You Got Me in the Door. Now What?

I recently used a Groupon to visit a local restaurant, one I otherwise probably would not have tried.  In that sense, the Groupon was a success for the merchant in that it brought in a new customer.  Getting people to try you out is great; getting them to come back is better.

Many organizations focus so much attention on getting people in the door (registered for your webinar, sampling a product,  trying out association membership, attending an event, et al) that they don’t spend enough time considering how to convert the one-time visit into a pattern of repeated engagement and interaction. 

Fundraisers model a basic principle worth emulating.  First-time donors usually receive a thank-you and an additional solicitation.
Dear Jeffrey:  Thanks so much for your generous gift of $50.  We welcome you into the community of people who care about ______ and will be able to accomplish much more with your support.  The need is great, however, and our ambitions quite bold.  Another $50 contribution from you right now would immediately allow us to _________.
This additional solicitation is actually a test, a simple way to assess just how interested and committed someone is to the cause.  We can do the same thing in our organizations, offering a nominal inducement upon a first-time expression of interest in an attempt to deepen an individual’s level of commitment and engagement.
Dear Jeffrey:  It was great having you at the luncheon workshop for potential new members last week.  I hope you enjoyed the keynote speaker as much as I did and that you have already put some of her great info to use in your own work.  This program is just one example of how we can help you connect with like-minded colleagues and strengthen your professional skills.  We hope to have you as a member of our community and see you at many more events in the future.  We’d love to have you as a colleague so much that if we receive your completed membership application within the next 30 days, we’ll immediately send you a complimentary set of session CDs from last year’s Annual Meeting.
While the example I gave is related to membership, the same principle applies to volunteering.  We don't always know the potential interest or commitment level of individuals volunteering for the first time.  We need to debrief with them after their experience, thank them for their contributions, and then learn if they would like to remain engaged, exploring the possibilities for how they can do so.

Some people are 100% satisfied with the one-night stand and are not looking to marry our cause or organization.  But we don’t really know that if we don’t put out a second invitation.

Transactions can be transformative if we intentionally try to cultivate longer-term relationships and convert one-time visitors into long-time colleagues.


Scott Briscoe said...

The problem with Groupon, Living Social, and the like is that you're devaluing your product, so the prospects you're bringing in are starting at a low point and you have to convince them that what you offer is so good that they should pay more for it next time -- that's a tough sell. I'm not saying never discount, but I do think it requires careful consideration.

Throwing out a potential ASAE example, we have a fantastic, relatively new product that allows you to run benchmarking reports from thousands of association form 990s. I could see it making sense for us to offer some free/discount pricing on this product because it is new and different and when you try it you see just how impressive it is. (NOTE: as far as I know, we're not offering discounts on this!)

On the flip side, offering a discount to one of our major conferences just sets up a different valuation for it -- most folks know pretty much what they're going to get in such circumstances, so it will be harder to provide them with an experience that convinces them of the higher value.

I'm glad in your example you didn't discount membership -- you offered the free recordings. Simple enough, a low- or no-cost to the association offer. Assuming that's something the association sells, you're devaluing that to the prospects, but I think that's ok, and I might try that as a tactic.

However, I'd prefer something else. With a new member I'd try to find engagement hooks. Rather than offering free or discounted commodities, I'd work to try to get them involved -- in writing, in making presentations, in offering ideas. I know you've said previously that transaction-based relationships are exactly what some people want in their dealings with associations. You're right, but it's not what I want for my association. It's true that more engaged members are also the most economically valuable, but that's not why I want them engaged. I want them engaged because that makes the organization stronger.

Kathy Bell said...

what a neat idea - simple and I'm sure effective. I save all of Jeff's emails ... it's even better when i read them! I will put this idea to work NOW!

Jeffrey Cufaude said...

Scott: great points. In my example this person has yet to join yet. We engaged them by getting them to a meeting/program, so I was looking for a hook that would be appropriate. But I 100% concur with trying to move members away from transaction-based relationships. It commoditizes the experience and we won't always be able to win on the price/value comparison.

I've long advocated associations having a "First 30 days" strategy of contacts and engagement invitations to members within the first 30 days of them joining. College campuses do something similar with the 1st four weeks of freshman year as they know people drop out if they don't quickly get connected to the campus community.

Scott Briscoe said...

Yes, we've talked about your first 30 days strategy, and I think it's brilliant. I also think you need a next 90 days strategy and then a future strategy. I like being deliberate in the first 30. After a month, I think a strategy shift is in order, perhaps trying different tactics with less urgency or frequency. And I figure after 4 months -- and that's arbitrary, maybe 3 months or 6 months would be better -- you reel in the effort because it's less and less likely to pay off. I don't think you ever stop trying entirely. I think of it more like intense effort followed by more, perhaps slightly less intense effort, followed by reminders: "Hey, we're still here and we'd love for you to be involved."

Jeffrey Cufaude said...

Excellent idea Scott. I haven't had a chance to read David Gammel's book, but I imagine he suggest something similar in spirit. I wonder how many associations have some sort of a an outreach cycle like what you outline? I certainly can't think of any.