Granite Partners ‘ sole reason for being is to help trade and professional associations excel at what they do, to grow and thrive and move forward confidently in their work of improving their members’ professional and business lives. Many of the engagements we take involve marketing, and one of the most frequent things we’ve been asked to do is essentially play the role of “energizer” for the organization’s marketing efforts.
They’ve done the same thing year after year, promoted the same conference the same way, recruited the same type of members in the same way for years, and are starting to see their results deteriorate. Their membership numbers are flat, retention is down, conference attendance is dwindling and fragmenting, and the whole organization is struggling as a result of curtailed budgets, reduced momentum, staff ennui, and a general lack of verve for the organization’s mission.
We come into the organization, review all their efforts, work with senior management and staff to break down some of the reasons why things are done the way they are, maybe slaughter a few sacred cows, generate some ideas for new initiatives going forward, and then work with them to implement them. From 10,000 feet, that’s what our practice looks like. Under the hood, however, there’s a lot more going on. Counteracting all that inertia, brightening up the mission and the message, assessing member’s preferences and needs, researching new member segments, generating program initiatives, all takes time, resrouces and energy. But what it really takes is courage.
There is often some long-standing doubt surrounding these new initiatives, some deeply-rooted skepticism among the staff, many of whom have been working there for years, and have seen initiatives come and go, to no apparent effect, and don’t expect these to be any different. The courage to change the status quo is difficult to locate and harder to draw out and nurture, to bring to light and expose for all to see, so that it can spread among the staff and be transmitted to the membership. That’s our real job.
Often what it comes down to is this: Something is better than nothing, so when in doubt, do SOMETHING and we’ll figure out if it worked later. Getting this type of thinking started takes the courage of managers and rank and file alike, and is a cultural anomaly, especially among older employees. Asking forgiveness rather than permission is counter to most Association cultures, build up after years of top-down management and communication, lack of mid-level empowerment, long chains of budgetary approval and micromanagement. Breaking that paradigm (I hate that word, but it actually fits here), is a tough challenge, but the benefits are myriad and multifaceted.
Marketers in many organizations have been working under this new “Do Something” regime for a while now, and the one’s who pull it off successfully have earned the respect and understanding, and in some cases the admiration, of senior management in their organizations, having proven themselves to be solid, reliable producers, despite what might be seen as the use of unorthodox methodologies. Unfortunately, this new disease is not highly contagious, and needs to be spread deliberately among other staff departments. The courage to take the initiative, to empower the staff to think for themselves, to solve problems pragmatically and immediately, takes time and effort to develop, but the results are unequivocally worth it.
Do yourself a favor – when your marketing program seems stale, your efforts start to look tired and hackneyed, the results start to droop – DO SOMETHING! You’ll be glad you did.