I know how much I spend in airfare and other travel expenses per month, but only out of necessity, I don’t track it for posterity!
We played a little game, my family and me…making a guess at how many miles I traveled from Kansas City to all of your associations and meetings during 2014.
The question was one of those conversations over a cocktail. The losers prepare a dinner for the winner. It turns out no one was close. My daughter, Jessie, was the closest at 36,500 miles.
Which got me thinking, “What’s the return on the time, energy and ‘hurry up and wait in airports’ inside those 75,000 miles?” The whole lighthearted conversation makes me look back to the year. And to put that answer into words.
1. To get to know and work on over 70 more projects and get to know the association executives and staff. And see you interact with your employees, your volunteer Presidents and other board members.
2. To do (what I consider) the noblest of work…getting to know, understand, plan for, relate, and decide how to best communicate with and serve your customers.
3. To help uncover new ideas from your members — to verify your assumptions about what your members think.
Aha of the Year – Members think more of the tangible “things” you offer rather than the intangibles of their membership. They think dues are too high and quality of “one of those instructors” is not high enough. But they don’t consider the intangible value of being part of an association. Says one AE, “Your (value proposition) presentation changed all my thinking, derailed the membership benefits train, and gave me a brand new way to think about our association.”
4. To learn that association executives are not only interested in surveys; they want to follow up the survey with focus groups. The goal is to gain more specific feedback from important member segments.
Aha of the Year – If you ask members the right, direct question, you will get answers that lead to big change. Like a group of high producing members said, “the association seems to cater to the lowest performer. I’d like if you would raise the bar, and cater to those of use who are looking to be the best.”
5. To work with AEs who consider strategic planning the most critical BOARD work.
Aha of the Year – You’ll develop a significantly better, more strategic plan if the Board of Directors are involved (and then a few extras) rather than a “committee of members” and a few directors. The strategic plan IS the Board’s work.
6. To see Associations who stop everything to invest in and discover what members really need… And then decide as a board and staff what you do best. And you don’t stop there, you decide how to best build a communications plan to make sure you communicate it all year.
Aha of the Year – “Developing the plan is the (relatively) easy part. Creating the plan to keep it in front of members is the hardest part.” – From a thoughtful Executive VP.
7. To help courageous AEs, who invite a third party look at communications, get new ideas about readability, branding, formatting and messaging.
Aha of the Year – More is not better on a page, especially in an email newsletter.
After 2014 books are closed, I think back on what I love to do most: helping executives look at their members with a little different set of eyes; to offer you an idea “today” that you can share with staff and implement “tomorrow.” Stepping into your office with a spirit of working together, to know there is more we can do to deliver value, and when I have the chance to make every message count. These are the benefits behind all the miles.
More important than what I think is what you think. So in the words of an association executive: the customer (your counterpart) “Let’s see, I’ve used the 18% open rate statistic, tried the “we-we” calculator for our website (we didn’t score well), tried the attention wizard, website eye movement, started to use the Readability Stats more often, and I love the “Remove ROT” mnemonic when writing. And we are using our value proposition in more creative ways than we ever thought we would!”
I don’t think about the miles. I focus on relationships, making memories, and the conversations. Thanks for a motivating and fulfilling 2014.
Offering a toast, with a virtual Cabernet or the occasional special-occasion Martini to say “Here’s to a successful, healthy, and forever changing-for-the better 2015!”