The concept of competition is strange to many business associations and chambers of commerce.
You may feel like your organization doesn't have much competition, but we know that chambers of commerce and business associations are facing competition from networking groups, online communities, for-profit discount clubs and sometimes other chambers of commerce and associations. And, the Gen X and Gen Y business owners are less likely to “join” organizations such as chambers of commerce than Baby Boomers. Plus, the current economic climate is forcing businesses to justify every dollar spent.
It's time for associations and chambers to stop playing defense and go on the offensive with some innovative benefits and communications to help their organizations become a critical partner in their member's success.
In his book, Purple Cow, Seth Godin discusses transforming your business by being remarkable. One of his questions was, “If you had to create a product or service to compete with yours, how would you do it?”
So, if you were going to create a organization to compete with yours, what would you do?
- Offer very low membership dues and a clearly defined list of benefits?
- Create high-end memberships and promote the “spend more –get more” idea of being connected at the highest level?
- Offer a la cart membership options so businesses could customize their membership to their needs?
- Offer “free” memberships but charge reasonable fees for all services?
- Deliver regular, personal communications to each member demonstrating their return on investment to help increase member retention?
- Find more ways to connect member businesses to new clients, local or otherwise?
- Deliver such outstanding service that your existing members consistently generated new member sales for you via word of mouth?
- Reach out to your audience, find out what’s important to them and engage them in more personal conversations?
- Help your small business members succeed by offering educational programs in-person and on-demand, so they can view them on their schedule?
How would you use technology to accomplish your goals? Would you:
- Use customer relationship management tools that give you the operational, collaborative and analytical tools you need to log, monitor and report on all member and prospect activity?
- Utilize member intelligence to help you make better decisions for managing and marketing your organization?
- Employ social media as a low cost way to extend your reach and develop a loyal base of connected members?
- Share information with others to become as transparent as possible in hopes of developing long-lasting relationship and foster trust?
Now that you’ve thought about what someone might do to take your members, go create those programs and services, get the technology needed to do so and retain more members!
Of course, this means that some long-established programs may cease to exist, but consider this:
If you were starting a new organization to compete with yours, would it make good business sense to create the programs in question?
The exercise here is not to actually compete with yourself, but rather to think like your competition and be innovative in your delivery of benefits to your members.
By thinking of how you might compete with yourself, then developing new products, services and culture around these ideas, you’ll be a more flexible and responsive organization. And that is something that can improve your members’ satisfaction - and ultimately, your bottom line.