delivering the intangible

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in a fun change of pace, i recently had the opportunity to write an article for a professional publication –the club membership & marketing magazine.  produced by the professional club marketing association (pcma, for short), an organization i both belong to and am actually the vice-president of our local greater san diego chapter, i was flattered to be asked to be a contributor for their may issue. plus, other than some titillating membership committee meeting minutes, my professional writing portfolio is pretty meager, so i figured this was the perfect opportunity to broaden my writing scope a bit.

anyway, here are the fruits of the three-hours-it-took-me-to-write-it-at-starbucks labor. the topic was “personal development” so i chose to focus on, what else? relationships.

delivering the intangible. enjoy.

Maya Angelou once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Think back to a time in your life when you felt welcomed, comfortable, at ease, and at home. What was the catalyst of said feeling? Chances are it was something subtle, but regardless of the size of the action it was the connectedness–the intangible sense of belonging–you felt as a result that made the lasting impact.

I often liken our position as Membership Directors to that of a pledge mom/dad in a sorority or fraternity. We bring in the new applicants, educate them in club culture, and then work to ensure that they find connections with their fellow members so that they may settle into life as a part of the country club family after their “pledging period” is done. We remain their point people throughout those first days as new members–their constants in a time that can be at times both precarious and intimidating and in doing so build trust. In membership sales, as in life, once a person’s trust is earned, it can be cultivated for years to come. Our number one goal should not be meeting sales quotas, but rather establishing camaraderie with our new members and make them feel like names not numbers. As Angelou said, it is the intangible feeling one experiences that resonates the longest.

So how do we establish this bond? For one, we can do our research. Take note of a new applicant’s children’s names, their ages, where they go to school, and how they invest their time. Make it a point to use the applicant’s name whenever you see him/her roaming around the Club, and inquire about how he/she is acclimating to club life. Share personal information about yourself that connects you with an aspect of his/her life–not too much, but establishing yourself as a human with insecurities and life experiences similar to their own will allow them to view you as a comrade rather than a staunch gatekeeper. Because no man is an island, make sure you encourage the rest of the club staff to focus on getting to know the new members on a personal level as well. Cultivating the sense of belonging and camaraderie amongst your recent additions is a team effort. Delivering the intangible is not a one-man job; after all a pledge mom/dad in sorority or fraternity cannot be successful without the help of her/his fellow veteran members.

The relationships we establish with our new members aren’t the only relationships we should focus on. In the same way, we should look to establish lasting bonds with our colleagues in the industry. I believe one of the benefits of attending the PCMA Conference each year is the friendships I create with my fellow professionals. When you create a personal bond with an individual in conjunction with establishing a professional one, there is a level of trust that also is founded. When you are made to feel as though you are well-liked and respected for more than just your expertise in the membership field, there’s an authenticity to the relationship. And when that person comes to you seeking advice on a specific membership issue, you might just work a bit harder to find a solution as a result.

So as you approach your position, take a note from Mrs. Angelou. Seek to cultivate that warm fuzzy feeling within your new members by focusing on the little things, the things that allow them to believe they are desired more for their enhancement to the club family than for the dollars in their bank account. Establish bonds with them that make them feel comfortable and valued. And finally, earn the trust of your colleagues by building relationships with them that extend beyond their knowledge of the industry. If you do these things, I can promise you that your job will take on a whole new level of fulfillment. It has for me, at least.

maya angelou wisdom

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