Volunteer Development

At a recent seminar I attended, Shari Pash led a discussion on volunteer development that I wanted to discuss on my blog.

If you have a diverse membership, it is important to have diverse volunteers!

Tap into their expertise, skill-set, influence, availability to commit, industry segment

Do you have the right people doing the right things?  Set-up an excel sheet to identify and track the different attributes above.

Opportunities for volunteers - do you have a brochure that describes the different opportunities?  You should create a profile for each opportunity:

  • Name of opportunity (i.e. workforce, GR, Women’s Group);
  • Purpose and goals of this opportunity - outcomes which are measurable; and
  • Number of volunteers needed - long term, or short term (two weeks, in person or virtual).

Job Descriptions - what goes into a good job description?

  1. Expectations;
  2. Summary of position;
  3. Term of service;
  4. Attendance requirements;
  5. Qualifications; and
  6. Relation to staff and budget to get you started.

Recruitment of volunteers - you want to be strategic, relevant, sustainable.

Understand the volunteers motivation to serve as a volunteer - is it recognition, giving back, believes in your chamber?

What’s the DNA of a great volunteer?  Next Generation Volunteer - they want to be asked,  make a difference.  Young professionals are digital, is your volunteerism analog or digital.  They process information quickly - they have been doing this their whole life.

In my opinion, one of the most critical aspects of onboarding new volunteers starts with a solid orientation - you need to formalize the orientation process whether it be in-person or a webinar.

How are you recognizing your volunteers?  It’s important to thank them in a way that works for you and will showcase your volunteers.

Good luck with your volunteer management!

Sunsetting Programs

As chamber staff, it is important to have a systematic way to review our program of work so we can remain relevant to our members.

I wrote a blog post in the past on Scared Cows and how you might "Kick Them to The Curb."  That post can be found HERE.

I recently read Strategic Integration by Gabriel Eckert & Bob Harris and they devoted an entire chapter to this subject, titled "Systematic Sunsetting."

They suggest and proved a great template to review your programs based on its relevance to the mission, member participation, revenue, etc.

They went on to talk about a systematic way to do this review.  The following is their suggested review timetable, directly from page 62 of the book, to evaluate your programs.

  • Year 1: Education
  • Year 2: Events
  • Year 3: Advocacy
  • Year 4: Other programs and services.
  • Then repeat the process starting at year 1 again.

Whatever you decide, it's important to have some system set-up and stick with that process.  You'll need to decide what works best for your organization.

We only have so many resources (staff and budget) and sometimes some of our programs should be sunsetted.

Good luck!

Strategic Integration: Move Beyond Strategic Planning

After reading the book Strategic Integration by Gabriel Eckert, FASAE, CAE and Bob Harris, CAE, I thought I’d say a few words on my thoughts of the book and their theory.

At the end of the day, this book is actually about implementing that strategic plan instead of just letting it sit on the shelf!

They start out by suggesting getting your strategic plan down to one page or in the case of the Florida Academy of Family Physicians to a business card to keep it simple, which will allow you to communicate it to your members and the community at large.

I’m a fan of less is more and if everyone knows the plan – board, staff, and members, that’s a good thing!

For a previous blog post on strategic planning go HERE.

Next they talked about ways to communicate the plan through storytelling, mantras and visuals and doing that through all your communications vehicles.  The key, keep it consistent throughout your communication vehicles!

Maybe an infographic or a different design template can be used to communicate your plan.  For a great resource on creating visuals by Canva go HERE.

Next came operational excellence, and the bottom line is, if you don’t have the staff and resources to implement the new plan you’re in trouble.

Word will get out and if it’s just another promise, ouch!  I hope you’re not in that camp.

The book then goes on to discuss:

Maintaining Focus – don’t try and do everything the first year and monitor your progress implementing the strategic plan through dashboards or other tools.  The key is to have a system that you can measure your results.

Absolute Alignment – getting the resources aligned with each priority.  When the say resources they mean, financial, staff and volunteers. It’s critical to clarify the different roles of the stakeholders.  The book has a great worksheet in the book to assign roles.

Iteration Innovation – segment your program of work, have clear roles, failure is a positive, learn, and improve/modify fast.

Systematic Sunsetting – create a system where you are evaluating your programs on a regular basis.  They suggest separating your program of work into possible three buckets and take one bucket each year (education, advocacy, events).  They have a great template in the back of the book in the resources section.

Strategy- Driven Culture – they break this down into three components: redefining success, continuous learning and celebrate success.  My take, be flexible and study your markets to remain relevant!

It’s a great read and they have many templates, in the resources section of the book, that is worth the price of admission.  So, if you want to purchase a copy from the American Society of Association Executives go HERE.

Viral Business Starts at Home

I attended a general session presentation by Johnny Earle, of Johnny Cupcakes, who by the way, doesn’t sell baking goods.  They sell T-shirts!

It was a fascinating talk and his remarks were delivered in a rapid fire way.  The following were my notes.

His overarching theme was “Everything is an experience!”

He talked about:

  • Failing - fail fast - think of it as experimenting;
  • Experimenting is how you grow;
  • Sell memories, stories and themes;
  • Social media giveaways are a way to connect;
  • Collaborate to grow - it gives other folks a chance to learn what you do; and
  • People like new experiences - what are you doing is this arena?

He went on to say, what makes you unique?  You want to stand out from all the other chambers in the neighboring towns, his insights:

  • Testimonials sell - it creates trust;
  • Events foster real relationships;
  • Good design is inviting;
  • It’s all about human to human;
  • Write notes on your business cards; and
  • Customer loyalty - you must be loyal to them.

He ended with your brand is your story!  For a past blog post on What's Your Brand go HERE.

Using Design Thinking to Solve Problems

I recently attended a session sponsored by Associations Catalyzing Entrepreneurship (ACE) on problem-solving using the design thinking method.

The session led by Garth Jordan, senior vice president, corporate strategy at the Healthcare Financial Management Association and Arianna RehakCEO and co-founder of Matchbox Virtual Media.

Many say that design thinking is a powerful process for problem-solving, and has tremendous potential for associations.

It’s human centered, learn by doing, team based approaches to maintain organizational speed and flexibility.  Have a core group of people go and ask additional staff questions to get a since of what is going on in your organization.

You need to get information from the end user, the member. Ask them what they want.  Solve their problems making them a hero in their office.

It's all about the member.  You need to get your staff to think that way.  Everything we do is helping our members grow their business.

They discussed the different stages of design thinking:

First

Understand - research, gain insight, empathy, define.  Less people x more time in understanding = lots of insights.  Find the powerful themes to be able to ask the right questions.

Second

Create - brainstorm for ideas, ideate.  Asking the right questions to the right people is key.

Third

Deliver - prototype, test.  Learn and grow from feedback.  Think fail forward.

And finally, when these different stages come together - feasibility (technology), desirability (user), viability (business), where they intersect, that is innovation!

For resources on design thinking go to:

Email Marketing Techniques that Drive Results

I attended a seminar recently on the title of this blog that was led by Jay Schwedelson, Worldata, on email marketing.

The following are my notes based on his presentation and you may be surprised by some of his suggestions which is based on recent research in the email marketing sector.

Email Marketing - how much is too much?

  • 92% who unsubscribe haven’t opened that email in a year.
  • Delivery to the inbox is the key - engagement from a previously sent email!
  • Studies say open rates go up if you’re sending at least 5x a month.
  • Don’t send emails about your keynotes or registration info.

You Must Be Relevant

  • FOMO is the key to email marketing.  Fear of missing out!
  • Offers that expire have a 62% overall respond rate for BtoC and 55% for BtoB.
  • An offer must have urgency to it!
  • Subject lines.  Go to subject line dot com.

Top Words to Use

  • Free, limited, exclusive, tomorrow, today, last chance.
  • Free is the number one word for the subject line for emails.
  • 38% open rates increase if you use the word urgent.

Quick Tips

  • Half sentence subject lines...
  • “The most valuable...” - People will open to learn what it’s about.
  • “Our keynote is...”
  • Title casing - capitalize each word in your subject line...
  • Use brackets or parentheses boost open rates by 31%
  • Inbox rate is key, not deliverability rate.  The difference is showing up in spam filters.
  • Subject lines that start with a number “5” has a 21% increase in open rates.  Think listicles.
  • Pre-headers - the words after the subject line will increase your open rates by 24%.
  • Single offer emails work.  One email, one offer.  Don’t send an email with multiple offers.
  • Use light box to get emails - it’s a pop up on your website.

He went on to talk about auto opens and auto clicks being done by companies and associations to protect their networks.  Think of it as a different version of your current spam filter.

Tools and Free Stuff

  • If you're looking for a great resource on evaluating your email "subject lines" go HERE.
  • For a great resource on when to send emails based on days and times go HERE.

Good luck with your email marketing campaigns!

Make Your “Wow” Message Repeatable!

Bill Graham, Graham Corporate Communications, offered the following comments and suggestions at a recent seminar he led at a membership and marketing conference that I attended.

He also happens to be a faculty member at the Institute for Organization Management program.

His opening statement - communications is not speaking, writing, debating, meeting - those are activities. Communication is a result - did I get an idea in your head?

Communication is not a two way street.  It’s one way!

"Wow" messages have/are:

  • New information: What’s new?
  • Emotionally connected: Who cares?
  • Actionable: What now?

Memorable messages - what are your six words that you use to make a memorable message?

Repeatable messages:

  • If they remember what you said, they may join.
  • If they repeat what you said; they are recruiting for you.

Memorable vs Repeatable - memorable is good, repeatable is better...think buy vs market for you, join/recruit.

Elements of a repeatable message:

  • Sensory - help them, see, hear, taste, touch or smell
  • Profound - memorable, desirable
  • Engaging - tease, awaken, surprise
  • Emotional - make them care
  • Data-driven - use verifiably human info
  • Story-based: testimonials, examples

How to create a story in 5 Steps

  1. Set up the high-stakes situation
  2. Know what the main character wants
  3. Make your audience care
  4. Have a life-changing “wow” moment
  5. Explain value: How does it help?

At the end of the day, are your people remembering your messages and better yet, are they repeating your message?

Good luck in creating your memorable and repeatable messages!

Managing Your Sponsorship Opportunities

I recently participated in a webinar on sponsorships hosted by ACCE and conducted by Sydney Doctor and Alana Turner of Greater Louisville, Inc.

Here are my notes from their talk in no specific order.

Centralize - think about centralizing your sponsorship activities under one person so you can provide a consistent customer experience throughout the conversation with all potential sponsors.

It’s more than an event, it’s a revenue generator and you need to think about it that way.

Less is more!  Focus on what events work best for your chamber and has a positive revenue impact on the bottom line.  Get rid of the rest.

A couple of thoughts on the process:

Do you offer a first right of refusal to those sponsors from the previous year?  If not, you must.  That’s just good business.  And you should ask that question right after the event is done when they are riding high.

Do you have an investor pool - create a list of possible companies who might want to sponsor an event?  Please know that not all investors will take that additional step to sponsor an event in addition to their normal support.  That’s ok, but let them know they always have the opportunity to do so in the future.

Do you have a brochure with a list of sponsorship opportunities with dates, times, and a description of the audience that will attend?  This packet of information needs to be digestible for any potential sponsor.  And you must share it with your members and non-members alike.

When to ask?  I’m a fan of working on a calendar year vs a fiscal year basis.  Start asking in October for the following year and this will allow you to finalize any sponsorship deals by January.

Once you’re in the new year you can always backfill at each event with possible new sponsors to meet or exceed budget.

Alignment:

Do you promote your events around themes?  Technology, Leadership, Finance, B2B just to name a few!

You can pitch sponsorship deals to companies who care about that subject matter and are thought of as thought leaders in those sectors.  That’s a win win!

How about content generation from potential sponsors?  It allows you to showcase your sponsor as an expert in the field and create content for the newsletter, magazine, website for the coming months.

They mentioned that your sponsorship fee should at least cover the cost of the event.  Registration fees should be all profit.  And remember, always load all your costs, not just the price of food/beverage and the rental of the room.  You must include staffing, marketing, etc.  It’s called program-based budgeting.

For a previous blog post on that subject matter go HERE.

And don’t forget about trade-outs for your bigger events.  Think AV costs that could run into the tens of thousands of dollars that you could trade for a sponsorship.

Final thoughts and suggestions:

Ask your potential sponsors what they are looking for from the sponsorship. Make a list.  Delivering on that promise will help you retain that sponsor for next year and the years ahead.

Don’t be afraid to customize your opportunities to get that sponsor.

Do you recap your events with pictures to showcase your event and sponsors on social media?  That’s a great way to also promote the sponsor at the same time.

At the end of the day, the sponsorship should work for both of you. Think partnership not just a transaction.

Good luck!

How to Increase Your Retention Rate

Are you communicating what your member’s value?

Once you know what your members value, communicate that throughout all your communication vehicles (website, newsletter, magazine, social media, etc.)

Go HERE for an article by Cathy Hight on the 10 reasons why members renew based on her many years in the industry.

Do any of her 10 reasons ring a bell with you?  Members renew for different reasons.  It’s not a one size fits all but the list she has set forth is a road map for your chamber.

And by the way, don’t guess what your members value, survey them. This is where your annual member assessment survey plays a role in your strategic plan.

One last thing to remember, when conducting surveys, you should always send to non-members too!

They may become members in the future and it might give you some insights on what they value if they become a member.

Target Marketing by Generations

I read a fascinating article recently that referenced a study by the Zenith agency on target marketing to generations.

And I connected with the idea that we need to stop thinking about target marketing by generations and start targeting based on what individuals want.

I bet you’ve been in those sessions on the characteristics of each generation and then the person next to you says, “that’s not me” and "I hate being labeled."

Well this study talks about basing your target marketing on income, attitudes and mindsets.

For the article by Zenith the ROI Agency go HERE.

It’s worth a read and should be factored into your annual marketing plan.

Auditing Your Social Media Strategy

What social media outlets are you using to connect with your members?

Do you have an official review process in place to make sure you’re spending your resources wisely, based on where your members are spending their time online?

Don’t guess, do your homework and get the analytics to make the right choices.

I recently came across a great article that talks about this subject matter and basically states if you’re not using Pinterest, your members might be missing out on a great opportunity to grow their business.

As mentioned in the article, most folks are spending their resources on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

For an article on the Top 7 Pinterest Categories go HERE

For an additional blog post by Hubspot on the Ultimate Marketing Guide to Pinterest go HERE.

I think it’s important to keep our eye on the trends, study what works best, and implement that strategy, based on a yearly review.

As I’ve said before, I’m a fan of less is more!  At the end of the day, go where your members are spending their time online.

For a great resource on conducting a social media audit for your organization by Hootsuite go HERE.

Storytelling: Connect and Engage

I recently attended a seminar, on the title of this blog, conducted by Carol Buckland with The Communication Center.

This blog post are based on my notes from her presentation.

She started with the six powerful words – let me tell you a story!

Telling stories affects different parts of your brain and that’s why they are remembered.

Studies suggest 90 percent audience retention using stories

An old adage but is still true today

  • Tell them what you’re going to tell them
  • Tell them
  • Tell them again

Crafting messages using key facts/statistics – or said a different way, proof points is a sound way to go when shaping your story.

The following "Story Formula" was handed out by Carol and is a great tool to use when constructing your STORIES.

  • Select - a compelling story from your personal or professional life
  • Tailor - it for your audience
  • Offer - useful content: a lesson, inspiration, etc.
  • Relate - it to the main message of your presentation
  • Illustrate - your point with unique details
  • Edit - fiercely keep it clear and concise
  • Seal - the deal with a strong takeaway

What is the purpose of your story? You must have a purpose!

You must also know your audience – their knowledge, attitudes, expectations, in order to tell a story that will connect and engage.

Expectations is key, you must deliver on this – think of the radio station we all listen to, WIIFM – what’s in it for me!

The Story - can your audience relate?  Does it reinforce your goal?

Imagine is a great word to start a story!  Fill in with details.  Talk about senses (smell, sound, etc.), sequence (start at the end) and always edit your story.

Storytelling is a performance – be engaging, be expressive, be passionate and be memorable.  Her final comment:

  • Start strong;
  • Finish strong; and
  • Connect the dots

For a resource on storytelling go HERE.

Good luck!

Communicating Your Chamber’s Value

I've written on this subject before and the following are tips from a breakout session I attended recently led by Shari Pash.

What is your messaging? What are you known for? What is your Brand?

Go HERE for a past blog post on that subject.

Are you known for advocacy, knowledge, community leader? Are you a connector?

That’s where you want to be.  Most people have come to the realization that you can’t just be a chamber that does events.  She even mentioned the following:

  • Are you a chamber who does events?; or
  • Are you an event company who has members?

I suggest you want to be in the business of advocacy and helping your members solve-problems.

What are your doing after a new member joins?  Don’t overwhelm them with everything in one email or mailing.  Do the Amazon approach.  Dribble marketing.  Think a 30, 60 and 90 day marketing plan to engage your new members.

Learn how to tell the story of your advocacy work because that’s a great reason for members to join who don’t come to your events.  That is something they will see as real value.

She spent some time on how to respond to the "I don’t have time to be a member" conversation we've all had over the years.  She offered up the following responses:

  • Tell them how you highlight members on your website - maybe a job announcement, highlight a good story of the member;
  • List things that you’ve done on their behalf (things you’ve done for the entire membership);
  • Perks while you work (talk about the things you’re doing for them while they are running their business - attending council meetings, research, etc.).

Start communicating your value!

The First 90 Days as CEO

Take it in increments!

There have been many articles on the subject and I’m a fan of those who suggest segmenting your course of action.

The first week, the first month, the first quarter might be something that works for you.

The key is to have a strategy.  Internal and external (staff vs members), starting with your board.

Think of it as a listening tour.  Almost everything I’ve read starts with a listening tour of your members, in their environment, not your office.  Your members will appreciate it!

Once you’ve completed your tour, now it’s time to show your leadership, in sync of course with your board, and set a course for the chamber. Remember, it’s their chamber not yours.

And don’t forget to possibly engage a professional coach whose been in your shoes.  They could be tremendously helpful to you!

Don’t rely on the previous CEO.  You are the new CEO and there probably was a reason for the transition to new leadership (retirement, new direction, etc.).

Don’t get stuck in the old way of doing things.  You have a window of opportunity to chart a new course for the organization.  Make the best of it by getting the right tools in your toolbox, and a professional coach might just be the best thing, at least for your first year.

For more information on professional coaches go HERE.

Good luck!

Membership Growth

I recently attended a seminar where Shari Pash, a membership and sales strategist, outlined what you should be focusing on in your membership development.

What is your member’s “Why?”  Do you track that information for each of your members?

She challenged each attendee to have a strong data management system so you can track member and prospective member interactions.

You must record and document member touches and interactions.

Think building relationships.  That statement has been said many times on this blog in the past and go HERE for a post titled Never a Transaction: A Relationship.

She went on to talk about prospect levels (A’s, B’s and C’s) and how you might treat them in your recruitment pipeline.  It’s important to spend your time wisely in recruiting new members.

You need to give a definition to each so you can track progress and again spend your time wisely to grow membership.

Focus on the A’s and B’s, your retention levels will go up.  The C’s are the ones that will drop their membership and drive your retention rate down.

Don’t spend too much time chasing the C’s.

Define your goals.  How many new members per month do you strive for?  How much revenue?  I hope you have goals for both and that you’re tracking both.

Transaction vs Relational - selling a renewal or sponsorship vs how can we continue to be part of your strategy of growth.  There is a big difference.  Again, build relationships.

Intentional Recruitment - move from chasing and convincing to motivating. Tell a story, use testimonials, maybe in your email signature line.

Overcoming the objection of no time, I don’t attend any events.

Respond with ways for a member to get exposure without attending an event:

  • Share how many hits they’ve gotten on your directory;
  • Participate in our social media - like, share with our 10,000 followers.

She recapped with a review of moving away from chasing a prospect to motivating your prospects to join.

Build your pipeline, keep and active sheet that you can track your calls, communications, etc.  Do you have a 30, 60, 90 day forecast?

For more information on Shari and her program of work go HERE.

Final thought, you must have a strategy and data to be successful!