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The Membership Life Cycle Starts with Smart Recruiting

December 26th, 2011 5:24pm - Posted By: Cathi Hight

 Membership-based organizations spend a great deal of time in the Membership Life Cycle starting from the Acquisition stage all the way through the last stage of Renewal. In this month’s issue, we explore the different stages of the Membership Life Cycle and the typical challenges experienced, and the best practices to implement for Stage 1. Don’t miss the September issue where we will explore best practices for Stage 2 to integrate new members successfully.

Stage 1:     Acquisition of New Members

Successful acquisition or recruitment of new members require a commitment to consistently market the organization’s brand to communicate who it is and what it offers to members to create awareness and interest for prospects to join. The greater the awareness and positive brand recognition your organization has among the constituents you serve, the higher likelihood of prospects joining on their own or being receptive to marketing initiatives.

The most common challenges organizations face in this stage include:

- Lack of resources including time, staff or funds to market consistently across all mediums (e.g., direct mail, web site, social media, trade shows, community presentations)

- Inconsistent branding due to marketing initiatives, conflicting messages, reputation

- One-size-fits-all value propositions

- No sense of urgency for prospects to join

- Perception of value for membership

Stage 2:     Integration of New Members

Many organizations experience their lowest retention rates with first year members and recognize the need to better integrate these members into the membership community to increase their likelihood to receive intended benefits and renew. There are numerous reasons why first year members have lower retention rates, including:

- Instant gratification tendencies not satisfied (lack of patience for results, “me” focused)

- Failure to connect with targeted audiences (didn’t meet the people I wanted to meet)

- Haven’t plugged into or found their “community” (e.g., like-minded interests, needs, members Who became friends)

- Lack of information or knowledge to access available resources (due to inconvenience or difficulty to access, time)

- Lack of perceived value (which is always in the eye of the member)

- Members’ own business practices or capability of being successful (some businesses have higher failure rates or members have a lack of appropriate business skills)

- Loyalty to the organization has yet to be developed (loyalty takes about three years to develop and built on experiences and relationships)

Organizations with higher retention rates understand the importance of onboarding or integrating new members successfully into the membership community. Regardless of how these members are recruited, the integration process is the key to increasing overall retention rates and growing the size of the membership base.

Once new members are acquired, they try to connect or affiliate within the organization’s ‘community’ by participating in activities, investing in opportunities or aligning their interests with other members. If they onboard successfully, they renew or re-commit their membership with the organization. If they don’t integrate, lose interest, or find their expectations met elsewhere, they disassociate or defect from the organization.

Stage 3:     Engagement Levels of Members

Most organizations have found a strong correlation between engagement and retention of members. Engagement is more broadly defined than “participation of events” and includes open rates of e-mails and e-newsletters, web site visits, clicking on links, responding to surveys and polls, participating in committees, councils and task forces, volunteering and connecting through social media platforms. Although tracking engagement levels of members can be difficult depending on organizational resources (e.g., time, staff, technology), the more that can be monitored and influenced, the higher likelihood of higher retention rates and member loyalty.

The most common challenges organizations face in this stage include:

- Lack of technology or resources to document, track and monitor engagement levels

- Lack of time for members to engage more due to their own resource constraints

- Member apathy or indifference

- Identifying and agreeing on the definition of engagement

- Quantifying and tracking engagement through non-registered activities or social media interactions

Stage 4:     Renewal of Members

The renewal stage oftentimes reflects a quantitative measurement of how much members value the organization. Sure, some members may not renew due to factors outside of the organization’s control (e.g., business failure, merger, relocation, closure), although most renewals could be influenced proactively or reactively by the organization. The number one reason most members choose not to renew is they do not see the value in the membership and their expectations were not met. The second highest reason is simply that members forgot to renew.

The most common challenges organizations face in this stage include:

- Lack of urgency by members to renew timely

- Members face resource constraints due to economic and business conditions

- Organizations are torn between terminating benefits after the renewal period or continuing to provide access to membership benefits to maintain relationships with members

- Lack of resources to manage the renewal process or to conduct outreach to non-responsive members

- Renewals based on a calendar year (January-December) catch members at a busy time of the year to remember or want to renew and may place smaller organizations in jeopardy financially if renewal revenue doesn’t arrive timely.

Best Practices for Stage 1:    Acquisition of New Members (read the rest)

Cathi Hight is President of Hight Performance Group and has over 20 years experience in performance improvement. She helps organizations build sustainable futures, improve processes, increase productivity, and develop staff & member loyalty. Hight Performance Group is the developer of the Member Retention Kit. Cathi may be reached at (720) 304-0747 or via e-mail: cathi@hightperformance.com

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When Priorities Outweigh Resources

September 24th, 2011 12:35pm - Posted By: Cathi Hight

What do you do when you have more priorities on your plate than you have resources to manage or that can be executed well?   Over the years, you’ve said “yes” to so many projects and requests and the expectations are that you can continue to deliver on these priorities even during the economic recovery with fewer staff and higher stress levels.  You have vented with co-workers and brought your anguish home to share with family members and friends. It’s time to make some hard decisions about where to focus your energy and resources, and what to disinvest from.

So how do you begin this process after you recognize that some of these priorities are tied to your co-workers’, boss, clients’ or family’s interests, and just old habits you’ve been addicted to for a long time? How do you remove the emotional and subjective aspects that impede making the right decisions? You clearly need a way to assess the priorities fairly and objectively.

Last month I worked with a regional division of a federal agency that was faced with making these hard decisions. The division was struggling with meeting diverse expectations to manage multiple projects with reduced resources. With reduced budgets, an external hiring freeze, and recent and imminent retirements, division staff resources were stretched beyond its limits and it was clear that quality performance was no longer sustainable.

I introduced them to the Priority Matrix concept to explore how this tool could help division leaders assess each program using the same agreed-upon evaluation factors. First, the team identified, quantified and agreed on the factors to evaluate programs. They ‘tested’ these factors on several programs to see if the same factors could be used to evaluate seemingly different programs. After some factor tweaking, they agreed to use the tool to conduct a full program analysis to create a program priority ranking and determine where to invest and disinvest resources over the next year.

Once the Program Priority Matrix was developed, division leaders can then assess staff resources and realign these resources to ensure that the Region will focus on the right priorities at the right time. Perhaps some of the current and imminent position vacancies will not be filled even when the economy improves and the hiring freezes are lifted. And there is a process and insight on where resources are needed and special hiring needs are warranted.

Bringing Kaizen concepts into the public sector: continuous improvement, managing change, and using resources efficiently. I love it!

Cathi

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Use Office Kaizen to Increase Your Productivity

May 25th, 2011 3:50pm - Posted By: Cathi Hight

Do you feel overwhelmed when you walk into your office? Are you confident that you know where everything is even though you feel stressed looking for things? Are you as productive as you’d like to be?

Kaizen, a popular Japanese management principle, literally means “good change” or “change for the better.” When everyone practices Kaizen at work staff members are organized, less stressed and more productive. Customers benefit from improved response times, quick resolutions to problems and higher quality products and services.

Kaizen is most often associated with manufacturing and used to reduce production cycles while improving the quality of goods (zero-defect rates). The concept is usually bundled with “lean” manufacturing or Lean Six Sigma which focuses on identifying the current process to get things done and then creating a streamlined approach to achieve better results with less costs and in less time.

How can you apply a Kaizen approach when you work in an office environment? Yes, you can!

In our Work Smarter, Not Harder training program, participants apply Kaizen in the first module to optimize their workspace for a productivity boost. Although the third module focuses on time management, participants recognize they must develop a strong productivity foundation by ensuring their workspaces are designed and maintained for optimal performance.

Participants realize that multitasking actually costs time and quality as evidenced by several scientific studies. Check out: http://www.apa.org/research/action/multitask.aspx and http://rockrunner.blogs.com/rock_runner/2010/06/the-multitasking-myth.html to learn more.

To boost productivity and optimize their workspaces, participants apply the popular Kaizen principle 5 S’s of Housekeeping as their first homework assignment:

Sort (Seiri)—Separate out all the things that are unnecessary and eliminate them. Straighten (Seiton)—Arrange the essential things in order so they can be easily accessed while maintaining a Clear 180º at your desk to increase your concentration and to decrease unnecessary distrations. Scrub (Seiso)—Keep machines and working environments clean. Systematize (Seiketsu)—Make cleaning and checking a routine practice. Employ self-discipline to be organized daily. Standardize( Shitsuke)—Standardize the previous four steps to make the process one that never ends and that can be improved upon. Take time to reflect on how you use your workspace and make changes as needed.

When our participants employ Kaizen practices in their workspaces, they feel organized and less stressed throughout the day, and they accomplish tasks in ¼ the time. Sweet!

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All We Need is Good Change

April 22nd, 2011 3:35pm - Posted By: Cathi Hight

 

Like love, all we need is a little Kaizen to improve business outcomes and our lives. What’s Kaizen? Most professionals define it as “continuous improvement” and it was popularized in the manufacturing sector. As one of 14 principles described in the book The Toyota Way, Kaizen is described as an attitude of self-reflection and even self-criticism with a burning desire to improve.

Many years ago when I was certified as a Motorola University instructor for cycle time reduction and benchmarking, I proudly announced to my Hiroshima-native mother that I was going to be a Kaizen consultant. “Nani, Kaizen?” she asked with a smile on her face wanting to know how I defined the term. Using the definition I gleaned from my training, I said matter-of-factly, “Kaizen is about continuous improvement, managing gradual change and using existing resources efficiently.” Most technicians associate Kaizen with “eliminating waste or activities that add cost and not value” and a lot of energy is spent on looking at existing processes and identifying ways to shorten them for better efficiency and improved experiences for customers.

My wise mother then said, “Too complicated. Kaizen is simple. It means ‘good change.’ Kaizen is not just for manufacturers, it’s for everyone. As a poor girl growing up in a small fishing village, even I practice Kaizen—so I can be a little better today than yesterday.” She smiled again.

I later learned that my mom was right as I researched the definitions of Kaizen. The word “Kai” means “change” or “the action to correct,” and “Zen” means ”Good” or “Improvement.” So Kaizen in Japanese means “change for the better” or “Improvement” and the English translation became ”Continuous Improvement.” Truthfully, I like the way my mom explained it because it allows us to embrace Kaizen as principle in everything we do.

As a performance improvement consultant, I help organizations of various sizes practice Kaizen to improve processes, increase productivity, deliver better customer experiences and to work together cohesively to achieve organizational goals. I always weave in personal Kaizen and want employees to apply it to enrich their own lives and careers.

Welcome to our blog site and I hope we can share lots of ways to apply Kaizen in all we do! 

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