The Key to Great Association Marketing: Tell Me a Story

The Key to Great Association Marketing: Tell Me a Story

In creating any kind of association marketing or association communications plan, you will want to tap into your most valuable asset — member excitement.  How do you do that? Member stories and testimonials will capture that excitement and help you demonstrate your association’s value in a way that no list of member benefits, no matter how long or skillfully articulated, ever can.

The best membership organizations — those that are growing and meeting member needs — understand this. Here are a few ways to get started.

 #1 – Collect some member stories.

In the best organizations, you won’t need to dig too deep to uncover great stories from members about how joining the association has changed their life, career or business, engendered new friendships or provided new insights. These members are powerful ambassadors crediting membership as critical to their success. Members trust their peers more than they trust just about anything else. In today’s trust economy, a good story and recommendation will go a long way.

If you hear your members telling these stories, be sure to commit them to writing. Keep collecting them — and get more. Ask members to share what the association means to them, how it has made tangible improvements to their businesses and careers. Be sure to get specific. Stories are powerful, and the best will resonate with other members and prospects.

If you’re not sure where to start, ask a dozen members these questions:

  • How has the association specifically contributed to your professional development, to building your business, to your success, to your life?
  • Can you share an anecdote that would help us share your excitement for XYZ organization?
  • What is one thing you have gained by being a member of XYZ?

Member stories will capture your association’s value in a way that no list of member benefits ever can.

 #2 – Dig deeper

Be sure to personally call each member who submits a reply, both to thank them for taking the time and to dig a bit deeper. What else can you learn from this member’s experience?

#3  – Listen to the responses

Take time to study and review these responses. How can your group use this member’s experience to create a similar positive outcome for other members? How does what this member tells you connect and compare to the benefits you communicate in your marketing? Are there changes you need to make? While not a replacement for the data you can gain from a member survey, personal member stories can help you uncover the impact of your programs in a deeper way.

 # 4 – Keep asking.

Once you have several stories collected (5-6 would be ideal to start), keep the ball rolling by making this process a regular, scheduled activity. Your association is evolving and changing, and your stories will change too. As you add or update programs, hold another event, engage in advocacy efforts, issue a new report — you are increasing the potential ways you are adding value, helping your members and growing member return on investment. Tap into that by asking questions, requesting testimonials, getting event evaluations and collecting anecdotes so that it is a part of the natural flow of association activities and all staff understand that this is important.

# 5 – Shout your stories from the rooftops!

Make a point of sharing member stories across varied media. Include the content on your website, use excerpts in your member marketing collateral and capture them on video and audio. Include a few in each issue of your newsletter, in your annual report and on social media. Whenever possible, include photos with names and company affiliations to show real people achieving real results through your association’s work.

Ask members to share what your group means to them, how it has made tangible improvements to their lives and businesses.

6 – Post them around your office

Member stories and testimonials are great reminders for your staff about why they do what they do. Post some stories around your office for all to see – staff and visitors alike.

Please share your ideas on this topic.

What ideas do you have to share about great association marketing? Please share them. Thank you.

 

About the Author: Anne Doherty Johnson is marketing strategist with expertise in growing engagement, revenues and visibility for member based organizations.  She has also counseled corporations and individuals on how to maximize memberships in pursuit of their goals. 

  • To find out how ADJ Association Management & Marketing can assist your group or company, please send me a message or personalized connection request mentioning this article.
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#AssociationMarketing     #AssociationMembership
#AssociationCommunications     #AssociationGrowth   #AssociationStories

 

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Posted in Association management, Marketing collateral, Marketing strategy, Member engagement, Member experience, Member satisfaction, Membership communications, Tips and Tricks | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

How to Grow Your Association Sponsorships, Part One

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Your corporate and institutional sponsors play a vital role in supporting your association’s mission through both the funding they provide and the implicit endorsement that comes with supporting your activities.  After all, they have put their name and brand beside yours — positioning themselves publicly alongside you and your mission. Are you doing everything you can to reward that support and to create win-win relationships that will stand the test of time?

Association sponsorship is big business.  By some estimates, sponsorship spending on associations and professional societies reached some $590 M in 2015, and continues to grow. There is a lot of money being spent, so how does your association capture its fair share and continue to do so year over year?

Today’s corporate sponsors understand the role they play, are savvier than ever and have high expectations.  They are looking for real value, value often missing from the cookie cutter gold, silver and bronze sponsorship levels still offered by many groups.  While those are outdated, they have one notion right – that like metal, sponsorships need to be shaped and forged.

Read the rest of the article on LinkedIn.

 

About the Author:

Anne Doherty Johnson is the founder of ADJ Association Management & Marketing, a company that helps member based organizations and professional service firms grow their clientele and revenues. The firm specializes in the technology, financial services and health care industries.

Posted in Association management, Getting results, Marketing strategy, Sponsorships, Tips and Tricks | Leave a comment

Delivering a Superior Event Experience

Are you looking for ideas on how to deliver a superior event experience to your audience? A big part of that experience comes from how you position and market your event.

Here are some event marketing tactics to set you on the path to creating memorable and successful programs. They would work whether your event is new or existing, and equally well for conferences, conventions, educational sessions, sales meetings or just about any gathering.

Think total experience.

Your attendee’s total event experience begins before your event and lasts (if memorable) long after it.  Think how you can improve your event at each step along the way – before, during and after.  Think about all aspects of your event and your five senses –sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch – so that you can communicate as much about the sensory experience they will have as possible. For instance, are your materials visually engaging? Are you tapping into local color and the local environment?

Think about all aspects of your event and your five senses –sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch.

Put yourself in your attendee’s shoes when reviewing your marketing collateral and web content.  Better yet, have someone unfamiliar with your event take a look at your materials to provide fresh perspective.  Are you anticipating and addressing their questions?   Think about including a paragraph for first time attendees – what do they need to know?  Do all your marketing efforts – print, email, and social media – contain the same messaging? Do you speak to the various needs and concerns of younger attendees or other special groups? Are you taking full advantage of social media to start creating online the kind of experience you hope to deliver in person?

Be a better sleuth.

When you’re looking to deliver the best event possible, you need to play detective.  If your goal is to grow event attendance, get better market intelligence by surveying those who don’t attend your events, as well as those who do. Knowing why your attendees come is important, but so too is finding out why others did not.  What would get them there?  Craft a good survey that asks the right questions so you can learn more about prospective attendees and their pain points. Better data driven can help you create better – and better attended – events.

Establish credibility (and claim credit) as the event host.

I’ve been to a number of events where this was a lost opportunity instead of a slam dunk.  Poor signage and incomplete introductions can leave some of your attendees unaware or unclear about how your event ties into the broader work and mission of your group.

A successful event allows you the chance to showcase your organization and its brand and to demonstrate credibility in the subject areas covered.  You can do this effectively with solid messaging and good signage that includes not only the names of the session and sponsors, but your group’s name as well.  Don’t miss out on valuable opportunities throughout the event property to prominently feature your organization’s name and logo.  Use branded signage in every meeting room.

A successful event allows you the chance to showcase your organization and its brand and to demonstrate credibility in the subject areas covered.

Remind attendees about who is hosting and why they should care.  To educate people about the work your group does, mention it in brief verbal remarks when you kick off the event, at the ending wrap-up and throughout the course of the event.  Ask your speakers to do likewise.  For first timers or repeat attendees alike, this reinforces your important role in planning and designing the event, selecting speakers and convening participants.  It also highlights your subject matter expertise and strengthens your reputation as a “go to” source.

Connect the dots for your attendees to what outcomes they can expect.  Articulate some specifics about how your event sessions will help them attain their goals or solve a problem.  Explain how and where else they can apply what they learn, as well as who they will meet at your event. Facilitate connections wherever possible.

What’s in a name?

The title and theme of your event is an important part of its branding and appeal.  Giving your event a title or label requires some creativity.  Banish the boring titles and themes.  Instead communicate the benefit of excitement behind why you are holding the event.  As you brainstorm conference or event series titles, think about movies, books and popular trends.  Use phrases that make you think or unusual twists on common turns of phrase.  Use verbs and action words to position your event and stand out from the competition.

Create enticing session descriptions.

When an attendee is considering going to your meeting, they look at the sessions.  If only a few appeal, they may not find your event worth attending.  If on the other hand, as they read your brochure, they want to attend every one (or in the case of concurrent sessions, more than physically possible), you have done a very effective job convincing them that this event is right up their alley.

Now it’s up to you to over deliver on every promise your session description make.  Anything less is false advertising and likely to result in unhappy customers.  Make sure the content of each session is accurately reflected in its title and description.  Work with speakers to insure they cover the items you promise.  Be as specific as you can about expected outcomes for attendees – and put this in your marketing materials.

Make sure the content of each session is accurately reflected in its title and description.

Encourage sampling.

Another effective way to boost attendance is to use attendee incentives.  There are hundreds of ways to do this.  One is to use a sampler program where you give out a limited number of free guest passes as an investment to drive attendance at future events.  You can give these complimentary passes to key members, prospects, sponsors, exhibitors, advertisers and/or frequent attendees.  This kind of program, properly executed, can build loyalty and drive awareness.  Potential new audiences learn about your organization and its events and gain a positive experience.  It’s also an excellent way to acknowledge and reward your most ardent supporters.

Get people talking.

Remember that word of mouth is one of the most powerful drivers of event attendance. Foment the buzz. Make it easy for people to share information about your event, on social media or in conversation. Make a clear and compelling argument about why someone should attend. Where appropriate, share who is coming, as further social proof that your event is a good investment of someone’s time and energy. Create short social media posts that people can easily share, along with direct links to more information and/or registration details. Where possible, start conversations using social media, about the theme, topics, speakers and location. If applicable, whenever a prospective attendee contacts your organization, ask them if they are planning to attend your event. Create a short invitational video, ideally featuring organizational leaders, to deliver a visual enticement to attend.

Make it easy to register.

Once you have attracted a potential attendee, think through the registration process. It deserves some special attention.  Do a test drive to see how easy it is and how it might be streamlined. Be sure your confirmations and other communications impart the right kind of professional, informative, but always welcoming tone.

Start and end strong.

Perform a mental walk through of your event. Consider what it will be like for arriving attendees.  Are they warmly greeted and provided with all the information they need to maximize your event?  Is signage clear and well placed?  Does the event start on time and run on schedule?  How about flow between sessions?  How about meals and breaks?  Are you using social media during your event in a way that builds engagement?

During your event, your goal is to create a positive, high value experience that makes attendees want to recommend your event and attend it again.  What are you doing to make sure attendees will do that?  What is the feeling that event attendees get from your event?  Do they feel you are meeting their needs and that you care about their experience?

During your event, your goal is to create a positive, high value experience that makes attendees want to recommend your event and attend it again.

Do you have a strong and powerful start to your event? This should be one that creates positive energy and momentum that carries through until you adjourn the meeting, be it a single day or multiple day meeting.

As your event concludes, think about how you wrap-up your event proceedings – with a bang or with a whimper?  Make sure you have a strong ending to maintain the energy of your event and to keep the meeting room filled. As your attendees depart, they should be feeling positively about the event and your organization.

Finally, post event, what do you do to keep up the relationships and momentum that have been created. Do you email out a short questionnaire asking for their feedback and how your event might be improved?  Do you communicate via email or social media with your attendees to capitalize on potential new opportunities for your attendees and organization? Consider these and other activities to add even more value to each event you host, as well as to help set the stage for your next gathering.

These are just a few event marketing ideas about how to create a great experience for participants of your events.   What ideas do you have to share?  Please share them.  Thank you.

 

© 2016 Anne Doherty Johnson

About the Author: Anne Doherty Johnson is marketing strategist with expertise in growing engagement and revenues for member based organizations.   She has also counseled corporations and individuals on how to maximize memberships in pursuit of their goals.  Contact her at http://www.annedohertyjohnson.com.

This article may be reprinted when the copyright and author bio are included.

Posted in Association events, Member experience, Tips and Tricks | Leave a comment

Capture Your Members’ Excitement in Your Marketing

As someone who has worked in associations for the lion’s share of my career (with the other time actually spent working for member companies), I tend to get excited about all things membership.  And one thing I have noticed about the best membership organizations?  The members get excited about it too.

Capturing member excitement

Communicate how your members feel about your organization.

In the best organizations, you don’t need to dig too deep to uncover great stories from members about how joining the association in question has changed their career or business, engendered new friendships or provided new insights.  The members who tell these stories credit membership as critical to their success.

But too often, if you look at the websites or marketing collateral of member-based organizations, you won’t find these gems.  The passion for the industry or profession is sadly absent, buried under updates about advocacy or events or industry news.  And that’s really unfortunate.  That advocacy work and those events are important – but they all come second to the member experience.  After all, if it’s not a positive one, sooner or later you won’t have any members left (or become a poor shadow of your former self, as some large groups have found). The raw and infectious enthusiasm of members is after all, what it’s all about in creating a sustainable organization today.

So if your member marketing messaging is more ‘ho-hum …’ than ‘wahoo!’ then it is clearly time to get busy spicing up your website and collateral with stories, testimonials and case studies that show your value proposition in action.  Here’s how.

 #1 – Collect some good stories.

If you have some already, commit them to writing.  Keep collecting them.  How?  Ask members to share what the association means to them, how it has improved their lives, their businesses, their careers.  And be sure to ask in such a way that you get a response that will resonate with other members and prospects.  Here are a few questions you might consider:

  • How has the association specifically contributed to your professional development, to building your business, to your success?
  • Can you share an anecdote that would help us share your excitement for XYZ organization?

 #2 – Personalize the response.

Call each person who submits a reply both to thank them for taking the time and to dig a bit deeper.  How can you use this member’s experience to create a similar positive outcome for other members?  How does what this member tells you connect and compare to the benefits you communicate in your marketing?  Are there changes you need to make?

 # 3 – Keep asking.

Once you have several stories collected (5-6 would be ideal to start), keep the ball rolling by asking for more.  There is nothing like seeing a good story to get people thinking about their own.

# 3 – Shout your stories from the rooftops!

Communicate across varied media.  Include the content on your website, use excerpts in your member marketing collateral and consider capturing these on video and audio, perhaps at your next annual convention.  Include parts of it in your newsletter throughout the year as well as on social media.

Member stories and testimonials can be powerful tools to help you get the word out about your association and its value.  Be sure they communicate and capture the positive emotions and deep commitment your most engaged members feel about your organization.

What ideas do you have to share about capturing member excitement? Please share them.  Thank you.

© 2015 Anne Doherty Johnson

About the Author: Anne Doherty Johnson is marketing strategist with expertise in growing engagement and revenues for member based organizations.   She has also counseled corporations and individuals on how to maximize memberships in pursuit of their goals.  Contact her at http://www.annedohertyjohnson.com.

This article may be reprinted when the copyright and author bio are included.

Posted in Member engagement, Member experience, Member satisfaction, Tips and Tricks | Leave a comment

Six Ideas for Taking Your Events to the Next Level

I recently presented a session entitled 50 Ideas in 50 Minutes: Taking Your Events to the Next Level to an audience of association executives.  The talk included strategies and tactics that would work with either refreshing an existing event or launching a new one.

Here are a few focused on event marketing and messaging.  They show the important role of good writing and clear communications in promoting any event, and they apply equally to product and service promotion.

1.) Establish credibility (and claim credit) as the event host.

I’ve been to a number of events where this was a lost opportunity instead of a slam dunk. (In writing terms, you could think of this in terms of claiming “authorship” for the event.)   Poor signage and incomplete introductions can leave some of your attendees unaware or unclear about how your event ties into the broader work and mission of your group.

A successful event allows you the chance to showcase your organization and its brand and to demonstrate credibility in the subject areas covered.  You can do this effectively with solid messaging and good signage that includes not only the names of the session and sponsors, but your group’s name as well.  Don’t miss out on valuable opportunities throughout the event property to prominently feature your organization’s name and logo.  Use branded signage in every meeting room.

Remind attendees about who is hosting and why they should care.  To educate people about the work your group does, mention it in brief verbal remarks when you kick off the event, at the ending wrap-up and throughout the course of the event.  Ask your speakers to do likewise.  One ways to make that easier is to give speakers a branded PowerPoint template that includes your logo and the date of the event. Put your logo or website or both on everything you can, including speaker handouts.

For first time attendees and veterans alike, this reinforces your important role in planning and designing the event, selecting speakers and convening participants.  It can also highlight the subject matter expertise you bring to the table and strengthen your group’s reputation as a “go to” source.

Connect the dots for your attendees.  Articulate some specifics about how your event sessions will help members or attendees meet their goals or solve their problems.  Explain how and where else they can apply what they learn or who they will meet at your event.

2.) Think total experience.

Your attendee’s total event experience begins before your event and lasts (if memorable) long after it.  Think how you can improve your event at each step along the way – before, during and after.  Put yourself in your attendee’s shoes when reviewing your marketing collateral and web content.  Better yet, have someone unfamiliar with your event take a look at your materials to provide fresh perspective.  Are you anticipating and addressing their questions?   Think about including a paragraph for first time attendees – what do they need to know?  Do all your marketing efforts – print, email, and social media – contain the same messaging?

The all important registration process deserves some special attention.  Do a test drive to see how easy it is and how it might be streamlined.

Moving on to the event itself, consider what it will be like for arriving attendees.  Are they warmly greeted and provided with all the information they need to maximize your event?  Is signage clear and well placed?  Does the event start on time and run on schedule?  How about flow between sessions?  How about meals and breaks?  Are you using social media during your event in a way that builds engagement?

Craft compelling session descriptions to drive attendance at your events.

Craft compelling session descriptions to drive attendance at your events.

During your event, your goal is to create a positive valuable experience that makes attendees want to recommend your event and attend it again.  What are you doing to make sure attendees will do that?  What is the feeling that event attendees get from your event?  Do they feel you are meeting their needs and that you care about their experience?  How ready are you to handle special requests?

As your event concludes, think about how you wrap-up your event proceedings – with a bang or with a whimper?  Think about ending your event as strong as you begin it to create a well sandwiched agenda that fosters the feeling their time and money has been well spent.  Finally, post event, what do you do to keep up the relationships and momentum created by your event?  Do you email out a short questionnaire asking for their feedback and how your event might be improved?  Do you communicate via email or social media with your attendees to capitalize on potential new opportunities for your attendees and organization?

3.) What’s in a name?

The title and theme of your event is an important part of its branding and appeal.  Giving your event a title or label requires some creativity.  Banish the boring titles and themes.  Instead communicate the benefit of excitement behind why you are holding the event.  As you brainstorm conference or event series titles, think about movies, books and popular trends.  Use phrases that make you think or unusual twists on common turns of phrase.  Use verbs and action words to position your event and stand out from the competition.

4.) Create enticing session descriptions.

When an attendee is considering going to your meeting, they look at the sessions.  If only a few appeal, they may not find your event worth attending.  If on the other hand, as they read your brochure, they want to attend every one (or in the case of concurrent sessions, more than physically possible), you have done a very effective job convincing them that this event is right up their alley.

Now it’s up to you to over deliver on every promise your session description make.  Anything less is false advertising and likely to result in unhappy customers.  Make sure the content of each session is accurately reflected in its title and description.  Work with speakers to insure they cover the items you promise.  Be as specific as you can about expected outcomes for attendees – and put this in your marketing materials.

Here’s the one we used for the 50 Ideas Session.  The goal was to give people a flavor of what they would gain from the session, with the description itself serving as one of the ideas presented.

Attend this rapid-fire and idea packed session to hear 50 ideas that you can apply to take your events to the next    level.  Whether it’s refreshing an established item on your calendar or launching a new event, this session will equip you with some actionable tactics you can use in the year ahead.  Partly crowd sourced and curated, this session will get you thinking about how to create standout programs that fill the room, engage your members and grow revenues.  What makes an event successful?  We’ll dive deep into the ingredients that contribute to an attendee’s positive event experience, from event title, content, speakers, venue, menu, marketing and more!
 

5.) Be a better sleuth.

When you’re looking to improve your next event, you’ll need to play detective.  Get better market intelligence by surveying those who don’t attend your events, as well as those who do, if your goal is to grow your event attendance.  Knowing why your attendees come is important, but so too is finding out why others did not.  What would get them there?  Craft a good survey that asks the right questions so you can learn more about prospective attendees and their pain points.   Becoming more data driven can help you create better – and better attended – events in the future.

6.) Encourage sampling.

Another effective way to boost attendance is to use attendee incentives.  There are hundreds of ways to do this.  One is to use a sampler program where you give out a limited number of free guest passes as an investment to drive attendance at future events.  You can give these complimentary passes to key members, sponsors, exhibitors, advertisers and/or frequent attendees.  This kind of program, properly executed, can build loyalty and drive awareness.  Potential new audiences learn about your organization and its events and gain a positive experience.  It’s also an excellent way to acknowledge and reward your most ardent supporters.

What ideas do you have to share about event marketing?  Please share them.  Thank you.

© 2015 Anne Doherty Johnson

About the Author: Anne Doherty Johnson is marketing strategist with expertise in growing engagement and revenues for member based organizations.   She has also counseled corporations and individuals on how to maximize memberships in pursuit of their goals.  Contact her at http://www.annedohertyjohnson.com.

This article may be reprinted when the copyright and author bio are included.

Posted in Association events, Marketing collateral, Marketing strategy, Member experience, Member satisfaction, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to Lower Your Risk of Losing A Member: Ten Tips

Membership retention begins the moment someone joins your organization.  To ensure that that new member stays a member, here are ten steps you can take to proactively manage their membership experience so it is a positive one.

#1 – Be responsive to inquiries, comments, requests.

While this should go without saying, it’s also something that can always be improved.  Are you building a set of resources for commonly asked questions or concerns?  Or does every request get an ad hoc response?  And what do you do when a member asks for something you can’t provide?

If you can’t help or respond right away, circle back to acknowledge the communication and let them know a.) you aCallOutHelpYoure working on it but it might take some time or b.) you can’t help them with their request and tell them why.  You may be prevented by law from taking certain actions for members or not have sufficient resources.  Be upfront and explain that you want to be helpful, but can’t be in this instance.  Offer other resources or brainstorm with them how they might get what they want using alternative resources or approaches.  Given the number of member inquiries your association has fielded in the past, you are likely in a position to be able to offer some kind of guidance.

Another useful exercise is to have your staff keep a log from time to time of a full week’s worth of inquiries. Include the member’s contact info, the topic and the date and time they called or emailed and the date and time the inquiry was “closed” or completed.  Not only will you better understand what are your members’ top concerns, you’ll have a better understanding of how you could improve the experience of a member who contacts you.

# 2 – Commit to published levels of service.

How long does a member wait to receive a return call from your staff?  Do you commit to reply to member inquiries within 24 hours?  48 hours? Add this to your website and pledge your commitment to a high level of service.  Ask members to alert you (but not all will) when they  are feeling you are not reaching the stated level.  Rather than have them silently complaining, or worse, complaining to another member or prospect, this may prompt them to come to you, alerting you so you can take action.

# 3 – Be highly visible to your members.

Apart from your events and emails, when do members see or hear from you?  Are you visible in industry publications or the general press as a valued information source?  Do you or your staff attend industry events of other groups?  Are you listed in key industry directories?  OuCallOutIgnoringMemberNeedst of sight can mean out of mind, so be sure that your members are aware of your work and efforts by maintaining a high profile in your industry sector, broader and related industry sectors, as applicable to your community.

# 4 – Communicate often, but don’t abuse the privilege they have entrusted to you by providing their email address.

Value your members’ time as highly as you value your own, if not more!  Deliver up your content in digestible increments when possible.  Make sure all your subject lines include the initials of your organization so your member can easily recognize and find your communications.  For newsletters, summarize or highlight articles, or use call outs, for easy skimming, then link to your website for longer detailed information.  And if every communication you send is asking for money or to buy something, add more value added communications.

# 5 – Ask the right questions to keep member satisfaction high.

Conduct periodic short member outreach calls, surveys and online forms to make sure you have a good pulse on member needs and sentiments.  Asking a short set of the same questions, along with one or two open-ended ones will let you measure changes over time.  Good questions help you measure attendee satisfaction and uncover suggestions for improvement.  They can also help you build a profile of the kinds of members that you best serve.  No association can be all things to all people.  Those that try to stretch themselves too thin find it hard to compete with niche players who can better articulate their value proposition.   Asking the right questions … and keeping and analyzing the good data they supply …often spell the difference between membership rates that are rising or those that flat line or worse.  In your member question set, be sure to include open-ended queries like “What else can we be doing to help you?”  or “What else should we be asking to better serve you?”

#6 – Track the engagement of every member.

How well do you know all the touch points a member has with your organization. Do you know which members always respond to your grassroots calls to legislators?  What percentage of your members attend your events?  What percentage of first year members?  How many times has a member of your staff interacted with or spoken to a member?  Reviewing a list of who is involved and who is not can allow you to target communications rather than shotgun requests to those already participating.  It will also allow you to concentrate some efforts on those who are not participating in any way other than paying their dues, a group most likely to not renew.

# 7  – Sharpen your storytelling skills.

Do you have a series of successful case studies and stories to tell prospective members or members who tell you they do not plan to renew?

Share your successes to make the case for membership.

Better get some and fast.  Members today want to understand … and have you help them understand in concrete and measurable terms … what bang for the buck they get as a member of your organization.  Members join for lots of reasons, which can change depending on the member’s circumstances.  Be ready to share specific and interesting stories about several ways you add value to their professional development, business success as well as the success of your industry.

# 8 – Conduct an exit interview with every lost member.

Yes, this will help you keep from losing more in the future.  That member may be lost, but you’ll be better equipped to deal with the next one.   (For a sample copy of my “We Want to Know Why” form, email me.)  The exit interview itself – be it in person, online or via email – also provides you with another bite of the apple.  When you get it, call the member and thank them for taking the time to tell you their reasons.  Then you can also see if there is anything you can do to right a wrong, clear up a misunderstanding or provide them with something they need.  Most members are also pleased to be asked, and it allows you to end the membership, if that’s what they decide, on a more positive note, keeping the door open for the future.

#9 – Conduct a new member welcome or orientation session with every member within 30 days. 

Early in a person’s membership, it’s important that they realize they made the right decision to join and start getting some benefit.  Schedule a face to face or telephone session to get to know why they joined, what challenges they have and how you can deliver value.  Then check back in with them at least quarterly to see that they are getting what they need.  Ignoring member needs is one sure-fire way to guarantee they will ignore their membership renewal notice.

#10 – Have some “make-goods” ready for when things go wrong.

Life happens and despite your best efforts, something may happen to make your member very displeased.  Have a few things at the ready that you can do to “make good” on your offer to be of service.  These go a long way in smoothing ruffled feathers and may just keep your member (who could someday become your Membership Chair or President) happy and engaged.

By no means is this a complete list, but focusing on these areas will help you improve retention rates and boost overall member satisfaction.  What ideas have you employed that help lower the risk of losing a member?  Please share them.  Thank you.

© 2015 Anne Doherty Johnson

About the Author: Anne Doherty Johnson is marketing strategist with expertise in growing engagement and revenues for member based organizations.   She has also counseled corporations and individuals on how to maximize memberships in pursuit of their goals.  Contact her at http://www.annedohertyjohnson.com.

This article may be reprinted when the copyright and author bio are included.

Posted in Association management, Getting results, Member experience, Member satisfaction, Membership communications, Tips and Tricks | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Goal Attainment 101 – Three Questions to Guide You

Goal attainment 101

Three questions to ask for attaining your goals.

Can asking three questions (pictured to the right and highlighted below) bring you closer to achieving your writing, business or personal goals?  Yes.

Articulating answers can help you:

  • choose the right goals
  • surface how committed you are to achieving them and help you re-order other priorities
  • identify the specific activities needed to attain your goal

Are you ready to get started?

Question one: What do you want? 

Put it in writing, either on paper or screen. Research shows the mere exercise of listing your goals so they are staring back at you initiates changes in the brain can propel you forward.   No longer is your goal ethereal.  Now you can look at it, pin it on your wall, carry it with you, a useful visual marker to keep it top of mind.

Question two: How much do you want it?

List the outcome and corollary benefits of achieving your goal.  Ask yourself, if I accomplish X, then I will benefit by Y.  Now include sentiments around how achieving this will make you feel.  If I accomplish X, and benefit by Y, this will make me feel Z.

It’s also important to consider your goal in relation to other things on your plate.  Where does it rank? How willing are you to doing the work necessary?  In today’s busy world, if your goal is not on your priority list, it’s unlikely to get done. This step is crucial.

Since we all have multiple goals, taking the time to clarify their relative importance should make decision making much easier whenever you find yourself cramped for time or with an extra ten minutes on your hands.  When you know your top three goals for the day and have 10 items on your list, this clarity helps you focus on which item should command your attention first.  Your choices become clearer.  It can also help you with the prevalent feeling of overwhelm faced by so many in today’s busy, stressful and often uncertain world by helping you decide which item to tackle next.  As you make progress, keep asking yourself what needs to happen next to keep your momentum strong and your efforts on track.

Question three: What are you willing to do to get it?

Now it’s time to flesh out your goal.  Working with the information you have now, write down the discipline, time and resources it will take.  Don’t fret your list is incomplete — you never completely know what doing something required until you’ve actually done it.  You may overestimate or underestimate it — accept that as part of this process.  Be aware of the potential for analysis paralysis and allocate a limited time for this entire exercise, no more than an hour.

Be honest about the sacrifices it might take to meet your goal.  Do you need to become more ruthless with your time and let other things go?  (Most people do.)  Do you need to learn new skills or develop new partnerships to take you where you want to go?  (No one can do it all alone, all the time.) Do you need to invest in tools or services to get the job done?  What will it cost?  What seeds do you need to plant today for later harvesting?  Conversely, what baby steps can you take right away to inch forward?

Weigh all these factors. Now with a more concrete and detailed vision in hand, ask yourself — are you willing to do what it takes?  And if the answer is no, this is still a powerful and useful exercise.    Trying on a new goal is like shopping for clothes — not every suit on the hanger will look good on you.  Even if you decide to reject or temporarily abandon a goal, your quiet reflection should provide insights.  Going through this process will either motivate you or clarify once and for all that your nagging doubts deserved attention.

This exercise is not for the faint of heart.  If there is a big disconnect between what you want and what you are willing to do, what you have is a dream, not a goal.  (And you may decide it’s someone else’s dream, not really yours, at that.) The person who says they want to be healthier and takes no steps to eat better, exercise more or spend time recharging is only kidding themselves.  The business that says it wants to grow and boost revenues and does nothing to enhance its visibility or sales is doing likewise.

To be sure, some goals are harder than others.  Even the world’s top athletes and business superstars sometimes falter or fail to achieve their goals. And you too might fail — but you will surely fail if you never scrutinize your goals enough to get serious about them.

Start now!

If you find this exercise has you excited and energized, you’ve just cleared away one obstacle (complacency) and it’s time to get busy.  Take one step today that transports you closer to your goal, even if a small one.  Chip away, a bit every day.  Allocate whatever time and energy you can muster.  Choose a mantra that reiterates the importance of incremental work and incremental progress.  Quotes like “every long journey begins with one small step” or “inch by inch, everything’s a cinch” are popular because they remind us that success does not occur without effort.

If attaining your goals has been hard for you recently, begin with small steps.  Reach out to others who can help you.  We are all challenged in some way; no one is perfect.  Don’t try to do everything yourself.  Develop a support network who will spur you on when you need encouragement.  Spend time doing things that recharge your batteries and clear your head.  As a former mentor once told me, remember to stop and smell the roses.  And here’s one more idea — all next week, just for grins, reach out and try to help one other person move closer to attaining one of their goals.

What advice would you give others to help them reach their goals?  Are there some specific tactics you can share that might help someone struggling with a writing, business or personal challenge?  I welcome your thoughts.

© 2013 Anne Doherty Johnson

About the Author: Anne Doherty Johnson is marketing strategist with expertise in growing engagement and revenues for member based organizations.   She has also counseled corporations and individuals on how to maximize memberships in pursuit of their goals.  Contact her at http://www.annedohertyjohnson.com.

This article may be reprinted when the copyright and author bio are included.

Posted in Getting results, Tips and Tricks, Writing, Writing Party | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Importance of Tone

TONEgraphic

Tone is important in your writing.

Matching your tone to your content and purpose is a good corollary to the “know thy audience” rule of writing.  It’s a crucial decision that makes an enormous difference in your ability to impart meaning with words.

Tone is communicated by an accent or inflection on a word, and can also be found between the lines. Tone is all about striking a pose in prose.  It’s the attitude you put forth and shows how you feel about your subject and audience.

Your tone can be professional and objective, emotional or dispassionate, agitated or calm.  It can be fearful or confident, ironic or straightforward, upbeat or melancholy.  Pick any emotion and a skillful writer can translate it into tone.

Making tone a conscious choice from the beginning is important. This is because tone tells its own story, so it needs to relate well to the rest of the words around it.

Let’s say you are writing to persuade readers about a social issue.  In that case, it’s important your content is accurate and informative.  But how best to state your case?  You might decide a reassuring tone would enhance reader trust and prove the most persuasive.

But what if you wanted to catch your reader’s attention more dramatically?  Satirists like Jonathan Swift did this artfully, contrasting a shocking idea with a detached tone to drive home an argument.  There are many creative approaches you can take.  Adopting an unusual or unexpected tone can work well when you are trying to jolt readers into new insights.  But picking the wrong tone can hamper your ability to connect with readers.  If your tone is too dissonant from your content, you risk arousing reader suspicion and unease.

In your next piece, think about how tone can support the points you are trying to make.  Try experimenting with different tones to see their impact.  Do they strengthen or weaken your arguments?  Add tone to your writing toolkit as a way to make your words work harder.

One way to get better writing tone is to get better recognizing it in what you read.  A how to piece on carpentry might be quite straightforward, but include an admiring tone about the qualities of working with wood.  A travel piece might feature an amusing tone about being stranded at the airport.  A letter to the editor of your local paper complaining about a sticky local issue might feature a serious, critical tone.

Whichever tone you choose, be consistent throughout your piece.  Edit for tone as well as spelling and grammar.  Doing so will make your writing better.   The right tone is just the kind of come hither magnetism that will keep your readers coming back for more.

© 2013 Anne Doherty Johnson

About the Author: Anne Doherty Johnson is marketing strategist with expertise in growing engagement and revenues for member based organizations.   She has also counseled corporations and individuals on how to maximize memberships in pursuit of their goals.  Contact her at http://www.annedohertyjohnson.com.

This article may be reprinted when the copyright and author bio are included.

Posted in Tips and Tricks, Writing, Writing Party | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

How to Edit your Own Work (Complete with an Editing Checklist)

So your first draft is finished and you’ve transferred your salient points to paper or screen.  You’re about to forward it to your boss or publish it to your blog. How do you polish your piece so it shines?

Writing Party Strunk and White Quote

Setting the stage

It’s important to do your editing in a way that’s comfortable with how you process information.  If you are someone who likes to print things out to have them at hand, you should print out your work and do your editing on paper.  If you are comfortable working only on-screen, try to eliminate other computer distractions (email, sound alerts, etc.) so you can put your full attention to your editing.  You might also find it helpful to enlarge the view of your piece during editing since this makes spacing and typographical errors easier to spot. If possible, close your door and turn off your phone. Eliminating distractions and interruptions will help your writing by improving your focus, but it’s even more critical when you are proofing your own work.

Editing pass one

Read your piece in its entirety.  Have you captured all the points you want to make?  Do you need to make any grammar and punctuation changes?  Do your paragraphs flow?  Do the pieces connect well to create more than a sum of their parts?  Is there continuity?

A fresh eye

While not always possible if the clock is ticking close to your deadline, giving yourself a short break between writing and editing is helpful.  Sometimes it needn’t be long — a mere ten minutes might be all you need to gain a fresher perspective.  Now read your piece aloud and slowly. In addition to giving life to your piece, reading it aloud can lay bare its tone and flow and help you detect rough edges.

More fresh eyes

If it’s possible, getting a completely different perspective will also help.  Think about who you ask before assigning the task.  Do you need help with the content to make sure it’s complete?  Are you asking them to check for grammar or spelling errors you might have missed?  Would you like them to read for tone and voice?  If you are looking for something specific, say so. A co-worker who is familiar with your topic might give you one set of suggestions; a neutral party something different.  Make a conscious choice about the kind of help you want and seek the type of counsel that will best deliver it.

Review the feedback

Even if you disagree with some of the suggestions, they offer a glimpse into the mind of your reader and can be tremendously helpful in improving your writing in the long term.  Input like this shows where you need to clarify points, reorganize your content or cut extraneous words.  Evaluate your reviewer’s suggestions, then use or dismiss them as you deem appropriate.

Editing pass two – this one with your reading glasses

No, I’m not suggesting you wear glasses if you have 20/20 vision.  What I am suggesting is that you don the perspective of your reader.  Forget for a moment that you are the author.  Think about how your intended audience will consume your piece.  What are they hungry for?  What will satisfy that hunger?  How can you make your dish stand out?  Salt and pepper your piece with this in mind.

Another quick break

Go get a glass of water or stretch your legs for five minutes.  When you return, read through your piece again.  Use the checklist below.  Make final adjustments as needed.

You’ve now successfully edited your writing.

Extra tip – Layout, graphics and title

Good design and strong graphics pull in readers and support your communications goals.   Select a readable font that fits your purpose and use white space to direct flow and keep your reader’s attention.  Chunkify your content, breaking it into small pieces, so it can be  digested more easily by your reader.  Use subheadings, bullets and callouts to highlight key ideas.  Use strong supporting graphics or photographs to illustrate and drive home key points.  Finally, evaluate your title to make sure your content delivers the promise it has made.  Often, the best time to title your piece is at the end, not the beginning, of your writing project.

Editing Checklist

Here is a quick checklist to help you edit and improve your writing.

  1. Spelling and Proper Language Usage – Is the spelling, grammar and punctuation correct?
  2. Completeness – Have you captured all the points you want to make?
  3. Language – Does your word selection match those familiar to your audWritingPartyEditingChecklistience?  Have you eliminated jargon?
  4. Tone – Is the tone appropriate to the piece?  Does your choice of words match your tone?
  5. Engagement – Do you pull in your reader by offering compelling content matched with an understanding of your audience?
  6. Flow – Do your paragraphs flow well?  Is there continuity? Are points of information presented in an order that makes sense?
  7. Brevity – Can you eliminate unnecessary words?  Can you shorten some sentences?
  8. Credibility – Are the facts identified as such, including source data?  Are your opinions supported with good arguments
  9. Structure – Do you start with a strong opening, include salient points and wrap up with a good close?  If you chose an inverted structure, does it work?
  10. Graphics – Do your graphics add meaning to your words? Consider replacing or removing any graphics that don’t strengthen or support your piece.
  11. Appearance – Is your final copy formatted consistently?  Do headings, subheadings, bullets, spacing and page numbering and the like display properly?
  12. Title – Does your content deliver on its title?  Pithy titles are great, but accurate ones are even better.

We welcome your comments on this piece of writing.  How would you say it meets the requirements outlined in the checklist?  We’d love to hear from you.

We’d also like to know what ideas you can share about editing your own writing.  Do you have some additions for our list?

Posted in Tips and Tricks, Writing | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Top Ten Countdown – Ways to Avoid Procrastinating on that Writing Project

The Top 10 -- Your Guide to Slaying the Dragon of Writers Block Short Video

The Top 10 — Your Guide to Slaying the Dragon of Writers Block Short Video

Are you a visual learner?  You might enjoy this short video I did, designed to get your ideas flowing and pen or keyboard flying.  It’s based on an earlier blog post and done as a short “top ten” list.

View the video.   It was created with technology provided by Storytelling Machines. (You might want to give it a try.  It’s easy to use.  Just assemble your script and graphics and you’re ready to go.)

Here’s the cheat sheet of our top ten countdown should you want to print it out and keep it handy.

10.) Get inspired by quotes from the masters.

9.) Know when to declare victory

8). Give yourself a deadline.

7). Dangle a carrot.

6.) Just write … anything

5.) Get moving!

4.) Crowd source some help with social media.

3.) Awaken your senses.

2.) Get out in Mother Nature.

1.) Hire some outside help.

Have any more to add to the list?  We’d love to hear what works for you.  Meanwhile, pick up that pen and start writing!  And if you need to hire that outside help, you know where to find us.

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