From Around The Web: Blog Posts Worth Reading: September 2017

What blogs do you follow that generate ideas, interest, and innovation?  Here are a few that I enjoyed this month:

  • Lessons Learned from Hurricane Irma (via Virtual Management): This was the biggest event we’ve ever cancelled on such short notice. Along the way, I learned quite a few lessons. 
  • Is Now the Right Time to Add a Student Membership Category (via Associations Now): Getting students involved as members can leave a lasting impression after they graduate. But some association membership pros say it’s important to ask a few questions before launching or reconfiguring your student membership category.
  • 5 Ways Great Associations Become Great (via Smooth The Path): What makes an association great in the eyes of members? 
  • The Power of Group Interaction in Winning Events (via Event Manager Blog): Engagement keeps attendees coming back, right? And that adds to the pressure of needing to create more interactive sessions. So what do you do when group interaction isn’t living up to your expectations? Here are a few ways to increase engagement and interaction in your breakout sessions.
  • When Contemplating Conference Growth, Think Next Audiences Which Includes Next Gen (via Velvet Chainsaw): Instead of limiting our conference growth plans to a specific generation, let’s consider next audiences. Then we can discuss a variety of markets of any age, not just younger generations. When we address next audiences, we plan conferences for participants from four different generations, not just next gen.

What are you reading?

Want Something Awesome? We have you covered! Stay Tuned….

Well, there’s nothing like announcing a coming announcement!

Apologies for being SO cryptic here, but we are not *quite* ready for the announcement to be made, but rest assured my dear association professionals, it’s going to be amazing (at least, we tend to think so!)…

So, it’s just a short note to keep an eye out for Greenfield Services & Meagan Rockett over the next few months on social media….there is an announcement coming very soon!

5 Ways to Engage Members

Many association executives pose the question “How do I engage my members in a meaningful way?”  The following are five ways that are relatively inexpensive and not overly time-consuming to start implementing now:

 

  • Maintain a blog: Every association should have a blog that addresses key issues, provides opinions, and offers expert advice for their industry.  Your communications department likely works diligently to put together a newsletter monthly that is distributed to your membership.  But only those on the distribution list have the opportunity to read it, and the majority is likely not reading every installment.  What if you took your content created for the newsletter and repurposed it for your blog?
  • Show off the stars: Start a member of the month (or, week) program.  Advise your community about what they have done to earn the spot (through their volunteerism or research for the industry for example).  Have a spot on your website home page that showcases the member; and link it back to your blog for a full article.  Get your members involved once the program is up and running by starting an nomination process.
  • Educate them: On their time.  In many cases, the professional development programming is solely focused around a big conference.  Keeping programming for your conference is OK, but many of your members will not be able to attend.  Having regular webinars to help increase the chances of your members gaining their required credits, or just news regarding your industry, is a great way to keep them informed.

    It can also be a new potential source of revenue for the organization – making them available on demand for purchase by your community can drive revenue to your organizations bottom line.

  • Push the envelope: After inviting your community to join you online in either a public social media platform or private online community, start posting questions to get people talking.  It is a great way to get your network talking to each other, sharing ideas, opinions and articles of relevance.
  • Use video: Everyone likes watching videos, and you could incorporate this into your engagement strategy for many aspects within your organization.  Your conference delegates, exhibitors and sponsors could be on video talking about your events and why they are a wonderful way to network and educate, your Executive Director could have a monthly vlog that is only available in the members-only section of your website (or, on a private online community).

Need help with your engagement program?  From consulting on strategy, devising a plan to implementation, we can help!  For more information please contact Meagan Rockett, Director of Client Solutions at 613-288-4517, or meagan@greenfield-services.ca.

Are you ready to pursue a new market for your membership?

Several associations are looking to diversify their membership in order to survive.  When you are starting to look into whether this is a viable solution for you, consider the following Pros & Cons:

Pros:

  • It will increase your membership dues
  • Provides current members with the opportunity to learn from these professionals, and how their specific profession affects the industry in general.
  • This allows for increased communication, and education across several industries
  • Can also expand your sponsorship and exhibitor opportunities, and generate revenue from these avenues that was otherwise not planned for/tapped into in the past

Cons:

  • Your current staffing levels may not be able to handle the potential influx of new members
  • Your various departments may not be experts in these new fields, thus, communication (through newsletters, social media, and other publications/avenues) may not target this new market effectively
  • Your education strategies (through conferences, accredited courses, etc.) are likely geared towards the market you are currently focusing on, and the new markets may not see the value in participating fully, or at all.

What association executives must do is take a step back and think strategically about this before proceeding.  Here are some processes that should be in place prior to recruiting members from new markets:

  • Who: Test the waters before diving in.  There are many organizations out there that represent industries with various levels of professionals.  For example, if you are a pharmacists association, this could be pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, hospital pharmacists, community pharmacists, pharmacies, etc.  Identify one market to test your recruitment campaign with, and determine what needs to be worked on, and what was successful prior to diving in with the additional professions.
  • What: Are you currently offering them a reason to join?  Associations MUST NOT be selfish, and just look to increase their membership number, and in turn, revenue.  What kind of education are you providing?  What other resources are you making available that they would find interesting?  What kind of advocacy do you provide these professionals?  All key questions to identify in order to come up with the proper marketing plan
  • Where: Likely, this is an effort that was initiated through your head office.  Where do these new members have to go to participate?  Will you have buy-in from your local chapters/representatives to include educational components on a regular basis?
  • When: When conducting a test, think it through. Research the other organizations these potential new members could already belong to.  What does these associations renewal timeframes look like?  If they have an annual renewal that takes place every September for example, I would avoid conducting a recruitment campaign at the same time.  Likely, potential members will be less interested in how you may be a suitable alternative if they have just spent several hundred dollars in a renewal.
  • Why: I encourage you to determine WHY you are looking for these new members in alternate markets.  Does your value proposition align with what these potential members will be looking for?  It may be time to review your content, and your website to ensure that you are able to consistently provide value to this new market.
  • How: Marketing membership may prove to be difficult.  I recommend starting with a tiered research approach.
    • Start by conducting focus groups in your chosen new test market. Identify what these new members would require in order to take your recruitment efforts seriously.
    • Have a look at other industry conferences and determine if there is an opportunity to combine and cross-educate. For example, the BC Land Summit, which brings together their respective associations for one large conference every five years.  The goal of the conference to bring together professionals who are involved with land use in some form to cross-educate and network to better the respective industries in the immediate and in the future.
    • It will not happen overnight. Your recruitment marketing plan should be for long-term solutions, and the marketing should take place for a minimum of 12-18 months.  Incorporate various methods to attract different generations in this new industry, through direct mail, email (such as newsletters and downloadable resources), update your website, invite them to local events, social media and by phone to ensure that they are in fact interested in pursuing a relationship with the association.

Have you (or do you have a colleague) that has done this, and done it well?  I look forward to your thoughts and feedback!

10 Tips to Improve Your Lead Generation

Lead Generation for Associations?  Yes, you do it all the time.  To recruit members, sponsors, advertisers, exhibitors….the list goes on and on.  It’s a sales process, and you need to be prepared.  Here are 10 tips to improve your lead generation:

  1. It’s a process – not a “one and done”. When making phone calls on behalf of your association, it will likely take more than one call, or one series of calls to get someone to commit to furthering the business relationship. Your initial calls should be research focused, and its purpose should be to start the relationship building process.
  2. Have your questions ready. Prepare a list of questions that should be answered to gather a complete profile.  Understanding that it may take multiple conversations to fully understand their potential, questions should relate to interests, pain points, potential solutions offered, what partnerships can do to assist in building their business…. You should also be able to capture all of the information in your system as well, so that you can find it later.
  3. Set goals. As mentioned in the first tip, it will likely take more than one call.  With that in mind, you should create mini-goals within the calling campaign that are realistic and achievable on almost every call.  Example: On the first attempt, if you are unable to speak with the contact, you are at least able to confirm who you should be speaking with.  If you are able to speak with the contact, and they are unable to have a conversation with you at that time, you have determined that it is worthwhile to try again and have a commitment for a day/time at their convenience.
  4. Focus on the THEM. When you do connect, you need to stand out from others competing for their time, and money.  What would they/their team find interesting, etc?
  5. Be interactive. Sounding like a machine is out of the question.  Allow them the opportunity to ask questions, comment on information and offer suggestions.  It will create the trust you will need to enhance the relationship going forward.
  6. If it sounds like it should be on a brochure, leave it on the brochure. People want and need relationships, conversations with people.  They can find out much of what you represent on your website.  When they agree to speak with a representative, they want to know the personality behind the brand.
  7. Know your product, and how it connects to their goals. If you can provide examples of other success stories, it will help move the process forward.
  8. Track conversations, not number of calls. Your system should be able to track conversations, and the stages of the relationship being built.
  9. Monitor how it was said. If you are able to in-house, live monitor or record calls to ensure that not only are the calls being made, but the personality of the caller is up to the brand standard/expectations.  It’s not always what you say; it’s how it comes across on the phone.
  10. Plan your voicemail messages. Your callers will have to leave voicemails, and it is recommended that you do on each attempt that you try to reach them.  When proceeding in this manner, it is imperative that you space out your call attempts.  We also recommend leaving a date/time in the voicemail that you will try to connect with them again.  While it doesn’t work 100% percent of the time, if you have a well-crafted voicemail, you would be surprised to see how many people recall your initial message and answer the phone on the next attempt!

8 Tradeshow Lessons Learned

With all of the tips and best practices available online, it is still surprising that we need to re-hash the simplest of items to be cautious of to enhance the tradeshow experience for both exhibitors and attendees:

  1. Increase security pre-show: If your tradeshow starts at 10:00 AM, do NOT let anyone who is a registered attendee on the tradeshow floor prior to then.  Some exhibitors have their booths ready, but may be preparing for the busy day ahead (i.e. finishing their coffee, networking with other exhibitors).  Some are still putting the finishing touches on their booth.  It really amazed me to see a few attendees on the floor before the doors officially opened to blow through the aisles, dropping their business cards in prize bowls, and grabbing free stuff.  When I saw one heading to my booth, I went over to block him from grabbing our free stuff without anyone there, and he avoided me entirely.  Don’t let them in!
  2. Talk to exhibitors before grabbing free stuff: If they are talking to someone else, wait or come back.  We were wrapping up for the day, with about 20 minutes to spare before the show officially closed, and someone came to grab something for free, while we were standing there looking at her.  She literally dove in for our freebie and tried to leave without looking at us.  She was stopped, and was told, if you want our free offer, you have to talk to us first.  She proceeded to rudely have a 2 minute conversation with us, got her screen cleaner and left.  Respect the fact that it cost us money to have them produced with our logo, and shipped to us.  We want a return on the investment.
  3. If you are exhibiting, don’t sign up for prizes at other booths: Even if you have purposefully stopped by to say hello, do not drop your business card in, or fill out a ballot.  You are likely NOT the exhibitors target market, and you may win a prize that would have been better suited to an attendee.  Don’t waste our time, your time and our investment.
  4. Stay off your phone: Exhibitors that are obviously texting, answering emails, or on their personal social media sites are NOT engaging.  If my boss saw me on my phone and not standing in front of our booth with a smile on my face inviting people to chat with me, I would be reprimanded.  Big time.  It is BASIC etiquette, and should NOT be tolerated.
  5. If the show is social, we want to see you: As the social media representatives for the tradeshow, it was our job to walk the show floor, taking pictures of attendees and exhibitors alike.  We were to tweet about the experience.  How can we showcase you in the best light if you are not in the picture?  Be engaging, and welcoming!
  6. Be personal with your post-show follow up…: Please STOP sending generic emails or requests to connect via social media to everyone that showed up.  It is not putting your best foot forward, and really says that you will have a generic customer experience if they have business for you.  The attendee will go elsewhere.
  7. …BUT remember who you met: It is EXTREMELY important to remember who you met so that it can be referenced in any and all follow-up.  My colleague recently got a request to connect on LinkedIn from another exhibitor saying it was great to meet, etc.  Her response?  We didn’t meet.  Because they didn’t.  Collecting business cards is one thing, but make a note on the conversation you had, and whatever documentation needs to be sent.
  8. Manage No-Shows: Planners running a tradeshow have to manage expectations, and it is a real balancing act dealing with no shows.  There may be NO way to truly help this 100% (especially if the tradeshow is free to attend).  However, perhaps low-balling the attendance to account for the no-show factor is one way to appease your exhibitors.  If you have 550 people registered to attend, and historically have a 20% no show factor, tell exhibitors that 450 people are expected to attend.  Then, if there are more, it will please the exhibitors, not upset them.

As an exhibitor (or, an attendee), what are lessons learned that have been missed here?  What would you like to see done differently?

7 Tips on Finding & Creating Partnerships

  1. Create a Strategic Attraction Plan for your Partnerships: Start by knowing the type(s) of organizations you ideally would like to partner with.
  • What types of companies are they?
  • Where are the located?
  • What is there reach into your industry?
  • What job title/function would you like to initiate the partnership with?

Understanding what this will look like is only one step.  If you are pro-actively seeking partnerships in any way, write your “Perfect Partner” down, and keep it visible – on your desk, for example.

When researching and talking with prospective partners, have a look at the partner.  Did it match what you were thinking?  If not, decide whether you need to add/change/remove characteristics from your document.

  1. Be Clear about What YOU Want from Them: If it is a monetary figure or an alignment to expand your reach into your industry – you must be clear.

 It may be different for every prospective partner.  But once you have researched the organization in greater detail (public financial info, who they are, what they do, etc.) know exactly what you want to get from the partnership. Be realistic.

  1. Be Clear about What YOU are Willing to Offer in Return: If it is exposure through exhibit space, direct access to your members, referrals, or access to your industry expertise, be clear about what you are willing to provide in return.

 It has to be something that your prospective partner will find worthwhile, but know that you have something to offer in return, and be willing to provide it.

  1. Negotiate – But NOT Too Much: As a partner, you need to see their side of things.  However, they have to see your side as well.  A mutual respect of each other’s capabilities must be outlined and agreed upon before really being able to benefit.  Do not let your vision, mission or core values slide.

 

  1. Bullying is NOT O.K. – on either side: Alongside negotiation (which is a factor in any relationship), do not allow yourself to be bullied.  Frankly, they should not allow you to bully them either.  If a partnership is going to work, again, respect comes into play.  Only do what business feels good, that is satisfying at the end of the day.

 

  1. Make Sure it is Clear in Writing: Partnerships can take months, even years to form.  Keep track of the conversation, and finalize it in writing.

 

  1. Ensure that every aspect of the partnership has been covered not only what you will receive from them but what they will receive from you.
  2. An agreement of this nature should be signed off on by representatives of both organizations, and they are mutually responsible for maintaining a healthy relationship going forward.

 

  1. Know When to Walk Away: Go with your gut.  If they are no longer fitting in as your Perfect Partner, if they are bullying you into additional services, or are not providing you with what was agreed, get out.  Give your 30/60/90 days notice and move on.

 

Your other stakeholders (members, non-members) need to see value, and if you are spending all of your time negotiating/arguing with your partners, they are not going to get it.  There are companies out there that will understand your value, and appreciate you for it.  Go and find them instead.

3 MORE Pre-Requisites for Engaging & Successful Marketing Campaigns

Consumer and B2B buyers’ response to marketing practices have shifted significantly over the last few years, due in large part with the exponential growth of information available from the internet and the explosion of options available on the market.  The same can be said when marketing to potential members, sponsors, and other stakeholders for your association.

So as associations’, what are we doing when confronted with the mounting hurdles to getting a prospect’s attention?  How should marketing executives of associations strive to engage prospects in new relationships?  Here are three more tips:

  1. Are you TESTING?

    It’s hard enough to get your marketing material off the ground, never mind taking the time to test a few different approaches to see what works best. But our digital environment is now making it easy to test things like different subject lines, images, and calls-to-action.  NOT testing means you could be sending the least appealing promotion, negatively affecting its ROI.

  1. Are you CONSISTENT?

    If you consistently reach out to your prospective members or sponsors with helpful information, the occasional true-blue promotion will be better received than if you only reach out when you are desperate to increase your numbers. If you search “number of touches to close a sale” (in this case, membership, or sponsorship), experts post that it can take anywhere from 5 to 23 touches (such as a meeting, a call or any other type of interaction).

    We believe it is anywhere from 7-10 touches, but most people give up after four. So if your marketing is consistent, you will be in a better position to achieve your goals!

  1. Are you using MULTIPLE CHANNELS?

    9Channels are increasingly fragmented; with your website, partner organizations, social media and more, it’s time consuming to manage.  But if you get into the habit of feeding all your channels the regular promotions you so carefully prepare, you’ll multiply the number of touches and reinforce your message.  Multiple channels of distribution mean better coverage!

3 Pre-Requisites for Engaging & Successful Marketing Campaigns

Consumer and B2B buyers’ response to marketing practices have shifted significantly over the last few years, due in large part with the exponential growth of information available from the internet and the explosion of options available on the market.  The same can be said when marketing to potential members, sponsors, and other stakeholders for your association.

So as associations’, what are we doing when confronted with the mounting hurdles to getting a prospect’s attention?  How should marketing executives of associations strive to engage prospects in new relationships?

  1. Are you making it about THEM?

    How many promotions come across your desk that tout features (often without benefits), waxing eloquent about “we do this” and “we give you that”. But does it really resonate with your prospect?  Have you asked if it appeals to them?  Do you even know if they have potential to become a member or sponsor in the first place?

    Pre-Requisite #1 of engaging, successful marketing programs is that you have made it ALL about your prospect:  you know this is something they want, and your copy is all about THEM.  If you even start ONE sentence with “we” or “I”, revise your copy.

  2. Are you providing VALUE?

    Marketing supposedly offers value by extending a special offer, or information that is relevant to their professional development. That kind of value is a given.

    The REAL value that you should be thinking about here is:  are you really helping the prospect solve a key challenge they have?  Have you answered their question on what membership (or, sponsorship) will do to move the needle?  Or, as New York Times best-selling Jay Baer would ask, are you truly HELPING, not just HYPING?

  1. Is marketing aligned with the RIGHT departments?

    The marketing director is told there’s a need to increase membership, or sponsorship, so s/he comes up with an offer. The creative agency is tasked with designing and copywriting and the email is deployed to your prospective database before the rest of the team gets to see it.  Existing members or sponsors get the offer, and call the association to complain that they didn’t get the same offer when they signed up.  Does this sound familiar?

    Imagine if marketing was aligned with your other departments.  They would collaborate on the offer, select the data that should receive it, and commit to following up with prospects.  The list may end up much smaller than originally planned, but the ROI and engagement levels would make up for it.

How to Entrench Yourself in Your Sponsors Company

Have you ever reached out to the company who sponsors you for a particular opportunity, only to find out that the contact you normally deal with is no longer there?

Finding their replacement can be easy, simply by asking who has replaced that person.  Engaging the new contact can also be easy – you may be in a position where you are the only association around to offer them the value they receive for providing you with non-dues revenue.  However, if you are not the only association, or if the replacement contact at the company does not see the value the same way the previous contact did, the sales process basically starts from ground zero.

This can cause frustration, as you may have to start looking at their competitors to try and replace the income you were receiving.  Could you have avoided the situation?  The simple answer is yes, this could have been avoided.  With turnover high, nobody should maintain a relationship with a company through one contact alone.  It will not set your association up for future success.  Without stepping on toes, there are ways to entrench yourself as a valuable partner.

First, discuss it with your current contact.  In many cases, they are not the sole person involved in the decision-making process.  Ask them who else is involved.  Similarly, you may likely will not be in your position forever either – you may move to another department in the association, or switch associations entirely.  Get others from your association (your Executive Director, your Marketing & Communications contact, or whomever else you deem relevant) together and have a conference call with the sponsoring company to introduce yourselves.  Offer to conduct a short presentation to all involved at their end on the benefits of partnering with you.

If you are concerned that your contact may not freely offer this information, conduct online research before asking.  LinkedIn is great for this – you can search out a company, who works there, and in most cases look at your contacts connections.  Alternatively, some company websites will offer up this information as well.  You can then prepare to name drop who you have found (“Should I include Mr. Smith in the communication as well?”).  Even if you did not get the right person in your research, you are more likely to receive the correct name.

Why get more people involved?  You will have internal champions – if your main contact leaves, and no one else is aware of what you are able to bring to the table, you are at a higher risk of losing the funding altogether.