Forgetfulness. Memory lapses. Short—and long-term—memory loss. Not a pretty picture. The onset of dementia? Alzheimer’s? Not quite.
Recently, I was reading a blog post written by our good friend and frequent contributor, Peter Weddle. He was writing about the idea of "Employment Dementia". What he calls a "pandemic" among employers where they tend to "forget" what their employees have accomplished on their behalf. Well, that article got me thinking about a current—and frightening— trend among clients or members of many of today’s top service and product providers, including businesses, associations, hospitals, and schools. Members and clients are forgetting what their providers have accomplished on their behalf. Their memory lapse is causing them to fail to recognize the many contributions their providers or associations have made to their success. In short, their “forgetfulness” threatens your efforts to increase your association’s value or increase your association’s profile. It’s time to take action.
Who’s to Blame?
The truth is, we can hardly blame members who’ve become estranged from their association. Just like other service providers can not blame their clients for forgetting about them. Every day, members are bombarded with new technologies, market fluctuations, aggressive competition, and demanding government regulations. These constant, accelerating forces jeopardize their business operations and can often put their financial stability at risk. For them, getting the most from their association isn’t simply a matter of getting the best bang for their buck: It’s a matter of survival.
Simply remembering all the great things you’ve done in the past serves your members no purpose: The rapidly changing landscape of American business forces them to consider only what you can do for them today, tomorrow and in the future. What will you be able to offer? How well will you be able to perform? These are the questions your members are asking. You need to ask yourself how will you respond, remain relevant—and thrive—in such a challenging new environment.
Today’s career counselors encourage workers to keep their careers vibrant by sharpening their occupational expertise and expanding and strengthening their network of professional contacts and relationships. Your efforts to build membership and increase your association’s profile need to incorporate similar “muscling up” strategies. Your association needs to remain relevant to your members and to prospective members. You need to constantly perform—so that they don’t “forget” your association.
Boxwood: Helping You “Work Strong”
Powering up the strength and effectiveness of your association is driven by your ability to “work strong.” Boxwood enables you to work strong by working strong itself—through its constant innovation, releasing new products, enhancing existing ones, and constantly reaching out to its clients through informative webinars, blogging and social media, reminding you of how much Boxwood has to offer and how to take advantage of it.
As the number one provider of online career centers for associations, Boxwood keeps you informed, relevant and working strong. Our suite of Career Center Services includes a state-of-the-art job board program that allows you to generate significant non-dues revenue, attract new members, and offer members numerous resume services. Our Career Development Program helps your members negotiate salaries and promotions, and offers them the tools and advice to successfully balance life and work. Boxwood’s Career Fair System, Career Center Networks, MarketPlace, eCareer Mentor and Career Learning Center are additional tools that will help your members enhance and expand their careers. Good for your members, but your association benefits as well by building membership appreciation and loyalty. So, remember, staying relevant and delivering value starts by reminding your members what you offer and how well you provide your career services.
Even in times of less change, in times of less pressure on your members, it’s not your members’ job to “remember” your association. It’s yours. It’s your responsibility to make sure they don’t have the opportunity to forget you. Tap into the tools available to make your online career center informative, interactive, relevant and cutting-edge. Tap into Boxwood.
As a manager at any level, in any type of work environment—business, association, school, hospital—you’re keenly aware of managing down, paying careful attention to the people who report to you. But if you want to achieve the best possible results for you—by helping others recognize your value within your organization—your boss, and your organization, then you need to stretch yourself. You need to go above and beyond your assigned tasks. You need to manage up.
Managing or Manipulating?
“Managing up is the process of consciously working with your boss to obtain the best possible results. . . . This is not political maneuvering or kissing up. Rather, it is a deliberate effort to bring understanding and cooperation to a relationship between individuals who often have different perspectives,” says Dr. Thomas Zuber and Dr. Erika James of Emory University.
It is not, as skeptics may claim, another term for manipulating your boss or being a suck-up. It’s about creating win-win situations where everyone and the project succeeds. Managing up is as important as managing down. And from a strictly self-serving perspective, your career is almost sure to sputter if you don’t learn how to manage your boss successfully.
A Smooth Ride to the Top
Building a solid, honest, and mutually beneficial relationship with your boss makes sense for several reasons. Because your boss enjoys a broader view of your organization’s goals and objectives, meeting his or her needs will result in positive gains for the business. Your boss is also the individual who determines your day-to-day routine: You’ll be assigned more engaging and challenging work and receive more responsibility when your boss sees your commitment to her needs and those of the organization.
If you’re someone who likes to please everyone all the time, you may find it difficult to say no to others in your organization because you want to respond equally to the needs of your coworkers. But consider this: You’re not letting anyone down by saying no—by responding to your boss’s needs and priorities, you’re serving the organization in the best manner possible. You can’t please everyone—so please your boss first.
Tips on Managing Up
1- Know your boss’ priorities. Know what your boss’s priorities are—and don’t be afraid to ask. Knowing what’s important to your boss is critical to meeting their needs.
2- Communicate. Is your boss a reader, or do they prefer to get information verbally? Make it easy for your ideas to be heard by communicating to your boss in the manner he or she prefers.
3- Be honest. Don’t cover up failures or problems. Build trust and dependability by adhering to your commitments, schedules, and budgets.
4- Provide solutions. Every project runs into problems. When you advise your boss about a problem, offer solutions. Help your boss face problems with conviction and confidence.
5- Don’t surprise your boss. Let her know what is happening on all projects on a regular basis—the good news and the bad—so that she can inform her supervisors about the status of projects.
6- Know your boss’s perspective. Get to know his strengths and weaknesses, his goals, and the pressures and constraints he’s facing.
7- Request feedback. Learn to accept it.
8- Don’t go over your boss’s head. Or behind his back. You can permanently destroy your relationship—and find yourself training for a new career—if you don’t go to your boss first. Of course, if your boss is doing something illegal, or something that can harm your organization, it may be necessary to inform his supervisors.
Using Common Sense
Many experts see a danger to managing up. They believe it’s not your job to manage your boss. Most good leaders like a good challenge, but they don’t like to think that their subordinates are managing them.
For you, knowing that subtle difference is the key to successfully managing up: Do the job, but do it the way your boss wants you to. Let the quality of your work thrust you upward, not your ability to manipulate. Leave the sophomoric corporate hi-jinks to the amateurs.
So there you have. The bottom line to tactfully managing up—establishing the needs of your boss and the organization as primary—is that you’ll be happier and more fulfilled if you’re communicating well with your boss and handling your job in a manner that makes her job easier. You’ll gain the respect and confidence of your boss and stand out as a valuable member of your team.
Do you have what it takes to start managing up?
Recently, I was reading excerpts of a new book about unleashing your dog's greatest potential and unlocking your own potential as a true leader. In her book, "The Walk In Sync™ Method. 6 Secrets to Unleashing Your Dog’s Greatest Potential and Your Own", author Alecia Evans talks about becoming an "authentic leader" and how "consistency is key" and why "clarity provides opportunities for others." It struck me how so many of the points Alecia was making about dog training transfer beautifully to the art and science of corporate leadership.
Oh, no! Not another leadership book!
I know what you're thinking, walk into any bookstore or log onto amazon.com and there are no shortage of "How-to" books on leadership. I know. I've read most of them. That's why when I read about 6 simple steps (2 of which really are just for the dog) to becoming an authentic leader and unleashing your true potential in a dog-training book, they came across as a real breath of fresh air.
4 Secrets to Unleashing Your Greatest Potential
Based in the mountains of Aspen, CO, Ms. Evans has been training dogs all around the country for more than 22 years. After working with thousands of dogs and their owners, she came to realize her training was more about the human's behavior and attitudes and less about the dog's. That's why 4 of her "6 Secrets" are focused so much on people—how they act, their attitudes and their confidence—and how they really ring true as solid points for any good leader to embrace.
Secret #1: Consistency is Key
Think of your association, as a dog pack for a moment. Like a dog pack there is hierarchy with a clear leader in place to follow. And the leader needs to lead consistently, in all types of situations.
In the dog world, Alecia points out "a mother dog focuses on nipping in the bud those behaviors that would endanger the pup’s life in the wild. These behaviors include lack of focus and distraction, laziness or slowing down the rest of the pack, knowing when it’s play time and when it’s work time. Unlike humans, a dog mother is not interested or vested emotionally in whether or not her pups like her; instead she is concentrating her total attention on ensuring her pup’s survival to the best of her abilities."
Alecia goes on to paint a rich picture of consistency with regards to authentic leadership. "Authentic Leadership is about being the embodiment of a consistent, clear leader who masters the art of redirecting energy to allow it to flow in the easiest manner. At times it is calm and quiet. At times it may need to momentarily roar like a lion to correct a specific behavior and then it immediately returns back to calmness and clarity. Authentic Leadership is never personal; it is always present and clear in the moment. It does not carry anger, disappointment, or grudges with it into the future. It does what it needs to and then returns to the peace of moment. It is not about dominating dogs or puppies, or throwing anger at them or making them feel bad about themselves; it only corrects and reshapes the behavior. Authentic Leadership carries no judgment within it." Now go back and re-read this substituting dogs and puppies with people and colleagues. Sounds like a great leader, right?
Secret # 2: Say What You Mean and Mean What You Say
Whether you're an executive director or are responsible for running a small department, read what follows with an eye towards how you interact with your staff. "If I request my dog to sit, I will not move until I get a sit from my dog. If I say sit and then I allow my dog to get away with not sitting, I have given my dog a completely mixed message. He instinctively knows that I am not honoring my word. Therefore, he will be less likely to listen to me or will test me many times before he listens." Alecia goes on to describe how clarity in leadership makes it much easier for those you are leading to be able to follow through on what you're asking of them. "Clarity of knowing what you want is essential to transferring it to your dog. If you are calm and clear and know what you want, it becomes very easy for your dog to give you what you desire. Your clarity brings clearness to every situation and to all communications. The same is true for all situations in your life. Once you are clear about what you want and ask for it, and you are committed to doing whatever it takes to allow what you want to occur, it does. However, if you are allowing limiting beliefs, unchecked old habits or patterns, and expectations to interfere and obscure your clarity underneath it all then you have some work to do on clearing up those inner limitations."
Secret # 3: Healthy Boundaries
This one should be a no-brainer, but, again, read what follows keeping in mind how strong (or weak) your boundaries are within your association's workplace. "Healthy boundaries allow a pack to function as a team where everyone knows their place, knows the rules, and abides by them. If they do not abide by them, the pack will correct this rather quickly. This is what allows the pack to function as a team. How well they respect boundaries is how well they will thrive. This lesson holds equally true with people. If we don’t hold a clear boundary, the other person will generally violate it. It is up to you to say what you mean, mean what you say, and not allow that line to be crossed. I have often found that healthy boundaries assist me in staying true to myself." Alecia says, "Healthy boundaries alleviate trauma and drama." I couldn't agree more.
Secret # 4: Be an Authentic Leader (In her book, Alecia lists this as Secret #5 out of 6. But I felt 2 of the secrets—4&6—were too dog-centric, so I allowed myself some editorial creativity.)
"Your dog knows one of two things: either you’re in charge or your dog is in charge. That’s simply part of pack mentality. Someone has to be the leader and someone has to be the follower." This is where true confidence in one's leadership ability really comes into play. Ms. Evans writes "You as a leader need the confidence to say, “Okay, let’s go and we’re going in this direction,” and then lead your dog in that direction. If you do this consistently, your dog is going to start building trust in you as a leader because you are clear about the direction you are moving in, you protect and keep him/her safe, and it’s a fun experience." Confidence. Either you have it or you don't. Your staff will sense it clearly and react accordingly.
So, there you have it. Learning to become a better, more authentic leader, by understanding how better to interact with our four-legged friends. I hope you found the correlation as clear and as interesting as I did. Please leave a comment below and let's get a discussion going. I'd love to hear from you.
Associations by their very nature are living, breathing, organic entities. As such they are always growing, changing, contracting, expanding. But who is responsible for the direction, the vision and the culture of your association? Is it the executive director? The board? Is it the members themselves? Arguably it's the sum of all those constituents. And, in a perfect world, with perfect communication, no hidden agendas, no silos, that might be the ideal. Allow me to posit a potentially radical idea; It's up to you.
In his second edition of Thinkertoys, author Michael Michalko presents an amazing array of though-provoking stories and exercises to help you develop creative-thinking techniques. Techniques to help you look at the situations and challenges that may arise within your association and address them with a fresh, new approach.
One of the stories got me thinking about challenging the status quo. It occurred to me that so many times in business we do things within our workdays in a very specific way. And we do so simply because that's the way it's always been done and for no other apparent reason.
Michael illustrates this point with an interesting experiment. It goes like this:
Imagine a cage containing five monkeys. Inside the cage is a banana hanging on a string with a set of stairs under it so the monkeys can get to the banana. Now, as soon as one of the monkeys begins climbing the stairs to get to the banana, all the other monkeys get sprayed with ice-cold water. After a while another monkey tries to get the banana and, again, as soon as he gets started on the stairs, all the other monkeys get sprayed with ice-cold water. Pretty soon, whenever a monkey tries to go for the banana, all the other monkeys will try to stop him.
Now, stop the cold water spraying altogether. Remove one monkey from the cage and replace him with a new monkey who knows nothing about the cold water deterrent. To the new monkey's surprise, whenever he goes for the banana, he's attacked by the other monkeys and eventually learns not to try to get the banana anymore.
Continue removing one of the original cold water monkeys and replacing him with a new monkey. Before long you'll have 5 monkeys in a cage, none of whom have ever been sprayed with ice-cold water, but all of who are terrified of trying to get the banana.
Why? Because for all 5 new monkeys, it's simply the way it's always been around here.
Now please, before you start posting comments about people not being monkeys and how dare I compare a cage full of monkeys to how a professional association functions, just stop and think for a moment. How many things do you do every day—from answering the phone, to creating the next PowerPoint deck to developing the next member acquisition initiative—do you do the same way you were shown? The same way it's been done for years? That's what Mr. Michalko's book is all about. Finding new solutions to old problems. Developing your innate creativity and creative problem solving skills to help make you a more valuable asset to your association and help change it for the better. If enough people within your organization started looking at their daily tasks and duties in this new way, you can rest assured the association itself would probably become a more valuable asset to it's members, becoming more vibrant, relevant and valuable to them.
So, quit monkeying around waiting for your association to do things differently.
The culture, vision and direction an association is heading turns out to be everyone's responsibility.
And it starts with you.
Ahh... the meeting was a success. Time to sit back and relax for a while. A very short while if you're the person accountable for the success of next year's meeting. It's not clear who first uttered the idiom "God is in the details", but whoever it was must have been responsible for a big annual meeting at some point.
When it comes down to sheer number of logistics and important details, your association's big annual meeting probably feels like it's right up there with launching the Space Shuttle or producing the Oscars. Except that the success of your meeting is more important to you than both those examples. Combined.
So whether you're doing the actual planning or are the person upon whose shoulders the ultimate responsibility rests, here is a list of 4 helpful hints designed to help you "keep calm and carry on".
1- So, where are we going?
Some associations choose the same destination year in and year out. Others like to "spread the wealth" as it were, and hold their annual meetings in various cities to support their members' local economies. Still other associations prefer a mix of more pleasure than business and look for resort destinations for their annual get together. If your association is the "stay at home" variety and use the same venue year after year, you have a huge chunk of your planning taken care of. If your association is of the "new year=new location" or "where's this year's hottest golf and spa resort?" then exploring and selecting your destination is first and foremost in your planning agenda and can become quite a chore.
You could begin your search by contacting dozens of Convention and Visitors Bureaus (CVB) in the cities you're interested in. Or, you might want to check out empowermint.com. A great resource that will search through dozens of CVBs for you based upon your meeting criteria. They will even take care of submitting your RFPs for you. A huge timesaving service, and best of all, it's free!
2- Always wanted to be a rock star? Now's your chance.
When rock and roll stars go on tour, they have a marketing machine behind them generating tour t-shirts, posters, hoodies, promotional materials, et al. The one thing all those items have in common is the tour name, dates and a cool logo. Establishing an overarching theme for your next meeting is like coming up with a great rock tour name. It's a great way to unify all your efforts during your annual meeting. Having your marketing department or a designer develop a logo with the title of the theme, the meeting dates and the location gives you "key art" to use online, in print, on promotional giveaways, signage and more. It really helps elevate the perception of your association among its members as being professional and buttoned-up. If a theme can be developed that encompasses some of the personality of the association, the meeting's goals and can also play off the flavor or tone of the location, you've got a sure-fire winner. You're a rock star.
3- It's not your father's annual meeting.
To say meeting and conference technology has change a lot in 25 years would be an understatement, but hey, I said it. The point is, the technology that makes the presentations so engaging and seamless today can be harnessed and put to use helping you arrange, schedule, track and produce everything as well. If your dad had a leather-bound Franklin/Covey day planner, you now have an arsenal of digital apps that can help keep you on-task, on-time and on-budget.
Some of the best apps we've seen are the Opus Domini which besides having best-in-class Daily and Weekly tasks and milestones, also allows you to set up an entire Event/Metting planner dedicated to your annual conference.
Another great app for conferences in general is the Here On Biz app. While not a schedule or planner like Opus Domini, it allows you to track attendees, who has checked in, who hasn't. You can even chat, plan a get together and more.
An great online resource is Eventbrite. They have an complete conference invitation, registration and attendee management solution. With a varying fee of no more than $9.99 per registrant, it's certainly worth checking out for your next big meeting.
4-Customer Satisfaction Survey
You have the best focus group ever assembled for finding out how to make next year's annual meeting even better; this year's attendees! Do not let the meeting end without letting everyone know they need to fill out a report card to see what they really thought of the meeting. What was great? What wasn't? What could be better next year? What was the biggest piece of information they're taking away with them? It's an incredible opportunity to not only let your association's members know you appreciate them taking the time and spending the money to be there, but that you're truly listening to them. Trying to make the association even better, more relevant for them in the future.
It would be best to have this report card on hand and distributed before the final curtain. Have the members drop it off in an easy-to-find location near the check out area. Otherwise you can send out a Survey Monkey questionnaire at a later date. With the latter, you risk not getting responses, a slightly depressed enthusiasm perhaps. While it's still better than not getting feedback at all, gathering it the last morning is by far your best bet for capturing honest and useful feedback.
Of course an entire industry exists to help you plan and stage the perfect annual meeting for your association. And, if resources permit, you might consider hiring an outside consulting firm to help get the job done. If the weight of planning and hosting the all-important annual meeting has fallen squarely on your shoulders, and yours alone, not to worry. Stay clam and carry a killer smartphone. You'll do fine.
You're about to take the stage to kick off your association's annual meeting. Your pulse is racing. Adrenaline pumping. You look at into a sea of faces knowing for the next 10, 15 or 20 minutes it's your job to hold them rapt and in awe.
You take a sip from your bottled water, swallow hard and walk on stage...
Whether you're a seasoned CEO who has given dozens of presentations in front of packed auditoriums or a relative neophyte to public speaking, this moment can be intimidating, exhilarating or a combination of both.
Writing and delivering a great presentation is no small feat. Writing and delivering one that garners a standing ovation is right up there with climbing Mt. Everest. Sans oxygen.
Fret not, loyal reader, for I am about to impart unto you 8 tried and true guidelines for delivering captivating, motivating and memorable presentations. Note taking is encouraged.
1- Understand your audience
It's not enough to simply know the nameless faces standing before you are your association's members. You need to understand what brought them there. What it cost them in hard cash and time sacrificed from family and work. What are they hoping to learn? What are they nervous about? Excited about? Do they have concerns that need addressing? Fears that need quelling? Understanding your audience on the deepest level possible will allow you to speak to them—connect with them—on the deepest level possible. There is no association without them. Make sure they feel you understand and believe that.
2- Be human
Your association has gathered before you to learn something. To be taught something. Before you can teach them you need to reach them. Connect with them on a simple, basic human level. Let them know you are one of them. Be entertaining. Be personable. Tell them about your cat or dog. Make a personal connection. Keep it real and jargon-free. Unless you are an accomplished stand-up comedian, stay away from canned jokes. If you bomb, you fail. Game over.
3- Be super-human
Now, take tip 2 and crank it up to 11 and tear off the knob. You need to be as energized and passionate as possible without coming off as staged or manic. The more genuine excitement and energy you can put forth, the more excited and engaged your audience will be. Conversely, go out and be sedate, monotone, and stand behind a podium and you're apt to hear a lot of snoring and see a lot of yawns. Hit the espresso bar if need be. You need to be yourself, but be a supercharged version for the duration of your presentation.
4- Be mobile
Well, don't just stand there! If at all possible do not use a podium during your presentation. Scan the audience and find 4-6 faces scattered across the room and stroll around the stage speaking directly to those folks. This simple trick will keep you moving around the stage in a natural fashion and help the audience feel you're connecting with them.
5- Dead air
On the radio "dead air" is a serious no-no. On stage during a presentation, taking a pause gives the audience time to absorb what it is you've been telling them. A "pregnant pause" can also lend an air of anticipation and build drama. When Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone, he came out on stage to thunderous applause, took a sip of bottled water, cleared his throat and then remained silent for 12 full seconds. He had the audience on the edges of their seats before he ever uttered a single word. Give yourself and your audience time to pause and absorb.
6- Bullets are for guns
Much has been written about the pros and cons of PowerPoint so I won't go into it much except to say this: Stop with all the bullets! People react so much stronger to images than text. Can you put up an image of a soring eagle and simply speak your points about excellence, growth and success? How about an old junkyard car followed by a sleek new Bentley if you want to speak to important transformations? The point is (pun intended) we live in such a hyper-stimulated, visual world. Bullet points are boring. Lose them.
7- What goes up...
Make sure to plan for, and incorporate, a range of dynamics during your presentation. You can't expect to start building your audience's excitement from the start and keep pushing them higher and higher, whipping them into a frothy mob clamoring "More! We must have more!" Besides being highly improbable, it doesn't allow for the natural ups and downs of an engaging journey. Every great movie, book, even popular music uses dynamics to hook the audience and keep them engaged from start to finish.
8- All the world is a stage. Do not skip rehearsal.
Shakespeare was right. All the world is a stage, but when you're literally up on one, in front of your association's members make sure you understand you are about to perform. You are about to entertain and inform and capture hearts and minds, build good will, achieve important goals and more. All great performers know the key to a great performance starts with great rehearsals. A good friend used to tell me "Practice doesn't make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect." Plan to put a huge chunk of time into preparing for your presentation. How much time? Try 30-40 hours if you're going to give your biggest presentation of the year. 10 hours to plan and write it. 10-20 hours to produce the slides, art, graphs, etc. Then another 10 actually giving the presentation to your trusted advisers, your pets, the mirror, whomever. Just be sure at the end you can give the entire presentation without referencing any slide (technology has a way of failing at exactly the worst times) with all the pauses, dynamics and animation you plan on using. Perfect practice makes perfect.
Follow these 8 rules for your next big presentation and you'll have your audience in the palm of your hand. For even more information on becoming a world-class presenter, take a look at this wonderful Slideshare presentation "What would Steve do?"
Now get out there and break a leg!
Last week I wrote about learning to put the power of big data to work for your association's growth and revenue. I also spoke highly of Katie Delahaye Paine's new book about using online tools for understanding customers, social media, engagement, and key relationships. If you haven't bought "Measure What Matters" yet, I'd suggest doing so now. I'm sure you will find it a valuable guide to getting the most from all the data you have at your fingertips every day.
The point of all this measurement is, of course, to help your association achieve it's goals. Goals for membership growth for the year. Revenue for the quarter. Attendance at conferences. Downloads of eLearning materials. The list can go on and on. And once you understand what goal(s) you're looking to measure against it's time to answer these 10 questions to help you measure just the data that matter to achieving said goal(s). Ready? Let's get started...
1: What exactly are your goals?
Time to get specific here. If a goal is to increase membership, you need to drill down to how, from where, at what cost, over what period and so on. An eye-opening follow up or Part B to this first question might be "What if we fail?". Make sure this is all captured and written down in black and white so all stakeholders know what the end game is and what's at stake. Do not be vague.
2: Who are you talking to?
"Everyone" is not an answer. Ever. Are you talking to long time members? New members? Recent college grads? Former members? Members delinquent with dues? Men? Women? Again, write this down for each goal so everyone involved is on the same page. All this preparation makes rolling out any marketing or business communications much more efficient, effective and relevant.
3: What is a day in their life like?
Whoa! What? They're our members. They're our potential members. Isn't that enough? No, not nearly enough. And it won't cut it. Not in today's always-connected world where your target audience is also a target audience of myriad other organizations and brands all vying for their attention 24/7. The only way to get through to the people you're talking to (Question 2) is to understand what is important to them. What is their day like? What are they passionate about? Where do they congregate on the social media landscape? What do they love? What are they afraid of? Once you know your audience this intimately, only then can you speak to them in a way that will breakthrough, capture their attention and resonate. How can you know the answers to Question 3? Simply ask your audience. They will probably be very receptive and it will let them know you're thinking about them in ways most marketers (and many associations) probably don't.
4: What will motivate them to take action?
As an association you already know you need to develop a trusting, caring relationship with members if you want to remain a vibrant, relevant resource in their lives. So how will you solve a pain-point in their lives? How will you help them sleep at night? (Question 3) How will your offer make their lives just a little better and burnish the trusting relationship you've established?
5: What do you want to tell them?
In nearly all communications with nearly all your constituents you'll want to reinforce your core values and what differentiates your association. However, depending on the reason for the communication, the media being used, urgency, etc. it's best practice to identify your key messages and position them in the most impactful, easily digested way. Especially if you're asking your audience to take some clear action. Get to the point. Respect their time and intelligence at all times.
6: Who else are they listening to?
With today's always-connected lifestyle certainly no decision of any import is made in a vacuum. That's why it's key to know what websites, offline media, blogs, and groups your audience is also involved with. If they're reading, watching, listening, to other influencers you might benefit from joining them.
7: What will you do with this information?
Will it wind up in a PowerPoint deck to the board? Will it guide your next membership drive or help develop the agenda for the annual meeting? Depending on what the end use is determines how you need the data collected, sliced, diced and sorted.
8: Who's else is involved?
It's times like these when those infamous "silos" that plague many associations can be a real hindrance and detrimental to your success. Chances are there are at least two or more departments involved and you need to understand what parts they will play (if any) and when and how they will share in the information gathered. Gather the team early and get all stakeholders involved, and kept informed, every step of the way.
9: What other data do we already have?
Your association is probably collecting vast amounts of data every day. Before starting any new marketing or communication initiative, take a good look at what data you already have on hand to help guide your efforts and maximize resources.
10: How will we reach our audience?
How do your current members prefer to be communicated with? What about prospective members? Employers? Email? Blog? Newsletter? Traditional direct mail? Mobile? This is an integral part of the overall plan for success so be thoughtful and be creative.
So, there are the 10 questions. Hopefully, along with last weeks' post, they will be a helpful guideline to follow when starting out any new initiative that will generate a lot of information and data. Capture it all, measure it wisely and put it to use to benefit your association's growth and success. Remember the old adage "If you fail to plan, you're planning to fail."
Isn't technology wonderful?
If your knee-jerk reaction to that question was a resounding "No!" (with or without expletives), this is one blog post you'll really want to read.
When it comes to associations and their relationships with technology in general, there seems to be a clear love/hate thing going on. I've heard people in different associations—from CEOs to Marketing Managers—praise technology for its power and efficacy and in the next breath damn it for its unwieldiness and burdensome complexities. Really?
What I believe is going on here may be a simple case of data overload.
It was only a few years ago when talk of the business benefits of "big data" was limited to the boardrooms of giant corporations like P&G or GM. Gathering and capturing such vast amounts of consumer behavior information was simply too expensive and too overwhelming for a small non-profit or even a large association. Then along came the Internet and everything changed.
It been only during the past decade or so that technology, software and the Internet have coalesced and the ability for enterprises of any size to capture and measure virtual oceans of data based on their customer's behaviors and actions was born.
Here comes Social Media. Better learn to swim. Fast.
As Katie Delahaye Paine points out in her extraordinary book "Measure What Matters", it took the telephone 89 years to achieve the level of household penetration that Facebook achieved in just 5. Today consumers, customers—and your association's members—are all sharing, posting, talking, chatting, complaining and praising on myriad social media outlets and platforms. Platforms that provide hard, quantifiable data that can let an association know where their members are online, what they're doing there and how often they're doing it. If you care to track what a competitive association might be doing and/or potential new members or even lapsed members, well the amount of data can quickly become so overwhelming as to be onerous if not downright useless.
Measure, don't count.
I think it's fair to assume your association has an accounting department. Let them do the counting. If it's your job to enhance member engagement, build or retain membership or increase the relevancy and raise the profile of your association, what you need to do is measure. Not count. Paine describes the difference this way, "Counting just adds things up and gets a total. Measurement takes those totals and analyzes what they mean, and uses that meaning to improve business practices." Easy, right? Not unless you know how to measure what matters to your association's vision, goals and bottom line.
Our members are what matter.
Wrong. OK, perhaps not completely wrong. But what you should really be focusing on is not simply an ever-growing list of new members, (though there's certainly nothing wrong with that) but focus instead on your association's relationship with your members and prospective members.
"We talk about the quality of products and service. What about the quality of our relationships, and the quality of our communications, and the quality of our promises to each other?" —Max De Pree
Use the measurements you get from social media to learn more about who your members really are. What they are looking for from an association membership. What are their needs, desires and pain points? You'l gather these critical insights through consistently measuring what communications generate the most feedback, positive or negative. Which tweets get the most clicks and retweets. Which blog posts generate the most comments and repostings.
Engagement is a two-way street.
The true beauty and power of today's social media landscape lies in its ability to enable true one-to-one communications and dialog. Don't simply sit back and wait for your members to do all the work. Respond to comments. Develop relationships. Follow up on direct messages and controversial blog comments. Ask your association's membership how they think your doing. Don't think you're opening up a proverbial can of worms. They're telling each other how they think you're doing all the time whether you're participating or not.
Sounds like it's just more work.
This is a common misconception or myth that Ms. Paine dispels early on in her book. "In the overall scheme of things, measurement seems to many of us just one more thing in a long list of high-priority items. Too often it gets dropped to the bottom of the list because it seems like too much wok." The reality says Paine is "once a measurement system is in place, it actually makes everything else much easier. Data at your fingertips helps you to better direct the resources you have, ensuring they're having maximum impact... Gut feelings can always be second-guessed, but data is much harder to argue with."
10 questions every association professional must be able to answer.
A well-planned and well-executed measurement strategy begins with tough questions and will yield answers rich with membership building and engaging opportunities.
In my next post I will list the ten most important, and very specific, questions you'll need to answer about your association before embarking on a data-driven engagement strategy. In the meantime I'm including a link to Amazon.com where you can order your own copy of "Measure What Matters."
Tweet. Friend. Like. Connect. Post. Comment. Share.
We all do it. As a matter of fact, 1 out of every 7 people on Earth are now on Facebook. More than 131 million people have LinkedIn accounts. Twitter counts upwards of 500 million total users with more than 200 million considered to be "very active users." Google+ boasts 343 million users. Throw in YouTube, Pinterest, Yelp, Viddy and Stumbleupon and you're looking at another 967 million people.
So, can social media increase revenues for your association? Can it drive and enhance member value? Can social media actually help keep your association relevant?
Yes. Yes. And a very emphatic, yes!
Many associations embraced social media early on and already benefit from the opportunities made possible through the one-on-one connections and relationships this new media can provide.
Some associations have jumped on the proverbial bandwagon only recently. Others, for one reason or another, have yet to take the plunge into these strange new waters. If your association falls into one of the last two categories, the good news is, it's never too late to get started. The bad news? You'd better hurry. The longer your association waits, the further you fall behind the curve and run the risk of seeming out-of-step, or worse, being labeled a Ludite.
Where should I start?
There are literally hundreds of social media platforms out there today. With myriad functions, attractions and audiences. Some are useful for business. Some are skewed towards consumers. For associations, however, the simplest and one of the most powerful social networks to start with, is Twitter. So let's just start there and take a look at how associations are using Twitter to develop and promote their brand, interact with and support their members, attract new members and in some cases, help monetize their offerings.
A key benefit of using Twitter is the ability to monitor what your membership, and even your detractors, are saying about your association. I've heard CEOs say "Social media will only open us up to negative posts and rumors, so that's why we don't do it." Guess what? Those negative posts and rumors will happen whether you participate or not. With an active presence on social media, you at least have the chance to answer your detractors. Even turn them into advocates if you can address their concerns fully enough. The point is, without knowing, well, you don't know.
Twitter is considered a "micro-blogging" platform. Limited to just 140 characters, you can post short updates to a bunch of people. Send short messages to a specific person publicly. Or send a short message to someone privately. Used properly, Twitter is a powerful relationship-building and relationship maintenance tool. Think of using Twitter the same way you would meet customers, potential customers and leads at a networking or tradeshow event. Short, to-the-point, updates and interactions.
So, what should I tweet about?
First you need to know who your'e tweeting to. Or, more specifically, who you want to be tweeting to (aka your "followers"). You should already know the demographics and psychographics of your membership, so think about what will interest them. Perhaps many of them send their dues in faithfully, but have no idea what the physical association HQs looks like. Consider tweeting a photo about something happening around the office. Pictures of the folks working behind the scenes keeping the association humming.
Tweet about the events you're association is hosting and others that might be of interest for your members to attend.
I'm going to go out on a limb here and assume your association has a blog. You should make tweeting every new blog post standard operating procedure. If you run across a blog post from some other source, tweet that as well. It's all about providing interesting, relevant and engaging content to your followers.
Sounds like a lot of work.
Building your Twitter network from scratch isn't a walk in the park. It does take time and commitment. As a matter of fact, if you don't have the time or can't commit to tweeting on a regular basis, most experts will tell you don't start. It's better not to tweet than to tweet half-heartedly and with no clear focus.
There are automated tools like HootSuite (www.hootsuite.com) and SproutSocial (www.sproutsocial.com) that can not only help automate your tweets so you can schedule your tweeting days in advance, they also provide deep analytics to help you understand your followers better and engage with them more deeply.
Help getting started.
Here is a great resource from our friends a Hubsot. It's an extremely comprehensive yet easy-to-use guide to help you master the essentials of Twitter to better engage your association members and, ultimately, increase revenue.
The term is either worn as a badge of honor or reviled as nonsense. There have even been more than a few clinical studies to determine if the desire and struggle for the perfect work-life balance has spawned a type of depression worthy of its very own syndrome designation.
Fact is, many—if not most—associations today have a significant number of women who are working 40+ hours a week at their place of business while raising children and running the family when not in the office. So, taking a look at what drives these "do-it-all" moms is important since they make up a huge percentage of the typical association workforce.
First let me say two things. If a mom would really rather be at home, she is probably better off at home. If a mom really wants to be at work, work is probably where she should be. Of course these aren't absolute, either/or scenarios. Who hasn't been at work and wished to be home and visa-versa?
However, according to a recent report from the University of Washington, by researcher Katrina Leupp, working mothers who buy into the "Super Mom" myth can actually put themselves at risk for depression. While Ms. Leupp's study of 1,600 women showed those who worked were less likely to become depressed than those women who stayed at home, it also showed those moms who did strive to be a domestic goddess at home and a high achiever at work were far more likely to suffer frustration and depression. Never feeling truly fulfilled in either role.
Sacrifice, says the report, is the key to work-life nirvana. Commit to make some small sacrifices at work, at home, or both. Manage expectations and attitudes to help avoid emotional slumps. "What the study is really pointing to is that if a woman goes into her job and thinks 'I should be able to have it all,' and then gets there and realizes 'No this is really, really hard,' then she's more likely to feel a sense of disappointment with herself," said Leupp. "She might feel like it's a personal failure instead of, 'It's hard because it's hard.'"
Leupp goes on to say, “Women are sold a story that they can do it all, but most workplaces are still designed for employees without child-care responsibilities. In reality, juggling home and work lives requires some sacrifice, such as cutting back on work hours and getting husbands to help more.
“You can happily combine child rearing and a career, if you’re willing to let some things slide,” she added. “Employment is still ultimately good for women’s health. But for better mental health, working mothers should accept that they can’t do it all.”
Balance shouldn't feel guilty.
Some women feel "balance" means they must take from one side to give to the other leading to feelings of guilt. In reality, a happy family can energize a woman at work and a productive workplace can energize a woman at home. It's more about synergy than balance. The roles shouldn't be looked at as two distinct activities, played by alter egos, but as one, holistic persona. "It's who I am."
The new Marketing Manager, Meg is crushing it. Really making a name for herself with her new member retention program. VP Vicki seems to really have it all together. Those new job board functionalities she's initiated are catching the eye of the executive director. How does she do it all? This is the type of thinking that can lead to vanity, bitterness or both, and ultimately, depression. Certainly identify with your peers and always strive to make yourself valuable to the association, but don't compare. It's a zero-sum game you don't want to play.
Be kind to yourself and leave the superheros to the comic books where they belong.