The old saying is that if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. This principle is especially true for member-driven organizations. The nature of managing members is that you’re work is about juggling a hundred different balls at once. A documented strategy is like a a strong foundation to stand on. With it, you can focus on your hands, and not worry about the ground shifting beneath your feet!
Membership management teams that can clearly articulate their goals, methods, expectations, and risks are more successful than those that can’t. Collaborating on a documented membership strategy is not only a team exercise to developing the ability to do so, and once finished, gives you a powerful asset to keep your team focused and on the same page.
Here are some ideas of how you can get started:a
Start With ‘Why’
Any documented membership strategy ought to start with a statement of purpose.
What are you managing members for anyways? Why is your team a team?
Resist the temptation to describe yourself in empty or business-standard terms. A problem well stated is a problem half-solved. The better we articulate the problem that your membership strategy is trying to solve, the better it will be able to solve it!
You’ll want to avoid the trap of coming up with a ‘what’ answer to a ‘why’ question. What you might want is more members, and more renewals. These goals are perfectly fine, but they don’t describe the why of your strategy.
Why we want more members/renewals is probably because we to drive profit. If the goal of our strategy is to ‘drive profit’, we can do that by focusing on growing our membership and renewals, but also by minimizing costs and streamlining work. If our goal is simply to grow memberships and renewals, things like managing costs evade our awareness.
The way you articulate the goal of your strategy is absolutely fundamental to it’s ability to impact the success of your organization. Fortunately, you don’t need to worry too hard about getting it perfect. Your strategy ought to be a living document, constantly refined and updated as you and your team grows, so you can always come back and update your purpose statement!
Then Think about ‘What’
With ‘why’ squared away, we can build our strategy on a solid awareness of the problem we’re looking to solve.
Now comes the part where we brainstorm a few ideas about how exactly we can solve it.
This process starts with the general considerations, and progressively gets more specific. We’re only in the second section, so resist the temptation to get too technical.
So what are the broad tactics you can use to achieve the strategic goal you’ve established?
Above we saw ‘get more members’ and ‘drive renewals’. These are a little more specific than ‘more profit’, but not so specific that they leave nothing to interpretation. It’s important to leave that room, as the steps we take after these ones will help us get more focused.
Another strategic goal might be ‘make events more successful’. Use this section to articulate what ‘success’ is by defining it in terms of actionable and measurable goals. Things like ‘improve annual registrations by 10%’, ‘add 5 new vendors this year’, ‘increase talk attendance by 20%’.
Use ‘How’ to Define Your Methods
With ‘what’ we want to do clearly stated, we can use ‘how’ considerations to sketch out the path to our success. Above, we created a range of ‘what’ statements. For each, think about how you can meet the challenges they present.
For example, how can you ‘improve annual event registrations by 10%’?
Brainstorm a bunch of ideas, and you might come up with thoughts like:
- Adopt more communication channels (email, social, phone) to spread messaging further.
- Invest in paid advertising to drive event awareness.
- Find industry ‘influencers’, and incent them to promote our event.
Repeat this brainstorming process with every one of your ‘what’ statements, or strategic goals, and before you know it you’ll start to see a powerful, holistic strategy appear before your eyes.
Again, it’s worth remembering that there is no need to be comprehensive when describing some the ‘how’ tactics of your strategy. You don’t need to list all the ways to meet your goals. If you come up with any later, this document can be updated!
Have a Plan for Measuring Success
If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.
That’s why it’s critical to be explicit about how you measure the impact of your work.
In the ‘how’ section above, we saw the example of ‘invest in paid advertising to drive event awareness’.
The only way to know if our investment has had an impact on event awareness is to explicitly define ‘awareness’ in measurable terms!
Some indicators of awareness might include:
- Email list size, open rates, and click-throughs.
- Social impressions, likes, shares, and comments.
- Event landing page traffic and engagement.
Each one of your tactics ought to have associated with it a profile of KPI’s that you can track to monitor their progress. It’s also helpful to have some goal KPI’s (for example, 50 retweets in Q1) that you can use as milestones to guide the efforts of your management team.
Be Honest About Risk
It’s easy to document goals and be optimistic about the future, but bad things sometimes happen, and it’s worth being prepared for them!
That’s why it’s a good idea to be mindful about risk when strategizing. If your goals are a picture of what things will be like if they go right, also consider how things might go wrong, and how you’d expect to respond if they do.
This not only prepares you for any unfortunate realities, should you come across them, but also helps your whole team be realistic about the future, and give each individual room to fail, a critical component of the creativity you need to succeed.
Never Stop Strategizing
Developing a documented membership strategy is not a one-time exercise. To get real value from your strategy, it’s important that it be a living document.
This means that your team should constantly be reffering to, an editing, your documented strategy. Any new ideas, tactics, goals, or work ought to go into the documented plan for all to see. By ingraining this document at the core of team culture, you can foster new ideas while ensuring that they always contribute towards a shared vision.
With your ultimate goal, methods, tactics, and measurement plan explicitly defined and available for all to see – everything you do at work will not only be easier, but more successful as well – because every action your team members take is automatically justified in terms of a shared vision. New ideas are encouraged, but required to contribute to an ultimate goal in a measurable way!