First here is the handout from James Kane related to his keynote and notes from Don Hawkins. Neither is a substitute for being in the audience (and neither will my notes). If you get an opportunity to see Kane in person, take it. [Update 2/7/2012: The handout link is now to another version of the handout. The one that he had made available for SLA is no longer available. If this link no longer works, use Google's advanced search to search his web site for a PDF and you may find a current version.]
Kane has studied loyalty. He had defined what loyalty is and discovered what makes each of us loyal. What surprised me is that loyalty is more complex that I imagined.
While we are focused on people being loyal, we need to recognize that people (e.g., our members) fall into four categories:
Most of your members/customers/users are either transactional of predisposed. Those that are transactional buy a product or service without feeling any long term obligation. To borrow an analogy from a former boss, they see the organization as a soda machine. They put their money in and get a soda. Next time they may go to a different machine or even decide to forego a soda and head to a drinking fountain instead.
People that are predisposed like what you have, but would go someplace else if something better came along. These are the people that were happy to shop a the Great American grocery store until Wegmans came to town, and then switched where they bought their food. (This eventually led to Great American going out of business.) As Kane says, having customers that are happy with you isn't enough, because happy customers will leave when they realize they could be happier someplace else.
People who are loyal do not measure the relationship based on price or convenience. They are loyal because the organization (or store, etc.) makes their lives better or easier. In one of his slides at LDI, he had a goal of having 20% of the organization identify themselves as being loyal. (Identification is done through a survey on those factors that demonstrate loyalty.)
Now here is what interested me the most...not everyone will be loyal! We all know that to be true, but we don't stop to think what that means to our organizations/businesses. Yes, we want people who are truly loyal. The truth is, though, that we need those people who are transactional or predisposed. We need to attract them, even if it means attracting a different group of them every month/year. And if we want to build organizations only for those that are truly loyal, then we need to spend time thinking about what that means in terms of services and obligations, as well as the number of customers/members/users.
Thinking about conferences (and not just about SLA), those that are predisposed will attend if - for example - their employer will pay for it, it is geographically convenient, the sessions seem to be useful, and there isn't another conference that looks better.
Someone who is transactional will attend the conference but may have sensitivities about place, topic, etc. I could imagine that person might even join the organization in order to get a lower registration fee, but wouldn't see that as a long-term commitment.
Those that are loyal will attend no matter what! With them there is the feeling that which trumps everything (e.g., geography, etc.) that the conference will make their lives better.
Thinking about the Computers in Libraries (CIL) conference, about 50% of the audience each year is attending their first CIL. Of the other 50%, there is some segment that has attended many of them. For them, the conference is a "family reunion", where sitting around and talking is as important (or more important) than the sessions. These are also the people who will go the extra mile to help make the conference a success, because it is "their" conference.
James Kane is working with several SLA chapters on a loyalty project. The goal is to help the chapters engage their members so that more of them are loyal. Kane's handout gives an overview of the things that must be considered when developing loyalty. You'll notice that loyalty is a two-way street. You must give of yourself in order to receive loyalty. Giving isn't always easy because we think we might be giving something away for free. That "giving", however, can take a number of forms and what is received is important (loyalty).
Kane has written two books and I suspect a few articles. I need to get my hands on some of his writings to inform my thinking, because I'm going to be thinking about this for quite a while. I'll try blog about this more as I gather more information.