Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Other Cheek

Don't you love cryptic titles? Especially like this one. I know a few heartbeats that might have just skipped a beat. But thankfully for some, we are not going to visit the cardiology department today. However, we might be seeing a certain 'cheeky' doctor.

In this post, let's look at the value of the STC membership and try and understand why it is still perceived to be so low in India. The first part has been beaten to death. Here's a nice place you can read about STC Membership Cost Benefits And Value. It's the second part (low perceived value) that's being discussed here. What are some of the things that we expect (or could try) to see better value (and thus numbers). Here are a few thoughts and ideas to set the ball rolling. 

If you have ideas, and I'm sure you do, please use the comment feature below.

What are you selling? Sell value instead of memberships
  • But first you need to create value and show value before you can try to sell it. Because clearly, not everyone see's as much value as is being marketed. So if people don't see it, is it really there? You know... that saying... "If a tree falls in the jungle and no one hears it... "! People aren't buying what you are selling. At least most of them aren't. So find out what they would buy instead. If you ask me, the day you disconnect the membership and the annual conference, you'll see an exodus. Me included.
  • A good start point is to conduct a survey with your target audience. Include everyone who has ever been an STC member. Design a survey with the 'right' questions. Find out why they joined and what made them leave? Would they join again? Why? Why not? People aren't going to sign up (especially after the conference) just because of the discount. As I first heard from Mak, It's all about the value. Value is the difference between the price of something and what we get in return. The difference. Not just what we get in return. Make sure that the difference is positive. Kumar Dhanagopalan, had very long ago beautifully equated the price of STC membership to being less than the price you'd pay for having a cup of coffee every day (for a year). It's probably time to find out why more and more people are preferring that coffee instead:)
  • Conduct another survey for sponsors and organizations. Similar questions. While targeting individuals, simultaneously target the corporates. Needless to say, the stuff that makes organizations tick, is very different. But it's the same marketing/sponsorship dollar that is being fought for.
    I'd also go to the extent to say that it's because corporates sponsor their employees, that many don't become members. The only value they see is the conference. And that is sponsored for them by their companies. Stop selling them the conference. Sell them the value of membership.
  • There's no use complaining that US STC doesn't do anything for us. Why do we see 500 plus writers attending a conference, yet we struggle to get even a quarter of them as members? Let's also remember that it's a democracy. If we want to be heard and considered as an entity that needs to be reckoned with, we have to get a voice on the board. We should get Mak or someone like him to be that voice. There's your big hairy goal. To do that, we need enough votes. The last time I checked, population and community was the least of our problems.
  • Remember: If your goal is the sky, you must aim beyond, for the stars. Pun intended.
Learning Sessions:
  • Assist city reps with contacts for good speakers. Rs 250 worth gift vouchers for a speaker doesn't make sense. Nada. That won't even cover fuel costs. There's money in the bank. Isn't the chapter a non profit org? Then that's probably one of the best ways to spend money. Not every paper submitted to the conference makes it. But that doesn't mean there was no merit in the proposal. In some cases, it might simply be the sign of a gamble gone wrong. Encourage those speakers by inviting them to present topics that were not selected for the annual conference. When you spend so much time in selecting papers for the annual conference, learning sessions also deserves the same effort and attention. Otherwise, membership becomes all about the conference. Nothing more.
  • Charge a nominal amount as fee from the audience. Keep it free for members. You are creating recurring value right there.
  • Conduct free sessions for students. Recruit faculty from the community and outside. Make sure they are well compensated and accountable. Yup, there's money in the bank.
  • Can we gamify membership? Give credits to members. We have PDU in PMI. Look it up. Or something more interesting. Can we create such an experience? 
  • There was an excellent point made by someone on the TWIN group. Start conducting exams for Tech Writers. Would help in hiring decisions. When you hire a writer, what is the minimum knowledge/skill that you'd expect? Create a program that you can build consensus around. When I service my car, I interact with various service advisers. I realize that some of them haven't even read the manual! What's the minimum knowledge they should know about the car? Why don't auto companies certify them? Can we think along those lines?
  • Tie up with Training Institutes and get them to give STC members a discount. Nothing wrong in back rubbing. Especially when there's a severe itch.

OK, probably getting into a touchy subject. Especially after recent 'events'. We all agree that there is no shortage of capable leaders. There would be more interest to be part of an organization with a strong and inspiring leadership. That's a no brainer.
The question to be answered is, How do you answer their WIIFM question? Of course STC is a not-for-profit-organization. But that doesn't mean you don't cover costs. And there will be some who get their kick from just the position itself. But how well that's worked is anyones guess. I'd make the experience more rewarding. We would then have responsible people who are accountable. Not those who hide behind the 'you-don't-pay-me-for-it' argument. 

These are just a few ideas. Do that survey. Let people surprise you with their thoughts. Let's play 'other' games. 

And I hope you still remember the match. Because the cheeky title has its roots there. The participant that didn't do so well is making commendable attempts at the title. And the way things are moving, the sequel round looks very promising. There will be blood. Script writers are already preparing for Rocky X!
But one of the players (you decide which one) is in a small mess and has probably chosen the 'show-them-the-other-cheek' route. But there's obviously some mistake. 

Because clearly, it's not the cheek on the face that is showing.