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Karen Taggart 4 min read

Make New Friends, But Keep the Old

Karen_Taggart.jpgReporting live from the DMAW/AFP Bridge Conference in Washington, DC

I love this conference.  It’s always a family reunion where I have the chance to hang out with all my direct marketing buddies.  While all this socializing could be seen as a waste, it taught me the #1 lesson I will take away this year.

What I realized as I was in the middle of socializing is that the communication steps I was taking with my new and old colleagues are exactly the same as those that are effective when recruiting and cultivating new activists and donors.  

When I met someone new, each of us introduced ourselves and asked basic information questions – Where are you from?  Where do you work?  I did not out of the blue pull them into the middle of a dramatic story about an old friend whom they did not even know.  

At the same time, when I spoke with old friends I didn’t suddenly revert back to that basic information as if I had no memory of our relationship.  We often bring up old stories, adding the next chapters and predicting what might happen in the future.

Kelly Ronayne, the Director of Membership Data & Strategic Services at AARP put my personal discovery into perfect (and much more articulate) words in his presentation about CRM (Customer Relationship Management).  He compared the development of a relationship with a prospect or member to the dating process.  

When we meet someone who might be a fit mate, we don’t jump in with questions like, “How many kids do you want?” or stories about our crazy families.  We begin with basic questions to engage the individual – What’s your name?  What’s your sign? And then if it works out, we can move into steps to further the relationship – What’s your sign?  Can I have your number?  And, of course, we must listen, listen, listen and adjust our communications appropriately as we receive answers.

So, what does this mean to direct marketing and online organizing?  As we are all working to develop systems to upload our new names, gather the maximum number of signatures, solicit gifts and renew members, it is imperative that we all step back for a moment and put ourselves in their shoes.  Members are real people, looking for real relationships.  They want to talk about themselves and know you are listening.  Unfortunately, they aren’t thinking in terms of database integration problems or what might be convenient at a mailshop.  

The #1 lesson for me from the conference?  While it is impossible for us to treat each member and prospect as individuals, we must make each of them feel as if they were.

Now, I am off to make new friends!

Karen Taggart:  karen@earth.care2.com