Leverage the Usual Suspects
I asked a friend the other day about an event that she went to and she replied that the usual suspects were there. She didn’t need to say another word. I knew exactly whom she meant.
There is a self-selected, dedicated, energetic group in every community that make up the core group likely to show up for events and programs. These regulars are passionate, dependable and steadfast.
If you are an organizer, you ought to appreciate dearly your usual suspects, but at the same time you are always trying to attract new people. Organizations can attract new people through word of mouth, traditional marketing or social networking and it can also leverage its usual suspects.
What I mean by leveraging your usual suspects is asking your best ambassadors or raving fans to think about their own networks and to activate them on behalf of the organization (we do this all the time by asking people to bring a friend to a program, asking someone to sit at our table or sponsor us for a fundraiser etc). But what if the organization took it one step further and outlined touch points for engagement for new people and asked the core group to select a few prospects from their personal networks. The ambassadors would agree to reach out to the prospects a series of times through a set period of time (e.g. a quarter, 6 months, a year) at various engagement opportunities and at the end of time frame solicit feedback from them.
I believe there is value in being more methodical in how we approach outreach. For starters, it formalizes what we hope , but are not sure, our usual suspects are doing informally, and it also may result in higher quality prospects than the organization will get through more general outreach. Best of all, at the end of the period, there will be data which can give useful information to the organization as it plans for future engagement opportunities. This data is particularly of interest because it will be from those with fresh perspectives which is key since organizations tend too often to have conversations with themselves (for more on this topic, see post Closed Circuit http://nanettefridman.wordpress.com/2009/12/16/closed-circuit/)
So leverage one of your best assets, your usual suspects, and see if it pays dividends or at least gives a useful barometer reading on the organization!