communication tool that is informative and can be spread through social media?

There is no better entity than the chamber in telling the story of the community and how the chamber is playing a vital role in the health and growth.

Have you had a chance to review the great Horizon Initiative: Chambers 2025 report produced by the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE).  It’s a great starting point to focus your chamber on what issues chambers are facing all over the country.

While we have the saying “if you’ve met one chamber, you’ve met one chamber,” that doesn’t mean we don’t have common areas of focus.

The key to all of the reports and stories you may read on chamber management and the trends, you’ve got to ask yourself a question, “What do you want to be.”

And then spend some time on how you can maximize your resources in attaining that goal.

I’m reminded of the Hedgehog Theory in Jim Collin’s book Good to Great, focus on what you can be or are the best at, what you have passion for and where you make money.  That’s the business you should be in for your members.

Always remember, you can’t be all things to all people, so stop trying to please everybody!

Focus on your mission and the strategic plan your membership has set forth.

Good luck!

3 Tips to Engage New Members

You’ve heard me and many others say before, that engaging your members in your program of work, is the easiest way to improve your member retention.

So what are you doing, for not only your first year members, but also your base members too?

Here’s three quick things you could implement very easily, not only to welcome new members, but will also help on the back end when it comes to retention.

In fact, I know you’re already doing the first one.

New Member Kit - we’ve all got the thank you letter, web sticker and some form of the Chamber member plaque/sticker, but what else are you including in your new member kit?  Do you include a schedule of your upcoming programs or a copy of your mission statement?  The goal of your new member kit should be to make your new members feel welcome and to get a sense of what the Chamber will do on their behalf and the business community at large.

Special Invitation - pick an upcoming program or event for them to attend and make sure you have a buddy system where they are met at the registration table and that buddy will stay with them throughout their first event they attend.  Nobody wants to attend an event and feel isolated.  Formalize this in a way that works best for your Chamber.

Personal Phone Call - this is so easy to do and it gives the personal touch that any new member will appreciate.  The goal is to check-in and see how they are doing, ask if there is anything you can do for them and then end the call with a simple “Thank You” for being a member.  And by the way, the CEO needs to make this call.

If you do these three things to engage your new members it will be a good starting point to improve their engagement with the Chamber and it will help with your first year retention rates.

8 Tactics to Redefine Your Member Value Propositions and Experience

I recently attended a great session by Peggy Smith on how to redefine your member value proposition and experience.

I’ve written on that subject matter before and you can go HERE for that blog post titled What's Your Brand.

Her view on the Value Proposition is all about expectations and experience.

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

She goes on to talk about how expectations are tied to the reason why your members join.  Traditional value propositions are the new expectations.  She states we are shifting to experience-driven value propositions.

During the session she asked each of us to share our mobile device and asked the other person to find where you can join that persons organization.  Wow!  While some organizations made it easy to join, others had a hard time finding any link anywhere on the mobile device.

Peggy talked about focusing on the following 8 Tactics to redefine your member value proposition and experience.

Meet Expectations with Mobile - everyone is on a mobile device so it's important that you have a mobile responsive website.  What that means is your website adapts automatically to the users device (i.e. desktop, iPhone, iPad, etc.). The research tells us that 4 out of 5 consumers are using their smartphone to shop.

Simplicity Meets Design - again research is telling us that your members have an 8 second attention span.  Do you have a clear navigation for your members and potential members and a clear call to action on your website. Focus on usability, accessibility and the ease of interaction as a guide.

Simplify the Onboarding Process - first impression is key, you don't get a second chance to make a first impression.  How many clicks does it take for a potential member to join?  Do you have a welcome campaign that goes beyond the thank you letter?  Do you give them a gift?  Maybe a pen with your logo, mouse pad, what do you have that you could give in addition to your plaque.

Get Social - networking is the #1 reason why members join your organization.  Do you have an online community?  Do you have a daily strategy to connect with your members, and by the way, consistency is the key with your strategy, whether it's a daily or weekly connection.  Having said that, most will tell you A daily habit is definitely the way to go!

Personalized Marketing - the ability to segment your membership by their demographics, lifestyle geographic and behavioral traits.  Are you getting them information that is important to them based on the above criteria?  Are you responding to their pain points.

Live Interaction at Events - do you have a mobile event app that allows for  ongoing interaction throughout your meeting in real-time?  Getting people to post to their Twitter and Facebook accounts is a way to get the event out to the community beyond those who are attending.  Are you using Gamification to get your attendees active in your live event?  What a great marketing tool.

Make it Easy - does your website have a member portal where it tracks the actions of your members and when they come back to your website relevant information will show up.  This is where you'll want to get your CMS provider involved to help you in this process.  The other question is are you automating your processes?  Membership renewal.  It's been stated that 29% of associations offer automatic renewals.  At the end of the day, eliminate unnecessary tasks.

Agile is the New Lean - go to strategyzer to get the business canvas for membership and the value proposition mapping.  Start on your member profile side first.

Keep in mind the above 8 tactics while your working with your membership engagement.

For more resources on membership from yourmembership go HERE.

Productivity: Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Day

I had the opportunity to attend an educational session led by Chris Bailey on productivity.  He states there are lots of books on the subject, good and bad!

The following is a recap of his session from my notes.

What is Productivity?  They mean different things to different people.

It has changed over the past 50 years from repetition of work (think working with your hands vs the brain) to knowledge-based work.  Factory vs Knowledge!

He goes on to state that there are 3 keys to productivity: Time Management; Attention; and Energy. Accomplishing what we intended to do is what productivity is all about.

He talked about the following 3 tactics that if we're aware of, that if we manage, it will make us more productive.

  1. The Rule of 3
  2. Procrastination
  3. Taming the distractions/interruptions

The Rule of 3

Set better intentions, what 3 things to I want to accomplish each day or week.  Our brains are ingrained to do things in 3.  So what are your 3 daily intentions?

Procrastination

The research states that there are 7 reasons we procrastinate because the work is boring, frustrating, difficult, lacks personal meaning, lacks intrinsic rewards, ambiguous and unstructured.

How to beat it, think of your future self, list the costs, shrink your resistance, define the very next thing and do it and finally notice mindless busywork.

Taming the distractions/interruptions

Research tells us that we have 40 seconds of focus before we're distracted/interrupted.  Which translates into 26 minutes of lost productivity from each distraction/interruption.

He goes on to say there are four types of distractions/interruptions - control/no control, annoying/fun.  The key is to deal with these things ahead of time.

Give 3 goals to your staff for the day, week, month or quarter.  Your team, like all teams, can understand when you keep it to three.

As a manager, do you have a list of 3 things you want to do? Time management, attention and energy are the keys to productivity and where those three circles come together is productivity.

At the end of the day, we need to be our own traffic cop to increase our productivity.

For more information about Chris Bailey and his productivity project go HERE.

Creating an Entrepreneurial Culture in an Existing Organization

At a recent educational breakout session I attended, the speaker, Courtney Kiss, spoke of creating an atmosphere where your staff can make a difference and change the culture of your organization and in turn your community.

It's about building a culture that everyone has a voice and has the ability to change things from where they are in the organization.  It cannot happen in a vacuum.

The top three key things that jumped out at me that may also work for you and your organization that the Courtney mentioned are:

  • Improve on what you already have - there is no need to start from scratch.
  • Try something new - and this does not have to be a big thing, it can be small or it could be large.
  • At the end of the day, it's about thinking differently - people who challenge the status quo.

Who drives the culture?

Management - buy-in from the top or who manages people.  It doesn't have to start at the top, but the top has to support.

Leaders - and that doesn't just mean the person with the title but the individuals that can inspire, constructive critique, and support (you will always have failure from time to time but the leader gives support and fail-forward. The leader can reinforce the message.

HR - supports the entrepreneurial culture through hiring and maybe even the review process and a consistent reinforced communication to all staff.

Benefits of an Entrepreneurial Culture

  • More innovation
  • Employee satisfaction - you are giving staff a platform to be heard
  • Employee advocacy - great PR

How do you Build It (10 Key Things)

  1. Embrace passion, share your passion
  2. Allow the right amount of autonomy
  3. Avoid homogeneity
  4. Be brave and radical
  5. Be patient with the process and timing
  6. Small is ok (learn as you go)
  7. You need to be ok with failure (you need to learn from it)
  8. Celebrate the successes
  9. You need to make way for change (you need to allow it to happen)
  10. Transparency is critical (share the most information you can from where you stand)

Some Action Items to Create this Entrepreneurial Culture

  • Create focus groups within your staff
  • Utilize the technology you have (Dropbox or a comment box, etc. to get new ideas)
  • Get your folks to talk to others outside your organization
  • Create a competition
  • Host a lunch with your staff to hear ideas but give it context

The good news is that it’s not expensive to change a culture, improve efficiencies, or the opportunity to make more people happy at work!

Lapsed Member Recruitment

I recently attended a breakout session on lapsed member recruitment led by Vivian Swertinski.  We could all learn from the following ideas the next time we decide to kick-start a lapsed member campaign.

Oh by the way, don't make it up as you go! Here's her four step strategy of lapsed member campaign.

1.              Analyze the data

What happens after they lapse?

  • What do they have access to
  • What do they still need
  • What would be different or new

Reasons for not renewing - forgot to renew, not sure of ROI or no longer working in industry.

Message to deliver - be part of the solution, access to the latest information to help you run your business.

And by the way, your lapsed members are still engaging with you, you just don't know it!  At the organizational level people are still working with those lapsed members.

2.              Target Audience

  • Length of time lapsed
  • Length of relationship
  • Demographic data
  • Membership type

Talk about what they've missed during the time that they lapsed

3.              Create the Campaign

  • You want to make an emotional connection
  • They take center stage
  • Renewal is not the end goal

Assume they forgot to renew.  The pitch - we're committed to help your small business, the top priority for us is to be your advocate and we want to make sure you have the latest information to be successful.

Attached is your invoice to make it easy for you to get back in the know, game, etc.

4.              Execute the Plan

  • Friendly From (what name would they recognize - CEO)
  • Subject Line (we want you back)
  • Short and Long Message

Automate your campaign and segment your messages. Message to 3 - 6 months lapsed members, assume they forgot to renew. Message to 7 - 24 months lapsed members, showcase new programs, focus on whatever is new that they may not know about that your doing for the small business sector or the community at large.

A couple of tips:

  • Subject Line:  Rediscover the (Name of Your Chamber);
  • It's been x amount of time since you lapsed and we want to highlight what's new; and
  • We encourage you to visit (you fill in the URL) and see where you can plug in.

At the end of the day, you want to serve them and let them plug themselves in where it appeals to them.

Don't use the "We Miss You" verbiage letter, make a connection with what they need.  It's all about them, not us.

Try to make an emotional connection with your lapsed member - it's all about the altruistic member.

Use a theme like "get back in the game" and don't forget to make it easy for your lapsed member to renew!

If they renew, give them a special thank you (handwritten note) when they renew not just the normal acknowledgement email the typical renewal member gets.

In Summary:

Analyze your data, target your audience, create a campaign and execute your plan.

Remember, lapsed members are generally your warmest leads so spending some quality time in communicating with them with the right message can yield positive outcomes.

Good luck on your next lapsed member campaign!

High Impact Marketing on a Small Budget

I attended a breakout session recently on the title of this blog and jotted down the following suggestions from the speaker.

The following 8 tips are worth a review as you look for ways to get your message out to not only your members but to your non-members in the community.

Here's also a great website to get more ideas on marketing on a small budget from Entrepreneur Magazine.

#1 Exclusive Campaigns

  • TBT (throw back Tuesday) is a great example of an exclusive campaign in social media
  • Get pictures from past events - pictures, facts, etc.
  • Tie it to each programs (i.e., months lunch, annual meeting, etc.)
  • Book it on Hootsuite
  • History Monday - facts on your chamber

#2 Thought Leadership

  • Staff as experts (networking tips)
  • Content marketing
  • Visit a member and write about it
  • Building the brand

#3 Earned Media

  • Relationship building
  • Be a source in good times and bad (answer the phone)
  • Find the hook
  • Find the human element

#4 Testimonials

  • On your events or mission
  • On helping a business grow
  • On a legislative victory

#5 Out

  • Membership plaques
  • New member orientations

#6 IN

  • In-window clings
  • E-plaques
  • Membership 101 (for everybody, including new members)

#7 Public Service Announcements and Media Partnerships (free)

  • Radio station (quote something from research, etc.)
  • One minute spots each week (interviews with business owners)
  • Spots run 8 times a day for a week

#8 Video

  • Storytelling
  • Everyone is going in this direction
  • Use your smartphone, hold phone horizontally and use a business card holder to keep phone steady
  • Portable light for phone (battery powered) - side of face
  • Put yourself between the light and the interviewee
  • Keep camera rolling at all times
  • Do not script answers, ask questions
  • Know what your story is going to be about - asking 2, 3 or 4 questions should do it
  • Use iMovie to tweak the finished product

Great tips to think about as you market your chamber to your members and the community at large.

Volunteer Excellence: Elevate the Volunteer Experience

I attended a seminar led by Lowell Aplebuam, CAE on volunteerism.

While we all have our idea of what works for us, I took the following ideas to heart and can see where we might all be able to expand on his suggestions.

Make it personal.  Reshape the volunteer experience for your organization by allowing your volunteers to give back, receive recognition and gain credibility.

You should think of the following on how to involve young professionals?

  • Structures of inclusion (different levels)
  • Executive leadership, starting early
  • Empowering recruitment (peer to peer)
  • What do they want to learn
  • What can they contribute

Create a job description for the volunteer to set expectations:

  • Micro volunteering is a great way to get the younger generations involved in your program of work - use them as content specialists - write a blog, etc.
  • Create a quick volunteer role at an existing program - volunteer behind the registration desk, then recognize them and ask them to do more

Create micro opportunities to participate in your organization - what can they do?

  • For a program
  • For communications
  • For social media - post three pictures on Instagram
  • For outreach
  • Be a photographer

Skills Based Volunteering - pick volunteers based on their skill-set vs they have no experience but you find a way

  • Finance skill set could be your Treasurer
  • Fundraiser
  • Marketing expert
  • Event planning
  • Foodie can help with your events where F&B are involved

What is the appropriate balance for your board?  Are you keeping your retirees involved with your boards? They have the knowledge and expertise in the sector.  They also have:

  • Time
  • Talent
  • Treasure (money)

Do you have a retired member coordinator?  These folks have been your supporters over the years why kick them to the curb?

The Volunteer Precipice:  The End of the Volunteer Path - he ended with the following three areas to think about if you think about resetting the volunteer experience (path to the chair) that has been around our chambers for so many years.

What are we losing?

  • Organizational history
  • Strategic fluency
  • Key VIP connections
  • Models of passion and loyalty
  • Association operational mastery

What are the risks?

  • Strategic overstep
  • Burnout
  • Ego
  • Growth
  • Creating the space for models of respect

Build a bridge for journey extension after the normal volunteer engagement.

  • President's advisory council
  • Foundation Service
  • Volunteer first responders
  • Diamond in the rough mentors
  • New member orientation
  • Story tellers/evangelists
  • Thought leaders - research focus

At the end of the day, he left us with the idea of thinking about volunteering as a journey, not a position and make sure you recognize your volunteers on a regular basis!