Market uncertainty and the pace of change will continue to impact membership decisions at professional societies and trade associations. Looming external factors will play a significant role in how membership decisions will be made. The outcome of the U.S. Presidential and Congressional Elections, economic performance inside and outside the United States, mergers and acquisitions, baby boomer retirements, terror threats, and technology disruptions will influence whether or not professionals and corporate executives engage in their associations. Actionable Data can help organizations surface opportunities that can help members drive their professional and industry outcomes. Moreover, the data can serve as the foundation for a 2017 Member Engagement Strategy that can position your organization as a more relevant and necessary resource for your members.
Engage More and Sell Less
In terms of 2017 Member Engagement Strategy, utilize data and research to build your partnership with professions and industries. This can create a more positive dynamic that links your organization with the business and professional outcomes that members seek in an uncertain world. Getting your organization there requires a different look at the external landscape and the challenges that plague your members. Selling more or selling louder will hinder instead of help your 2017 Member Engagement Strategy.
Actionable Member Engagement Data
Understanding the extent to which your organization impacts industry or professional business outcomes is the foundation of your 2017 Member Engagement Strategy. Having actionable data (through focus groups, surveys, or industry or professional roundtables) helps your organization understand the external market challenges. Traditional satisfaction surveys and focus groups won’t provide the data that your organization must have to build an effective engagement strategy. What adds the most value is an Engagement and Impact dialogue where you surface more compelling professional and industry challenges and opportunities for your members.
In the 2014 Strategic Member Engagement Survey, organizations who regularly conduct impact surveys instead of “satisfaction” surveys report stronger operating performance than those who survey less frequently:
|Survey Frequency||Survey Annually||Survey Infrequently|
|3-Year Operating Trends:|
|Annual revenue up||55.10%||39.80%|
|Primary meeting registrations up||40.60%||31.30%|
|Fee for Service revenue up||43.50%||21.70%|
|Timely membership renewals up||31.90%||16.90%|
Internal Perception Versus Member Reality
Associations and Professional Societies can avoid falling into a trap by separating internal perceptions from member realities. For example, securing actionable data focused on professional and industry business outcomes will help your organization build more meaningful 2017 Member Engagement Strategies.
In a recent Member Engagement Study released by Abila with surveys conducted by Edge Research , a new and unique approach helped uncover how and why members engage at membership organizations. The study reveals the differences in perception that occur from both a member and an organizational perspective. This research ventured to answer “four essential questions”:
- What matters most to members when they join an organization?
- What makes members feel involved and engaged?
- How can Organizations better communicate?
- Are organizations engaging members in a segmented, targeted, personal way?
Abila and Edge Research surveyed over 1,000 members in the United States in all age segments and also surveyed 150 Association Professionals. The online surveys were conducted between April 7 and April 25, 2016. Some of the differences in perceptions among members and professional membership organizations include:
- Inclusiveness. Where 72 percent of organizational professionals see their organization as inclusive of different opinions, only 60 percent of the members who were surveyed share this view.
- Responsiveness. Some 68 percent of members note their organizations as responsive, and 91 percent of organizations see themselves as responsive.
- Good Value. From a member perspective, 63 percent see value for the membership fee. From an organizational perspective, 81 percent believe they are getting good value.
Utilizing survey approaches similar to this one will help your organization build a profession or industry focused 2017 Member Engagement Strategy. It’s all about how well you utilize the data to build engagement strategies that align with the challenges and opportunities that matter most to your members.
Drive and Help Define Their Future Outcomes
Associations and professional societies are facing increased competition from for profit companies, self-forming share groups, new associations and industry coalitions. Utilizing actionable data to develop your 2017 Member Engagement Strategy helps your organization establish uniqueness in the marketplace. For example, the more your engagement strategy positions your organization to help support professional and industry outcomes for your members the better. Those organizations who have pivoted to this approach are impacting industry outcomes and reporting impressive operating performance:
- Global Cold Chain Alliance – Revenues have grown by 25 percent in two years.
- The Fertilizer Institute – Despite a down cycle in the industry the organization’s revenue and retention are up.
- Club Managers Association of America – Yielded a $1 million turnaround in 2015.
- American Bakers Association – Despite industry challenges, the association maintains its dues funding levels and the International Baking Industry Exposition has helped the association double its net assets.
- National Wooden Pallet and Container Association – 60 percent revenue growth in a three year time frame.
- Smart Electric Power Alliance – Annual revenue growth of 23 percent (2015 to 2016), and in 2016 experienced a 62 percent increase in total staff (to 35 employees from 22).
2017 Member Engagement Strategy
A key component of your organization’s success will be your ability to unlock actionable data to construct its 2017 Member Engagement Strategy. Having data that surfaces new opportunities while it helps your organization develop meaningful 2017 Member Engagement Strategy can create the win you hope for next year and beyond.
Free eBook “Accelerating Strategic Member Engagement” is available upon request for all Association Executives at Potomac Core – Association Consulting