Thursday, December 24, 2009

What Can We Learn from Laundry Detergent?

When you buy laundry detergent, they usually measure it in terms of loads. And when you go to use it, the cap acts as your measuring cup. But if you notice, one load's worth of detergent is like like 1/5 of a cup these days. This virtually guarantees that you are going to use more than you need, ensuring you buy more detergent, more often. But we really don't think anything of it right? So what if we put more in the wash? They'll just be cleaner, right?

Do you have a product/service that you could alter in such a way that people would buy more of it, more often, and not bat an eye at? I bet you do. And I bet most folks wouldn't notice the change. Plus, your bottom line will thank you for it.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

What if Associations Were For-Profit?

One more Big Idea question from me - What if Associations Were For-Profit entities? What would change in your organization? Would your organization change at all?

A colleague of mine used to say, "Non-profit is a tax designation, not a business model." I have to agree. And I would be willing to bet that associations that run themselves more like a for-profit are doing better than those that don't.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Another Big Idea - What If...

The Acronym Blog from ASAE has made it Big Idea month and many folks have risen to the task blogging about various what if scenarios in the association world. I know I am late, but having just started a new job, I am just now catching up with my blog reading. For those that follow me on Twitter, you know that I just yesterday went in and added all my RSS feeds again after purging them about a year ago. So here goes...

What if associations weren't afraid of doing new things just because they might fail?

As Clay Shirky says in Here Comes Everybody, "The cost of trying things is where Coasean theory about transaction costs and power law distributions of participation intersect."

Said another way, sometimes the cost of the resources to try something new are more than the return on investment if it succeeds. So what?

As they say, if you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you always got. For some associations, that seems ok. But for the ones where that isn't ok, you have to try new things in order to break that cycle.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Members Only Content

In the last 5 years, I am finding myself changing my philosophy on hiding content behind a member's only login on an association website. At first, I thought hide as much as you can to truly show value to a member. If you aren't a member, look at all this stuff you are missing!

But now, at a different association at a different time, I find that my thoughts have shifted. I am not to the point where I think everything should be open and free to everyone. However, I really think you have to take a serious look at what you are putting behind the curtain.

Is it really the members only web content that is leading folks to join and stay members? Because if it is, you have much bigger problems. (But you also have many big opportunities if folks are that tied to your content)

I am guessing like most associations, you want to engage your members, get them to participate more and take advantage of the benefits you offer...and by doing that, they find the value they need in being a member. Therefore, I am of the ilk that we should open up more of the web content to help drive that learning and engagement and capitalize on the value creation there.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Great Debate - Measurement

i am hoping to start a healthy debate with this one. I am reading a book and this sentence jumped out at me:

You simply can't improve what you don't measure.

I am not sure I agree, but I can't put my finger on any arguments against it. What do you think? Can you improve something that you don't measure?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Another Life Change

It has been an entire month since my last post, and some things have happened. The biggest is that I will be changing jobs come Dec. 7. I will no longer be the Executive Director of the Arlington Soccer Association. I will now be the Foundation Manager and Director of Industry Relations for the Specialized Carriers and Rigging Association.

I am excited about this new change. It was a tough decision to make, as I have enjoyed my time at ASA and would like to see the fruits of my labor. But at this point in time, it was a move I had to make for family reasons.

Anyway, I hope this will mean I will get back to blogging a bit more on association issues, especially trade association issues. I look forward to seeing and talking to everyone through blogs, twitter and association events!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Interesting Piece about Free

I read an interesting article on Free in October's Fast Company. What do you think?

The main comparison the author gives is that Windows is trouncing Linux as a PC/Laptop OS. I don't think that is a fair comparison. Most people use Windows because it is what they learned on, primarily because it came on the computer they bought. Linux, used a lot for servers, is preferred by many IT folks.

When it comes to Free, the main model is to use it to help sell something else: service, upgrades, another product entirely. Charging something gives you credibility, but will it give you enough sales to sustain the business?

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Xer Meme - I Have Been Tagged

The social media maven of the association world, Maddie Grant, tagged me in her Xer meme.

Here is what Maddie asks:
So go on, tell me, my fellow Xers – Have YOU sold out? Have YOU gone mainstream? Or are we still the guerrilla army, changing the world (only without telling anyone)?

I don't necessarily think I, or we as Xers, have necessarily changed. I think the world around us has changed a lot in the last few years. It was a lot easier to be guerrilla on blogs, twitter and facebook then. We were just talking to ourselves and challenging the status quo. Now, my members and board members read my blog, follow my tweets, and friend me on facebook. We as Xers like to be subversive, but know to be responsible enough not to get fired.

Life is changing for us too. I am expecting a 2nd kid. Good Lord. When did that happen? I can't wax philosophical at happy hour and share great ideas about how to change the world. I need to be at home changing diapers and making dinner.

I still feel guerrilla. I don't feel mainstream. I may be an ED, but it is for an association I can shape. I call it the 40 year old start-up. My crazy ideas still hit me with the same regularity. They are just about different things as youth soccer is different than professional AV. Corporate memberships are different than families signing up their kids.

The world I am trying to change has shifted. I wouldn't call it selling out. Look up "Selling Out" on Wikipedia (cause that is what us Xers do) and it says: "Selling out" refers to the compromising of one's integrity, morality and principles in exchange for money, 'success' (however defined) or other personal gain. I haven't gotten any money or personal gain. Success is subjective. I don't feel I have compromised anything either. Things have just changed, as they always do with time.

I like to think of us Xers as being like fine wine - Better with age.

I am supposed to tag folks. I am not sure all these people blog, but oh well. I am an Xer and we don't like rules.

KiKi L'Italien
Scott Sherrin
Dave Sabol
Lynn Morton
David Gammel

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Principles of Abundance Thinking

In the book Free, Chris Anderson gives his 10 Principles of Abundance Thinking. I think associations should look at two of them very closely.

You can make money from Free.
People will pay to save time. People will pay to lower risk. People will pay for things they love. People will pay for status. People will pay if you make them (once they're hooked). There are countless ways to make money around Free. Free opens doors, reaching new consumers. It doesn't mean you can't charge some of them.

Sooner or later you will compete with Free.

Whether through cross-subsidies or software, somebody in your business is going to find a way to give away what you charge for. It may not be exactly the same thing, but the price discount of 100 percent may matter more. Your choice: Match that price and sell something else, or ensure that the differences in quality overcome the differences in price.

These two tenants are worth a board retreat weekend on their own. Is your association thinking about them? If not, they probably should be.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Free is Not Enough

Just ask Twitter, it is hard to make money off something that is Free, if it is the only thing you are doing. You have to have that other thing that makes your money: Premium version, service, etc.

But it does mean that Free is not enough. It also has to be matched with Paid. Just as King Gillette's free razors only made business sense paired with expensive blades, so will today's Web entrepreneurs have to invent not just products that people love but also those that they will pay for. Free may be the best price, but it can't be the only one.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Debunking the Myths of Free

Towards the end of the book, Anderson tries to debunk some myths or doubts of the free concept. I think he does a great job, except for the last one regarding Free driving out professionals in favor of amateurs.

But out of the bloodbath will come a new role for professional journalists. There may be more of them, not fewer, as the ability to participate in journalism extends beyond the credentialed halls of traditional media. But they may be paid far less, and for many it won't be a full-time job at all. Journalism as a profession will share the stage with journalism as an avocation. Meanwhile, others may use their skills to teach and organize amateurs to do a better job covering their own communities, becoming more editor/coach than writer. If so, leveraging the Free - paying people to get other people to write for nonmonetary rewards - may not be the enemy of professional journalist. Instead, it may be their salvation.

I actually agree with the first half of what he says. And as a publisher, I should defer to his experience. But I have a hard time believing that professional journalists will want to make their living off trying to organize amateurs, who aren't being paid, to put together a product that they can sell. Isn't that what associations are for?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Finishing Up Free

I am finishing up Chris Anderson's book Free, finally. The end of summer got me, but now I am catching up with my reading. A while back I posted on Starting Free vs. Going Free. Later in the book, Chris talks about it again.

Nobody thinks less of Facebook because it's free or longs for a Web browser that people are paying for. When something used to cost money and is now free, you might think less of it - a formerly hot club now letting in anyone gratis. But if something has always been free and there is no expectation otherwise, there's little evidence that people view it with less regard. Web sites are evaluated on their merits, and people have learned that a pay site is actually more likely to be rip-off than a free one, since it can steal more than just time.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

What if I do Free?

So what if you want to do Free?

Free is not a magic bullet. Giving away what you do will not make you rich by itself. You have to think creatively about how to convert the reputation and attention you can get from Free into cash. Every person and every project will require a different answer to that challenge, and sometimes it won't work at all. This is just like everything else in life -- the only mystery is why people blame Free for their own poverty of imagination and intolerance for possible failure.

Is the most costly thing in your association a poverty of imagination and intolerance for possible failure?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

How Do I Compete with Free?

Chapter 16 in Chris Anderson's book Free talks about myths about Free. One myth is that you can't compete with Free.

The way to compete with Free is to move past the abundance to fine the adjacent scarcity. If software is free, sell support. If phone calls are free, sell distant labor and talent that can be reached by those free calls (the Indian outsourcing model in a nutshell). If your skills are being turned into a commodity that can be done by software (hello, travel agents, stock brokers, and realtors), then move upstream to more complicated problems that still require the human touch. Not only can you compete with Free in that instance, but the people who need these custom solutions are often the ones most willing to pay highly for them.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Google Generation

In Free, Anderson refers to a group (mostly under 20 years old who have grown up always having a broadband connection) as the Google Generation. They expect information to be infinite and immediate. These are your future members. How are you going to adapt?

They insist on Free not just in price but also in the absence of restrictions: They resist registration barriers, copyright control schemes, and content they can't own. The question is not "What does it cost? but "Why should I pay?" This is not arrogance or entitlement -- it is experience. They have come of age in a world of Free.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Maslow and Free

I love Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. I keep finding things that it explains or is applicable to. Anderson refers to it in Free. If you don't know what it is, click here.

The same sort of pyramid can be applied to information. Once our hunger for basic knowledge and entertainment is satisfied, we become more discriminating about exactly what knowledge and entertainment we want, and in the process learn more about ourselves and what drives us. This ultimately turns many of us from passive consumers to active producers, motivated by the psychic rewards of creating.

Have you found out what knowledge and entertainment will change your members from passive consumers to active producers?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Back From Toronto #asae09

It is hard being back in the office after being in Toronto for ASAE and the Center's annual meeting in Toronto. Although it is even harder considering a some dope went the wrong way down Wilson Blvd at 60 mph and crashed into a telephone pole knocking out the power at our office and shutting down the street. Luckily, I hadn't gone in yet, so yesterday was spent working at home.

The main theme for me, as shown by ASAE in their opening video, was connect. I connected with so many people. Many I already knew, but some only through Twitter (I am @CardCat) and blogs. I met many more by following the #asae09 Twitter hashtag and following them. Then there were the usual friends of friends introductions at various events. That alone made the trip worth it. My best learning takeaways were probably gleaned from the Hub from sessions I didn't even attend. Now I just need a way to aggregate and disseminate all the info from the Hub.

Other random notes:
- The online engagement lounge rocked. Best part was getting intimate Q&A with Charlene Li and Clay Shirky. Thank you ASAE staff who made that happen.
- I would like to see an idea swap room. Every session there is an idea swap there with a table or multiple tables for each of the various disciplines. That would rock!
- We need more session times, with less choices for each session.
- The AV was better, but please give all speakers wireless microphones. Pony up the cash. It is worth it.
- I totally didn't bring home Kilkenny beer, thinking they may have it at duty free. They didn't. I failed.
- Folks in Toronto are very nice. Even when you go as a DC United fan to watch them play in Toronto.
- I am glad the CVB's had their own side of the floor. That way I didn't need to go over there. But that means I missed the best swag. Oh well, I just couldn't even pretend to have meetings in order to get a Build a Bear.
- I am really curious how much the Build a Bear thing cost St. Louis.
- Toronto is great about recycling. I wish the US was as proactive.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Free Business Model to Copy

Chris Anderson shares a business model he uses that he took from someone else. Sound like something that could challenge your association?

1. Build a community around free information and advice on a particular topic.
2. With that community's help, design some products that people want, and return the favor by making the products free in raw form.
3. Let those with more money than time/skill/risk-tolerance buy the more polished version of those products. (That may turn out to be almost everyone.)
4. Do it again and again, building a 40 percent profit margin into the products to pay the bills.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Starting Free vs Going Free

If you are thinking about making something free that you now charge for, should you?

Why do people think "free" means diminished quality in one instance, and not in another? In turns out that our feelings about "free" are relative, not absolute. If something used to cost money and not doesn't, we tend to correlate that with a decline in quality. But if something never cost money, we don't feel the same way. A free bagel is probably stale, but free ketchup in a restaurant is fine. Nobody thinks Google is an inferior search engine because it doesn't charge.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Where is Your Value?

One topic early in the book Free, by Chris Anderson, is that of commodities. A lesson learned through history is that as commodities become cheaper and eventually free or almost free, value moves elsewhere.

Have you looked at the value you are offering your members? Could it now be considered a commodity with members using things like LinkedIn and Facebook to network and other places for information?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

More on Free as a Business Model

I love this quote from the book. What if someone takes aim at your association as the incumbent and your membership dues as the product? What would you do?

Today, we know that the most disruptive way to enter a market is to vaporize the economics of existing business models. Charge nothing for a product that the incumbents depend on for their profits. The world will beat a path to your door and you can sell them something else.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Finally Something to Blog About

I know I have been very inconsistent, but I have just started reading Chris Anderson's latest book Free - which you can read for free in some versions. The Long Tail is my favorite book, and I am hoping this one can upstage it.

I am getting through it pretty quick and have a lot to say about it.

The first few chapters delve into the history of Free and how it has been used over the ages. One thing I found interesting was when talking about capitalism, socialism and primitive societies, Anderson talks about the link economy and how at a certain point the size of a group comes into play.

...the social bonds that police such mutual aid tend to fray when the size of the group exceeds 150 (termed the "Dunbar Number" -- the empirically observed limit at which the members of a human community can maintain strong links with one another).

When it comes to in-person events/communities/societies, anything greater than 150 tends to fall apart. But, the virtual world has changed all that.

As an association with various meetings and conferences, what if you capped them all at 150? If you provided the right atmosphere, tools and motivation, you could have events where all attendees continued to learn, share and form bonds with one another. I know that the Buzz2009 conference was held to a small number and that the organizers want to keep it that way specifically for the reasons above. Would it be worth it for your meetings?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Hierarchy of Change

I can't believe it has been a month since I have posted. Oh well. Such is life. A lot has happened in this month. I am writing this from our new office space, in various stages of construction/repair/cosmetic disarray. By the end of the week, I am hoping we are good to go.

In thinking about everything going on with my association, I wanted to post a few thoughts on change. When an association is going through changes, there are really 4 distinct areas of change. And I believe they fall within this hierarchy:

1. Mission/Vision
2. Strategy
3. Organization
4. Process

The one on top has to be done and set before the one below it. On a rare occasion you can do two of these at the same time, but it is rare. One begets the other starting at the top. The top 2 are really Board activities (with input from members and staff). The bottom 2 are Staff driven, primarily the ED.

This may seem very basic, but I have heard from folks and seen it myself that people are asked to change #3 and #4 before #1 and #2 are all set. All that means is that you will have to make changes again.

I am all for change. Change is good and necessary in many instances. Just go about it in the right order and you will save yourself a lot of headaches.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Summer Time

Well, the spring soccer season is over. A few more tryouts for travel left, but the games are over. It was a successful season over all and the awards banquet was a great culmination to season. The summer is full of camps, street soccer, and other programs. Fall registration is open as well. There is a lot to do this summer, including finalizing office space for ASA.

One thing that's going on this summer which should be great is Buzz2009 Social Media for Associations. Buzz2009 Social Media for Associations is the place where association execs learn concepts and strategies to help their organizations make the most out of social media. It takes place Thursday, July 9, 2009 in Washington, DC. Check it out. Should be great.

I need to be better about blogging. Our new ASA website has a place for me to blog too, so I need to get back on top of it in both places. Have a great and safe summer everyone. Hopefully you'll see more posts from me.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Phone Numbers

Remember when everyone had a home phone, and that was it? Businesses used to be clever and try to make their phone numbers spell something with the accompanying letters on a standard phone. Many today still do. But should they?

I have a blackberry. So how can I call you if I only know the word your number spells? I can't. I know most people don't have full keyboard smart phones as their main calling devices. Business phones, home phones and many cell phones still have the basic phone keyboard. But many of us on the go who live on our phones need to know your real phone number, not what it spells.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Meetings and Governance

I have had several meetings this week. Big volunteer led, policy setting type meetings. As I look back on them, I see two things that would have made the meetings much better.

First, is clearer governance. It would have been great if all parties at each meeting were familiar with the current policies and governance areas. I don't blame them for not being familiar though. We have done a poor job of organizing them in an easy to read and understand manner, as well as updating them as times have changed.

Do yourself and your volunteers a favor. Put everything in plain English in easy to find places on your website. And don't be late on updating documents and policies as they need it. Change is easier incrementally.

The second issue I had was the use of Robert's Rules. Being near the center of government, it seems as if I have too many people in meetings who know Robert's Rules. However, I think these ancient rules sometimes hinder actually getting things done. I wish I could just stand up, take over, spell out the issue and have people vote. It would save time, shrink confusion, and get it done.


Sunday, March 22, 2009

Creating Volunteers

So, I keep getting tagged to post on a bunch of topics. Thank goodness, because I have been bad about posting. This is good incentive. Here is the latest.

Peggy Hoffman has asked me to share five short-term, ad-hoc volunteer jobs I’d love to have.

I am not going to lie, this took a long time to figure out. There are some volunteer things out there that I wish I did, like the Big Brother program. But I wanted to come up with a few that I am not sure are even out there.

1. Watching TV pilots for potential new shows
2. Being part of the committee that chooses the future World Cup sites
3. Review start-up business plans for Angel investors or VCs
4. Some sort of wine tasting volunteer
5. Teach real life skills to professional athletes - I think I could keep them out of trouble.

**I started writing this post a month ago, but just now finished it. I actually forgot I had started it until I did my last post. Sorry Peggy.

Friday, March 20, 2009

A Little Something Extra

I recently ordered a bunch of custom apparel to recognize our volunteers. In the shipment, I got 1 extra of something I ordered as well as 1 extra custom piece I didn't order. In the box was a slick postcard saying:
Here's an extra surprise! As a special thank you, we've included an extra item or tow for you. Thank you for your business.

I am sure the extra items I got were mistakes or overruns. But talk about a way to make lemonade out of lemons.

This was the first time I used this company. Do you think I will use them again? You bet. 2 days after I placed the order, I received an email offer from the same company offering one of the items I bought for $5 cheaper than the price I paid. I was a little bummed, but I sent an email and they gave me the cheaper price.

A little something extra goes a long way. And if you can turn one of your mistakes into something extra for a member/customer, even better.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Totally Random Thoughts for this Snowy March Day

I have been thinking I need to post something, but nothing in my head has warranted a full post. So, I am putting together a few random thoughts today.

Somehow I have started getting Details magazine. I didn't subscribe or ask for it, but I started getting it. What a crappy magazine. This month's issue has its first piece of actual content on page 80. Page 80!!! Useless.

I have put a few things for sale on Craigslist. I can't believe how many scam responses I got. People wanting me to ship to Africa for an extra $50. Really?

What is with it the TV networks? We aren't that far into the season and we are getting reruns? The networks wonder why ratings are down and people are watching online. Maybe because their content isn't fresh enough.

NFL free agency is in full swing. The Redskins are back to their old ways of spending lots of cash. It will be interesting to see how the season plays out.

I know I had a few more, so I may post again if I can remember them.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Word of Mouth

I have been tagged to post about how I have seen Word of Mouth Marketing in small staff associations.

As many of you know, I work in a small staff association, focused on youth soccer. Word of Mouth is critical for us. Many kids and parents talk about their after school activities, so we rely on WOM to help us get new kids into the program. We learned from a survey that a number of folks found out about the association through WOM.

We do the normal email and print marketing, but I feel that many times one parent reads it and mentions it to other parents when they see each other in the neighborhood.

Here is a sample for WOM. One of our players is nominated for Goal of the Year. Do us a favor and VOTE HERE. WOM at work!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

ASAE Technology Conference 2009

The ASAE Technology Conference was in DC the last two days. I had the chance to run into a bunch of good friends and learn about some new technologies and websites that are out there. Here are a few resources that I found that I wanted to share out there:

A wealth of resources from the gals at SocialFish, especially Twitter tools

Good legal presentation for social media

Some quick wins to help your website

Some thoughts on the conference itself:
ASAE, please give presenters wireless mics. It is worth the extra cost.
Love the free wireless in the session rooms. Just wish it was upstairs too, but know you can't really do that.
Overall a great conference. I am happy I had the chance to present and hope that the folks who attended my session enjoyed it.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Presentations This Week

The next few days are crazy for me as this weekend is the Virginia Youth Soccer Association workshop being hosted here in Arlington. Then Tuesday and Wednesday is the ASAE Tech Conference. I will be presenting at both conferences.

Saturday I am talking about Web 2.0 Tools for Youth Soccer Organizations.

Wednesday I am presenting with my former InfoComm co-worker about Social Media - How One Association Went From Nothing to Something.

If you are at either conference, please stop by.

Monday, January 5, 2009

A look back, a look forward

My first post of 2009 - w00t!

Looking back, 2008 was a major year of change for me. In April, I welcomed my beautiful daughter Madeline Louise into the world. Then, in October, I started my first ED job with the Arlington Soccer Association. Needless to say, those two events have really driven my life this year. I think I can honestly say that right now I am the luckiest guy I know. A great family and a job that I was built for.

2009 looks to be just as exciting as I watch my little girl grow by the second and as I start to get the ASA where I know it can go. I am not one for New Year's Resolutions (as I never keep them), but there are a few things I know I need to work on. This blog is one of them. I dropped off a great deal once I got the new gig. Things were crazy and I just didn't get it done. I need to get back on track to win one of Ben's awards for 2009.

So, I give you permission to kick me in the butt if I go back to slacking. I would also like some help with some topics for my posts. My frame of reference has changed a great deal. I am not working for a big, international association in membership anymore. I am ED of a small, local association working from home. So what do you want to hear about?

I hope you all have a great 2009 and I look forward to our conversations.