This article follows on from my previous article 10 Symptoms of a Referral Group You Should Avoid Joining
About three quarters of referral groups are not delivering the advantages to their members that were mentioned in the advertising brochure or the conversations that were held before they joined.
Here’s a large part of why…
During most application processes, the aspiring applicant will be asked if they can adhere to the group’s minimum standards.
Most will eagerly say, “Yes!” as they want the benefits they’re told will come their way.
These standards may relate to attendance, the number of member-to-member meetings they are expected to have, how many referrals they are expected to generate per week and a couple of other KPIs.
Having agreed to achieve these standards as a condition of membership, the applicant now has a fair and reasonable expectation that existing members are already achieving them.
After all, that’s the standard.
So imagine their disappointment and dissatisfaction when they lay their eyes on their first member activity report showing only a small percentage of members are actually meeting the minimum standard.
How would they feel?
Cheated? Angry? Let down? Like a patsy? Like the group is highly unlikely to deliver the promised outcomes?
Not a great way to start your new membership, eh?
Yet it’s all too common because such a small percentage of these groups are performing up to their own standards.
And these low performing groups are often heading for a rocky future because, as mentioned in the previous article, “It’s easier to give birth than to raise the dead.”
So, if you find yourself in a low performing group and decide to take on the challenge of changing its fortunes, what can you do and where do you start?
What follows is a method of changing the fortunes of these groups. Though it’s written in matter-of-fact language, be aware it can become a highly emotional rollercoaster when you’re in the thick of it.
Demand Help from the Organisation.
You’re a paid-up member of the organisation and you want support for your group. Don’t take “No” for an answer. As a paid up member, you are owed the actions and support which will provide the advantages you were sold before you joined. You want…
- Experienced support staff who know how to help struggling groups. Learn their credentials in this as it’s an artform not all have the ability to achieve.
- They need to have exceptional group motivation, training and facilitation skills. Anything less and the group will lose faith in the organisation they are part of and question the likelihood of a successful turnaround. Doubt will kill a successful outcome. These staff need to be able to install belief and take the time to do so.
- Support staff need to understand the reasons your group is failing and know how to address these. Experienced support staff will have seen these situations before and know what to do. Sometimes, very uncomfortable conversations may need to be held so trained support staff need to be capable of navigating these.
- Members should not have these conversations with other members. There is far too much potential for collateral conflict. You didn’t sign up for that. (See step 3 below.)
- When the hard calls need to be made, trained support staff need to make them.
If your organisation does not agree to this path forward or cannot supply the appropriate personnel, abandon all hope and get out now.
You’re wasting your time.
Look at the Group’s Statistics
- Find out which members are receiving referrals. For these members, the group is a business asset and they have the most to lose if it folds.
- Meet with them and find out if they are prepared for 4 – 6 months of extra work to salvage the group.
- If they are not willing to engage in the rebuilding process, once again, abandon all hope and get out now.
Remember from the previous article, you don’t need to be part of a large referral organisation to attract referrals. There are other ways.
- Bring All Members Up to the Standard.
- Some members may not be achieving the acceptable activity standard. This will be evident in the reports. Encourage them to improve within a reasonable and agreed timeframe. If improvement has not taken place by agreed deadlines, they need to be counselled by support staff. Low performing members destroy group morale. They make the high-performers question why they are working hard, the process and the organisation’s commitment. You can’t afford to have any of these when trying to rebuild a failing group.
- Ensure support staff undertake the counselling to a high standard and in a timely fashion. Ensure the franchise owner sets a reasonable deadline for this.
- Members should not, under any circumstances, counsel other members. You didn’t sign up for that. Too often, members managing members leads to conflict and poor relationships. That is not conducive to exchanging referrals. Some organisations’ policies may require members to do this. Don’t.
No organisation’s policies should ever endanger a member’s ability to gain the benefits the organisation promised.
Members managing members is a well-known potential cause of member-to-member conflict. Avoid it at all costs. Before the conversation crosses the line from encouragement to counselling, members need to back out and let support staff take over.
- Support staff may need to follow the organisation’s member removal policy. Members who refuse to meet the standard cannot be allowed to remain.
- There will be sadness, anger, disappointment and more. If you want to salvage the group, go through it.
Keep Making Money
- The members who have stayed need to keep exchanging referrals. Nothing makes members feel good quite like making money. Ensure the channels remain open to continue exchanging referrals. If required, get assistance from support staff with training and mentoring because this step is essential. Some groups neglect to keep making money during the rebuilding process.
- Groups that stop making money get exhausted and wonder why they are doing it. When doubt creeps in belief dies and so will the group.
- Whatever you do… keep making money!
Invite Visitors When All Members are Meeting the Standards.
- Too many franchise owners think the answer to growing groups is to bang on about inviting visitors under all circumstances. There’s no benefit to anyone in inviting visitors to a meeting that’s a shambles because the members aren’t deriving benefit from it or have lost faith in the organisation they are part of or don’t know how to run a proper meeting. Get your meetings and systems running like well-oiled machines first.
- If visitors come and see a dodgy meeting, they aint gunna apply. Additionally, they will tell their network how dodgy the meeting was and there goes local support. The group is shooting itself in the foot if they invite too soon.
- This is a very large part of why failing groups go down the gurgler. Members begin to see inviting as futile because visitors become harder to get and don’t want to apply when they get there because they don’t like what they experience.
- Get your support staff involved with any meeting, systems and standards training required. This is a matter of urgency.
- When the members are making money and the meetings and systems are ticking along, members will want to invite and visitors will want to apply. You’ll all know when… there will be a vibe in the room that says, “We’re ready now.”
But hang on, there’s one more crucial step…
- Before you begin inviting visitors, ensure all remaining members are meeting the group’s standards otherwise you’ll be on another downward spiral very soon. Reread the opening paragraphs to remind yourself why.
Here are two additional thoughts for you…
- Is it ethical for a large organisation to take a small business owner’s membership fees (often $2,000+) and allow them to join a group that is highly likely to continue to struggle or fail because too many existing members aren’t meeting the organisation’s own standards?
Well… that’s exactly what is happening far too regularly in referral groups around the globe.
- If you’ve just bought a product that is not fit for purpose or you were led to believe prior to purchase that you would derive certain benefits from your correct use of the product and, through no fault of your own, these benefits have not materialised, you may be due a refund under state consumer laws.
Rebuilding failing referral groups is not easy. Ensure you are steeled for the emotional rollercoaster ride if you go this way.
Also ensure you have a significant amount of extra time to put into it due to the extra training and planning you’ll be required to undertake.
Best of luck.