During times of economic uncertainty, it is common for boards of directors, especially not-for-profit boards, to lean toward risk aversion and asset protection. In the case of the covid-19 pandemic, however, economic instability has been paired with a long-lasting shift in our political, social and technological environment, requiring a pivot in organizational strategy to survive and thrive.

For instance, the switch to virtual events and the advancements in e‑commerce will have lasting impacts on the business world. Smart boards should consider planning for a future where in-person events and old ways of doing business no longer exist. Organizations must look for new ways to engage members.

Three Things Boards Should Invest In

     1. Measured, disciplined customer experience design

Organizations no longer have the luxury of relying primarily on observing their members interacting with their customer experience design at in-person events to know how members received the design. Your customer experience design is now often viewed in members’ homes and outside of office hours. That kind of usage requires different, more purposeful tools and know-how to track. It’s less intuitive and more quantifiable.

Boards should be using professional customer experience design methodologies to ease friction, help prioritize their audience’s wants and needs, and provide feedback loops that allow boards and administrators to manage and optimize a positive engagement experience for members.

If your members are trying to register for one of your events after hours, do you know whether they succeed, or hit a roadblock? Do you know if they come back and resolve the issue? You can and should know these things. Otherwise you are just speculating about where problems and opportunities exist.

     2. Data to manage insights on members' digital engagement 

A recent Halmyre survey of not-for-profit executives found that too few feel confident in the data they have, and even fewer are planning on investing to increase that amount of data. With the elimination of in-person connections for the immediate future, organizations no longer have a qualitative source of engagement data, and so proper investments are required to move this process online.

Tracking your open rates, followers and likes is not enough.  And good data tracking requires more than just the proper tools. Organizations need to put enough time into tracking, they must develop or hire skilled analytical resources, and their executives must make data tracking a priority.

The good news is that no matter where your organization is, even small improvements in its data profile will open your eyes to insights about what your members and customers think of you… without having to ask.

Halmyre stands by the statement that “you manage what you measure,” and if these investments aren’t made continuously, a board must ask itself what it is managing.

     3. Digital marketing automation and relationship development

Increasingly, successful businesses know how to identify prospective customers and future relationships well before they engage in the first transaction – whether that be attending an event, making an inquiry or becoming a member.

Organizations should have both a CRM system and a marketing automation toolkit, which includes operational processes and a key-account or lead-generation strategy. CRM software allows tracking of data – contact information, follow-up reminders, email communication and more – while marketing automation is the process through which organizations can automate email campaigns, manage social media posts and gather insights.

Having both elements working in tandem will help guide customers seamlessly through the sales funnel.

Companies that do not invest in building marketing skills, management know-how and supportive technologies will fall behind in acquiring and retaining new customers. Your competitors, peers and “frenemies” will make automatic personalized content easy, and therefore appear more relevant to your audiences. Boards must demand regular phased investment planning; the retention of the right technical, operational and marketing know-how; and the allocation of appropriate budgets to stay resilient through today’s PEST storm.

What to Do with This Information Today

Putting these three strategies in place will help boards of directors adjust to the lasting political, economic, social and technological impacts of the covid-19 pandemic. When events and in-person business eventually come back – though at a different scale – boards that make these three investments will have a solid strategy in place for customer experience design, data tracking and marketing automation that will last for years to come.

It can seem like a sea change to embrace these three steps to gain a post-pandemic sense of whether and how your members are engaging. Start with a clear and honest audit of where you stand and how you wish to relate to your members and future members – not just the other way around.

About Christine Saunders

Halmyre President Christine Saunders is a marketing consultant to service-based organizations, a strategic advisor to marketing executives and leaders, an entrepreneur and a hobby farmer. Prior to founding Halmyre in 2014, Christine owned a traditional integrated marketing and communications agency specializing in financial services, public services and not-for-profits. Her education is in politics, ethics and philosophy, and she is a proud Maritimer despite living in Upper Canada today.

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