Last week, I was a presenter at the Illinois Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives (IACCE) Fall Conference. As I talked with the attendees and listened to the other presenters, I was reminded of why I enjoy working with associations and chambers of commerce.
Association and chamber professionals are:
- Very social - You spend most of your days talking with members, prospective members or stakeholders in your industry or community. You love meeting new people and making connections. Everyone is approachable and glad to meet new people.
- Deeply connected to their members - You care greatly about serving your members and your communities. Nearly everyone I talked to brought the issues facing their members to the forefront and tied those challenges to running the association.
- Eager to learn - Association staff are always looking for new and better ways to deliver value to your members. You realize the demographics and needs of your membership is shifting and you're seeking out new ideas.
- Willing to share - Since most associations and chambers don't compete with each other, you are always willing to share ideas that worked for your organization. Everyone is working together to make their organizations more valuable for their members.
I believe point #4 is perhaps my favorite aspect of working with chambers and associations. Everyone learns from each other and is open about sharing what worked, what didn't work and giving credit to others.
During the conference, the keynote presenter, Kyle Sexton, highlighted how chambers and associations conduct their marketing R&D: Ripoff & Duplicate. It got a laugh from the audience because everyone there had done it. Kyle mentioned that there are very few original and new ideas, but rather associations and chambers adapt other ideas to fit their needs. And there's nothing wrong with that.
We've all heard the saying that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. It's not only true - but it's downright encouraged among chambers and associations. Why reinvent the wheel if someone else is doing a good job of selling new memberships, improving retention or increasing event attendance, right?
So, if you're running out of ideas for new membership marketing campaigns, benefits packages or events, go visit with other associations or chambers of commerce in your area. Or go attend your next association conference. Or read the WebLink blog. Inspiration (R&D) is all around you.
Here are some tips to remember when "researching" new ideas:
- Ask if it's OK to reuse the content or idea. The other party will almost always say yes, but you want to make sure it's OK. And, there can be restrictions on using some content or images based on copyright laws.
- Make it your own. Add your own personality or the specific benefits that your association offers to make the content more relevant for your members.
- Give credit. Even if you completely rework the idea into something new, cite the original party for providing you the inspiration. If you're creating content, link back to the original article. If you're giving a presentation, make sure you give a shout out to the person who gave you the idea.
- Pay it forward. Pass along your best ideas to others by attending conferences, commenting on blog posts and sharing information through social media.
Where do you get your best ideas? What ideas have you found from others that are working for your association or chamber of commerce?