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Dear Betty: Something Different for the Holidays

Dear Betty: Is it already time for sending snowman-themed “happy holidays” greetings to my members and boxes of chocolates and cans of popcorn to my exhibitors and conference sponsors? Isn’t there something different I could do?

DelightGentle Reader:

I know exactly how you feel. Sometimes it seems like the sparks from the Independence Day fireworks have scarcely gone out before Rudolph and his friends make their first appearance.

I’d like to introduce you to a concept that was, I believe, originated by Seth Godin: surprise and delight marketing. It’s ideally what you should be aiming for in interactions with your members, customers, and other audiences.

Associations don’t focus enough on the concept of creating delight when we’re creating member experiences. We think about being polite on the phone, spelling their names correctly, getting the renewal invoices out on time, delivering the magazine to the right address, and putting together solid conferences and useful networking events. This is the tactical, mundane stuff that keeps the association running smoothly, but it isn’t exactly earth-shattering. It’s not going to make a member smile, or wow them, or cause them to tell their colleagues how amazing the association is. And wouldn’t you want them to?

For-profit companies, on the other hand, tend to be great at this. BOGO… free gift with purchase… turndown service and chocolate on your pillow at nice hotels… free birthday dessert at the neighborhood restaurant where you’re a regular… Zappos is legendary for surprising and delighting their customers. So is the Ritz-Carlton, with their famous $2000 policy. We’re all familiar with these “surprise and delight” type of experiences as consumers.

So why aren’t we delivering them for our members and other audiences?

Holidays can provide an excellent source of surprise and delight, but probably not via sending a snowman themed e-card in the last week of December. That’s neither surprising nor particularly delightful. What could you do that might be tied to a different holiday that would resonate? What about:

  • A Thanksgiving holiday greeting to your exhibitors and sponsors that includes a donation to a charity related to your profession or industry? (Nobody needs another can of popcorn, trust me.)
  • A New Year’s resolution that gets highly specific about an improved customer service promise, which you then live up to?
  • A Valentine’s Day “we love our loyal members” promotion that offers a free conference registration to everyone who’s been a member for more than 25 consecutive years?
  • A Labor Day offer to each of your volunteers of a gift membership they can award to anyone they like?
  • A Halloween “treat” for your members of a free advance electronic copy of a publication you’re about to release or a flash sale on the most popular item in your online store?

Santa-memberclicksWhat about you, Gentle Readers? What have you done not to serve, not to manage, not to placate, but to surprise your members lately? When – if ever – was the last time you even considered going beyond “adequate” and reaching for “awesome”? What would the world look like for your organization and constituents if delight was your goal?

 

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Dear Betty

“Dear Betty” is the association advice columnist alter-ego of Elizabeth Weaver Engel, M.A., CAE, CEO and Chief Strategist of Spark Consulting LLC. Elizabeth has over sixteen years of experience helping associations grow, in membership, marketing, communications, public presence, and especially revenue, which is what Spark is all about. She speaks and writes frequently on a variety of topics in association management. When she's not helping associations grow, Elizabeth loves to dance, listen to live music, cook, garden, and blog about the Philadelphia Eagles.
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