As the old saying goes, if you keep doing what you’ve been doing, you’re going to keep getting what you’ve been getting. The problem is, that’s just not true anymore. Today, if you keep doing the same old things you’ve been doing year after year after year, you’re going to start getting less and less in return. In fact, you’ve probably already seen it happening when it comes to recruiting. People aren’t joining Chambers and Associations for the same reasons they used to join. Long gone are the days of Baby Boomers signing up simply because it was “the right thing to do”.
So, while we all want and need to bring in new members, especially as 10,000 Boomers retire every single day, we’re probably not having as much success recruiting as we once did. It’s time to look for some new, innovative ideas…different methods for recruitment…new places to find these great young Gen X and Gen Y prospects we’ve heard so much about. Are you ready to roll up your sleeves and get to work? Then let’s dig in!
- Focus on Engagement! It’s not rocket surgery. We all know full well that it’s far less expensive to keep the members we already have than it is to recruit new members to replace those who don’t see the value our organizations deliver. But did you realize it’s ALSO far less DIFFICULT to keep those existing members? It’s true! They may not see the value today, but they saw it when they joined. Shame on us if we haven’t helped keep that value front and center for them during their entire membership, but they SAW it! By keeping our focus on ENGAGEMENT as opposed to recruitment and retention, we keep our friends close and we have a better chance of hearing about issues when they pop up. Encourage dialogue and inclusion every chance you get and your members will continue to find you valuable.
- Initiate a referral program. Why is it that nobody enjoys the process of buying a new car? We all love to HAVE a new car, but none of us really enjoys going to the dealership and haggling and fighting and scratching and clawing to get the deal we want. Why is that? I can tell you! It’s because the car dealership has a very exact set off rules and procedures in place…a selling system…and if we don’t have our own system in place, we automatically revert to theirs. How much easier would it be if we walked in with the invoice of the car we wanted in our hands, knew EXACTLY what our trade was worth, and told the salesperson that THESE were the terms of doing a deal with us. They could take it or leave it, but that’s the best they were going to get out of us. Think it can’t work? It’s the ONLY way I ever buy a car and I assure you it works EVERY TIME! So, if having a formal process in place will help us, do we have one set up to get great referral leads from our members? It’s a rhetorical question of course, because we know the answer. If you’re among the 95% of Chambers and Associations out there without a real referral program, I would STRONGLY recommend you pick up Bob Burg’s book Endless Referrals and get one set up as fast as you can!
- Formalize a HIT LIST. We learn something new every time we do a membership campaign. While working with the Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce last year, Rene Hipple, Senior VP of Membership came up with a GREAT idea that we’ve ripped off and duplicated with every organization since. She brainstormed with her staff and they came up with a list of about 150 companies that weren’t members of the Chamber yet, but that certainly SHOULD be based upon staff size, volume of business, etc. With that list in hand, Rene and her team were able to effectively target individual business-owners for membership. From the campaign outlook, we asked the volunteers (Board Members all the way down) to identify those targeted businesses with which they had a STRONG relationship to the decision-maker. We had them rate those relationships on a scale from 1-10 and we then assigned each of those targets to the person with the best possible connection. In this way, we were able to find people who each prospective member knew, liked and TRUSTED enough to send them out to make the “ask”. We’ve expanded the idea to bring these lists into the Board room, the staff meetings and every other place we can to make sure we’re using the networked connections that already exist to ensure that the best possible person is conducting the recruiting call or at least “setting the table” for the membership team.
- Create videos for individual industry sectors. Here’s one we picked up in working with the Jefferson Chamber of Commerce in Metairie, Louisiana. The Chamber used its data to discover that, while the shipping industry was HUGE in their region, only one shipping company was a member of the organization. I went to Barry Boudreaux, CEO of the company and asked him what one aspect of the Chamber’s body of work would most appeal to his industry. Without pause, he mentioned that the Chamber was the organization fighting hardest to close the “skills gap”, and that if he could find more skilled workers he could double his business immediately. That was all I needed to hear. I asked him if he’d be willing to let the communications folks from the Chamber put him on video saying exactly that. The video they recorded was then sent via email to the decision-makers at each of the largest shipping companies in the region…people who would CERTAINLY know Barry and respect his opinion. I think you know what happened next!
- Do something unexpected! Aaron Nelson, President & CEO of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce posted to Facebook this morning after some flooding in the area that:
“Chamber staff and I spent today going door to door visiting businesses in the flooded areas. Was great to connect and see how our local merchants were doing. Many took on water and spent last night and this morning cleaning up. Most in good spirits and almost all back open today.”
He followed that up by posting several messages throughout the day about the needs of specific businesses. Some needed dehumidifiers, wet/dry-vacs and the like. Others just wanted to know what they could do to help. Visting both members and non-members alike, the Chamber of Commerce made a difference today, simply by getting out of the office and finding out what their community was in need of. Aaron reports several prior members they stopped to talk with were impressed by the outreach and were suddenly interested in the Chamber again.
- Open up the discussion. So many times we see Chambers and Associations want to close off their communications to only their own members, and while we understand that those organizations want to keep the value high by making every bit of content “members-only”, there’s a good deal to be said about letting people see behind the curtain. Remember the velvet rope principal we’ve talked about in earlier posts. Everyone wants to get in line to see what’s going on inside the new nightclub with the big bouncer standing outside the door…the velvet ropes keeping everyone outside…the music blaring through the open door. But what if we removed the line, the rope, the bouncer and the music? If nobody knows there’s anything exciting going on inside, they walk right on past. Don’t be afraid to turn the music up a little bit and let those non-members experience just a little bit of what’s going on INSIDE. They’ll line up around the block to get in just to find out what all the excitement is about.
- Hold your Board accountable. Virtually every Chamber and Association we’ve ever worked with had SOME sort of requirement in place for their Board of Directors to bring in at least one new member per year. We’ve seen some organizations require as many as three, but we’ve NEVER found an organization that actually holds people accountable to those numbers. If you’re going to ask your Board to carry some of the responsibility of recruiting new members, you really need to hold their feet to the fire and keep track of who’s pulling their weight…and who isn’t! There should be a minute set aside in each Board meeting to recognize those Board Members who have achieved their recruiting goal for the year. Focus on the positives and keep it fun, but make sure everyone knows the rules and plays by them.
WHEW! That’s a longer post than we normally write and I’m EXHAUSTED! I’m going to get to work on the new Membership180 referral program right now, and I encourage YOU to find just one item from the list above that you can take immediate action on for YOUR organization. Remember, if you keep doing what you’ve been doing you’re going to get less and less in return. If you want something different, you have to DO something different! Until next week…