I did not coin this phrase. Neither did Benet Wilson (2005, New Orleans crisis, the one to whom it is most commonly attributed on contemporary Google searches), or any of the other writers who have invoked it in the last few weeks:

“Extraordinary Times Call for Extraordinary Measures.”

But I’ve used it. We all have. It’s our call to arms every time the usual rules don’t apply.

Some may remember campaigns that were derailed when a national (or global) news event distracted consumers (yes, it’s happened before).

Maybe it was when the financial crisis pulled the rug out from under our marketing effectiveness. Or, maybe for you it was when your industry or market segment experienced a disruption that resulted in a long recovery cycle.

Marketers have been invoking this mantra for decades.

It’s actually a spin on something Hippocrates, the father of medicine, is credited with inspiring: desperate times call for desperate measures.

But the point isn’t to give credit to a series of words. Or about desperation, for that matter. The point is that leadership needs to step away from the usual processes and recognize that today is NOT normal, and the usual processes may NOT be the best solution for a world in transition. And that’s not only ok, it’s liberating.

Process and Discipline are Critically Important. Until They Aren’t.

Smart retention and marketing strategies are most effective when they involve testing your way into a process that works, then iterate for improvements.

That’s certainly best practice, but what happens when the motivations and distractions change? When nothing is normal in your member or prospect’s world?

Now is a great time to look ahead and ask yourself: what’s the situation we DON’T want to find ourselves in? 

Expect Change, and Reset Your Goals

A year from now, will you congratulate your team for executing a plan that was developed prior to the global pandemic? That’s likely to happen ONLY if you hit your acquisition and retention numbers. If history is any indication, you might want to think a little more creatively.

Even a bit “extraordinary.”

Are your members going to be financially impacted by world events? Is what you deliver relevant to them right now?

If the answers are “yes” and “yes” then it’s time to think extraordinarily.

Before you head for the deep end of the pool and jump in, consider a few things that don’t change, even in a pandemic:

  • Your members have other things on their minds than being your salesperson. Despite leadership’s best intentions, member-get-a-member programs are not going to save you. At best, they end up being a very small contributor to your membership acquisition. At worst, they annoy your membership and make you look desperate.
  • Be magnanimous. An early-bird renewal offer is a REALLY good idea at such times. It’s extraordinary, in fact. But recognize that your member is doing you a favor by renewing early. You need to give them a tangible reason to act. Even better, ask them to renew for multiple years at a discount. Everyone wins – you have a member for 3 years, and the member has “voted” that you are relevant.
  • Small trial balloons prevent big disasters. Send a small email deployment to make sure you aren’t going to trigger a landslide of reputation management issues. The old adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is never more true than when you find yourself backtracking from an unintentional blunder.

Your “Extraordinary” May Turn Out To Be “Exceptional”!

It’s not likely that what you do during extraordinary times will replicate when life moves to the new normal. So don’t drive yourself crazy trying to set up tests that you’ll never get a chance to roll out. That doesn’t mean you should be reckless with your opportunities, just realistic.

Now is an excellent time to expose your best features. Find the things that members have loved the most about you, and share them with members AND prospects.

Ask for a vote of confidence in the form of a renewal. Whatever you do, don’t STOP asking people to renew (that telegraphs that it’s acceptable to consider a membership in your organization “non-essential”). Don’t assume they can’t/won’t renew, just because of the global distraction. Instead, assume they WILL, although they might need a little time or extra encouragement. In a nutshell: get ahead of the renewal cliff, and be prepared to keep at it long after it hits.

Listen empathetically to your constituency. Help them – and yourself – put things in perspective. Acknowledge today’s challenges but don’t wallow. This will pass. Use your archived content to educate, inform, and inspire both your members and your prospects. Find a way to appropriately celebrate what you do for your market. They will welcome the leadership, vision and reinforcement that what you do – and more importantly, what THEY do – matters.

Understand what you can control.

You can control messaging. You can control frequency. You can control offer. But you may not be able to control how your message is received, what else your members or prospects are being presented, and what’s happening in their personal life.

But isn’t that the foundation of good, persuasive marketing, virus or not? To set yourself apart, using your available tools, skills and expertise?

So do the best you can in this extraordinary time. Look at your organization from a different viewpoint. You’ll never regret making the effort.

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