Friday, December 19, 2008

Selling Freemasonry

Nick Johnson at the Millinneal Freemason blog asked the question about Selling Freemasonry. You know the question: should we do it. He cited some good examples of websites and advertising for the Craft that have been put up by various authorities. I'm exploring this idea further. I just got started with putting my thoughts together, and I'm using a Mind Map to make my notes. I decided, for the sake of spontaneity to post my first take on the Mind Map. Those interested can look at the points that I'm considering, and take 'em apart one by one, or in whole. Please let me have your input. Open the JPG in your image viewer to see where I'm going with this. Follow the ideas from the center of the map outward.

You'll notice this is a bit more nitty-gritty. I've been looking at the physical presentation that some of our facilities, and yes, our brothers, make to the public. This may be as important, and easier to fix, than some other items.

I went to a meeting a while ago in another jurisdiction, where the sidewalk and stairway was so covered by trash that it took a 60 gallon trash bag to pick it all up. It was an open meeting, so non members were going to have to pick their way through this to get in. People driving by saw it daily.

There's peeling paint, badly written (or even spelled) signs, uncut grass, and weeds in the cracks of the sidewalks at some of our "temples." Is this good selling, or what IS it selling?

Let's talk about it.


The Millennial Freemason said...

Thanks Brother Gingerman. I really think that this flowchart will be useful. It asks all the right questions that need to be answered. I will be bringing it to the attention of the Master of my Lodge.

Lodges really need to present something respectable to the public. Sadly, we have experienced "Masonic atrophy". We expected the older members to take care of everything. Now that they are gone or not able to maintain our Lodges, both as groups and as meeting halls, the way they could before, it falls in the hands of brothers who simply don't realize what needs to be done.

As we have atrophied in our Masonic muscle, we need to understand what we must do. Working to exhaustion won't help anyone and nothing will get done but we need a workout program. I think this flowchart is a great workout plan for Lodges to take stock of what they have and what they need to improve.


Masonic Traveler said...

Br. Gingerman,

I think one ting that is missing, especially in a sales assessment tool is the value. What is the value that is being sold? Even with the prettiest of lodges and the most upright of salesman, what is it he's selling? Is it relevant to men today? What is its "worth" (worth in quotes as it is intrinsic). and then how do you communicate that worth to the prospective client? This could be opened up further to the different value propositions, fraternity common association, study of esoteric/mysticism themes, and the making of a "good man better"(?) How is all of that conveyed in the pitch, and consumed by the buyer?

Just some thoughts. This is a good study exercise though, and worth a lot more consideration.

Gingerman said...

Good point.
The value found changes from person to person in a product like Freemasonry. It varies over time in each individual. We all get surprised as we move through the craft.
It's all of that stuff you noted, and in marketing it, I think it's at least the stuff I noted.
In the end, value comes from inside the individual. We don't create it externally. We offer openings and opportunities, but the value is the responsibility of each of us. There may or may not be value in the things we do. When viewed objectively, the "cultic" (a technical word, really) aspects of Freemasonry, ie the ritual, the behavior, the meetings, the Lodge, etc, is rather silly. It is only important or valuable because we, individually make it so. We, means you.

Masonic Traveler said...

Ginger, your spot on, the value does change, but then that's not the purchasing audience, that's the renewing.

From the onset, in the purest of means to analyze the marketplace, we need to think about what the original value proposition is when the pen hits paper and the interested individual becomes the candidate. I would guess that there is a pretty reasonable range of the why at the onset: "heard good things, friends involved, a past relative, employer, some in on a secret, the aspect of the unknown". I think all of these could be measured as the range of the why.

value comes from inside the individual. We don't create it externally I disagree here in that there is some value that individuals are getting, something that we are putting out. most likely it is an aspect of a service, the fraternity that we bring people into, the fellowship, the initiation, the invites to dinners. Somewhere in there there is a mix of value props.

In the end, why do we do anything? Why do you shop at the store you do, or fill your gas where you do, or read the magazines that you do? Do you have an affinity with any of those things? what do you have an aspiration or affinity to? If you enjoyed cooking, would you read automotive magazine or cooking magazines? Would join a fishing club or a club dedicated to the culinary arts? The point that I'm making is that the fraternity is doing something to interest the public, and its in those values that membership finds the value proposition. If we build on those aspects, we make a stronger product, at least from the subscription side.

Its a complex beast to say the least.

Cinosam said...

I truly like your idea of making a flow chart on the concept of selling the Craft.
You might want to consider ‘Charity’ as a separate issue. Many people value our organization for what we do and not necessarily who we are. Charity may be dived into three classes, charity at a Grand Jurisdiction level, Charity at a Lodge level and charity given by individual Masons. These three could be divided into two classes. One would be anonymous giving and the other would be giving for publicity reasons. Another division that needs to be considered is charity given to help out Masons or their family members and charity given to the general public.
Neil Neddermeyer PGM Minnesota

Frederic L. Milliken said...

I have the greatest respect for Brother Neddermeyer and I am a regular reader of Cinosam. I do not, however, think that charity by the Grand Lodge or the individual Lodge is something that should enter into the equation. In fact it is what has corrupted many jurisdictions as one side aspect of the Craft has become the Craft.

The three degrees teach nothing about making a Lodge charitable. They teach an individual Mason how to become more giving in his interaction with mankind. This is spiritual stuff and that is part of what is involved in making a good man better. We don't make a good Lodge better. Furthermore the allusion to charity for the sake of publicity in my mind is unmasonic and Machavellian.

I have a friend in the Grand Lodge of Vermont, Brother Hinton. A number of years ago he wrote an article about the practice of Masonry being a three legged stool for those who have ever milked a cow. Now if one leg is longer than the other the person sitting on the stool will slide off and topple over. All the legs need to be of the same length - in proportion. And the lesson is - so does Charity, Fraternalism/fellowship and philosophical and moral study and application or to put it more succinctly - Brotherly love, Relief and Truth. All must be in due proportion, no one must take over the Craft to the exclusion or diminuation of the others.

I like the flow chart because it gets all the ideas in compact visualization. It is the best way to work out a problem or plan a course of action.

But what we have written in the flow chart is too image conscious for my taste. I don't agree with the selling of Masonry and detest Masonic marketing plans. Dollars and numbers and bottom lines are just not my cup of tea. But that's me.

I rather look on the whole Masonic process as a character, spiritual and emotional learning process. I see our Craft more as a school and more as those who ran Ancient Mysteries did. Take Pythagoras and his schools. How we make good men beter is we turn that "mush" in a newbie's brain into a cohesive philospohy. Masonry is a way of life - but a way that is taught not inherited at birth.

Lastly let me add that we are human beings not human doings. As a being what we are being is more important than what we are doing. So it is soul development that can be the most noble part of Masonry. What I have become as a person because of the my investment in the communal association of men, because of being taught a giving heart and because of the study of a philosophy and an investment in it that transforms me into a reborn person - that's what makes Masonry a way of life.

And when you practice the Craft in this manner as leading men into thinking about what their human being is being then you don't have to sell it, it sells itself because throughout the ages man thirsts for that which gives meaning to his life and what his soul is trying to nudge him towards.

I hope I have not offended anyone or gotton too far afield.

I step off the soap box now!

Gingerman said...

"Selling" isn't the best word. It does denote merchandising. It connotes doing rather than being.

What I'm hoping to get at here is the being. But Being is reflected in doing to a degree. And discussion ain't about agreeing.

One of the short comings of the contemplative religious orders is selfishness. Freemasonry isn't about that. It's not just the development of the individual, but of the individual in a brotherhood and society. Nor is it about charity, except in the real meaning of the word, which is brotherly love. What is commonly meant by charity, ie giving or serving, legitimately grows out of charity, or philios, or agape.

None of this works, however, if no one wants you around. There is such a thing as stupidity, ignorance and foul stink in the world, and if you reflect those things in your presentation, your best motives will be frustrated.

I'm not about Selling, as in merchantability, but as in public presentation and perception.

Face it, we need butts in the seats to exist, and we need to be able to express ourselves in the world. We brush our teeth, and wash our clothes regularly. Not just because it's more comfortable for just us. Relationships with the rest of the world are important. That's the direction I hope to look in this speculation.

Masonic Traveler said...

I'm glad this topic has opened back up, its good to keep the gristmill turning.

In my own opinion, we like to think of Masonry as a philosophical entity that should just be, that it exists and therefore everyone should know about it and flock to its doors.

Sadly, however, that is not the case, and it does require a degree (pardon the pun) of marketing to sell the Idea of Masonry. This has really been the problem in the last 80 years or so, the marketing of the institution. The Great War saved us in the post Depression slump that the fraternity was in, but now that the bump is passed, were seeing the effects of the same problem as we had then.

I've been thinking about this for a while now, but in particular in the context of other institutions that pull from the same market share. At the turn of the 20th century there were dozens of quasi esoteric/occult/metaphysical groups in the marketplace. The Freemasons, the Golden Dawn, the OTO, the later BOTA, AMORC, and dozens more, all looking to serve the need of the interested public, that .001% of people out there who are interested. I mention them not to say that they are doing well, but that they are in the same "business" as Freemasonry is, to bring in membership to learn their esoteric traditions, and practice their disciplines.

So, in the 21st Century market place, we have the same challenges that we did 100 years ago, and MORE now with television, internet, games, DVD's, and so on. From a product stand point, how do we package/repackage what we have, and how do we make it better than whats out there?

We have a leg up, at the moment, because of that bump in the 1950's, but its being eroded fast. We have temples, regularity in meetings, consistent (relatively speaking) membership, and brand identity, which is the most important thing to consider when we think about our place in the market.

So, where to from here? From a product stand point, what is it were selling? A philosophy? Fraternity? Knowledge? We need to identify what our product is, corporately, and work to improve it in message (clean buildings, lodge rooms, membership), consistency of action between jurisdictions (GL to GL, lodge to lodge, member to member), and a consistent knowledge base between members. All of these create the national sales force which is every man who achieves the third degree.

As for the product, I think that's another level to the equation that runs in parallel with the marketing that inversely interacts with the selling aspect. How can you sell a product if you don't know what it is.

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