Have you ever attended a business networking event where you knew very few people . . . maybe no one?
How did you feel when you were walking in? Confident? Curious? Cautious? Comfortable? Uncomfortable?
All those are possible, of course, but I think most of us would admit to at least feeling a little uncomfortable, if only for a few minutes.
I spent nearly ten years as a regional chapter director in an international networking organization (a job I loved!), and I learned a fair bit about one of the most important aspects of growing a paid-membership organization: the Visitor Experience. Chapters in that organization usually do a bang-up job of welcoming and including visitors; it’s one of many reasons they have had such phenomenal growth.
One of my strongest messages as a director to the members in “my” chapters was how important the Visitor Experience would be for the growth or death of the chapter. All organizations lose members; attrition is normal. Members move, change jobs, retire — the list is endless. So growth and profitability depend on a steady stream of visitors, many of whom could choose to become members.
Inviting business professionals to attend a meeting as a guest was only the beginning. What happened once they got there was crucial. The members had to understand — all members should get this — that everyone is a Visitor Host. Everyone. Some have that “title,” but anytime a stranger walks into a room, everyone should notice and want to be the first person to welcome that visitor.
Why? Because those first few minutes of a visitor’s experience may well seal the deal for gaining or losing that person as a member.
Every member of every public meeting can have an impact on a visitor’s experience.
Over the last couple of years, I have attended many paid-membership business meetings, wondering if I could find a group that I would feel comfortable in. With all my outer confidence, I am still no different than most others: I hope that when I enter, someone will be kind and smart enough to welcome me with a big smile.
Doesn’t always happen, though.
And why do I say kind and smart? Well, because showing kindness towards a visitor is a good thing with a personal upside as well. Who gets to make a positive first impression? Who stands out from the crowd? Who are visitors grateful for? Who sets the tone for the entire experience?
As the amazing Maya Angelou 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.
So my question to you is: How do visitors feel at your meetings?
Seriously: Why would you NOT follow up with other business professionals who were interested enough to visit you at least once?
I know the prevailing wisdom is to take care of the members you have, to make sure they’re happy and see the value of their membership, and to make sure they renew each year. Obviously, that’s important. But if you neglect the visitors, who have no reason to be silent about their crummy experience, you will ultimately lose big. We all know that bad news travels incredibly fast — especially now with social media.
What do you want outsiders saying about YOUR organization?
Originally published at https://www.linkedin.com on November 16, 2016.
To see my other posts, please visit www.GrammarGoddess.com
Originally published at medium.com