I’ve been watching all the news about Lance Armstrong over the past few days and I have to admit…my first instinct was apathy. I’m over it. We’ve all pretty much known that Lance has been covering up his use of performance-enhancing drugs for years, and it has cost him dearly. When it became clear he has going to try and salvage his career by coming clean (so to speak) with Oprah, I wasn’t particularly shocked. But while I am a sports JUNKIE, this blog isn’t about Olympic Cycling. It’s about sustainable membership growth for Chambers of Commerce. Fortunately, I believe there are some lessons to be learned from Lance Armstrong’s career, his fall from grace & his attempt to come back from it all. Let’s jump right in!
Even those at the top of their game can fall. In fact, they have the furthest to drop in most cases. We need to be working tirelessly to be the best we can be…to bring more value to more members more often. We have to make sure that our members are benefitting, and we need to know that they’re AWARE of it. We must continue to be leaders in our communities and we have to learn to tell our stories better. We need to work and learn and fail and try harder than ever to become even stronger than we are today.
We all make mistakes. When it happens, we need to own up to them & get back to work. Some members may drag us through the mud, but our true fans will stand by us as long as we continue to be honest with them. Take two minutes on Facebook and you’ll see people both vilifying and supporting Armstrong. The problem for Chambers is that the folks who choose to focus on the negative are often the loudest. It is incumbent upon us to diffuse these “bombs” before they blow up in our faces. That leads us to the next lesson…
People want to see behind the curtain. When things have gone badly, we have a tendency to try to put the best face on it we can. Lance lost millions in endorsement money and maybe as many fans because he was unwilling to show his humanity. This is a great time to show our members that we are humans, to allow them to see us in a vulnerable light. As membership begins to shift from Baby Boomers to Gen X and Gen Y, we need to understand that these younger members are growing up in the age of transparency. They get to see into the lives of their favorite celebrities and businesses like never before thanks to tools like Facebook, Twitter & YouTube. They want to do business with people they know, like and trust. What better way to build that than to share more from behind the scenes?
People LOVE to get behind a cause. How many people wearing LIVESTRONG bracelets have ever watched a single stage of a Tour de France? I submit that a large percentage of folks who claim to be Lance Armstrong fans are more supportive of his organization than of him. Think about your next big annual event. How much more support could you build in your community if people understood the story behind why the event was started all those years ago? Spend more time focused on the WHY (the cause) than you do on the WHAT, WHEN & WHERE.
So there you have it. The Chamber executives that will wear the yellow jersey at the end of 2013 will focus on RECRUITING, ENGAGING & RETAINING members. If you want to be among the elite, be sure to keep learning at every opportunity, embrace your mistakes and move on from them, help members get to know the people and see the activities going on behind the scenes, and help them get on board by focusing on your “WHY’s”!