An Executive Director's point of view


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.

September 10, 2014: Lies, damn lies, and advertising

Category: Business practices
Posted by: David M Patt
Here's what happens when you lie about what you are advertising.
Category: Business practices
Posted by: David M Patt
Not a lot of people.

Many folks merely call the number that appears on their CallerID. They don't want to waste time calling voicemail and listening to a message when they can just call you back.

And they often assume you've called from a cell phone (and wished you had texted, instead) and think they can reach you anytime.

So, you may not want to bother leaving a message when you call somebody. Just be sure to call from the phone number where you want the call returned.

May 07, 2014: Tricks

Category: Business practices
Posted by: David M Patt
1. An articulate caller leaves a telephone number in your voicemail but does not leave a message (hint: it's a sales call).

2. A web site states that a service is free, but the asterisk following the word "free" leads to a footnote that tells you there really is a cost for the service.

3. The price of a product is not displayed on the web site. Only after you have clicked "buy" and completed a form are you told the fee.

4. Free shipping of a product is offered but when you click "buy" you are told the free shipping does not apply to that product.

5. A message says a discount ends tomorrow. The same message is delivered a week later and says the discount ends tomorrow.

6. A business lists its address and hours of operation, but not a telephone number or email address.

7. A web contact page does not include a telephone number.

8. A web contact page does not provide a telephone number until you have opened a certain link on an FAQ page.

9. A free document is offered online but you have to register on a web site to receive it. You can't just download it.

10. A caller offers a deal on a product or service but does not identify the company providing the offer.

Don't try to trick customers or members. Be truthful about your offer and your intentions and make it easy for people to contact you.

If you are offering something of value, you should not have to trick people into buying your product or joining your association.

April 21, 2014: Start webinars on time

Category: Business practices
Posted by: David M Patt
It has become fashionable to start webinars five minutes later than the advertised time.

Don't do that.

Always start on time. Don't wait for people to gather.

If attendees want all of the information, they should show up on time. And those who do should know the webinar will start on time.

April 14, 2014: Don't make them pay

Category: Business practices
Posted by: David M Patt
People who use conference calls for Board meetings, committee meetings, job interviews, or other association activities should not have to pay to participate.

They should be able to call a toll-free number and the organization should pay the fee.

Even local associations should do that. A person who organizes a conference call from a cell phone, for example, may have relocated from across the country and kept an old number. So a call to a colleague down the street will incur a long distance charge.

Conference calls should be free to all of the individuals on the call.
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