Submitted by Teo Graca and Stephen Adler
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The #1 Challenge for CHAMBERS in the 21st century
The traditional service economy is changing into an experience economy around the world. People don't want to just receive good service, they are looking to experience it. It's hard at first to understand the difference between receiving and experiencing good service, but if you think in terms of some engaging service you currently enjoy and the difference between that and buying self-service gas for your car, you will have your first clue.
Success in business used to mean that people just had to know you to do business with you. But as we moved into the 21st century, people had to also know and trust you to do business with you. Now we have to add value to stand out from the crowd as businesses and membership organizations find it absolutely imperative to stage a rich, compelling experience for customers and members, respectively.
One of the more interesting trends is the huge increase in non-profit organizations in the United States in the last 45 years. Compared to the increase in the last 6 years, the increase from 1960-1990 represents a nearly a horizontal line on a graph, whereas the over 1.6 million 501c organizations in the US in 2005 since 2000 represents a nearly vertical line! And most of them look to the business community for money.
Chamber of Commerce organizations are membership organizations dedicated to a specific local community. They tend to be the hub of charities, for-profit and political organizations and generally take a leadership role in the community for all these groups. And as leaders of the community, it is so important now more than ever to manage membership experiences through new skills and understanding that were not required in the old service economy. It is not enough for people to simply know you exist anymore.
Experiences are more distinctive than services because they provide a memory that remains with members for a long time. Experiences are connected with emotional sensations and to feel the sensations, members must actively participate. This requires a highly skilled staff and a highly focused and effective technology that can be personalized to the needs of each member.
Relationship management is the key to retention. Changing retention strategies effectively is easier if you know more about your members. That is why it is so important to find a way to monitor member activity like participation at events, interactions with the staff, collecting testimonials, measuring the response to marketing campaigns and communication venues, etc. This helps to keep members highly engaged and, therefore, your ideal members.
This information will help identify members that are not engaged too, and since these are the most likely to drop their memberships, it is necessary to learn about what you are doing right from your ideal members. Keeping statistics is a powerful first step toward moving to a solid Relationship Management System (RMS). But it is a much more powerful strategy to use the statistics to develop the successful tactics needed to empower and engage all members.
Collecting key information about members when they first join and tracking their ongoing activities is traditionally termed "member intelligence". To benefit from member intelligence, you must commit to embracing a strong member intelligence strategy that supports collecting data on a consistent basis.
Membership will increase when you combine high-touch with high-tech to communicate with members, align benefits to better meet their expectations, and anticipate their evolving needs. RMS and member intelligence go hand-in-hand. As your member base continues to grow, smart investments in technology will help you use your limited resources effectively.