Thursday, October 30, 2014

Replicating Association Success

Is your association still looking for the silver bullet?

Over the years, I’ve watched many associations constantly changing their programs and services ... on a continuous search for the “silver bullet.”

Makes me think of a Seth Godin quote:

“Highlighting what's working helps you make that happen more often.”

Godin’s advice parallels research that Chip and Dan Heath share in their book Switch:
  • They found that “finding the bright spots” and replicating them helps lead to change.
This seems to be great advice for associations ... especially those with successful programs or services.

For example, the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation is celebrating the 10th anniversary of its hugely successful Trees for Troops cause marketing program through which Christmas tree farmers donate farm-grown Christmas trees to military members. And, FedEx Freight delivers those trees to military families at bases around the U.S. and in war zones. While the Foundation has “tweeked” the program each year, they have maintained it and have now provided Christmas memories for more than 10,000 military families.

What is your association or non-profit doing to replicate successful programs or services?

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Asking the right questions key association success

Earlier this year an association executive called to ask for my help in developing a member discovery project to help the association develop strategies for impending generational changes in its membership.

While I frequently speak on generational differences and/or refer association executives to the work of Sarah Sladek, this question suggests the association needs to focus on what it is asking and who it is asking.
  • The first step: Ask the right questions
  • The second step: Talk with a representative sample of the different generations
  • The third step: Probe beyond the obvious ... keep asking “what else?” If you stop asking too soon, you’ll only get predictable answers.
Through it all, try to avoid skewing the results with your own biases.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Taking Time Off Benefits You and Others

“If only we’d stop trying to be happy, we’d have a pretty good time.” Edith Wharton

I mostly took the weekend off ... which puts me behind in my writing. But, it was worth it!

It started Saturday morning when my wife and I volunteered to help the Children’s Network of Southwest Florida 5K walk here at Pelican Preserve ... nearly 500 people participated. It was a fund-raiser for child abuse and foster children.

Our “job” was to serve as the “traffic cops” at the main intersection in our community ... pointing the walkers in the right direction and keeping vehicles from hitting anyone.

My wife spotted someone who needed help ... her feet were bleeding ... after walking about a mile and a half in flip flops! People were incredulous when they heard of her flip flop walk.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Associations and the Paradox of Choice

Early in my career, I advocated multiple member benefits through what I called “membership of your choice.”

There are now several books and magazines devoted to what is called the "voluntary simplicity" movement. Its core idea is that we have too many choices, too many decisions, too little time to do what is really important.

Some of this began with The Paradox of Choice - Why More Is Less a 2004 book by American psychologist Barry Schwartz. In the book, Schwartz argues that eliminating consumer choices can greatly reduce anxiety for shoppers.

I thought of this when I read about the troubles at Olive Garden. Here’s a quote that caught my eye:

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Leadership & Culture: Lessons from Microsoft’s new CEO

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella
In a story headlined “Interview: How Nadella plans to upend Microsoft,” USA Today’s Marco della Cava, gave excellent insight.

Here are three paragraphs that I thought valuable for association executives:
  • "You need new concepts with new innovation, and you have to have new capability and culture to go after those new concepts," he says. "Your existing success kind of fights those things, so you have to over-amplify the new concept and the culture required for it. And that's the journey."
  • "Turns out that adoption rate was wrong, we'll exceed $150 billion by 2017, which will be 10% of total IT spend," says Michael Heric, a Bain partner focusing on technology, media and telecommunications. "Cloud computing is bringing sophisticated technology to large and small companies, from those working on cancer research to someone trying to predict weather patterns."
  • Nadella's desire to play nice with others in the tech world reflects the ongoing devolution of the industry. Where once stood monoliths such as Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Apple and Microsoft — each warring for faithful consumers — today's startup-fueled tech world places technology itself in a secondary role to innovative ideas and disruptive business models typified by the likes of Facebook and Uber.
In reading the interview, I saw three important elements for association managers:
  • Culture of change
  • Culture of leadership
  • Culture of collaboration
Read and enjoy!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Finding Passion within the Association Community

A couple of quotes:
  • Be careful not to close the door too quickly ... You may be locking yourself out. – Audrey Harvey
  • Nobody notices normal. – Scott Ginsberg
I thought of these as I read a USA Today piece headlined “Finding your passion for a 2nd or 3rd career.”  It is largely based on the book The Encore Career Handbook and One Person/Multiple Careers by Marci Alboher, a vice president at
  • “Many people want to continue working well beyond the traditional retirement age, and to do that they're finding new creative ways to stay employed in not just one new career, but two, three or more careers.”

Two important points for associations and association executives:

  1. Association executives nearling retirement should be focused on “what’s next.” Don’t wait until “it’s time to go.” Think ahead and plan. After all, you’ll spend 20 to 30 years in “retirement.”
  2. Associations may want to look at retiring association executives for special projects, consulting or short-term efforts requiring association experience.
So, don’t close doors too quickly!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Power of Odd Numbers (Associations)

A local auto dealer has been running a tv commercial in which the staff sits frustrated in the board room waiting for the chairman to arrive. Meanwhile she is driving through the ranch in her new vehicle.

Cute commercial, right?

Not really.

I can’t help but think about all the wasted staff resources.

It, unfortunately, reminds me of staff meetings and board meetings that failed to start on time because we were waiting for a key person (or more) to arrive.

Some 30 years ago, a farmer shared a secret to getting meetings started on time:

Establish an “odd” starting time such as 8:01 or 12:29. Then, be sure to start at that time no matter who is in the room.

It works. 

My clients referred to it as “Central Drake Time.”

Odd times/numbers work in other areas too.

The photo above is about a $2.05 donation to the Fort Myers Rescue Mission for a complete Thanksgiving meal. Notice that the precision of this amount offers more meaning than if the mission had said $2.

You’ll see the same thing on infomercials asking for donations of $19 a month.

There is power in using “odd” numbers in your association work ... whether meeting times, member dues or donations.

Are you doing this?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Content, Millenials & Videos{ 7 best of the week for associations

How to Overcome the 'No Time to Create Content' Challenge
By Joe Chernov via

How can we maximize our content output in the minimum amount of time? The answer, it turns out, isn't particularly complex: Spend time only on content that works. HubSpot recently surveyed nearly 3,600 marketing and sales professionals for our annual State of Inbound report (available at link; email required), and asked several questions related to content creation and impact. Then we pivoted the data to see where high performers—that is, marketers who generated greater year-over-year return on their inbound investment—spent their time and resources. A pattern emerged.

Why Steve Jobs Obsessed About Office Design (And, Yes, Bathroom Locations)
By Walter Isaacson of the Aspen Institute

Creativity is a collaborative process. As brilliant as the many inventors of the Internet and computer were, they achieved most of their advances through teamwork. Even though the Internet provided a tool for virtual and distant collaborations, another lesson of digital-age innovation is that, now as in the past, physical proximity is beneficial. The most productive teams were those that brought together people with a wide array of specialties.

Three Tips for Producing Online Video from a Popular Youtube Host
By Katie Bascuas via AssociationsNow

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Greening the Association

Office Depot Pavilion at 2014 Bioproducts World Showcase & Conference

I attended the Bioproducts World Showcase & Conference (BWSC) last week and came away impressed with the huge array of products available for associations interested in greener alternatives.

The Office Depot pavilion – which included several companies – showcased multiple biobased products associations could use in their day-to-day operations or at meetings.

Two examples:

  • The B2P (as in Bottle 2 Plastic) pens from Pilot. The casing of the pens are made from recycled plastic bottles. Cool tool. Great handouts. Great use of recycled products.
  • 100% bioblend tree-free pads and paper from Roaring Spring. The BWSC used these papers for producing the conference program and for notepads provided to attendees. 
These were just two of the biobased products that associations might use in efforts to be more environmental friendly.

I recognize that some association conferences “go paperless” ... which means most attendees print the materials at their office or home. This practice doesn’t save paper, just pushes the cost from the association to the attendee.

Wouldn’t it be better for associations to use this type of biobased products in all association operations?

What is your association doing?

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Building Association Culture from the Get Go

The other day while browsing at a bookstore, I purchased a copy of Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano’s book Sidelined. The book focuses on his first year as head coach ... during which he was diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia or APL.

Starting with the book’s foreword, I realized the book provided some value lessons for association executives and leaders of any organization.

Tony Dungy, former NFL coach and author, set the stage for the book about Pagano’s fight against APL during his time as head coach. Dungey coached the Colts starting in 2002. In the foreword, he shares his common core with Pagano:
  • “You win by having good people who are united in a common cause. Yes, you have to have talented players, and you have to do things in a fundamentally sound way. And, its takes preparation, hard work and attention to detail to succeed. But, in the end, having a team that functions like a family – a close-knit, loyal group that will not let each other down – those are the teams that win championships. Winning is not the most important job of a coach. The real joy in coaching comes from building relationships. Relationships with players, coaches, staff and families that you can never replace.”

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

6 Stories for Association Executives

New CEO? Five Ideas to Help You Thrive.
By Kerry Stackpole via Wired for Leadership

Every leader faces the inherent challenge of making their mark. None more so than a newly appointed CEO. When you are the new CEO, you face an emotional landscape that differs markedly from the otherwise already challenging task of just being a fresh face. As you take on the role and responsibilities from the previous leader, the hazards on the path to success grow exponentially. While many Board and Search committee members intellectually understand and will profess a desire to move the organization to the next-level, their hearts may still be entangled with the emotions of losing your predecessor as a longtime ally, confidante and in many instances friend.

Why is your content strategy failing?
By Maddie Grant via Social Fish

There is a spectrum of factors that contribute towards making your content marketing strategy a success instead of a complete flop. From content generation to content publishing – each step is crucial and has to be handled cleverly to create the best possible content marketing strategy for your organization.  Don’t make these blunders.

Healthier Association, Higher Membership Performance
By Joe Rominiecki via AssociationsNow

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Association Convention Pricing Strategies

A client called the other day. His “big convention” was three weeks away. It had not “sold out” (either hotel rooms or sessions/trade show).

“Should we create some special, last minute pricing to fill the spaces?” he asked. “Like one day passes, two for one hotel rooms, etc. Isn’t some income better than no income?”

Tough question, right?

Most associations that I know “hold the line” on conference pricing.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Association Marketing: 27 times! Really? Yes!

Jay Conrad Levinson's Rule of 27 Provides Model for Associations

In today’s communications cluttered world, many association marketing plans fail to connect because they stop too soon!

J. Conrad Levinson, author of Guerilla Marketing, created The Rule of 27:

  • “A marketing message must penetrate the mind of a prospect a total of nine times before that prospect becomes a customer, and your message gets missed or ignored two out of three times.”
  • Well, despite our best marketing efforts, people miss two out of every three messages! Too much clutter.
Do the math:
  • Your target audience misses two out of three of your messages but you need to connect with them nine times. So, to really connect, you need to send your message 27 times!