October 10, 2012

Preparing for Precipitating Events


Home Depot.  USPS.  U-Haul.  Lowes.  AT&T.  BrightHouse.  Earthlink.

A couple of weeks ago, they were mere acquaintances in my life.  Now we’ve become close friends.  What once were infrequent exchanges have become almost daily interactions.

And that can only mean one thing:  I’ve moving and am involved in a home renovation.

It’s amazing how one decision leads to a cascade of consequences and perhaps more importantly to a dramatic change in your routine.  When that first domino falls …

From the day I put my house on the market, a constant stream of promotional offers from moving companies and other related entities have found their way to me.  These companies discovered me as a new prospect and responded accordingly.

But despite the fact that my runs to Home Depot and Lowes have gone from about one every six months to more than one every six days, those companies still treat me the same.

Behold: the power of the precipitating event.  How do you or does your organization respond to them when they occur in your members’ or customers’ lives?  With a designed intervention and offer or benign indifference?  

Pattern recognition is a key element of systems thinking, but too many organizations don't put systems in place to recognize them or spot changes in them and then respond accordingly.

When I listen to association staff members talk about member data, they tend to slice and dice us by typical demographic demarcations: age, career stage, gender, etc.  That’s fine and sometimes useful, but it neglects the opportunity that precipitating events offer to be of value.
  • Move into a middle management position and you immediately need an entire new suite of professional development offerings.
  •  Move to a new city and you would immediately value getting connected to your new community of colleagues.
  •  Switch professions and you’re likely to need a fast foundation in the new landscape in which you’ll be working.
  •  Decide you want to sell your business and/or retire and you’ll want to hear from others who have already done the same thing.
  • When a major crisis occurs you want to implement a tried and true response plan.
The irony (to me at least) is that we know these events are going to occur in the lives of our customers and members, so we can easily bundle what they might value when they happen.  What we don’t know is when they are going to occur.  As a result, we must have these offerings always visible (I’ve rarely seen web links related to the events I described above), as well as develop better signaling mechanisms to alert us of the changes and the opportunity to be of service.

Precipitating events change patterns of behavior.  Smart companies and associations will appropriately attempt to convert this temporary change into a more long-term and sustainable connection.   Yet far too few are ready to act when the first domino falls.  Are you?

What are some other precipitating events when associations would definitely be of increased value to their members?

2 comments:

garyb said...

Good article, Jeffrey, and thanks. But in your last sentence don't you mean "...far too few..." rather than "...far too many.."?

Gary Berlind
gary@garyberlind.com

Jeffrey Cufaude said...

Thanks for that great catch Gary. Post updated accordingly.