Preparing for Precipitating Events


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

When infrequent exchanges with these companies become almost daily interactions it can only mean one thing:  you're moving and are 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 you put your house on the market, a constant stream of promotional offers from moving companies and other related entities will arrive.  These companies discover you as a new prospect and respond accordingly.

Surprisingly though during my last home renovation, when my Home Depot and Lowes trips moved from every few months to every few days, neither of those companies changed how they engaged with me.

Behold: the power of the precipitating event.  How do you or 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 other opportunities 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. 
  • Get laid off and you will want to leverage a variety of career-related resources.
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 other precipitating events when associations 
would definitely be of increased value to their members?