Conventional thinking suggests that companies develop brands with the end user in mind. If a brand is to have the magnetic appeal to attract the shillings and cents of the majority then it must be created to address an existing market need, and all developments thereafter should be made to improve the experience the user has with it. Can Rotary clubs learn something from this regarding membership attraction and engagement?
The executives of the worlds best brands spend their days gathering data about customers, focusing on their perceptions, desires, and the changes that would improve the overall user experience. We know this about laundry detergents. For ages they’ve been rolling out new fan-dangled improvements with the latest cleansing science which they use to convince mothers that their soap washes better than the rest.
It seems that Rotary clubs are really good at attracting new members, but they fall flat when it comes to retention and the membership data supports this. Therefore, if we take a moment to view our membership engagement strategies with a lens from the top brands we will find ourselves in the realm of customer service, after sales service and creating ‘brand experiences’ for our customers (members).
Mobile phones such as the iPhone and Galaxy focus on the ‘brand experience’ which factors all the moments that customers comes into contact with their product, from advertising, to buying, to usage, and the additional services that enhance customer satisfaction. Every step is important because it leads to customer loyalty and future profitability.
With this idea in mind, Rotary clubs should adopt a customer centric approach to membership and ensure that each customer ‘touch point’ is handled with the thoughtfulness and care that will lead to a memorable and enjoyable experience.
It starts with the recruitment process and how your customer service agents (board members) welcome the prospects into regular club meetings. Leaders (your potential candidates) are mostly motivated by information and knowledge, so it is critical to guide them with timely information about the steps to induction and help them anticipate the membership benefits.
If you want to recruit young-up-and-coming-executives into your club then you should consider getting speakers with the topics that they love, such as personal branding, health and wellness, investing for the future, and entrepreneurship. They also like to rub shoulders with influential corporate chiefs and media personalities, so get these types of people onto the speakers schedule.
The regular meetings, socials and hands-on service projects are the most important touch points for your regular customers (existing members) so ensure that these events are perfectly planned and have the end user’s interests in mind. And like the iPhone, don’t forget to upgrade your hardware and software every once in a while.
People are also motivated by service projects of a significant scale and one of the benefits of being a Rotarian is that you can work on large international projects. If your club started off with tiny projects that can be carried out by a small group of volunteers, and you haven’t yet participated in any global grants, then consider applying for them.
The lowest amount for a global grant is USD 30,000 and the largest global grant project that our district has embarked on is the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene project in Debrebirhan in Ethiopia which comes in at a whopping USD 800,000 with impact on over 36,000 school children.
Communication is critical in brand experience and the way that you reach your Rotarians as well as the content that you share must be well thought through and carefully planned in order to be truly effective. There are groups that want long winded dissertations, and those tend to be of an ancient generation; and there those that want the information packaged in 160 characters, usually the younger generation who are still wet behind their ears. Whichever style you choose, ensure that the communication sells your ideas, promotes understanding and contains a call to action to motivate the kind of behavior that will help the club meet its objectives.
Finally, I can’t overemphasize the importance of the ‘club experience’ because out of the 50 or so weeks that you attend meetings, 20 percent of them are spent at district meetings, international conferences, and joint club events, while a dominant 80 percent is spent in your home club. I therefore urge you to take a moment and pick up a book or read a blog on the topic of good customer service and positive brand experiences so that you can learn a thing or two about enhancing membership engagement and ensuring that you retain every member that you recruit.
Joe is the District Governor 2019-20 of Rotary District 9212 and the Rotary International Representative to UN Environment. He is also the CEO of The Collective, a digital advertising agency, the chairman of the Advertising Standards Board of Kenya, and a board member of WWF-Kenya.