COVID Culture Change: Are You Ready?

I attended a webinar led by Jamie Notter, with Propel, on the subject of culture in our organizations.  He’s been doing this a long time and it is not the first I’ve heard him speak.

The following post are my notes from his presentation and some direct quotes from his PPT.

The culture at our organizations has changed over the past year.  He started by making two statements or observations:

 

  • WHADITW – in 2019, we have always done it that way; and
  • WHNDITW – in 2020, we have never done it this way.

 

In 2021, he discussed culture, culture patterns and culture plays.

 

Culture – “the collection of words, actions, thoughts, and stuff that clarifies and reinforces what is truly valued in an organization.”

 

Culture patterns – he discussed the things that are happening underneath in an organization not just on top and put some statistics to his comments.

 

He focused on three of eight of these patterns he’s identified, Innovation, Agility, and Collaboration.

 

Innovation – people embrace innovation but it’s unrealized.  He talked about concepts vs practices.  We make effort but don’t follow through.  His final comment on this was just do it!

 

Agility – he used the terms forward action vs effective action and stated we’re not good at stop doing things.  Think sacred cows and go HERE for a blog post I did on that subject.

 

Collaboration – we value it but we’re not building the processes and systems to bring them to fruition.  In this case, it’s individual vs groups.  This is where silos come in to play and have a negative effect on moving forward.

 

He went on to discuss the advantage of having a culture playbook.  What does he mean by that?  He mentioned six but focused on three: process; structure/design; and technology.  If you don’t have these three in place you won’t make much progress.

 

He identified three areas that have changed since COVID.

 

Increase Passive Transparency - when you’re in the office you get a sense of who does what, who’s meeting and who’s doing what.  In this remote work life, you need to find ways to show that by what we’re missing by not being in the office.

 

Share more from the top – we moved to bi-weekly all staff meetings to hear from the senior leadership team.  We did not have that when we were in-person.

 

Handle your difficult conversations – it’s important to not let these “prickly” issue fester when working remotely.

 

He ended with a suggestion - “if you want to change your culture you need to measure your successes.”  Be intentional about your culture and measure it.

 

Measure results!

Member Recruitment: How to Grow Recurring Revenue, Reach New Markets, and Advance Your Mission

The following blog post are my notes from a webinar sponsored by Marketing General and presented by their SVP Tony Rossell, on his new book and title of this blog Member Recruitment: How to Grow Recurring Revenue, Reach New Markets, and Advance Your Mission. Get your copy HERE.

He started out by talking about the power of membership and the difference you can make in your industry.  He went on to ask the question – “What’s Your Strategy?”

 

The discussion pivoted to what marketing channels are you using to recruit members?  He mentioned, in my opinion, the new buzz word in the space, “Omnichannel.”  What does that mean?  In a nutshell, it means meeting your prospective members where they are, at a time they want to engage, and on a platform they choose.

 

You already are doing this with your website, mail, email, digital advertising, conferences, texting and possibly video.  In my opinion, the key is messaging and I subscribe to the COPE process (create once publish everywhere) keep the message the same.

 

Speaking of messaging, it’s one of his five pillars of a membership plan.  The five are:

 

Define your target market – he mentioned the data pyramid, some may call it the sales funnel, it’s makes you focus on who to target as a priority (i.e., lapsed members, prospects who attended an event of yours, a referral and then your list).

 

Special offers – this is your call to action.  Many do a 15 month for 12 membership campaign.  He talked about how membership is a push product.  We need to go to them.  They don’t show up at your chamber door to buy like the retail sector.

 

Messaging – what is your value proposition?  For a past blog post on that subject go HERE.  Find out what your members want from you.  This can be done with your annual member survey.

 

Channels – what platforms are you using to get your message out?  Website, mail, email, digital advertising or texts.

 

Resilience – you need to track and analyze your results and adjust accordingly.  

 

He went on to talk about the two biggest reasons why membership growth is a challenge:

 

  • Paralysis of analysis; and
  • No budget or staff resources are put in place for the plan.

 

Just get started!  Get a test out there.  Go to your lapsed members first.  Some may have dropped because they had to watch their budgets last year.

 

Membership builds loyalty, trust and repeat customers, that’s why corporate America are calling their customers members and charging them to do it (think COSTCO).

 

I did a blog post in the past “Membership is Everybody’s Business.”  For that post go HERE.

 

At the end of the day, we are membership organizations, and as he said, you can’t renew your way to growth.  You need new members to grow your chambers and have a healthy organization.  And as far as budgets to fund your recruitment campaign, make sure you know the LTV or lifetime value of your members.

 

Another key aspect to your marketing is to test your message and frequency of responses to maximize your recruitment dollars.

 

For more resources from Marketing General, Inc., including their annual benchmarking survey go HERE.

Onboarding to Activation: Hook New Members Early, Reel Them in for a Lifetime

What a great discussion from the speakers, as well as the participants, who all deal in membership activities for their organizations.  The following comments are my notes from the session. 

Onboarding – while I’m sure you’re already doing many of these, I thought I’d put a list of what they suggested from a trade or professional association perspective.

Do’s

  • Send them your new member kit via mail or email.
  • Welcome call from the CEO, staff member of volunteer (one of your membership ambassadors).
  • Ask why they’re joining in your application process or you could do a quick survey after they’ve joined to get to their motivation.
  • When onboarding, focus on everything you have to offer that responds to the what, where and how they want to engage with you.
  • Do a new member orientation every month for the new members.
  • At the end of the day, make messages/communications personal (make a connection).
  • Personal introductions to key staff members, outside your CEO, within your organization (i.e., policy experts, etc.). 

Don’ts

  • Feel as if you have to do everything in-person when onboarding your new members.
  • Communicate with all new members as if they’re all the same (i.e., segment them) and focus on their individual needs.

Activation – finding the right hook

  • What is the number one member benefit they are interested in?
  • Survey them at their six-month anniversary to deepen your ties.  It’s important to do this before the renewal cycle.
  • They talked about serving the different staff levels of your members, many may want different things and you need to find out what that is (i.e., advocacy for CEO and education/networking for others)?

Onboarding to Activation

  • During the Pandemic they talked about moving everything to digital communications, quarterly webinars, etc.
  • It’s important to keep your members engaged during these times and sending mail was not the best option, at least at this time.
  • Try some more informal meetings throughout the year for different segments of your membership (i.e., networking for those individuals).
  • Moving forward they feel as if events will be a combination of hybrid options of in-person and online programs.

A main theme that came out for me is don’t give them too much all at once (think drinking water from a firehose).  You should have a three-month, six-month or nine-month campaign where you are communicating with them on their membership benefits (drinking water through a garden hose).  Obviously, they’ll be getting all your regular communications throughout the year on other membership activities and programs.

It’s important to be consistent in your onboarding process communications.  A first Monday of the month communication for your three, six or nine-month strategy should be tight, focused and based on features of membership.

Another thought was don’t ask for them to volunteer in these communications or don’t do a direct marketing campaign to sell them something else.  Give them time to engage with the free features of membership.  BTW, money is tight right now!

Some even have a rule of don’t sell them anything for the first six-months of their membership (i.e. a solicitation for a PAC contribution or Foundation donation if you have either).

Having a CMS or marketing tool that automates this process is key. For a resource on auto marketing from Hubspot go HERE.

5 Skills for Turning Ideas Into Innovation

This post is based on my notes of a recent webinar I attended on the title of this blog with presenter Greg Roth, IOM, The Idea Enthusiast.

The conversation was rich with ideas shared amongst chamber and association executives from around the country.

Here’s my takeaway!


He started with two stories.

 

Medical association story - they wanted a new product, they did feasibility studies, etc. – six months later they went to the board with their results and the board said no thanks!

 

Lego story – their version of the design sprint concept, one week process, 150 sprints a year!  Bottom line:

  • New ideas don’t take forever to come to fruition;
  • New ideas need tangible discussion; and
  • New ideas rarely start out ready.

Best ways to come up with new ideas, be an idea-driven organization?

 

Here are the 5 skills for a culture of innovation.

  1. Discover – get smart, understand the problem, gain insight.  Asking questions is a key component of this process.
  2. Diverge – create choices and options to see what could be.  Good ideas come from many ideas.
  3. Debate – use the group to discuss the pros and cons of the ideas.  It’s about the idea not about people, no opinions.  In other words, getting different perspectives from different viewpoints.  Think open ended questions not yes or no questions.  He gave two ways to open the discussion - What I like! What’s missing?
  4. Develop – the group builds a prototype of the best idea so others get the idea.
  5. Demo – now it’s time to present your idea to “outsiders.”  User experience vs design can be two very different things – sidewalk meme.

Innovation questions – Why?  How?  What if?


Crazy eight exercise!  Fold a piece of paper three times (go HERE for his example).  You now have eight panels to write in eight different ideas on solving a problem or creating a new program.  Great tool for your board members when doing your next annual strategic plan.


For more information on Greg Roth go HERE.

Looking Forward 2021: Key Takeaways from Association Environment Scan

The following comments are my notes, based on a recent webinar I attended, presented by Association Laboratory, Inc. speakers Dean West, Miranda Barrett, and Rob Miller.

They started out with the statement: Historical views that drove your strategy ended with Covid-19.


Business assumptions must be reviewed, adapted, and shaped to the new world you live in.

 

5 Forces Driving the Future

  1. Covid-19 Hangover – the long road to recovery.  What’s the impact on your members, your staff and your office space?
  2. Reimagining of Space – cellular to centralized.  Working from home for everything vs going to the coffee shop, the office, lunch counter, etc., has changed how we do business.  Some of this change will be with us forever.
  3. Economic Disruption – transitions in the new world.  Will organizations take risks like they have in the past in these uncertain times.  Pricing and delivery come to play here.  Also, on the bright side, the transitions have driven innovation within our organizations.
  4. Workforce Realignment – maintaining and recruiting a qualified workforce.  The past year has us thinking differently on how we can use remote workers to do our program of work with today’s technology.
  5. Technological Interconnectedness – the Internet of Everything!  Technology has eliminated boundaries.

What is the future?

 

Disruption creates opportunities that you may have not of thought of before.  Now is the time to drop those sacred cows!  For a previous blog post on that subject go HERE.  Get rid of that legacy baggage!

 

They talked about how competition will become savage.  I take that as you need to focus on what you do well and don’t try to be all things for all people.  Think Hedgehog Theory.  For a blog post on that topic go HERE.

 

Then they focused on the idea that we need to be flexible and adapt to our members needs to be successful.  Those organizations that can adapt will thrive.  Those that don’t will have a hard time moving forward and recovering to the good times!

 

You have a window of opportunity to build a new organization.  Eliminate what you don’t need,  redo your strategic plan.

 

Virtual events won’t replace in-person, but they also won’t go away.  They’ll just be different than what they are today.  It's just another tool in the toolbox, that’s how you should think about virtual events.  The key is how to price it.

 

Good luck!

Designing Strategy for Sustainability

The following blog post are my notes from a recent webinar I attended sponsored by Institute for Organization Management with Dr. Steve Swafford and Dr. Jill McCrory of Leadership Outfitters.

The session was focused on designing a strategy for sustainability for yourself, staff, leadership/volunteers and organization.

They started out by asking the question, what is your chamber’s greatest strength?  The sample of responses from participants:


  • Storytelling
  • Mission minded
  • Advocacy
  • Relationships
  • Communication
  • Community builder


Then they turned and led a discussion on focusing on strengths.

 

Yourself – pay attention to yourself because the team is paying attention to you.

 

Staff – identify your staff’s strengths through Clifton or other aptitude tests, do some team assessment and get the right people in the right seats.

 

Leadership/Volunteers – what are the leaders best at?  What are their aspirations?

 

Organization – do you have a clear vision and mission?  Where are you going, why?  Do you have clear achievable goals?  How will you get there?

 

They then talked about the SOAR Framework, a twist on the SWOT analysis, that most folks are familiar with, and how you should look at your staff leadership and organization through this SOAR lens as a tool to maximize performance in the areas mentioned above.

 

Strengths – what do you do well?  What are you excellent at?

 

Opportunities – what are the opportunities here?  Even those not in your control.

 

Aspirations – what do you aspire to become or do?

 

Results – what are the measurable results and outcomes?

 

To me, the SOAR Framework is very much like the Hedgehog Theory in the book Good to Great – which asks the following three questions:


  1. What do you have passion for?
  2. What are you the best at or can you be the best at?
  3. Where do you make money?


Where those three intersect, that is the business you should be in.


They also talked about strategic leadership and the three components they feel make up that process – strategic thinking, strategic acting, strategic influencing.  What possibilities can you see?  Maximize your strengths.

 

They pivoted to address the question, what’s coming down the track – change catalysts?

 

They have identified four big areas that organizations are dealing with - you don’t want to get hit by the train!  The key is to be proactive before you see the trains light.  You need to anticipate what’s on the horizon for your organization in these areas.

  1. Virtual and tech
  2. Social and cultural
  3. Legislative and regulatory
  4. Financial and economics

I did a recent blog post on Foresight that addresses this concept.  Go HERE for that post!


For more resources on strategy for chambers and associations from Steve and Jill go HERE.

Ten Purposeful Provocations for Association Boards in 2021

I recently attended a webinar on the subject of this blog post by Executive Advisor, ForesightFirst, Jeff De Cagna.

Jeff is always thought provoking in his presentations and his insights are worth discussion as we navigate the new order of our organizations in these unprecedented times.

He segmented his presentation into three areas:

Where are we at this moment?

  • Turbulent Twenties (T20s)
  • No new normal, we have to adapt to the new way of doing business.  The pandemic has changed the way we do business and we must change our thinking moving forward, as we serve our members.
  • Uncertainty, volatility and risk is the new “discontinuous next.”
  • Finding a balance between the short-term and long-term for our organizations, think the next quarter vs the next decade.

Ten Provocations for Boards

1.  Embrace voluntary service – it is a high privilege to serve on a board, it’s a choice to serve the long-term stewardship of an organization;

2.  Capacity over comfort – continue to look at building capacity in our organizations versus thinking about just being comfortable.  The future will have uncomfortable times for boards and the decisions they will need to make;

3.  Discard orthodox beliefs – everything we think about is grounded in history and that has changed.  We have to base the future on the now and not the past.  Don’t let orthodoxy capture our thinking going forward;

4.  End inequities – build diversity in your boards, move to picking key stakeholders who may or may not be part of your membership (an orthodoxy is that all board members must be members of the organization);

5.  Pursue stewardship with intention – leaving systems in better shape than what they inherited;

6.  Focus on governing – ensure the organization knows what it is trying to accomplish.  Focus on outcomes;

7.  Stand up for the future – ask different questions with an eye towards the future (i.e., again think decades not the next quarter).

8.  Step back from strategy – stay out of the weeds and bring in younger stake-holders;

9.  Reject ideological division – reject the divisions on our boards and in our communities and focus on what is good overall for our organizations; and

10. Sacrifice for their successors – long-term shared interest for the members of the organization for when board members are long gone.

What are we going to do differently this year?

  • Don’t wait to act on the new way of thinking in these turbulent times on your boards and organizations.
  • Reinvent the work of your boards.  What can we do differently?  Your boards need to ask the question, where are we going, not where are we or where we’ve been?
  • Build a high-performance board to thrive in the turbulent T20s.

He ended his presentation with his favorite quote from Barbara Jordan – “For all of its uncertainty, we cannot flee the future.

For resources on Jeff and his work go HERE.