Communicating with Confidence

Carol Vernon, founder and principal, Communications Matter, conducted a great seminar on the title of this blog, communicating with confidence.

Her opening statement - "communications matter!"

If you read any articles on the subject of communications you've probably come across these statistics and they are worth mentioning again.

Communication perception:

  • Words - what we say - 7%
  • Vocal - tone, rate, volume, pause - 38%
  • Nonverbal - body language - 55%

While she talked about a number of communication principles - I want to focus on five she stressed:

  1. Speak up at the right time - be strategic, don't be the first.
  2. Stay on message - organize your thoughts first (what do they know, what do they want to know and then what do they need to know, and what do I want them to know).  Don’t do a data dump when communicating (think in three’s).
  3. Adapt your communication style to fit the audience - a one size fits all approach will not serve you well.
  4. Fine-tune your nonverbal language - what are you doing with your hands?  Are you using your eyes to make eye contact with your audience (whether it be one or many)?
  5. Practice active listening skills - this is a key skill that all of us could work on.  Are you listening, understanding what is being said, and then responding in an appropriate way?

She went on to talk about the four different communication styles:

  1. What - action oriented, direct and to the point, results oriented, purposeful - it’s all about the bottom line;
  2. How - process-focused, detailed step by step, factual and data driven;
  3. Who - people focused, relationship driven, communicative and more personal; and
  4. Why - ideas-oriented, brainstorm, inquisitive, question conventional wisdom.

You need to be adaptive with all four of these styles. There is no right or wrong way.  But having a strong presence is key.  Do you move purposefully?  You need to be fully present and use your face, eyes, and body to command the room.

At the end of the day, communication skills are developed over time and we all can continue to learn and adapt as we go!

For more information about Carol go HERE.

Engaging and Retaining New Members Using Drip Marketing

Amazon has 22 benefits - they introduce you to a few at a time through weekly or monthly emails.  I'm a member and I've personally experienced these onboarding emails. That's how I learned about e-books, prime music, etc.

I recently attended a session led by Larry Guthrie and Leslie Whittet, both from the Association for Corporate Growth where they talked about how to market the benefits of your organization a little bit at a time with your members.

If you're an Amazon customer you're familiar with their monthly email that talks about a specific benefit or two.  What they are doing is putting their benefits in bite size messages.

They spent a good amount of time discussing the difference of onboarding versus an orientation?

Onboarding improves retention rates - period!  An orientation is just the beginning of a true onboarding process.  The onboarding process could be the first 90 day period of your new members interaction with you.

This is where drip marketing comes into play. You communicate with them on a regular basis over this 90 day period by introducing the different benefits of your organization.  You might want to communicate on a biweekly basis.

The value proposition is a major part of your onboarding process.  Advocacy, education, networking are benefits that you are providing your members, are you doing a good job of communicating those benefits?  Your communications should always be member focused not chamber focused.

Maybe your onboarding (90-days) communications might be:

  • Welcome kit
  • Communication on an advocacy effort you're working on with a link with more information
  • Communication on how to participate in your next networking event
  • Communication on a couple of benefits that they might not be aware of

 Your goal is to have your members "learn it and use it!"

Drip marketing is showcasing your member benefits in your communications in a strategically planned out process.

I also think it's important that in these communications you are not asking for more money.  Remember, they just paid you a sum of money to join.

Think of drip marketing as a guided tour of your chamber.  You're breaking up your value proposition into small digestible bites of information. Make your communications clean and concise.

Biweekly emails focusing on a different set of benefits is a plan worth considering.

Once you've finished your 90-day onboarding with new members you might want to check in with them at the 6-month interval. Remember, at the 9-month interval you'll be sending your first auto-invoice.  That three-month window before an invoice is sent will be a great time to fix any problems from the information you might get at that 6 month check-up.

Good luck!

10 Ways to LOSE Members!

I recently attended a great session at ASAE's MMCC (a bit snarky) led by Andrea Pellegrino and Theresa Kramer-Burgess with their list of the top 10 reasons to lose a member.

Losing members because what you're doing not because what you're NOT doing!

Here's their list of 10 ways to lose members:

#1 Make it hard to find information - arrange your website the way they can find information in an easy intuitive way.

#2 Make it hard to give you money - do you have a one-click solution, think Amazon and their one click buy - your members expect that now!

#3 Make them wait - give them instant feedback or acknowledgement of joining, not on a weekly/monthly schedule.  Use auto respond emails to make that instant connection.

#4 Tell them what's good for them - it's important to continue to ask your members what they want, think annual needs assessment survey. Ask, listen, track, respond.  Do a focus group as qualitative research from time to time.

#5 Ask for more money, right away - let them get settled and take advantage of the membership before bombarding them with new ways to spend money with your chamber.  Think engagement first and help them solve a problem.  Communicate what you're doing for the community.

#6 Make discounts a main benefit - talk about the value of membership in your chamber (advocacy, economic development, community development) not a discount on a future purchase.  Make your interactions with people transformational, not just transactional.

#7 Don't personalize - there is no reason with today's technology that you can't personalize every communication with your members.  Always use their first name, don't ever use "Dear Member."

#8 Don't talk to them - if a member calls your chamber will they get a real person or will they get the phone voice mail tree that takes forever to leave a message.  We're in the relationship business and your members should be able to easily get in touch with you and get their question or problem fixed.

#9 Ignore the user experience - are you tracking how your members are accessing your information on your website.  Are you using Google analytics to track your members interaction with you and make it easier for them to get what they want. Don't waste their time trying to navigate your website, just fix it, no excuses.

#10 Ask for everything all at once - ease your new members or current members into the work of the chamber.  Have them make "one decision at a time."

Bonus #11: Fuhgettaboutem - don't do this!

Their final thought, engage with your members throughout the year in a piece meal kind of way and continue to listen to them and respond in an appropriate way.

Digital Marketing Essentials

At a recent breakout session I attended on digital marketing by Aidan Augustin and Jeff Bunkin of Feathr was focused on retargeting, geofencing and lookalikes.

Retargeting - someone visits a website and you get an ad later when you're on a different web pages (Facebook, papers, etc. - banner ads or a video ad).  This is all about getting you to purchase a product once you've left a site where you were browsing.

Retargeting is all about paying to reach a warm audience and you don't need their email.  They've just visited your website.

You can use segmentation to dig deeper in what they viewed on your website and then you can decide what ads they may get from you to make sure you're delivering relevant information to them - think an exhibitor versus an attendee and giving them the right information to sign-up.

Another example is the shopping cart abandonment, where you can retarget them with the registration process and get them to check-out and finish the process.

An ad exchange is an auction site to decide what ad is shown at the higher price on the webpage that is being loaded in real time.

Geofencing - showing ads show within a specific geographic area, think a 4 block radius.

For a great resource on the specifics of retargeting go HERE for an article by Social Media Examiner.

A Data Driven Approach to Member Recruitment Strategies

At a recent membership and marketing session I attended addressed membership recruitment strategies based on data.

It was conducted by Kerri McGovern and Joseph Cephas, both staff members of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID).

The main point I want to focus on from the session is identifying what to focus on and how you are communicating with members and prospective members.

Speak in your members terminology not yours.

Current issues that need to be addressed as you move to the future - aging members, value proposition, legacy members resistant to change

You must be mobile friendly!

Resources - they talked about how your website main page must be enticing to your members.

They also talked about the sales funnel, and oh by the way, the sales funnel is not dead as some may say, and depending on who you speak to or which article you read there is always a tweak in how you are using it.  By the way, it's a great way to organize your sales:

  • Lead generation - prospects who have visited your website, list purchase or attended an event.
  • Lead evaluation - prospects that took an action, clicked through your email, etc.
  • Lead qualification - prospects that respond to direct membership outreach.
  • Qualified lead outreach - ongoing dialogue of prospects who have expressed an interest.
  • Closing qualified leads - point of sale.

For a resource go to Wikipedia's site HERE.

Messaging is key when putting together a membership campaign.  You must have a consistent message weather it's a direct mail piece, website, or your social media presence.  Their organization tapped into the theme of "belong" as their messaging - "You Belong Here!"

Are you leading with a similar theme?  Your Community: Be a part of a better future!  When discussing membership with a prospect lead with your advocacy work, economic development, and community development initiatives versus leading with a list of benefits of membership.  That should be on the backend of your communications.

If you've not read the study by ACCE titled Horizon Initiative: Chambers 2025 you should and it can be found HERE.

3 Ways to Make Mobile Interactions Count

At a recent seminar I attended, the speaker, Adam Hostetter, NotchPoint Consultants, talked about how organizations can use mobile interactions to engage your members.

He started off by talking about "Micro Moments" - a term Google pegged in 2015

Your members have micro moments all the time - little things that can make a difference for your members - think of them as experiences your members have with your chambers over a period of time.

He stressed that these experiences should be consistent whether you're on a phone, iPad or computer - since our members are switching between the three 91% of the time.

He went on to say exclusivity and urgency are key in getting members to take action when marketing - think early bird pricing that ends at midnight not 30 days away.  Time kills deals - get them to take an action now!

Is your next program plugged into Amazon Echo so when your members ask when is the next (your Chamber) event, Alexa will respond?  I must admit, I hadn't thought of that one before.

Are you worth it?  Make sure you continue to deliver the goods during these micro moments.

His final three comments in this fast paced 30 minute discussion discussion, you need to:

  • Seamless experience - online and offline.
  • Bring it - deliver fast, relevant, assistive experiences.
  • Use your data - enable personalization.

His final comment worth noting, if you remember nothing else - "delight and be useful."

For more information on "Micro Moments" go to Google's webpage found HERE.

Board Relations and Leadership

I recently attended a session on the title of this blog presented by Steven Worth with Worth Consulting.

He started off by asking the question, do we have a problem?

He referenced a Stanford study that 69% of the people surveyed identified a challenge over the past 10 years mainly in: fundraising; financial stability; the executive director leaves unexpectedly; and attracting new board members.

He broke the session down into four areas and I took away the following comments or best practices in each of the areas discussed.

Governance

Remember the duties of board members:

  • Duty of Care;
  • Duty of Loyalty; and
  • Duty of Obedience.

For an entire blog post on the subject matter go HERE.  And don’t forget the fiduciary responsibility when it comes to your finances.

Board Leadership Development Needs

Boards can be representative vs strategic.  While both can be productive it’s key to get the right board members involved in your organization.

There are a number of challenges that can be counterproductive which include, a board member pushing their own agenda, not knowledgable, the naysayer, etc.

It's critical that you continue to asses your current board for skill sets and position your organization to elect new board members where you may be lacking (i.e. knowledge in finance, marketing, education, leadership).

Membership and Financial Challenges

We are membership organizations.  Stay focused on your mission!

Markets change and the board needs to stay focused on that market otherwise the board and members will become obsolete if they don’t stay in tune on their market sector.

Don’t become a social party for your members, stay focused on the mission and serve the market whichever direction it goes.

Suggestions on how to stay focused:

Through surveys, discover the facts (quantitative vs qualitative) and do some benchmarking.  Constantly re-examine your strategy (annual strategic planning session) and always be recruiting new and keep getting new members, the bell curve 25-55 is the main working age and should be represented in your membership numbers.

Confusion Over the Board's Role

Create a job description for prospective board members so they know what they are getting into and what the expectation is if selected.  For a sample job description go HERE.

Do you continue to ask your board members on how they're doing and if they understand their role on the board?

Are you promoting your board members?  Recognition is very important in what you give back to board members for their service.

Have you created a scorecard matrix that has the board self evaluate their performance and which also identifies their skill set.  This is a simple exercise that will give you the information you need to build a strong board.

In the last part of the session we discussed how finding friends or partners with other organizations, think your chamber and other entities within the community to:

  • Share resources
  • Expand your network
  • Do well by doing good
  • Develop new ways of working
  • Gain additional credibility

Final quote on leaders – they inspire others to do more than they thought they ever could do.

Something to think about!

Using Content Marketing to Recruit Members

Are you trading content for contacts?

This is what content marketing is all about.  You provide a white paper, epub, etc. but they must give you their contact info (opt in) to your reaching out in the future.

Don't forget to use referrals from current members as a way to gain additional prospects and hopefully members.

Are you using online advertising on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to reach lapsed members who may still be following you?

There are tools out there that will tag a person who has visited your website and then they can get an ad on your organization when they visit Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn on their next visit.  This is what sponsored ads are all about.

Or what about Lightbox Popups to capture more emails?  Learn more about that HERE from the folks at optinmonster.com.

I've heard many people talk about the copywriting SOS's.  Keep it:

  • Short - conversational
  • Organized - clear and compelling with a call to action
  • Skimmable - use white space, bullets or think digestible

At the end of the day, what's the offer?  That is the key for you to define and communicate using the above SOS copywriting strategy.

Never forget, it's all about the offer (call to action)!  And never forget to offer multiple ways to join.

Do you use deadlines as a tool for your prospective members to take action?  I've heard it before, time is a killer.

Test, test, test what channel works best for you and then focus on that channel to recruit and retain your small business members.

A final piece of advice from the experts in the field, you've got to get away from one message fits all.

For a great resource on one of my content marketing favorite websites go HERE.

Good luck!

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.