By Lucy Gower, director at Lucidity.
The world is changing fast. It’s anyone’s guess as to what might happen politically and I’m noticing both individuals and organisations being cautious with their spending as they prepare for long-term uncertainty. In order to keep your members in uncertain times, your offer must be seen as a ‘must have’ rather than a ‘nice to have’ when the belt-tightening happens.
Meanwhile technology continues to advance, introducing new channels and ways of communicating as well as influencing consumer behavior. Amazon has raised the bar in terms of expectations. Your members want to be offered relevant information and services as well as faster responses. Your members’ needs are changing and they want things now. If Amazon can do it why can’t you?
Staying relevant to your members and providing them with what they need and want in the way that’s of most value to them doesn’t come for free. It all costs money. You need new members to bring in new income and you need your existing members to stay. It’s like operating a relentless machine with a lot of different and interconnecting moving parts. Your brand story must connect with your members, you must provide regular communications, deliver excellent events, provide relevant information and advice as well as develop and update your overall offerings, processes and systems.
Does it ever feel like the odds are stacked up against you?
I get it. I’m a member of several professional membership organisations, frustrated by the latest membership offers that are irrelevant (for example discounted car insurance when I don’t have a car and formalwear vouchers when I never have need to wear a ball gown), underwhelmed with their lack-luster customer service and questioning whether the benefits are worth the cost of keeping my membership.
Last year I launched a membership of my own. It’s possibly very different from your own organisation but the challenges are the same. Here’s the three most important lessons that I’ve learned this year that have helped me, and will help you, keep your membership relevant to your members in uncertain times.
What people say and what people do are often different. You can ask your members for their opinions, feedback and ideas. You can run surveys, hold focus groups and ask people what they think. People are usually encouraging and kind. Herein lies the problem, because sometimes they consciously or subconsciously want to please you, what they say and do are different. For example, at an early focus group for my membership one of my ideas was to offer reduced prices on coaching. Members were encouraging and thought it was an excellent idea, “I’d definitely be up for that”. When I launched the coaching offer (after spending significant time working out the costings and negotiating with associate coaches the very lowest price they could tolerate) to the membership – no one took it up.
How to make your membership offer relevant to your members. In the early days of building my membership I invited members to a focus group to talk about what they wanted. They really enjoyed being asked (and it was in a pub with the first drink on me which added to the attractiveness of the invite). I learned so much valuable insight from those conversations in the pub I now give all new members the opportunity to be a ‘critical friend’. They have their own private Facebook group where I sound them out and we have a meet-up every quarter. I’ve learned that people love to come and chat about what they want. Through informal conversations (not focus groups) I’ve learned a lot about what motivated people to join in the first place, heard how they talk about the membership in their words, learned about the competition and taken away new ways of expressing the benefits of membership in their language. I’ve also got closer to the problems they are encountering which has given me the opportunity to work out how the membership helps to solve their problems. If you don’t already engage with a core membership to help you shape your offering – for example informal groups or a panel – then set it up today.
Be human. Every member is an individual. You can segment all you like. It’s impossible to please everyone. If you make a mistake, or don’t quite hit the mark, say you’re sorry and move on. People forgive you and this builds stronger relationships and in my experience new opportunities as members offer up help and advice. People buy from and engage with people they know, like and trust. They want to be a member of a formal body that helps them learn and progress in their career, but they want to be an individual within the membership too. Make sure you and/or your team are visible and real and have personalities and opinions. Just be human.
My membership is called the Lucidity Network – it’s a ready made professional support network for leaders across any sector that combines a mix of face-to-face meet-ups, peer to peer learning sessions, online toolkits, introductions and facilitates collaborations so that you get the results you want.
Sign up to the waiting list to be the first to know when the Network is open for new members. In the meantime, you can join the Lucidity Community free Facebook group for clearer thinking and better results.
Lucy Gower is director at Lucidity. She is a trainer, coach, author and consultant giving individuals, teams and organsiations the confidence to think differently and get the results they want. www.lucidity.org.uk