By Max Suzenaar
If anyone would have told me that I would be citing the United States Post Office as an innovative example of “new think”, my retort would have been that they were more likely that I would “go postal” first. However, I was struck by a recent article in Time Magazine that exemplifies MYB’s philosophy of “new think” and involved the US Post Office. Entitled “Reinventing the Post Office”, TIME gathered outside-the-mailbox ideas from economists, bloggers, overseas postal workers and more and surfaced six surprising ways to survive in today’s age of digital communications.
Not unlike associations and DMOs, even longstanding corporations are finding it imperative to look at their business model with a fresh and innovative perspective in this era of “new normal”. According to recent press, the best idea generated internally at the USPS was to eliminate weekend service. That’s cost containment, not innovation – like cutting a coffee break at your Annual Meeting vs. identifying new ways to engage your members and increase value. However, widening the lens and inviting “outside” perspectives resulted in incredibly innovative and viable solutions such as turning postal trucks into roving labs to gather vital information on weather patterns and air pollution levels and offering basic financial services like credit cards and mortgages thru the USPS (as is done in Europe).
Sometimes it just takes a different perspective to cultivate “new think”. So reach out to your members, create a dialogue with your sponsors or engage an agency like MYB and don’t be afraid to let someone from outside put their stamp on your business.
By Max Suzenaar
I recently participated in PCMA’s inaugural “Independent Planner Think Tank” in New Orleans. Designed as a forum for meeting planning firms, conversations focused on the business of meetings with nary a word spoken about tactics or logistics. The strategic level of the conversation was inspiring – as was the passion and energy with which this group of entrepreneurs shared insights, challenges, and solutions. So it was only fitting that we met in a city that abounds in passion for food, music and individuality. I was especially taken by “Lady Tambourine”, whose talent for bringing music to life took the form of gyrating hips, trancelike rhythms, and hypnotic performance that pulled you into her personal vortex of passion. While there was no gyrating happening in the meeting room, the passion expressed was still comparable to Lady Tambourine’s. Taking creative license with her mantra, “I feel the meeting in my soul” perhaps is après pro for this group of professionals navigating in the new normal of meetings.
by Tom Baer
Within days of Steve Jobs’ departure from Apple, the hard drive on my MacBook crashed, and being a back-up procrastinator, I lost a great deal of data. If you’ve had this happen, you know it is VERY aggravating. The kind of aggravation that should make me switch brands. But I didn’t.
Why? Because of Steve Jobs. He built a brand that is so compelling and appealing that I am willing to live with some inconvenience and aggravation to remain in his world. It turns out I am not alone. After posting about my computer’s demise on facebook, I got plenty of replies from friends that had the same thing happen, and like me, remained loyal to Apple.
I mention this here because on the occasion of Mr. Jobs departure, rather than letting him just fade into the sunset, I think we should all learn from him. Many people know him as the creative mind behind Apple and Pixar, two tremendously successful companies. But he’s more than that. After he left Apple the first time, the company floundered and almost went under. When he bought Pixar from George Lucas, it was hardly a blip on the entertainment radar screen.
Steve Jobs saved these two companies and built them into culture-changing phenomenon. How? By believing in a simple philosophy: “the way out is not to slash and burn, it is to innovate.”
In today’s economy, “slash and burners” are everywhere. Corporations are still laying off staff left and right. Companies and associations are cutting offerings, and even worse charging for services that net them a little profit but at a huge cost in customer dissatisfaction. If Mr. Jobs had taken the “slash and burn” route with his companies, the world may have never known the iPod or iPhone, and never seen Toy Story or Finding Nemo.
We’re all faced with challenges in our jobs. Think about how you handle those challenges. Next time try the innovation route to the solution. Yes, it may be more difficult to sell in, but you’ll put a smile on Steve Jobs face as he sits in his rocking chair.
Submitted by Katie Callahan-Giobbi
In our work with non-profits, I frequently have the chance to talk about member value with our association customers. What value are they creating and delivering to their members? Logic tells me that “member value” is just that…what your members value. How do we know what they value? We ask them. It really is that simple. I suppose human nature makes us hesitant to ask pointed questions, perhaps because we’re afraid of what the answer might be. Maybe we think we know better? Either way, I have come to appreciate that the only right answer…is theirs.
I have been amazed at the number of non-profits who haven’t surveyed their members in years. In some cases, many years. As we change our offerings, re-engineer our conferences or add new services, doesn’t it make sense to ask your membership if it’s something they value (and will pay for)? Our world is changing too quickly and our members have more online education and resources available to them than ever before. Social media is capturing their interactions and allowing for valuable connections to be made seamlessly on a daily basis. What do they really value?
Surveying your members needs to be done properly but it doesn’t have to be overly complicated. Most important – ask the right questions. Questions that uncover their needs and wants as well as questions that are actionable. Most associations have member contact information at their fingertips. Of course you can outsource your survey, but you can also use an online survey tool like Survey Monkey. If so, you will need to analyze the results on your own. However you choose to go about it and assuming it is done properly, the results will likely pay for themselves in increased member retention, new revenue opportunities and more engaged members.
Be smart. Ask. And really listen.
We’re happy to introduce, “MYBlog … Heads Up,” the new place for you to read about what’s happening in the meeting and event industry. Moving forward we’ll be posting news, industry trend information, our thoughts on the latest technology, agency happenings, helpful tips, and more from the NEW THINK leaders at Minding Your Business.
Some posts will provide valuable insights that will help you in your job, others will provide our agency viewpoints on controversial topics, and still others will keep you abreast of what’s going on here at the MYB ranch, or just provide an entertaining break for your day. We hope you find enough to become a regular follower.
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We’re excited to finally be sharing our NEW THINK perspective with our industry colleagues through the power of social media. It’s just one more way we’re Minding Your Business!