While I was excited about the new direction, one employee was entrenched, frustrated and refused to yield.
Once I understood Dan Kennedy style marketing, positioning and how to ask my clients to pay reasonable fees for the premium quality services I was providing, it took a couple of years to make it happen. My association marketing consulting agreements are typically for 2 years, and it took a while to cycle through and get everything updated.
During that process, I came to the realization that, even though our hourly fees were 3 to 5 times that of our competitors, I was still trading hours for dollars; all of my company’s income was based on trading hours for dollars. There wasn’t any scalable income that could grow the revenue without adding people who could perform the hours of service.
That’s when I decided to pursue information marketing for the first time. Heck, I’d already been doing newsletters, events, and products for my client associations. I decided to create a product that could teach what we were doing to recruit and retain members for our client associations. That way, we could sell copies of the product rather than perform services. In other words, we could do the work once and get paid many times through product sales.
This worked for everyone on my team, except for one. She wouldn’t budge. In fact, she believed that because we’d just raised our fees for each of our clients, it would irresponsible to distract ourselves from anything other than serving those current clients. Not only was she completely accepting of the status quot, but she passionately believed it shouldn’t change. Any attempt to change our circumstances would disrupt what we built.
Although I appreciated her input and continued to serve those present association clients, in the end, I moved forward to diversify my company. I created information products and began to promote them. The accountant moved on and I had to replace her. But I kept my focus.
In fact, I forced myself to become wholly frustrated with the status quo. I couldn’t accept it. I refused to accept what other people believed to be normal, acceptable or even beneficial.
Often when I speak with tribal leaders about retention within their continuity programs, they tell me their goal in terms of members lost in a month. The number I hear most often is 5 percent. They want to keep their monthly loss to 5 percent or less.
Oh my goodness! At 5 percent a month, you’ll have to replace 60 percent of your members each year! You’ll only be keeping 40 percent of your members from one year to the next.
Within the association world, renewing 80 to 85 percent of your members from one year to the next is average. If I had that renewal rate with my association clients I’d be fired. I’ve got to keep my renewal rates above 95 percent a year to meet their expectations today.
Yes, that’s right, I’m losing less than .5 percent of my members each month with my association clients. All while so many continuity programs have 5 percent as their goal.
When I mentioned this recently, I received push back because in the software-as-a-service (SAAS) world, 2 percent monthly client loss is the goal. And how is a continuity marketer who is providing information and/or coaching without software ever supposed to beat the aspirations of an SAAS provider?
You get what you accept.
I learned from that employee that if you expected to perform work for hourly fees all your life and you couldn’t imagine anything else, that’s what you’ll get.
Within continuity programs, if your goal is 5 percent or even 2 percent, you can bet you’ll never improve beyond that. How about setting a goal of retaining .5 percent? Impossible? Maybe it is, but I guarantee if you believe it’s impossible, you’ll never achieve it. If, instead, you decide that losing 2 percent, 5 percent or more of your members each month is unacceptable, you may just discover that there are completely different ways to retain members that are a lot more effective.
There’s nothing special about associations. It’s just that they’ve figured out what members want and have created systems to provide it to them on an ongoing basis.
Many continuity providers have jumped into niches where associations exist and have provided much better information. Their continuity program gives a much greater return on investment than the association does. Yet, their continuity program has a much higher dropout rate than does the association. And the continuity provider’s member numbers are far lower than the association’s. Why?
The association doesn’t tolerate a high dropout rate. The association never figured out what you understand about back-end products and maximizing customer value. They had to go for bulk because they didn’t know anything else. Thus, that constraint forced them to figure out how to attract and retain members in larger numbers.
Put constraints on yourself and your team. Refuse to tolerate 2 percent, 5 percent or higher dropout rates. Focus on improving retention in your continuity programs. You may just discover that there’s a much better way to grow a vibrant, healthy tribe of customers who love you.