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NAPMW Report: Marketing for Change

Mar 17, 2014

In today’s marketplace, change has become a “Four-Letter Word.” However, many associations and professional organizations overlook that it may be the best-kept secret for growth. If associations cannot find a way to embrace an aptitude for change, the leaders will soon look up and wonder where all their members went. Successful leaders know when to get out of their own way and tune in to what the members want and need. This is exactly what the board of the NAPMW Atlanta Association did.

The Atlanta Association’s goal was not merely to survive, but to thrive. More importantly, we wanted to serve our members creating a positive and passionate synergy to have them recruit perspective members. As the board headed into the 2013-2014 planning meeting, there was only one thing on the agenda—growth. The mortgage industry was changing faster than the association, so with this in mind, there became a collective mentality that the Association needed to change. As a result, the decision was made to implement some old-fashioned marketing paired with some “out of the box” thinking … both of which can be applied to any association. From a marketing perspective, small changes can result in large opportunities.

What are your needs?
The first step was to identify areas within the Association that needed to change. The areas to change, which are the same with most associations, were venue, education, marketing and membership growth.

The change-up plan
►Venue: The old saying “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it,” does not apply to this category. There may be nothing wrong with the current venue an association is utilizing; but are there enough positives to draw people to the meetings and events? Look for a venue that is centrally located that has stellar meeting space. The space should be able to accommodate growth while giving the illusion of being full. Hosting a meeting at a venue which is to large will give the appearance of poor attendance causing a negative emotion for current and perspective members as well. The venue’s menu should host a wide variety of choices so the same meal is not served twice within the same year. Most restaurants will work to customize a menu allowing for multiple options and last minute additions or alterations.

Finally, selecting a venue where the management is willing to work in collaboration with the association to entice people to attend is beneficial and by doing so creates a win-win opportunity for both. For example, ask the restaurant to provide a $50 gift card for each month of the contract for drawings. This provides the association with a nice door prize, while generating additional revenue for their venue.

Education: The mortgage industry is overloaded with education geared toward compliance and regulatory changes. Although this is necessary, it does not give the mortgage professional a sense of personal growth or value to their business growth. To attract industry professionals to an association for education, the environment should be engaging focused on personal development and growth along with the necessary compliance and regulatory information.

Topics that generated large crowds in the Atlanta Association were:

1. Local authors and speakers who were very informative, motivating and captivated the audience, including: Kimberly Kennedy, author of Left at the Alter; Lesa Osborne, author of 365 Daze; Kit Cummings, author of Forty Days of Power; and Marci Fair, author of Tilt.

2. We hosted several Industry Panels, including Local REALTOR Board Presidents who gave an update for each of the geographic areas they served, along with what was ahead in 2014 and answered questions from the members. We also featured updates and changes ahead in the industry related to underwriting, appraisals and mortgage insurance.

3. A Legal Corner, featuring Howell Haunson, a partner with Morris|Hardwick|Schneider, who delivered a humorous but informative update on the changes that were made to the Georgia Association of Realtors Purchase and Sale Agreement.

Marketing: Associations lacking growth should look carefully at their branding and reputation in their industry and marketplace. A well-crafted message on the association’s mission and vision can be contagious in the community. There are multiple outlets that can be utilized: social media, flyers, postcards, e-mails, etc. However, the one that will spread the quickest is word of mouth. People like to pass along information that is exciting, interesting and valuable. It gives the person who is spreading the word that they are cutting-edge.

The value in word of mouth marketing is the person spreading the information, not the message itself. This is why associations should tap into their member resources. Identify members who hold positions of influence, such as salespeople or client reps who have a large sphere of influence. These members will be crucial in spreading the word about upcoming events or what a great time they had at an event to their peers and industry partners.

Membership growth: Enhancing recruitment efforts is not an easy undertaking. In order for associations to thrive and survive, it is crucial to seek talented professionals, especially younger ones, for recruitment. Having younger people join an association is essential for growth, brings new perspective and thought-provoking ideas. There are numerous professions affiliated with the mortgage industry which would be a valuable resource for potential members. There are many real estate agent associations and organizations that would be willing to host joint meetings and events. Think big and act small when searching for new avenues for potential members.

By implementing these changes, the NAPMW Atlanta Association has doubled its membership within the year and is gaining new members weekly. The main point to remember is change is not always bad. Be positive, be a communicator and be passionate about the association.

Nikki Gilbert-Bell is director of client relations for Morris|Hardwick|Schneider, and serves as a governor for the Mortgage Bankers Association of Georgia and as vice president for the NAPMW Atlanta Association. She may be reached by phone at (678) 357-2574 or e-mail [email protected].

This article originally appeared in the February 2014 print edition of National Mortgage Professional Magazine. 

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