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Marketing Yourself To Scorekeepers
By Orvel Ray Wilson   Printer Friendly Version

One of the ten deadly sins of marketing is "Believing that you don't have to market." Guerrillas know that these days, building a better mousetrap isn't enough. Clients and customers will not beat a path to your door unless you shower them with attention, and reward them constantly for the privilege of serving.

The same is true for the Executive Director, Association Executive, or paid staff of any association. Under pressure to cut costs, many professional groups are retreating to volunteer management, leaving a lot of professional meeting planners looking for work. If you think that knocking yourself out by providing outstanding programs, conventions, newsletters, seminars, and services is enough to keep you in the good graces of your membership and your board, you are either arrogant or naive. Guerrillas are neither. They pay attention to their scorekeepers.

A scorekeeper is anyone in your professional circle who takes it upon themselves to judge the quality or quantity of your work, and their opinion counts. They're all over the place. Certainly the President of your association qualifies. So do the VP's and Directors. Every Committee Chair keeps score, and, to a lesser degree, so does every member. So are all of your vendors. The guerrilla must not only ask "Who is my customer?" and "How am I doing?" but also "Who's keeping score?"

Guerrillas are fanatics about quality. Everything you do must be on-time and first class, because it represents your scorekeepers to the universe. A lot of people outside the association will see it. The guerrilla is consistent, doing a good job all year long, and not just a push at contract time. Knocking yourself out to do a good job is just the first step.

Compounding the problem, your scorekeepers are constantly changing. While the staff remains on duty year after year, each election brings in a whole new gallery of faces. Every time a leadership office changes hands, you have to re-sell yourself and the value of your experience and skill. Even if you've been doing a great job for years and everyone knows it, you must not rest on your laurels.

The best way to establish rapport with a stranger is to ask a favor, so start your guerrilla attack by inviting every officer to visit your association office. Give them the $2 tour, pointing out the various projects that you and your team are working on. Ask for their suggestions and advice, particularly in those areas where you consider yourself most competent. Doing so accomplishes several tactical objectives. First, you become the beneficiary of their naive perspective and fresh ideas. Second, you demonstrate respect for the power of their office (real or imagined). Third, you invite them to add value by valuing their opinion. Be careful to always work through the appropriate channels, involving the Directors and Committee Chairs whenever possible. Sometimes it's easier to just do it all yourself, but resist the temptation. Newly elected officers can be very territorial, and may move to sabotage your best efforts if you jump the chain of command.

Next, launch a pre-emptive strike by using pre-emptive reporting to keep your board up-to-date on projects and progress. Most of the members have no idea who you are or what you do, so it's vital that you make yourself available and visible. Ask "What else can we do for you?" Give the officers your home phone number, and encourage them to call with questions, problems, and ideas. A universal dissatisfier among customers is that they hate surprises. Weather they ask for it or not, send each officer a letter at least monthly (weekly would be better) outlining your coming plans and current progress. Keep the membership updated as well by including a column in their regular newsletter, just like the President's Corner.

Maintain an aggressive and consistent public relations campaign by sending out press releases at every opportunity. Keep your association's name prominent in the newsletters and publications that serve your industry. These enhance your credibility by making you a highly visible player. Don't forget magazines like Inc. and Forbes, or even The Wall Street Journal. Whenever a board member does something newsworthy, write it up and send it out with a photo. Then clip and copy the articles for re-distribution to your scorekeepers, and re-print them in the newsletter. (For a great reference on how to get your press releases in print, read The Unabashed Self Promoter's Guide by Jeffery Lant.)

Finally, never take credit for anything if you can pin it on someone else. Reward scorekeepers them by making them look good in front of the membership. Acknowledge their contributions at every opportunity, in print and from the platform, and they will quickly come to understand that you are an indispensable part of their success

To become a leader, find a group of people that are going somewhere, and then get in front of them. The guerrilla leads by playing dumb, asking lots of questions, listening carefully to the scorekeepers, and then following their advice.

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