Tim Ebner is former senior editor of Associations Now in Washington, DC.
Taking member services one step further—to serve the needs of their customers—is a value-added benefit of membership.
Associations are all about serving their members. But sometimes, the best way to do that is to go one step further.
At the Global Cold Chain Alliance, the marketing, communications, and member services teams have worked together over the past year to create an awareness campaign that targets GCCA members’ customers.
“It’s a mindset shift that came about as part of our last strategic planning process, and the goal is to be much more outward-facing,” says GCCA Marketing and Communications Director Laura Poko. “We’re basically helping our members prove their business value, grow their customer base, and reach new markets.”
So far, this new thinking has resulted in an industry newsletter and a consumer-oriented video that tells the story of the cold-food supply chain, from temperature-controlled warehouses to logistics and shipping processes that help get food safely to grocery store shelves.
The campaign, called “Protecting the Foods Families Love,” is based on customer research that Poko and her team conducted a few years ago. “We wanted to get inside the heads of our members’ customers, so we talked to them at meetings and conducted roundtables and surveys,” she says. “What we found was that 70 percent of customers said they were satisfied with our cold-chain providers, and while that’s great to hear, we thought we could do even better.”
Food safety is such a huge issue for many consumers, and cold-chain providers play a vital role in keeping foods safe.
To educate customers and reach new audiences, the campaign uses targeted posts on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms.
“Step one was to spread the word and build awareness,” Poko says. “Now we’re in phase two, where we are talking to members and figuring out how to provide additional resources that best serve their customers.”
She says emotional appeal is a critical element of the campaign. “Food safety is such a huge issue for many consumers, and cold-chain providers play a vital role in keeping foods safe,” Poko says. “So, we designed a campaign that focuses on preserving consumers’ trust and confidence.”
One of the campaign’s key messages is that the food that GCCA members supply is the food their own families eat. That message is now resonating with many people, Poko says, but it’s not something that happens overnight. “Remember that it takes time to build customer connections,” she says.
For associations accustomed to speaking to their industry audience, the shift to a customer-focused campaign can be tricky. To do it right, go to the experts, Poko says: “I would encourage other associations to begin by having conversations with their members to see how they might be able to serve as a conduit to customers.”