An Executive Director's point of view


August 25, 2015: Fax it

Category: Business practices
Posted by: David M Patt
Many industries and professions utilize faxes for transmission of important information.

Banks, hospitals, insurance companies, and mortgage lenders are among those that often require faxes and do not want documents emailed to them, even though they may maintain robust online services for other activities. Many attorneys, too, prefer paper to electronic communication.

So, before you dump your fax machine, determine how frequently you expect to send and receive faxes, explore alternative fax venues, and calculate the cost of each.

Then decide how best to connect by fax with people with whom you need to be connected by fax.

August 10, 2015: Think for yourself

Category: Business practices
Posted by: David M Patt
There's a lot of talk, now, about eliminating annual performance appraisals, offering unlimited vacation days, embracing workforce diversity, developing more interactive educational sessions, creating wall-less offices, and changing the way associations and business have engaged in a variety of activities.

But ideas like these are not new. Many people, organizations, and business have been designing innovative workplaces for a long time.

What's new is that some large, successful entities have now adopted these practices, so others think it's safe for them to do the same.

But you should conduct activities in certain ways because you think those ways are best, not because they are fashionable, popular, or have become the norm in your industry or profession.

Think for yourself, and do what you think is best. Don't just follow everybody else.

July 27, 2015: Wrong question

Category: Business practices
Posted by: David M Patt
I just canceled a publication subscription (actually, I let it lapse but was still sent each issue - so I canceled) and I was sent a survey asking about the quality of the person who handled the matter.

I was not asked why I canceled or what I thought of the publication. The company merely wanted feedback about its employee's performance.

(I usually give great ratings, but I did not communicate with anybody to cancel. I did it online. So, I did not respond to the survey).

Shouldn't the company have been more concerned about why it lost a subscriber than about how its employee performed?

July 21, 2015: Employee morale builder

Category: Business practices
Posted by: David M Patt
Open Books, a Chicago-area literacy program, issues business cards to all of its employees - even to those who don't need them.

It makes employees feel more important and gives them one more reason to like the organization.

But don't issue business cards to your employees in lieu of paying higher salaries. Pay people what they deserve - and give them the cards, too.
Category: Business practices
Posted by: David M Patt
Sometimes, people think more of you and your association just because you listened to them.

Here are some situations in which listening was beneficial - and some tips for dealing with complaints.

February 17, 2015: Avoiding contact

Category: Business practices
Posted by: David M Patt
An association does not seem to want to receive telephone calls.

A recorded welcome invites people to leave a message or be directed to a specific staff person. But it does not allow anybody to contact a department or to identify a person responsible for a particular organizational activity.

So, the choice is - know the name of the person you are calling, or just leave your message in a general bin and hope for the best.

But your answering system should not be built around evading people whom you don't know and may not wish to speak with.

Perhaps a media representative or government official is trying to call and doesn't want to be dumped into an anonymous inbox. Or a colleague from another association wants to chat with you about collaboration on a future project.

Always make it easy to be contacted.
Category: Business practices
Posted by: David M Patt
It seems the primary strategy used by businesses, and many associations, to make sales is trickery.

Sales campaigns often utilize exaggerated claims, misleading representations, and sometimes even false "facts" to grab customers' attention and to persuade them to buy things they might not have bought if they knew the truth.

Such tactics as implying a success rate that is very unlikely to be achieved, listing an irrelevant title on the subject line of an email message, hiding the price of a product until the final page of an online sales pitch, disguising mailings by making them appear to have been sent by "official" sources, posting fake testimonials, and deliberately confusing the organization with a similarly named one, are just a few of the many deceptions employed by dishonest sales people in both profit and not-for-profit settings to pry money from the hands of their targets.

If you are selling something that has no value, those shady strategies may suit you.

But if your product (or association) does have value, you should not have to lie or mislead people to make a sale.

Tell prospective customers what they'll receive for their payment and tell them how they really will benefit.

If you can't make a sale that way, then you should create more value - not cheat people.

December 14, 2014: Hiding the price

Category: Business practices
Posted by: David M Patt
I just received a promotional mailing for an association event. It did not include the price.

Why do associations and businesses think they can trick people into attending events by not stating the price upfront?

They assume the promotional pitch will work, and the recipient will pay whatever it costs to attend.

Well, that just is not true.

If I find that the price is higher than I want to pay, I won't attend, no matter how much value I think the event offers. And if I have to click through additional pages to find out that price, I'll have a negative opinion of the event's producer for trying to trick me into registering.

Don't hide the price of your event, product, or organization. It won't help.

October 15, 2014: Tell the truth

Category: Business practices
Posted by: David M Patt
When changing policies about billing, refunds, membership, conference registration, or anything else, tell members, attendees, and customers the truth about why you are making the change.

Don't say you are improving their experience. If they complain about the change, the experience has not improved, and saying that it has makes your association appear misguided, uninformed, and just plain insulting.

Let them know that you database has been changed, or that you want to eliminate collection problems, or that people had abused previous policies, or that there just aren't enough buyers for the products you used to sell.

Always tell the truth.
Category: Business practices
Posted by: David M Patt
If you are investing in sales and membership development and cutting back on customer and member services, you are making a big mistake.

The promise of great customer service is an excellent way to attract customers and members. And delivery of great customer service is an excellent way to retain those customers and members.

So, don't think of customer service as a money drain. Think of it as one of your association's most effective marketing tools.
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