Monday, June 24, 2019

Customer Service Not Worth Emulating

A bit of a rant this week.

On my most recent business trip, a staff member of mine rented a car for us. She is not a "preferred" member of the rental car company she worked with, so she had to stand in line and wait to be served.

It was awful. There was only one agent working the desk and I counted nine people in front of my staff member. I timed how long the first person took at the counter. Eleven minutes. I timed the second. Twelve minutes. At that rate we were looking at an hour and a half wait.

Then a second agent appeared and began helping the next person in line. All right, I thought. Now we're down to forty-five minutes. I can handle that.

Except that after the first agent finished with the customer he had been helping when the second agent appeared, he announced he was going on his lunch break and left. There were still five people in line in front of my staff member and three more that had queued up behind her.

At that point, I pulled out my smartphone and rented a car from the same company on their mobile app. As a "preferred" member, I was able to skip the remaining line and head directly out to the lot. After a quick stop at the "preferred" desk, my staff member and I were in a car and heading to our destination, no questions asked.

Now, this is not the first time I've experienced the kabuki theater that is the rental car counter. Before becoming a "preferred" member I had stood in that interminable line myself, and am still occasionally subject to it when traveling with someone else.

One big question I have is why. Why, in this day and age, is the process of renting a car anything other than the "preferred" experience? "Preferred" or not, we all make the reservation online, we all choose our options, we all enter our drivers license and credit card information. Why is any other step necessary other than showing your license and proving you are who you say you are?

But an even bigger question I have is how these companies stay in business if this is their model of customer service. Imagine an association conference in which the registrant shows up after having registered and paid online, and then is forced to stand in line where the association takes ten minutes with each and every person ahead of them to both verify their information and to try to upsell them on a variety of products and protections they have already decided they don't need or want.

How long would that registrant stay a member of that association? How long would that association be in business?

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This post first appeared on Eric Lanke's blog, an association executive and author. You can follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at

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Saturday, June 22, 2019

X Matrix by Darrell Casey

There’s a long subtitle here: “Strategy Deployment and Execution Process for Breakthrough Business Performance.” The book was given to be by the Board chair of the association I work for and, although clearly written for a manufacturing environment, there are some transferable ideas that could benefit those non-profit organizations.

X Matrix is the name of the system the author describes in what is obviously a self-published and, unfortunately, typo-riddled treatise. He calls it that because the basic framework is a matrix with a big X in the middle. It’s going to be too hard to describe, so here’s the essential picture:

See the big X in the middle?

You’re supposed to start at the bottom with your Breakthrough Objectives. In the manufacturing world, that might be something like “Reduce reject parts per million by 90% in 3 years.” In my association’s space, the Breakthrough Objectives translate most easily to the Idealized States of our Success Metrics. Let’s use the one associated with our own manufacturer members as our example. Given our analysis of the marketplace, there are 250 companies that are eligible for manufacturer memberships in our association, and who would find value in the member benefits we offer. At the end of our last fiscal year, we had 193. So, “Grow to 250 manufacturer members in 10 years” would be our Breakthrough Objective. That’s what Casey would call the “WHAT?”

Next comes the “HOW FAR?” These are the Annual Improvement Objectives. You know what your Breakthrough Objective is, but achieving that is supposed to take you three to five years (or in my case, ten). How much of that are you going to get done this year? In the manufacturing world, that might be something like “Reduce reject parts per million by 45%.” In my association’s space, the Annual Improvement Objectives translate most easily to the Goals that we set for each Success Metric. To continue our example, we’ve set as this year’s goal growing from 193 to 200 manufacturer members in the association. So we would write “Grow to 200 manufacturer members” on one of these lines and associate it with the Breakthrough Objective by putting an X in the box that aligns with both of these lines.

Next comes the “HOW?” These are the Annual Improvement Priorities. You know how far you want to get this year, but how are you going to do that? Which key processes are you going to focus your attention on so that you can actually reach your Annual Objective? In the manufacturing world, that might be things like “Improve quality of raw materials,” or “Improve machining processes,” or “Introduce quality checks earlier in manufacturing process.” In my association’s space, the Annual Improvement Priorities translate most easily to the Program Objectives that we’ve aligned with each Goal. Same logic. At the programmatic level of our association, what are we going to work on so that our Goal can be reached? To continue our example, we can write things like...

Ambassador Program: Connect targeted prospects to membership ambassadors at conferences and convert them as new members.

Member Retention: Identify members at-risk for non-renewal, organize and conduct a program of contacts encouraging engagement in association activities and programs, and highlight the benefits of maintaining membership.

Non-Renewal Conversion: Convert non-renewing members to membership within this fiscal year.

Trial Membership Program: Offer targeted prospects limited access to association market information and statistics and/or free or discounted access to selected association events, and convert them as new members.

...on these lines (all of which I abbreviated above), again connecting them to the right Annual Improvement Objective by putting Xs in the right boxes.

Next comes the “HOW MUCH AND WHEN?” These are Targets to Improve. We know what our Annual Improvement Priorities are, but how are we going to execute them and measure their success? In the manufacturing world, if the Annual Improvement Priority is to “Introduce quality checks earlier in manufacturing process,” then the Targets to Improve might be to “Hire more quality managers,” or “Review new quality logs in weekly meetings,” or “Train machine operators in basic quality assurance techniques.” In my association’s space, the Targets to Improve translate most easily to the Action Plan steps that we create for each Program Objective. They are the concrete steps that we will take to ensure that the Program Objective is achieved. To continue our example, focusing solely on our Ambassador Program, we can write things like “Identify prospects,” “Assign prospects to Board members,” and “Organize networking event at conference” on the these lines, and connect them to the “Ambassador Program” by putting Xs in the right boxes.

Still with me? Because we’re almost done. The last step is “WHO?” as in Resource Deployment. You’re supposed to fill in people’s names on the lines below the Targets to Improve and connect them to the Annual Improvement Objectives with more Xs in the right boxes. In my association example, I can assign each Objective to Alan, Bethany, Charles, and Dana.

And that’s it. That’s the system. A whole strategic and operational plan in one glance. It works great in my oversimplified example, where we’re dealing with only one Breakthrough Objective and only one Annual Improvement Objective. Start multiplying those items (as you do in any real organization) and the chart begins to grow more and more complex, until its utility has been replaced with the significant effort it takes to maintain and follow it.

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This post first appeared on Eric Lanke's blog, an association executive and author. You can follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at

Monday, June 17, 2019

Two Kinds of Association Executives

There are two kinds of association executives. Those that come from the industry their association represents, and those that come from the field of association management.

I am the latter.

In my experience, executives that come from the industry their association represents generally know what to do, but have to learn how to do it. And executives that come from the field of association management, generally know how to do things, but have to learn what to do.

That's one way of looking at things. Here's another.

There are two kinds of association executives. Those that are Executive Directors, and those that are CEOs.

I have been both.

In my experience, one of the core jobs of the Executive Director is to frame a discussion so that the Board can decide the association's strategy, and then execute that strategy. And one of the core jobs of the CEO is to frame a discussion so that the Board can help the CEO decide the association's strategy, and then execute that strategy.

Two different kinds of two kinds of association executives. What kind are you?

What kind do you want to be?

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This post first appeared on Eric Lanke's blog, an association executive and author. You can follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at

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Saturday, June 15, 2019

Dragons - Chapter 12 (DRAFT)

Looking back on those meetings with Amy and Caroline, I sometimes still ask myself why I was even there. Personnel matters like that were almost always handled by Don and Mary exclusively, who held the power to hire and fire in that company very close to their vests. They had fired people before, even people who reported directly to me, and I had never been asked to sit in on a termination meeting. In some cases, I hadn’t even been informed beforehand. In the course of the meetings that day, I was not asked to say anything, I was not asked to do anything, I was not even acknowledged as being present.

I felt a little like the subject of some kind of psychological experiment—you know, like the kind you hear about, where the researchers trick a bunch of self-absorbed college kids into thinking they’re helping with some vital research project, but in fact it’s the students and their reactions that are the focus of the study.

I read about one once where the college kids were instructed to administer electrical shocks to a supposed test taker hooked up to electrodes in another room—one shock of increasing intensity for every question they got wrong. It was all fake. No one was really getting shocked in the other room, but they wanted to see how far tomorrow’s leaders would go before speaking up and bucking the authority embodied in the researchers that had recruited them. You might’ve heard about this one, too. As long as there was some asshole with a lab coat and a clipboard standing over them, the cream of the next intellectual generation just kept doing what they were told and shocking the idiot test taker in the other room, even after the co-conspirator pretending to be shocked started crying and begging them to stop.

There were times when working at that company felt like you were participating in one of those dishonest research studies, and this was clearly one of those times. It bothered me, and I needed some time to think about it. So I decided to stay in my office as much as I could for the rest of the day, even eating my lunch at my desk. But people kept finding me—supervisors and junior staffers, some of whom were my direct reports but many of whom weren’t. They all came slinking in quietly, as if not wanting to disturb me, but wanting to know what had happened, and more insistently, what was going to happen next.

I didn’t have any concrete answers for them, and since then I’ve learned that when people are let go, that’s what everyone who stays behind needs. They need to be reassured that the bleeding has stopped and that no more cuts are going to be made. Those staffers came to me because I had been in the meetings, and because I was far more approachable than either Mary or Don would have been, and they all had the same look on their faces and the same tone in their voices.

Ha, ha, they would seem to giggle nervously, tough luck for poor Amy Crawford getting tossed out on her ass, eh, but—but I’m okay, right?

I didn’t know what to tell them. I didn’t think there was going to be any more fallout from the situation with Wes, but I felt turned around and wasn’t completely sure, and worse yet, I was uncertain how much of what had happened I should share with them. There are always legal implications in these situations—things you’re allowed to say and things you’d better keep to yourself. And neither Mary nor Don had given me any indication of where those lines were to be drawn. So I shrugged my shoulders a lot, and responded with a bunch of empty platitudes, and at the end of a frustrating and wholly unproductive day, I decided to go and see Mary.

I remember approaching Ruthie cautiously, not sure how she was going to react to my request.

“Hey, Alan,” she said with what seemed like genuine concern in her voice. “How are you holding up?”

“Okay,” I said stupidly. “Is Mary around?”

“She’s in a meeting with Don, but should be back soon. Do you need to talk with her?”

“Yeah,” I said, looking around as if expecting to see a waiting room chair to sit in.

“Why don’t you go on in?” Ruthie offered. “I’ll walk down and let her know you’re here.”

“What? Really?”

Ruthie stood up. “Sure,” she said. “You could probably use a few minutes of reflection time. Nobody’s going to bother you in there.”

Ruthie was right, as Ruthie usually was. I was surprised that there was no bluster in her voice, no calculation or intrigue, but I took her at her word. Whatever she thought about how Susan and I had approached her that morning, she wasn’t holding any grudge, and she was offering me a small measure of comfort after a dark and trying day.

Upon walking into Mary’s office I was again struck by how large it was, but also by how neat and immaculate she kept it. Right inside her door was a kind of exhibit case—a glass-enclosed bookshelf on which dozens of plaques and awards were displayed. Mary was especially proud of these honors, but only a handful were ones she had earned herself. Most were accolades given to the non-profit organizations we managed, and which Mary had simply accepted on their behalf. That always felt a bit like cheating to me—displaying awards recognizing the work of others—but Mary seemed to revel in their acquisition. I saw the one the Communications Department had won for the redesign of one of our newsletters, and it reminded me how Mary, in congratulating the team on a job well done, had commented that she already had a space picked out for it in her display case, and about how much she was looking forward to showing to Eleanor the next time she visited our offices.

I knew the after-hours cleaning people had explicit instructions to keep Mary’s trinkets dust-free and sparkling, and as I stood there looking at them in all their dazzling brilliance, I suddenly realized what Mary’s office was for, and why it was so different from the rest of our space.

I turned around and let my eyes sweep over the whole of the room. The window walls and the city beyond provided an upscale architectural backdrop for the scattered groupings of modern furniture. I looked at the original artwork hanging on the walls, knowing they weren’t anything Mary had had a hand in. Trust me. I’ve been to Mary’s house, where Thomas Kinkade is clearly revered as the pinnacle of artistic achievement. The artwork in her office was daring, as far as corporate art went, but it wasn’t Mary’s style at all. Nothing in the office really was. She looked out of place in her office, just like she looked out of place in her rented her business suits, because nothing in the office was for her. It wasn’t a place where she was expected to get any work done and it wasn’t a place where she could feel at home.

Funny thing about Mary’s office. When Mary was around people tended to avoid it as much as they could, but when Mary was on the road you’d find them inventing excuses to walk by and try to get a peek inside. At these times Ruthie usually kept jealous guard over the space, keeping its lights dimmed and preventing anyone from intruding, treating it like that room in your grandparents’ house that was used only rarely for entertaining guests from outside the family. And that’s what Mary’s office was. The out-of-town guests were the VIPs from the client organizations, who would come by several times a year for closed door meetings with Mary to talk strategy and plot intrigue. The apartment in the sky with its original artwork and its shining treasures was meant to impress them—not us, and not even her. By comparison, Mary and all of us who worked for her were just the unruly children who could not be trusted to keep our feet off the furniture.

With these thoughts in my head I walked over and stood in the very corner of Mary’s two window walls, planting my fists on my hips and reveling in the fantasy that I was king of all I surveyed. Although I had never really been afforded such an opportunity before, I found the sights of the city from Mary’s office achingly familiar. The park across the way where street musicians performed and business people sat at picnic tables to eat their lunches and play hooky. The ancient cathedral with its imposing clock tower and patina-ridden cross, dozens of pigeons nesting in its crevices and nodding their heads like penitent sinners as they walked the length of the roofline. The cluster of blocky bank buildings that seemed to creep closer each year, offering an increasingly voyeuristic view of the small and silent figures that moved about within. And the shimmering water on the lake and the slowly moving sailboats that went in and out of the harbor as if time itself had ceased. I had seen all of these things before, but from Mary’s office they seemed to take on a different meaning. Gazing out on all that activity I saw for just a moment or two that there actually was more to life than what was waiting for me in my windowless cell.

“Hello, Alan.”

It was Mary. She had entered the office and by the time I turned around she was already halfway to her desk and moving quickly.

“Ruthie said you wanted to see me. You’ll have to make it quick. I don’t have much time.”

I pulled myself away from the window and came over to stand behind one of her visitor chairs. Without looking at me, Mary dropped her leather-bound organizer on her desk and sat down in her chair. She pulled open one of the desk drawers and took out a small stack of business cards. Combining them with a few stray ones tucked into the front pocket of her planner, she began counting them out onto the desk, dealing them down one by one like she meant to play a game of Solitaire. I kept silent, letting her finish, knowing that she would not want to be interrupted while counting. When she was done, she looked up at me impatiently.

I thought I was ready. “I’ve been thinking a lot about what happened today.”

“Lots of things happened today,” Mary said quickly. “Which ones are you referring to?”

“Amy getting fired,” I said bluntly. “And Susan resigning.”

“Uh huh,” Mary said, her eyes falling back down to her planner, while her hands stuffed the little pile of counted cards into the front pocket and placed the remainder back into the drawer. “What about them?”

“Well,” I said evasively, realizing that I wasn’t ready for this at all. “How do you feel about them no longer being here.”

It was a dumb question, and Mary didn’t need more than a second to compose her response. “I feel fine,” she said, swinging around in her chair to face the monitor on her desk’s side return and reaching for her mouse. “Amy’s days have been numbered for a while and, all things considered, it’s probably better for everyone that Susan decided to leave.”

I watched her as she starting clicking away with her mouse, her eyes quickly passing over a day’s worth of collected email, deleting roughly every third one with a practiced eye.

“Why?” she said somewhat absently. “How do you feel about it?”

I held my breath. “I feel bad. Especially about Susan. I think she could have made some significant contributions around here.”

Mary deliberately set her mouse aside and turned to face me. “Alan, sit down.”

I did as instructed, sinking into the uncomfortable chair Mary had provided for all visitors.

“What’s this all about?” she asked.

I decided to go for broke. “I don’t know, Mary. It just feels wrong. I thought Susan was the kind of person we wanted to have in this organization. And it feels like she was pushed out.”

Mary shook her head. “I wouldn’t say that we pushed Susan out, but she clearly didn’t mesh with our culture.”

“Then how’d she get hired in the first place?”


The question just sort of popped out of my mouth, but Mary’s reaction told me I was on to something, that I might have just stumbled onto the thing that could make some headway. “Then how’d she get hired?” I rambled on. “I mean, don’t take it the wrong way, but don’t we screen candidates for cultural fit before bringing them into the organization?”

It was too much. I could tell by the fire in Mary’s eyes. The only thing that saved me was that I had used we instead of you. If I’d had the audacity to say Don’t you screen candidates? Mary would have almost certainly seen it as a criticism, as an attack, as a threat to her authority.

“I mean,” I said, desperately trying to keep myself in the frying pan, “if we don’t have something like it already, maybe we need some kind of process to help identify individuals with the traits that will best translate into success in our environment. Something that could identify people with the wrong traits and ferret them out of our hiring process.”

It was glib. Almost too glib. I was just thinking on my feet, really just stringing together a bunch of buzzwords into something that sounded halfway rational, but Mary seemed to consider it for a moment.

“Good idea,” she said finally. “You’re in charge. Pull the department heads together and come up with a draft for my review.”

Mary turned back to her computer and resumed the destruction of her email. I didn’t get up to leave right away, at once relieved that I had lived to fight another day, but apprehensive of this new and unknown challenge that had just been put in my path. My eyes wandered to the credenza behind Mary’s desk, and to the framed photo of her and her family that sat there for all us visitors to see. One would think that of all the prizes to be found in her office, this simple portrait would be the one item that was uniquely Mary, that was closest to her true but unfathomable heart. It was a tight shot of four blonde-haired people, all of them with the same pained smiles on their pinched faces, looking for all the world like a group of magnets held artificially together and ready to fly apart as soon as the camera flashed and their natural law of repulsion could again take hold. Even it looked staged to me, almost like one of those paper photos that come with the tasteful frames you buy in the executive section of the office supply store.

“Was there something else?” Mary asked, her finger still clicking away on her mouse.

“No,” I said, rising to my feet and almost rushing from the room.

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“Dragons” is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author's imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. For more information, go here.

This post first appeared on Eric Lanke's blog, an association executive and author. You can follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at

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Monday, June 10, 2019

Is Your Content Generalizable?

I attend a fair number of education programs and, as a result, listen to a fair number of speakers and presentations. Sometimes, the most rewarding kind of speaker is someone from outside my industry, speaking on how they address and solve challenges in their industry. I can often find nuggets of wisdom or new ways of approaching my own challenges by listening to these kind of speakers. Innovation frequently comes, after all, straight out of these attempts at cross-fertilization.

To make this kind of thing work, however, it is important for both the speaker and the participant to understand which parts of the presentation are generalizable and which are not.

Let's say you're listening to a presentation from a speaker outside your industry. She's talking about a common problem -- something facing organizations of all types in all industries -- and she's presenting a case study of her own business. When faced with X, my company does Y.

You recognize X as the common problem that it is, but you also realize that Y won't work in your organization or perhaps in your industry. It relies on a resource or a tactic that you don't have access to. Let's call that resource or tactic Z. So you ask the presenter a question. Let's assume you don't have access to Z, and therefore can't use Y as a solution to X. What do you do then?

You're essentially looking for the speaker the generalize her strategy. To step up and out of the specifics of her own situation, and help you tackle the challenge you actually face from a fresh perspective.

In my experience, some speakers can do this and some can't. Some will accept the challenge you've given them and start brainstorming with you. Don't have Z? Hmmm. Then you can't do Y. In that situation, I would probably do A, or maybe B. In this situation, A and B are the nuggets of gold you're looking for, potentially new ways of tackling difficult problems in your industry.

But some will retrench on Y. They can't generalize. They are so myopically focused on their own situation and the solutions they've created that they'll simply reject, perhaps unconsciously, the premise of your question. They'll start talking about Y again. Even though you've told them Y is impractical in your space, it's so practical in theirs that they won't be able to abandon it.

Whenever this happens, I usually find myself asking if the speaker in question really understands her own content, or the audience she is speaking to. Her purpose in speaking, after all, is not to just relay information, but to teach me something new.

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This post first appeared on Eric Lanke's blog, an association executive and author. You can follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at

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Saturday, June 8, 2019

Exception to the Rule by Peter Rea, James K. Stoller, and Alan Kolp

This one was sort of assigned reading. The association I work for is working to define the culture of its Board of Directors, and the Board chair recommended that everyone read this book. I think he both likes its conclusions and wanted to invite one of its authors to come speak to us.

To be honest, I had a difficult time with it.

Its thesis, if I understand it right, is that the best culture is one based on virtue, and specifically, the seven classical virtues first described 2,500 years ago by Plato: Trust, Compassion, Courage, Justice, Wisdom, Temperance, and Hope. Regardless of the competitive circumstances, the team that unfailingly acts in a virtuous manner will beat any other team that is sown with uncertainties and suspicions about the intentions of its own people.

And I can go along with that. The problems come when we start unpacking each one of the seven virtues, describing what it is and what it means to practice it as a part of an organization’s culture. That’s where the attractive simplicity of the book’s thesis begins to lose its coherence.

Trust gets linked to concepts like engagement and empowerment. Compassion gets linked to concepts like safety and accountability. Courage gets linked to growth. Justice to selflessness. Wisdom to leveraging strengths and managing weaknesses. Pretty soon it doesn’t feel like we’re talking about the seven classical virtues any more. It feels like we’re talking about the things that dozens of other management books talk about. In other words, it’s not really about the seven virtues; it’s about fifteen or so best practices, which we have loosely organized under the seven virtues. After all, you can position anything as wisdom by simply saying “Wise leaders want a highly engaged workforce.”

At one point, the authors even wander into the philosophical minefield of brain science.

We can learn to be better teammates by gaining insights into how our brain works under pressure, when our interpersonal skills and teamwork are tested. The architecture of our brain is built on emotions. We feel first and think second, making it unrealistic to control our emotions under all circumstances. Executive functions, which include working memory, self-regulation, and flexibility, are the neurological building blocks that underpin resilience and perseverance. It is very difficult to achieve resilience, curiosity, and tenacity without first developing a neurological foundation of executive functions and the capacity for self-awareness forged by practicing virtue.

Did you catch the uncited linkage to virtue at the end? Practicing virtue may or may not leverage neuroscience, but what follows is a few paragraphs of seemingly practical advice about how to take advantage of the fact that our brains often feel before they think. In wrapping the section up, the authors say:

In the end, we can only control one brain -- our own.

Now, perhaps it’s best not to ask philosophical questions when reading a book about management -- but that sentence literally stopped me in my tracks. Shouldn’t it be, “In the end, our brain can only control one person -- us”? And what does such an inversion -- that we are controlled by our brains, not the other way around -- mean for management science in general?

I, for one, would love to read a book about that.

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This post first appeared on Eric Lanke's blog, an association executive and author. You can follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at

Monday, June 3, 2019

Contacts of Quality, Not Just Quantity

I lead a trade association. That means that our members are technically companies, not people; but, of course, the companies in question are made up of people, and we work hard to maintain good contacts and communications with those people.

A common objective for trade associations is to grow the number of contacts that they have at each of their member companies. Frequently, even though the decision to join or renew membership in the association rests with one individual, it is seen as advantageous to have a number of other "champions" within the company who find value in the association's programs and services. In making her decision, the boss may very well ask around her organization. "Is anyone getting any benefit from this expensive dues payment we make every year?" If the answer is yes, the boss is much more likely to keep writing those checks.

In this spirit we recently did an inventory of the contacts in our member database. We typically classify our contacts based on the role that they play in their company -- for example, are they an Executive? a Marketing Professional? an Engineer? a Human Resource Professional? And in our first pass we focused almost exclusively on quantities. How many contacts do we have? How many in each category? How many per company? How many in each category per company?

It was a good first dive into the subject, but the quantitative focus immediately revealed some weaknesses. For many companies, we have almost an overabundance of contacts in our database. Names and emails no one in my staff organization is familiar with. Some of them dating back years and years.

My initial reaction was that we need to inventory the quality of our contacts as well as the quantity. For how many companies, for example, can we say we have a solid Executive, Marketing, Engineering, and Human Resource contact? Solid as in someone on staff can put a face with a name and that they participate in some activity of our association?

Whatever that number is, working to increase that -- rather than just the raw number of contacts per company in the database -- seems much more likely to pay dividends when it comes to our member retention and engagement objectives.

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This post first appeared on Eric Lanke's blog, an association executive and author. You can follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at

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