Posted by RIDE Jessie Harman
Many of you will associate me with the membership roles I’ve held in Rotary. Yet in my professional life, outside Rotary, much of my career has focused on marketing and communications. For almost a decade, I taught Marketing Principles to undergraduate and postgraduate students at University. Later, when I moved into University management, I put those principles into practice - marketing the University’s programs to business, government and international students.
My marketing experience has centred almost exclusively on services (as distinct from goods) and I’ve experienced first-hand many of the challenges related to their unique characteristics. The fact that services are intangible experiences makes them challenging to communicate to would-be buyers; the fact that customers are integrally involved in producing the experience means they are difficult to standardise and quality is difficult to control. For all these reasons – and more - it can be difficult to demonstrate value.
Rotary ‘membership’ is a classic example and, like other services, promoting Rotary comes with inherent challenges. Fortunately, there are some tried and true tips which can help us promote our organisation more effectively. Here are five tips for services marketing that have always resonated with me and are directly relevant to
  • Rotary: Connect with your customers on a personal level - to ensure you understand their needs and wants. In the end, members perceive quality and value when their volunteering needs and wants are met through Rotary. We need to really understand our members’ needs.
  • Ensure the brand projects confidence and credibility - because a strong brand helps reduce the risk associated with buying an experience. Make sure your internal and external communications reinforce the message that Rotarians are People of Action creating positive change in their communities and themselves.
  • Use people to promote the brand - When it comes to purchasing services, would-be customers definitely prefer recommendations, testimonials and referrals from trusted sources. Educate and support your members to be great ambassadors for Rotary.
  • Post regular, high quality content to build awareness and understanding - Make sure the content captures Rotary’s brand essence, is credible and upbeat. Above all, be consistent.
  • Find ways to continuously improve the customer experience - to enhance perceived value and satisfaction. Like other customers, our members’ expectations continue to rise; so too do their options for volunteering. We need to find new ways to increase member engagement, improve retention and build loyalty.
This last tip reminds me that membership and marketing/public image are two sides of the same coin when it comes to promoting Rotary. It may also go some way to explaining why I’ve held membership, rather than public image roles within the organisation. Despite that, as I prepare for the role of RI Director, I am looking forward to working with our Public Image leaders throughout our zone. You have an incredibly important role to play in strengthening the present and the future of Rotary – you can count on my support.