In the first episode of Season 3 of the Accelerant, we spoke with Daxko product manager, Charlie Peters, about how the Lead Management tool in Daxko Engage can help associations get new members through the door AND increase current member engagement. We also spoke to YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee’s Krista Bold on how daily life at her association has changed and how Lead Management has helped her team more effectively reach new and current members through a refined, intentional sales process.
- Lead Management isn’t just for new leads: Lead Management can help you get new members through the door and sign up new units while also boosting program registrations and finding new donors in your current membership. Lead Management is the tool that associations can use to manage all types of growth.
- “Sales” isn’t a bad word: If your passion and your mission are present in your sales process, you shouldn’t feel bad about selling to your members. You should feel confident your “sales” team can speak to the amazing benefits your association provides without coming off too sales-y.
- Strategy is key: If you’re not focusing on sales, it’s the first thing that will fall off your plate. When working with a new lead to convert on a new membership, class sign-up, donation or otherwise, it should be your main priority to convert that lead or you will fall off their radar quickly.
Becki Irby: Accelerant: A substance used to aid the spread of fire. Accelerating or causing acceleration. This is the Accelerant Podcast.
What's one of the most challenging parts of running a member-based nonprofit organization? It's probably pretty hard to pick just one, but something we've continued to hear from our customers is that they need better operations and strategy around managing leads over the course of 18 months. Daxko product manager, Charlie Peters, and his team worked to unravel the challenges around managing leads and built a tool that not only streamlines processes, but helps organizations like yours harness growth opportunities.
In this episode, you'll hear about Charlie's process working with an early adopter of the Lead Management tool, Krista Bold from the YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee. You'll also hear Krista’s view on the whole development process and her organization's relationship with Daxko and how valuable that relationship was in designing a useful and effective tool.
Let's dive right in. Charlie, could you tell us a little bit about your experience as a member of the Daxko team?
Charlie Peters: I have been with the Daxko team for a little over seven years now. I actually started with Daxko on our services team. I worked with customers who were launching and implementing Daxko Engage.
I actually helped write a lot of email marketing campaigns on behalf of our customers. And then a little over two years ago, I moved over to the product team and have been serving as a Product manager for desktop operations currently, but also for Daxko Engage. And then a little bit with Daxko Operations. Product management is all about information gathering and storytelling.
I've enjoyed listening to our associations using our products, finding out more about how their teams work, what they're trying to accomplish and what their goals are, the ways that we might make their lives easier, make their jobs more enjoyable, and then taking that information, turning around and collaborating with our software developers, telling the stories that we hear and then seeing the light bulbs go off and working with our engineers to solve those problems.
Becki Irby: It sounds so easy when you say it like that, Charlie, but of course we know that it's not quite that simple and product management comes with a lot of challenges. What are some of the challenges that you’ve experienced?
Charlie Peters: Yeah, you're right to point out that it's never quite that simple. There are a lot of challenges.
One of the things that comes to mind for me is how often we want to solve all the problems all the time for all the users, and that rarely makes sense. A lot of prioritization has to happen. We need to make decisions about the things that we work on that will make the most impact for the highest number of users.
That often means saying “no” to a lot of requests and to a lot of features. Sometimes it's “no, not right now,” because it doesn't make sense for our roadmap, for the timing or for the market need. Sometimes that means saying “no, never” if it doesn't make sense for the product. I’m having those discussions, it's never easy, but ultimately it's the right thing to do.
Becki Irby: When we talk about the challenges that you face, we want to focus on a really important project that we call lead management. How would you describe what lead management means to our association?
Lead Management Tools
Charlie Peters: Lead management is a term that we use for all the different ways we see associations growing, and that could be getting new members in the door, signing up new units, but it might also mean boosting program registrations or finding new donors. As we explored this project last year and continuing through this year, it became clear to us the wide variety of ways that our associations have for growing, and lead management is the tool they can use to nurture those people along those.
Becki Irby: It's really interesting, the timing of this project. Tell me a little bit about how you have seen the understanding of prospecting or sales change for our customers of the last 18.
Charlie Peters: Yeah. Let's go back in time a little bit. In 2020, after facilities again were closing their doors, we saw members putting memberships on hold, or members canceling altogether, and we first saw associations responding and truly inspirational ways.
They were in survival mode, just making sure basic community needs were met. Then we started to hear from associations who were beginning to focus on winning those members back. Often, those would be their own former members who were maybe on hold or been terminated in the early days. But it was also members from other wellness facilities who would find themselves a shopping around as centers began opening back up.
Because of all the good work that they do in their communities and especially so during the pandemic, we saw that they were well positioned to win back what were sometimes called orphaned members. That really influenced how associations understood prospecting and sales and in a variety of ways, we heard a rallying behind the spirits of “Hey when our city or our state opens back up and it's safer to return to facilities, we need to be ready for that bounce back.”
I remember a great conversation that our team had with the team at the YMCA of Metro Milwaukee, about their upcoming win-back strategy. At that time, they were unable to offer as many membership promotions as the years past, and that they needed to find ways to more deliberately communicate the value of membership and to really sell those benefits in ways that they hadn't before. We also learned from them that their membership sales team members were going to need a lot more flexibility with how they followed up to get a prospect or a particular member.
Becki Irby: We're also talking to Krista Bold with a YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee and really excited to have Krista join us today and tell us her story of working with Charlie and his team.
To get us started, Krista, I feel like everyone that we talk to has a Y story. I'd love to know what yours is. What is your Y story? How did you get involved with the Y?
Krista’s Y Story
Krista Bold: Absolutely. My name's Krista Bold. I'm the District Executive as well as membership for our association. I oversee our branch executives as well as running our flagship, Milwaukee YMCA.
Then I also oversee the membership department and I'm the go-to Daxko person for my association. I started with the YMCA in 2004. I was going to school to be a teacher and was looking for a summer gig that would look good on my resume. And my dad said, “Maybe just go work for the Y. That'll look good.”
I said, “Sure, I'll give it one summer.” So, as a lot of us say, that was beginning of the end or the beginning of something great. I ended up all of my summers at that day camp. Then when I got out of college, I was looking to go to grad school to be a counselor. When I was interviewing for grad schools, they kept asking why I wanted to be a counselor.
I talked about wanting to do the most good I could to help other people and all my questions that they asked me all went back to my work at the Y and someone asked me, “Why are you doing this? When it seems like you're already doing this at the Y,” and I had an epiphany, and I made up some answer because I was in the middle of an interview, but I realized I was already doing so much to better those around me and decided to switch gears and make a career with the Y.
I met my husband my first day at the Y. I haven't looked back. It's been about, I'm looking at the calendar, 17 years since I started my big Y story.
Becki Irby: I think that might be the best Y story I've heard yet. I love that. I absolutely loved that.
At the time that we're recording this, it's mid November 2021. We've just gone through quite a season with the pandemic and facing a lot of things. How has that impacted your organization and your role with your organization?
Krista Bold: I think the big thing that's impacted us is we had to make a lot of changes through the pandemic to meet the needs of emergency closures and branches closing, but we've also had to continue to pivot and make changes as we exit the pandemic, which is unfortunately taking longer than anticipated with things still. There are still people who don't feel safe coming back.
So, really, we've just been in a constant state of pivot or change, which has been exciting, exhausting, but I think we've been able to really move some things forward much faster than we would have had we not gone through the pandemic. Things like going paperless, we were working on for years and we did it in a week because we had to, so there's some things like that, that we're really able to move forward with much, much quicker, but we've also had to consolidate our departments.
I think everyone here is doing three times more roles than we were doing pre pandemic. So, it's finding tools that help. Work smarter and faster and also make it possible for us to get done everything we have to do with how much is still on replaced and how much is still really unknown, because we're still exiting what COVID-19 has done.
Becki Irby: That absolutely makes sense. I think scalability and really looking to find efficiency wherever you can, because people are wearing so many hats. I was reading an article last night about everyone's return to their health and wellness facility. We're now seeing a lot of people coming back. What are some of the things that you all have investigated around making that process scalable, welcoming people back that maybe were members pre pandemic that took a break, welcoming people back, the term orphaned members, people who maybe their gym closed, or if it's no longer in their budget and now they're in the season of seeking health and wellness.
How have you focused on scalability for your team to make sure that those memberships are growing and you're welcoming people?
Operational Scalability for the Membership-Based Nonprofits
Krista Bold: I think the first thing that we had to do was make it easier for members to join us. We pre pandemic had a service department that worked with our existing members, everything that happens within a Y, but we also had a full sales department that worked on our prospecting and our tours and joins and following up. We unfortunately had to cut that whole department during the pandemic and we haven't gotten that back.
So, it's very important for us to make it as easy as possible for members to join the Y, but also, still feel like they're joining a Y and not being completely handed off like you might get at a for-profit facility. We had to make sure we could have people joining online. We had to make sure that it was easier for our members to join if they needed assistance. It used to be very cumbersome to bring in all kinds of banking information and all the support you might get for your children or anyone else living in your household. We did a complete streamlining of that, and that has been a game changer for us. We also streamlined our member offerings like going to one draft date and eliminating multiple discounts that kind of were getting a little fuzzy out in the market. Really, it was streamlining so our staff could eloquently talk about how to join, and then it was making it much, much easier for those members to come.
The other piece that we had is what we needed to do within our branch: We used to have, let's say, 8 people working at a time in the membership department at our large facility. Now we have 4. Cutting that already small number in half, there are less people to do tours. There are less people making phone calls or sending out emails for follow up, so we've really been trying to utilize our Daxko suite to create some efficiencies for us there and make sure we're staying on top of it, but it's also manageable for us as well.
Becki Irby: Yeah. That's a ton to undertake and to try to formalize it will pay dividends in the long run, but I know it is such a labor of love.
Even for the Daxko team, we know that so many people are doing more with less, but there's an increasing priority on making sure that the business is bringing in those memberships and that we're inviting more people into the community so that they can in turn, let the YMCA do what it does so well, which is take care of the community around you.
That's what sparked our ideas around lead management and specifically wanting to investigate: How do we define what a prospect is? How do we take someone that maybe they are already a member, but they've never donated before? Maybe they've never been a member and we want them to be a member and take some of those core concepts and operationalize those things so that it doesn't require as much manual overhead so that staff can really focus on the relationship building and that's what the YMCAs does so very well.
It has been such an interesting time for everyone across our market with this project. What were some of those bigger questions that were circling around lead management and as you and the team researched those items? How did you work with associations to answer their question?
Developing the Lead Management Tool
Charlie Peters: Yeah. One of the first questions was around the word “sales” and the culture shift we saw happening there. So, it's funny. There are, I would say, mixed feelings about that word “sales.” We spent time with associations who have dedicated membership acquisition teams with sales in the job title. We also worked with associations who very kindly corrected me when I used that word and shared that their team didn't use it.
Then we saw there were many other associations somewhere in between and were in the process of that culture change. They shared that while they traditionally may not have talked about membership sales, they were moving in that direction. So, all that to say, given the variety of comfort with sales, our team found ourselves with the question: How might we create a solution that could be part of that culture change and that could accommodate a variety of teams, a variety of styles of working and that focused on what we heard was the key underlying need? And that was association growth and all the opportunities that presented.
Becki Irby: It's so interesting that different associations have a different level of comfortability with the word “sales.”
I think in a lot of our projects, Charlie, we find that different associations have very different processes, but really have a very similar end goal. It's great that the team found ways to accommodate all associations in that way. Another question that I had is specifically around what prospect means.
Sometimes when I've talked to associations in the past, they use the term “prospect” exclusively for someone that is not a member and maybe has never been a member, but there are prospective members. Other associations I've found might define that term a little differently. So, can you tell me, tell us, a little bit about how lead management accommodates different types of prospects or different definitions of the term prospect?
Charlie Peters: Yeah, that's a great question, Becki. Another one of the larger questions circling this project was how could we find a balance between breadth of what the word prospect could mean and the depth of functionality needed to accommodate that? So, you're totally right. Associations were focused on member acquisition and that was certainly a key part of prospecting, but there were also many other revenue growth opportunities.
We heard loud and clear that associations wanted to be able to treat anyone as a prospect. Pospecting isn't only about converting people into active units, people who haven't been a member before, but maybe are prospective members. So, the question we heard again and again from associations and that our team really focused on was: How can we accommodate that broad range of prospecting that associations needed to do in order to recover from the pandemic, while also allowing for the specific needs of an individual campaign and individual leads within those campaigns?
Becki Irby: That sounds definitely like a bigger challenge, especially for a development team to get something in the hands of our associations. That's always important and make sure that they actually have a tool so that we can start building upon it, but also make sure that it includes enough, like you mentioned, to accommodate more than just one straightforward scenario.
So, Krista with lead management, I know that you have helped our product team and our design team so much as we have discovered some ideas. What do you think of the concept overall of lead management and what were some of the things that first came to mind that's feedback you wanted to offer our team?
Krista’s Take on the Lead Management Concept
Krista Bold: My initial thought was it is so important to be strategic on your lead management. I think I've been in membership for about 10 years, and I've worked in multiple different versions of membership where there's a separate Sales and Service, there's Sales and Service altogether, and Experience. If you're not focusing on sales, it is the first thing to fall off your plate.
There's always a member who's going to complain about the steam room or who needs help with their membership, or has a bounced payment you're dealing with, but it is very easy to let someone tour your facility and walk away and never talk to them again. It seems to be the first thing that falls off. If you don't have something set and it's specific people to work with those needs. I have experienced in the past when we didn't have a sales team, we moved to a sales team, the increase in revenue and member satisfaction when they joined. When you have people focused on reaching out to someone when they haven't joined and reaching out, even after they have joined, we saw an immediate boost in return when we did focus on that back in the past and we previously hadn’t.
For me, when I was talking with the team, it came at a time that was so important for us because we had to eliminate that whole department. I didn't want my remaining membership team to lose focus on the huge importance for doing lead management.
Becki Irby: You mentioned a word that I will say in talking to associations that we work with has been somewhat controversial.
You mentioned the word “sales,” a word that you use for roles at your facility. What does that mean? Especially as you’re working at a nonprofit and using that word “sales,” tell me a little bit about how your organization has become comfortable with sales as a concept that's important?
Sales Departments at Nonprofits
Krista Bold: Not be controversial today, if someone had fun to play that game, but I do. I think that sales gets a bad connotation because you think of like a used car salesman who's just trying to get you to buy it because they need to hit their quota or whatever it may be. The sales team is a staff who understand the importance of what the Y does for the community and isn't afraid to passionately talk about that.
And most importantly, ask somebody to join. When we didn't have sales staff who were really worried about after their tour to say, “Can we sign you up today? Let's get you joined today. Let's start your membership paperwork.” They were worried about having that conversation. It was almost a passive, “You think you're ready to join or do you maybe need to think about it?”
We were giving people an out and we were missing out on the opportunity to serve the members who walked away because we weren't ready to just ask for the sale at that moment. I think as long as your passion and your mission are there in your sales process, it's okay to have a sales team.
We are a business, and we need members to serve our community. If we're not getting the members to join, we won't have anyone to serve. So, to me, sales is an important part of it. You just have to make sure your mission and your passion are still a part of that. That's hiring the right people to do that role.
Becki Irby: Yeah. I absolutely love that. I think it's just the way that I have looked at it. Especially during the pandemic, I've told people that it's such a gift to be able to work with nonprofits and to see what our associations do on a daily basis. It's such a gift to me because we feel like we're doing a very small part to help all of you meet your mission and during the pandemic to see so many incredible things that you all were doing to make sure that emergency workers had childcare and make sure that seniors had a place of belonging, even when they didn't have that face-to-face interaction, and nobody got left behind. Those memberships that you're selling are mutually beneficial to your business, but also to those individuals walking through your door.
Next week, lead management continued.
Next on the Accelerant
Charlie Peters: But one of the challenges we face with trying to understand the existing tools and processes that we were either trying to improve, or maybe in some cases, trying to replace with a project as big as prospecting and lead management, which touches a couple of our different products.
Again, indexical operations and it continues through Daxko Engage. It was really a long game approach and some of our product and engineering teams really aligned on what has been an 18 month long continuous improvement that led us to the new lead management features in Daxko Engage.
Krista Bold: I was really impressed by the ability to have multiple kinds of workflows that you could put people in and the usability of it, thinking how much staff might use it, because some people, it takes them nine months to join. Sme people, it takes them one visit, and it allows for that differentiation, which was very exciting.
Becki Irby: Thanks so much for listening to the latest episode of the Accelerant. This podcast is about inspiring you, so please reach out to us with any questions, thoughts and ideas by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or reaching out to us on social media at Daxko. That's d-a-x-k-o, or post with hashtag #accelerantpodcast. We would love to hear from you.
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Accelerant is produced by Kevin Mulligan and me, Becki Irby. Special thanks to the entire product team for Season 3. Sound and story editing by Kevin Mulligan. I’m your host, Becki Irby. Tune in every other Friday for a new episode of the Accelerant.
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