January 2018 saw the re-introduction of the Devonshire House Network membership scheme – for corporates as well as for individuals – and with it came a recognition of the changes that have taken place and are taking place in the internal relationships and social mechanisms within membership organisations.
Whilst there is a perception that major business contracts can be won with minimum intervention from real people which invariably reflects legal attempts to remove bias and de-personalise the process, the fact remains that for the greater part, people buy from people and establishing and creating relationships does count.
Value propositions need to be worth the cost and the effort. They need to be self-evident and real – and, wherever possible, immediate. But, paradoxically, the offering needs to be broadly based. To be effective. The Member needs to be alert to the whole offering and be creative in identifying both the specific benefits as well as the broader ones – whether it be for themselves as individuals for their businesses.
At the smaller end of the Devonshire House membership profile, personal membership will bring higher levels of individual interactions. At the larger end, corporates will have greater opportunities through targeted sponsorship as opposed to general sponsorship.
The key principle that lies behind marketing spend is that money spent generally is much less attractive than money spent for a specific purpose or project. There is a need to see what happens to the money, to assess the benefit – commercial or otherwise – and, ideally, to be associated directly with that process. This is why Devonshire House has changed the Sponsorship arrangement from a general spend to a focussed one – in enabling the Sponsor to identify a specific DHN Speaker Event and take an active and visible involvement in its delivery and its broader promotional activities. The Sponsor chooses the Event.
Integral to individual membership are the real opportunities to get to know other members in meaningful and practical ways. In many of the outcomes of this process, we get close to one of the DHN behaviour mantras – “We are all open for business but being spotted selling is seen as bad manners” This means two things – there needs to be a business relationship first and, secondly, Director-level professionals don’t sell; it’s the others who buy!
Behind this direct and participative involvement lies another but broader key marketing driver – corporate social responsibility. Whilst this is predominantly based on the increasing desire to do good in the community – however defined – aligning these emotions with corporate objectives is increasingly being seen as commercially beneficial as well as reputationally important. Branding is key.