No Excuses: the art of follow-up

why is consumer relations important

Just a little reminder today that the art of the follow up is now easier than ever. Why? Because of our ever-increasing virtual world of electronic media, social media, video, audio, smart phones and goodness knows what else will be available tomorrow!

Add these resources to what were used even 10 years ago, and there really is no reason not to follow up with your donors and sponsors for their contribution and to keep in touch with your members.

It’s so easy for organizations to post to their donors’ and sponsors’ Facebook feeds: send them a text message, record a personal video or send an email. On top of this you can use Skype, Facebook or Google Chat or Hangouts to connect and have a virtual coffee break to check in.  AND add to this the more traditional ways of keeping in touch with cards, notes and gifts in the regular “snail” mail, there’s no excuse not to keep in touch with your networks.  Personally, I like to mail hand-written cards and gifts.  From a marketing perspective, there’s nothing more alluring than ‘lumpy’ mail, so include a pen, a block of sticky notes or a little gift with a card; the chances of that piece of mail being opened will increase exponentially.  Even if you just write thank-you (for your time, for your call, for your donation, for your sponsorship…), doing so will go a long way. The combinations you can use to keep in touch are endless!

While most organizations spend time recruiting potential members, sponsors and donors, what about your current members, sponsors and donors? Do you ever thank them, take them out to lunch or send them a birthday card or gift? Your current database of contacts are your biggest fans and the most likely to refer. Stay connected with them and nurture those relationships! It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money – it’s the thought that counts.

Masters As Teachers

Many organizations start with a great idea that will change the world and, through time and effort, they will evolve to be the best in their field. Though you might not think of it these terms, but what they’re doing, what they’re actually reaching for, is “mastery”.

You know this, because you have steered your non-profit through adversity and success, put in the hours of work, training, research, and sweat to make a difference. I don’t have to tell you that becoming the ‘master of business’ requires hard work. Malcom Gladwell would tell you that it takes 10,000 hours of “deliberate practice” to master a skill.

Imagine watching the best Formula One driver, or the most incredible ballerina. They make their chosen trade look so easy and accessible. It is only when you attempt to duplicate the complex beauty of the Dance of Sugar Plum Fairy (reported to be one of the most difficult roles to dance) or harness 1000 horsepower around a turn pulling 3 G’s in a Formula-1 car, you realize that just because something looks easy doesn’t mean it is.

And that may be true for something like ballet or the violin where the skill is quantifiable. Becoming a master of your non-profit or association is much more than “time in” on any endeavour.

As I look around there are any number of organizations providing services to their members, value to their donors, exposure to their sponsors in any number of ways. What separates the successful from those who have become a master at their industry is a gritty combination of discipline, hard work, humility and generosity. Most of us would agree with the first three, but generosity?

There’s an old adage, “if you want to learn something well, teach it to someone else”. In order to teach well, it requires that you face your presuppositions about things, unearth those ideas that you didn’t even realize you believe. Being the master of any subject (even one that you invented) requires you to be able to objectively look at whatever you’re doing and seeing ways it can be improved. To teach someone else what you know requires a certain generosity. After so many years of ‘doing you’, that can be difficult, but that generosity has the reward of unearthing flaws in your system in order to improve them, and you cannot master what you think is perfect.

Now expanding on the generosity of teaching and of talent development, you gain the opportunity to:

  1. Invest: You are investing time leading to growth as an organization and investing in another person. How great is that?! Can you imagine if Bill Gates just did it all himself without bringing in a team? Bringing in others to be a part of your team grows your organization and its mandate.
    2. Discover Improvements: By letting others in on your system of doing things and teaching them how to do what you do they may discover and share new ideas and improvements you had not initially thought of. (another ‘set of eyes’ is always a good thing)
    3. Trust and Grow: By trusting your team to deliver, instead of always just yourself, you free up time to do more and expand.

So while you’re changing the world, be generous, develop your talent base and grow!

 

Finding The Confidence to Speak

Being invited to speak at an in person or virtual event can be a wonderful honour given to the potential speaker by those who want to hear the speaker’s message and share it with others. However, for some, it can be a great cause of anxiety and fear, with the thought that all those eyes will be on them and focused on everything that’s said.

The ability to be a good speaker doesn’t always go hand in hand with the ability to do it easily. It takes practice. I have spoken with many who are fantastic speakers, but they are extremely nervous before hand to the point of being physically ill. Just remember, if you are in this group of uneasy speakers, you’re not alone!  So, then what? What can be done to make this easier, or at least get you through it?

Keep these few things in mind when getting ready to speak to a group when you may be feeling less than confident:

Your audience is there because they want to be: For the most part, people attending a conference, meeting or lecture are there because they chose to be there, they want to hear your message and will be supportive of your efforts. Attendees tend to not be judgmental, are not making snap decisions about you based on your haircut, clothes etc. and are there to hear what you have to say, even if they’re there not by choice (perhaps they have been instructed to go by their boss), these attendees, will most likely just listen politely.

Change your worry to excitement: This is a tough one because you’re so focused on the negative aspects of what you think may happen. What if you switched your thought process and redirected it to excitement at the possibilities of doing a great job? Go into it with a positive outlook and understand that even if it doesn’t go the way you want, you still did it! You would have accomplished a major step in your own personal development and that’s awesome!

Practice and prepare: Practicing the presentation before hand helps a lot. Try getting a small audience together or even just practice by yourself. Give yourself a few days in advance to do this. Go through and read your presentation, re-write if you have to and make a few speaking notes for yourself as a guide. By taking these steps to practice and prepare, you’ll be more familiar with the material, therefore making it easier to engage in a conversational type of presentation and making eye contact with your audience, instead of looking at your notes. Another great place to practice amongst a supportive group would be to contact your local Toastmaster’s group.

Know the environment: If you’re in-person, make yourself familiar with the presentation venue and environment so you’re more comfortable before speaking. Arrive ahead of time, sit in various places in the room for a few minutes to get different visual perspectives and get settled in.  Own the space.

Interact with your audience: If you’re worried about the audience getting bored, make sure to leave room for people to ask questions. Listening to their questions can give you a little break as well to take a drink of water and re-group as needed. This can also help you gain some extra time on your presentation if it seems to be too short. Remember to be welcoming of questions and stay calm.

Take care of yourself: Get plenty of rest, eat well and taking the time to pamper yourself a little before the presentation day provides a little extra boost and don’t forget to give yourself a little time to use the restroom before the presentation. Make sure you have some water by your side to take sips to avoid a dry mouth while speaking. If possible, make sure you’re already standing up a few minutes before the presentation, so you don’t have to maneuver around obstacles to get to your place.

Are you in the audience? Perhaps you are reading this and are not a speaker, but frequently attend presentations. Why not do what you can to make the speaker feel confident and perhaps let them know what you enjoyed in their presentation? We’re all in this together. No matter the size of the group you are speaking to, you can do it and there are people in your audience that are in your corner. Be excited for this opportunity – you’ll do great!

The Pursuit of Balance

There is always talk about the ever-elusive ‘work-life balance’ – who has it, who doesn’t.  All the articles on the Internet and the chatter on social media make it out to be a thing that is always just out of reach; like a balloon that you’ve let go of, but as hard as you try, you can’t jump high enough to get it back.

For the past year, I think I can safely say we’ve all struggled with finding balance, whatever form we wish that to take.  Very few people on the planet today have experienced a global pandemic, so you’re not alone!  So we’ve got that on our plates as well as its compounding ‘elusiveness’. No wonder we’re often feeling out of balance! 

I’ve learned two things:

1) We perceive ourselves to be ‘out of balance’ not because we can’t do it, but because the goal is constantly shifting and changing.  Priorities change minute by minute, quite often so fast that we don’t notice it and all of a sudden, we’re feeling out of balance again.

2) In these days of remote everything, the line between ‘work’ and ‘life’ is really, really blurred.  I mean REALLY blurred. Because our work space and our living space is now the in the same place, there is no transition time between leaving work and arriving at home.  We used to use that time in the car or on the bus to de-compress, shift to our personal selves and change our environment.  Now we just try to cope with whatever is in front of us at particular moment, whether it’s a personal task or a work task, we just deal with it.   In amongst all of that chaos, we’re told we need to find time for ourselves alone.

You are the answer.  You yourself are responsible for your well-being, all day, every day. Not your job, not your spouse, not your kids.  It starts and ends with you.  It follows then that you need to make yourself the priority, say ‘no’ sometimes and stick to boundaries so that you can be your best self for everyone and everything in your life. This is the center of being in balance. Makes sense, doesn’t it?!?

Many years ago, I made health and fitness my first priority for two reasons.  The first is that I came out of corporate physically and mentally fried, and the second is that starting a business meant that I was going to be in control of everything I do. Not my boss, not my spouse, me.

That in itself brings a sense of freedom; freedom to choose what to do with my time as the days stretch out before me.  I start each and every day in three realms: physical fitness (weights, cardio), mental fitness (brain games, reading) and reflection (journaling, meditation).  It’s what works for me; odds are that what fires up your day is totally different. My regimen starts my day off right, prepares me for the day ahead and gets all my systems firing.  I started off by scheduling this commitment in my calendar several years ago and I did it daily, without fail.  Now it’s my morning ritual; I don’t schedule it, I don’t even think about it, I do it automatically.  Total game changer.

If I was able to give you two hours of time every day to put yourself first, what would you do with that time?  Why not schedule it alongside the other time slots in your calendar, make it a priority and do something just for you?

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