Thanks to all those involved in making this year’s CASE V Conference a success. I was honored to be a part of the conference, presenting “The Heretic’s Guide to Marketing to Millennials” with colleague John Dalton. The University Advancement Blog debuted in early 2010 with a post about the 2009 CASE V Conference. Last year’s coffee spill seems minor in comparison to the weather-related adventures of this year’s conference in Chicago.
Beyond the snow and altered travel plans, most memorable was the opening keynote by James Kane, a researcher and consultant on the science of loyalty. It was a fascinating talk on building loyal relationships. Loyalty has been the subject of the last two posts here: a discussion with Jim Langley and a review of Tiny Essentials of Donor Loyalty.
While we often try to measure satisfaction, Kane cautioned that we not confuse satisfaction with loyalty. Satisfaction is a mood; loyalty is a behavior. Satisfaction is about the past; loyalty is about the future. Satisfaction is about what you do for them; loyalty is about what they do for you.
Kane explained that we are programmed to be loyal. Our brain looks for three triggers: a sense of trust, a sense of belonging, and a sense of purpose.
A Sense of Trust
Trust is the foundation of any loyal relationship, but it doesn’t end there. We shouldn’t give ourselves too much credit for being trustworthy; our relationships expect us to be trustworthy. They expect you to demonstrate competency, character, consistency, and capacity. What do your relationships already expect of you, and are you earning trust by managing those expectations?
A Sense of Belonging
This is the real key to building and maintaining loyal relationships. According to Kane, we convey a sense of belonging through recognition, insight, proactivity, identity, and inclusion.
In higher ed advancement we’re sometimes quick to put our various stakeholders into groups (e.g., annual donors) – groupings that matter more to us than to them. We must recognize their individual needs. What seemingly small gestures will show that you know (and care) who they are as a unique individual? We need to gain insight about what they really care about, understanding that our institution represents just a blip among all that they think about and do. Reevaluate your school’s different communications to all of your different target audiences. Are your communications useful? Do they really matter to your audience? (Kane lauded a “useful” IKEA ad that included a tiramisu recipe.)
Proactivity also breeds loyalty. We can become indispensable by helping solve their problems before they even have to ask. By sharing a little more about yourself than you normally would (e.g., what is your passion?), we can create a stronger identity with our relationships. When you create those connections, Kane said you never know where they can ultimately go. Lastly, we must have an inclusive environment in order for our relationships to be loyal. Simply put, our stakeholders need to be “part of the process.”
A Sense of Purpose
We create a sense of purpose through vision, fellowship, and commitment. With technology, we’re able to see that there’s a whole world out there dealing with the same things that we do. Our stakeholders want to make a difference and be a part of something bigger than themselves and our institution.
Kane pointed out that we can’t make everyone loyal; we need to pick which relationships should be loyal. He stressed that building loyal relationships takes time, effort, and practice. (The speaker recommended the following books that delve deeper into the significance of practice: Talent is Overrated, Outliers, and Bounce. In addition, Kane has two of his own books forthcoming: The Loyalty Switch and Virtual Loyalty.)
I walked away from the CASE V keynote challenged to gain greater insight on the needs and motivations our university’s most important relationships. Best wishes to you and your institution in building better relationships in 2011!