Cultivating engagement: what was the catalyst?

If you join an organization, visit a local chapter event, read an online article, or register for a conference something was the catalyst for your action.

Now on the organization's end, I don’t want to get in the way of you doing what you most came to do.  But by learning the catalyst for your action, I might discover how to next communicate with you, to customize our next interaction.  

Note that I said next interaction, not all future interactions.  If we want to cultivate relationships that invest people in our community, cause, or organization, we must remain curious about them: how might what I’m learning about you now alter my next interaction with you?  
It’s stimulus-response, not stimulus-autopilot: think iterations that continue to evolve as new learning is acquired.  See Seth Godin's take on pacing relationships and actions.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that when a catalyst question of sorts is currently asked it tends to focus on how did you get here (email, website, ad, tweet, etc.) as opposed to what brought you here.  The former helps you learn what medium you might use in the future to broadcast your potentially irrelevant message and offers to me (wink, that was sarcasm).  The latter might inform what would actually get me to pay attention and be of value to me. 

Survey and data-gathering gurus can best tell you whether to ask an open-ended question or a multiple choice with an “other” option, as well as at what point in the registration or joining process the question is best posed.  I want to focus on what you might learn in order to begin cultivating the relationship.  Let me offer some examples for possible catalyst insights.

Catalyst: I registered for your conference because I am new to the industry or profession.

Possible action: In the registration confirmation, you provide a link to a web page containing a few essential resources for newcomers, a 2-minute video welcome, and five tips for newcomers that you’ve gathered from your existing members.  Include pictures and identifying information for each of these members so that it has a more personal tone.  Example: Jeffrey Cufaude from Idea Architects said he found ______ to be really helpful when he was new to the profession because it ____.

Catalyst: I joined your association because a trusted colleague told me I would be better off for doing so.

Possible action: ask if you can thank that colleague (asking for his/her name and email for this one-time use) for the referral.  In the thank you to the colleague extend a discount for the referrer and the referral to both come to an upcoming event that will be occurring relatively soon.  If you have no events, offer a limited-time discount for the referrer to purchase a resource for the person referred.  In short, reward the referrer and try to leverage that relationship with the referred to get them both at an event or using a resource.

Catalyst: I’m coming to your chapter event because I just moved to the area.

Possible action: Get a volunteer ambassador to call this person after she registers for the event, welcome the person to the area, and talk to her a bit about what to expect at the event.  Have a simple welcome packet available at the event that the ambassador can personally deliver to this newcomer. 

Catalyst: I made an unsolicited donation because I’ve heard great things about your organization.

Possible action:  point me to a 3-minute video report that highlights either your most significant accomplishments, your biggest projects currently under way, or both. 

The catalyst is a call to action 

When people come to us, they are doing so for some reason.  There was a catalyst that called them to act, and once we know what the catalyst was, we also can act.  The best part? We can probably anticipate most of the catalysts and prepare relevant responses to them.

Our response's content should be simple, concise, and provide immediate value in response to the reason the people got in action.  The response should answer this question: given that this was the catalyst, what else might be of significant value for these individuals?

Our response's tone should be inviting and have a human voice, not one that is institutional or transactional instead of relational. No, I repeat, no stock photography.  Instead of a generic “people like you also purchased ____”, we should spotlight those people and their stories whenever possible.  And unlike Facebook, make sure you have their explicit permission to do so.  In fact, enlist them as willing ambassadors for your efforts.

Neither our tone, nor our content should overreach or overreact to what we’ve just learned about you.  We’re only taking the first step in cultivation. 

This post is a part of a short series of daily posts on cultivating engagement.  Your comments, reactions, and refinements are encouraged in the comments. I am not a marketing, data or information analysis, or membership specialist. I am a practitioner in the trenches, sharing what makes sense based on my experiences and observations of others’ efforts. I am a deep believer in trying a lot of stuff to learn what works.  These posts are in support of that commitment.

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