Like many successful entrepreneurs, I enjoy helping local associations with their marketing problems whenever I can. It seems that often simply offering a new perspective can be all that is needed to move things forward.
Recently, I ran a re-positioning session for my local outdoor sports association and during it, I realised that many of the things we were doing together would also be of value to other organisations, big or small, who are in a similar situation.
For this reason I share some of the brainstorming we did, in the hope that it will inspire you to try something similar.
Background completeness defines the outcome
The president of the association asked for my advice because they were losing participation in their organised events. As a keen member myself, I offered to run a brainstorming session with his committee members, to see if together we could find some solutions. I started by gathering information from all the guides, which in itself was a challenge. As motivation was low, response rate was only around 25-30% and even then some of the responses were only general comments rather than specific responses to the questions asked. Things were even worse than I had anticipated!
However, this actually provided me with the “burning platform” that I presented to the president. If he didn’t address the issues immediately, I told him that his organisation wouldn’t exist 2-3 years from now! The low response rate to the study and the drop in event participation already confirmed this, but he hadn’t “wanted to see the facts”. This is where an external perspective can be invaluable.
Whenever you are faced with underst anding a situation, it is vital to start with a review of all relevant data and knowledge, and if incomplete, to complement it with an additional information gathering exercise. If you can’t precisely assess the current situation and identify all the relevant issues, your resultant brainstorming will be less effective than it could or should be.
Prioritising 3 areas only increases the level of success
It was clear from the answers I did receive that there were a number of related issues. The low participation of the organised events, was leading to the low motivation of the guides. The low awareness level and lack of visibility of the events, led to low participation in them. A vicious circle it was imperative to break. One positive sign however, was that past participants were very keen on attending future events, so it wasn’t the “product” that was at fault; people just didn’t know about them.
Another finding, that I often also see when addressing issues with my clients, is that the target audience for this association’s events, was ill-defined. Each guide had a different perspective of the people they were trying to attract. They were being defined as children, schools, companies, ladies 40-65 y.o. expatriates, those interested in history / geography, etc etc. As you can see, a wide variety of answers that wasn’t going to improve the overall cohesiveness of the association. When I dug deeper, I found that the differing topics of expertise of the guides meant that they each had in mind different target groups for their own offers. I suggested that a solution could be to group these into three major segments and to then attribute appropriate offers to each of them separately.
Three is a magic number with many uses. In this case, three segments were sufficient to offer diversity, whilst at the same time seeming achievable to attract rather than overwhelming. I also recommend choosing three areas to work on at a time and then breaking those down into sub-points, ideally three if you want to continue to work with the magic number. (If you are interested in the theory behind the power of three, then make a search online; there are innumerable examples of different uses given there, from various industries)
Choose impact over the ease of your actions
Once the three main areas have been identified, prioritise actions based upon the impact of each outcome. For example in their case, we reviewed ways to increase their visibility. Whilst their current website was quite useful, according to Alexa it was getting hardly any visits, so I suggested starting with other ways to improve visibility rather than updating it. Even if they improved their site, it would have little or no impact on the problem they were looking to address. It was an action that was certainly easy to do, and enjoyable to work on, but other actions would bring a better return for their efforts.
In line with my preference of working in threes, I will stop here and open up the discussion to you. Why not review why you may not be succeeding in your plans? Are you trying to do too much? Are you looking for the easy way out? Are your actions lacking the desired impact?
If you answered yes to any (or all) of these three questions, use the above example to rethink the problem through. Start by taking a step back and evaluating the situation from a new perspective. Ask a colleague or even someone outside the company to review the information you have on the issue and to give you their opinion. Sometimes that is all it takes to get to the real situation.
Then identify three areas to work on. Since this is often easier said than done, start by making a list of all the possible areas impacting the situation and then prioritise them. By choosing just three areas to concentrate on, it will enable you to better focus, which will in turn make them easier to achieve. And if you complete them and still have more time or budget resources, you can then tackle the next three on the list, and so on.
One last word on prioritising the areas on which to concentrate; if as was the case for this organisation, your target audience is not well defined, you are unlikely to succeed with your other priorities. Therefore reviewing and completing the definition of your target audience should always be the first area to review.
Finally identify the actions needed for each of the three areas to be addressed. Again, as in the above example, don’t jump on the first solution found. For instance, since the association with which I was working had a webmaster, it was easy for them to update their website. However, as mentioned, it would have had little impact on increasing the awareness of their events. We decided on a different set of actions to improve their communications and made updating the website a secondary action, once their rating on Alexa started to increase.
Are you struggling with issues that need an external perspective? Why not ask us to organise a 1-Day Catalyst session. We will get to the center of your issues and opportunities, and define actions with you that will provide the best return for your efforts. No obligation, just INSPIRATION!
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