As chamber/association professionals, the majority of the time we are looked at to take the lead, provide direction, and have the answers. What if we didn’t? What if we took the time to ask our members? What would that look like? What if we asked instead?
In our industries, we do a lot of listening. We listen to suggestions; we listen to complaints; we listen to ideas; we listen to directions from boards; but what becomes of that? Listening is not the same as asking. If someone is offering these ideas, maybe they are just trying to offer a way to get you to ask them a question. When was the last time you sat down with a member and asked them some questions?
Our chamber went through this process about a year ago, and the difference it made was tremendous. In our professions, we think sometimes that we know what’s best for our membership or what they would like to see. We go to some great professional development programs, and come back and implement these new ideas. Our chamber was getting ready to redo our website. We thought we had good website, and we were going to make some minor changes for the new facelift. But right before we started making changes, it occurred to me that while I used our website every day and was familiar with it, what did other people think of it? So, I took the bold move…..I asked!
We gathered our board and our ambassadors, a group of 45, and went through a dissection of our website. Was that ever eye opening! Some of the things we (our staff) took for granted on our site, turned out to be the most problematic spots on the website. So after a 1/2 day asking-process, then we reconstructed our website, and re-launched a much more user friendly site this past December. All by asking!
I have continued to take this process to many of our other events, programs, and opportunities within the chamber. I encourage you to try it. Yes, it takes a little extra time, and a little extra work, but the response from your membership will make up for that, I promise. Beware, when asking, you may get some responses you were not prepared for, and that is ok. This will make you a better organization in the future.
Remember, while we all have to listen as part of our jobs, taking time to ask can make a huge impact on your membership.