by Betsy Barbieux, CAM, CFCAM / Published October 2014
You hear it time and time again. We didn’t get a quorum. We weren’t able to vote on the amendments; no quorum. There weren’t enough people at the annual meeting to vote on the budget. Nobody is interested. We have so much apathy. What do we do now? The never-ending question—how do you get people to show up?
Though it may seem strange and not related, a business owner knows how to answer the question “How do you get people to show up?” A business owner who offers goods or services is always trying to entice people to walk through the door, pick up the telephone and call, or visit their website. Therefore, business owners have asked a similar question. How do I get people to show up?
Perhaps, both the dilemma of the quorum and how to get people to show up can be answered by using the methods of a business owner. But board members don’t know anything about the business world. They have never worked in retail or owned a business. They are just volunteers on your community association board of directors. But no, wait, that can’t be a correct assumption. Of course, they have owned businesses and many still do. Whether retired or not, many of your board members are from the business world. They are current or former business owners, CEOs, retail merchants, and professionals. In a sense, they come from “corporate America.”
But what does corporate America have to do with a quorum? And more importantly, what does it have to do with community association management? The answer is everything.
First let’s establish the fact that our communities are big, corporate businesses. All of them are Florida corporations organized either under Chapter 607, the Florida Business Corporation Act, or Chapter 617, the Florida Not for Profit Corporation Act. Further, each of our communities is designated as a special type of corporation—a condominium corporation, Chapter 718, or a cooperative corporation, Chapter 719, or a homeowners association corporation, Chapter 720.
And if you think your community association is not a big corporation, just do the math. Here is a way to compute the value of your association/corporation:
So now that it is established that your community association is a big business, how do businesses get customers through the door?
At this point, you could be totally confused thinking we (community associations) don’t have customers. Well, actually you do. But you call them residents. For some reason, boards of directors and managers don’t see residents as customers. Just like in the business world, businesses need customers and customers need what the business offers. Our communities are no different. We need something from them (a vote or compliance or volunteers) and they need something from us (a lifestyle or service or value).
In order to draw customers’ attention to the services or goods a business offers and compel customers to make the choice to walk through the door (whether the door be on a website or off a sidewalk), businesses advertise. They use many methods: advertisements in newspapers and magazines, TV ads, flyers, websites, Facebook, LinkedIn, direct mail, radio spots, billboards, events, networking, and word of mouth. Others take advertising a step further and directly market to their customers using WIIFM.
If you analyze the businesses that consistently draw in customers, you’ll notice some things in their advertising and marketing that might be missing in others.
Have you figured out that WIIFM stands for ‘What’s In It For Me?’ Yes, it’s all about the customer. He or she wants to know “what’s in it for me?” It seems a little narcissistic, but it is what it is. You need to make it clear to the customer why the customer should care. Why should I use your company and not Acme Plumb-ing? This is called marketing.
Now translate this to your community association annual meeting! Think of your residents as being your customers!
The last is an example of terrific marketing and, of course, it was accompanied with advertising.
Several associations have found that one way to get owners to meetings is to place something controversial on the agenda. That is sort of a WIIFM. They come out in droves, but they are unhappy. Instead, meet with some of your preferred vendors to see if they might be willing to sponsor raffle prizes or help offset other expenses for your annual meeting event. If you dig a little deeper into your bag of WIIFMs, you can probably create an event that is meaningful and positive for your owners that will get them to your annual meeting or at least get them to return their completed and signed proxies.
It’s time to put on your marketing hats!