Partners in Innovation (PII) is a project in innovation as much as it is an effort in collaboration. Four diverse associations are participating, along with four dedicated, quality Association Executives They vary in size and geographic location, from Pennsylvania in the East to Utah in the West. We will soon see results from the communications survey sent to 6,000 members. While we wait for the responses, let’s remember why we came together in the first place – to innovate and overcome their most pressing communication problem: Not enough members open, read, and appreciate their communications.
During my travels this past week, I found the new “all-in-one dental floss gadget” tucked into my travel kit. Using it for the first time, it hit me what we are trying to accomplish with this communications project – to approach ages-old communications in a new way. It will require innovation.
One of my favorite marketing philosophies is a concept called “The Possible Service.” It happens in big for-profit business, and can happen in your association. It’s a marketing approach containing one (or all three) parts. Marketing has evolved from being:
1. Service-driven – offering services or tools to the member based on what the company decides to deliver.
2. Market-driven – finding out what the customer needs, and building services or tools to meet them.
3. Imagination-driven – this kind of marketing answers the needs of the customer through innovation. It’s based on what the customer says they want; but it’s also about giving the customer something they need that they haven’t even asked for. Let’s use an example anyone can relate to: the 1970’s introduction of overnight (too many spaces in these lines) shipping. Before this, the only option for sending and receiving important documents and items was either the fax machine or US postal mail.
The PROBLEM: Original documents and products took too long to send and receive.
The BIG GOAL: Sending documents with reliability and speed.
THE ANSWER: Overnight shipping. (Think “absolutely positively overnight,” and “It’s not just a package, it’s your business.”) These award-winning campaigns promoted the solution to a customer problem that they never dreamed possible.
So, does this happen inside associations? As a matter of fact it does. The Florida Association of REALTORS® delivers concise, compelling, information to their target audiences through their innovative (and award-winning) website. Oklahoma City REALTOR® Association (OKCMAR®) gives members a cup of Starbuck’s coffee when they visit the association’s retail store. They grew the R-Shop from a closet to a non-dues revenue-machine for the association.
We’ve already made progress in this collaboration to change the way associations communicate regularly with members. While members respond to the communications survey with their thoughts about their communications preferences, let’s collect ours, and continue to innovate. Start making your own short-list of the unexpected ways to get your highest-priority messages through to your members. We’ll be back together soon to continue the collaboration effort, so stay tuned.
The best part of this project – members will get out of it what this dedicated group puts into it.