up at night

Innovation & Association Relevance

When is the timing right to embrace innovation and change at your Association? Some argue that with an improved economy its best to leave well enough alone. Maybe, no. The real question? How well are you positioned to help your member’s achieve their business outcomes in a time of dramatic innovation and change? 

association membership

Growth Positioning

How does an Association grow membership and revenue in an Omni channel and hyper competitive environment? Your answers are more likely found in research and actionable data, strategic board conversations, and 3 year roadmaps. Today’s successful Associations see long term positioning as essential to their long term growth and durability.

2017 Member Engagement Strategy

Should Your Association Sell Louder?

In 2015, Association board rooms should be filled with expectations of membership growth, improving retention, and conference revenue growth. After a punishing downturn, the economy is growing and volunteer leaders seek stronger advocacy efforts or they want to restock Association reserves.

Engagement and Moving to We

Engagement and Moving to We. Moving to “we” is about inclusiveness and being open to the possibilities that might surface. This requires an integrated blend of “push” and “pull” offerings, with the explicit expectation that together “we” make great things happen for members.

“We/You” Fallacy

There is a fundamental flaw in the approach of many associations. Everything, whether spoken, written, or inferred, says: “here is what we do for you”. And in their attempt to demonstrate that staff and volunteer leaders do care what members think, associations tend to be far more reactive than proactive. Worse yet, some shy away from asking members what they really want for fear they might actually get that feedback. Not everyone wants to have their views challenged, especially if they have spent years executing on those views/assumptions.

Understanding an Association’s alignment with member needs includes assessing the relationships between staff, volunteer leaders, and other members. Most association executives view this interface through a lens of “we/you”. The evolving association model is all about “we”.


engagementThe Strategic Engagement Framework© is built upon the relationship between increasing levels of membership impact while increasing levels of contribution and connectedness. Associations (especially those facing stiff competition) are recognizing that member engagement strategies are a true differentiator and game changer.

To be relevant then, Associations should help members collaborate to achieve something they care about. Use the Strategic Engagement Framework (below) to reinforce a balanced blend of member behaviors that collectively result in optimal association impact.


Engagement and Moving to We

People value and make contributions to activities that help them achieve something they care about. Treating each member as having a piece of the puzzle because the association’s job is to facilitate 24/7 knowledge sharing leads to innovative solutions which drive member their business outcomes.

engagementFree eBook “Accelerating Strategic Member Engagement” is available for all Association Executives at www.potomaccore.com, www.icimo.com, and www.verticalleapconsulting.com.

Does Your Association Outdistance For Profit Competition?

for profit competitionDoes Your Association Outdistance For Profit Competition? At a time when for profit competitors pursue convention & conference space once owned by Associations, CEOs determined to thrive are reinvesting & sharpening their organizational competitive edge. In one case, PMMI www.pmmi.org, the Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies, an organization whose principal source of funding comes from trade shows, takes nothing for granted. According to Chuck Yuska, President & CEO, the board & staff team always compete to maintain their “Convening Authority” mantle.

Strategic Partnership Emphasis

Securing market alignment is key for PMMI. Members & staff collaborate on annual goals, objectives, and measurements for the upcoming year.

Yuska emphasizes “we want to help our members be more competitive, give them the tools & information to grow their business, minimize their risks and obtain new business practices that help them become better companies and be more profitable.”

Address Member Pain Points   

Successful Associations like PMMI remain connected with member pain points, & provide business tangible solutions to:

1. Help members succeed. Support member global market needs, produce trade shows & conferences that studiously link buyers & sellers, members, & their customers.

2.  Use Customer Feedback Loop. Utilize exhibitor, member, & customer analytics & feedback to continuously improve takeaway value for all members & show participants.

3. Maintain High Relevance Factor. Accelerate organizational visibility through traditional & social media, direct mail, and industry channels.

4. Reinvest. Deliver the next “new thing,” and expand opportunities for members & customers.

Does Your Association Outdistance For Profit Competition?

for profit competitionDespite $2 million net operating performance in 2012 & 2013, and 7% operating growth and 95% retention in 2013, PMMI looks to consistently enhance its competitive position.

What’s next for PMMI? Expansion into regional trade shows with Pack Expo East www.packexpoeast.com

For a free copy of the “Accelerating Strategic Member Engagement” eBook, request your copy at www.potomaccore.com.

for profit competition

Can 2 Pain Point Strategies Drive One Society’s Revenue Growth?

pain pointCan 2 Pain Point Strategies Drive One Society’s Revenue Growth? Pain point strategies continue to help Associations and Societies deploy services that help companies survive and thrive. Just ask Lawrence D. Sloan, President & CEO, Society of Chemical Manufacturers & Affiliates (SOCMA)( http://www.socma.com/).

From his arrival at the 200+ member specialty chemical manufacturing organization through today, Sloan continually meets with members in their plant facilities. Using a “shoe leather” approach, these meetings have brought about program changes helping realign SOCMA closer to the business needs of its membership. Based on member feedback and gridlock on Capitol Hill, SOCMA has realigned the organization’s advocacy strategy to a heavier emphasis on improving regulations and the regulatory process.

 2 Pain Point Strategies

In today’s competitive environment, membership organizations are aggressively positioning themselves against competitors. Since some companies only choose one membership, effective market differentiation and member ROI could determine either a renewal or a resignation:

1. Member Centric.  With Washington, DC, gridlock inhibiting progress in legislative advocacy, SOCMA uses multiple avenues to advocate issues and concerns impacting the industry, including leveraging its members to make their case to key regulators. Achieving needed regulatory reforms for the specialty chemical sector can help reduce compliance costs.

 2. Make a Difference.  SOCMA’s no-cost member service is an environmental, health, safety and security (EHS&S) management system. With the majority of its members being small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs), they needed an EHS&S program that went beyond the one-size-fits-all approach of programs like Responsible Care. Consequently, they established their ChemStewards® program in 2005 to meet the unique needs of the batch, custom and specialty chemical industry and its membership.

Can 2 Pain Point Strategies Drive One Society’s Revenue Growth?

pain pointSince 2009, a pain point focus helped SOCMA drive 18% retention improvement and double-digit non-dues revenue growth. Not yet satisfied, Sloan plans more improvements in SOCMA’s value proposition and an accelerated new member growth campaign.


For a free copy of the “Accelerating Strategic Member Engagement” eBook, request your copy at www.potomaccore.com.

pain point

Can Silos Stunt Association Revenue Growth?

Association Revenue GrowthCan Silos Stunt Association Revenue Growth? “We’ve met the enemy head on and it is us.” Is this true? Absolutely, yes.  Silos at Associations can do more harm than good. Why?  Although a well defined organizational structure is effective in defining roles and responsibilities, they at times erect unnecessary walls and can create a fiefdom.

Beware of the Silo Effect

The symptoms are easily recognizable. If Senior Managers consistently debate boundaries, direct reports challenge colleagues and managers to “stay out of their portfolios” then your Association is seeing some of the silo effect. Regardless of the motivation it’s harmful to your bottom line. In time, Association morale and focus is diminished along with focus on members and revenue growth.

Can the silo effect be avoided or changed? Yes!

3 Steps to Motivate Association Revenue Growth

Regardless of the time of year, CEOs can alter their Association’s trajectory and focus. Implementing these three steps can help increase member satisfaction, elevate retention, drive member growth and deliver sponsorship and conference attendance increases. Really? Increasing your market satisfaction and execution in a highly competitive environment can’t help but up your game:

  1. Reward and reinforce and team results.  Recognize staff publicly, be specific, share how collaboration achieved renewals, new members, sponsors, conference attendance growth.
  2. Shared Performance objectives. All job descriptions and performance objectives should carry the same message. Everyone helps everyone else satisfy the marketplace and grow revenue.
  3. No one more is important than other team members.  Setting and reinforcing this practice is powerful. One diva impedes progress where an entire team working together can overcome anything. Coach Norman Dale, the iconic basketball Coach from the movie says it best” Five players on the floor functioning as one single unit team team, team, no one more important than the other.”

Can Silos Stunt Association Revenue Growth? 

An Association recovering from its worst revenue performance ever implemented all three of these steps the following year. They achieved dramatic improvements in total revenue, new member growth, retention and exceeded their net growth objectives.

At a time when Associations need collaboration and accelerated market focus, staff silos blur the external vision necessary to satisfy members and achieve revenue growth objectives. Removing the silos and creating a culture of collaboration will up your Association’s game. Actually, it just might have your team coming from behind and winning just like the Hickory Huskers.

For a free copy of the “Accelerating Strategic Member Engagement” eBook, request your copy at www.potomaccore.com.


Associations Can Outlast Competitors

associationsAssociations Can Outlast Competitors. In a world where competition moves like the speed of sound, Associations need solid differentiation. Competitive intelligence helps you direct budget investments and keep Association products and services current with member business and professional objectives.

360 Competition

New coalitions, and organizations are created almost weekly. Law firms and public relations firms are providing lobbying and communications products similar to Associations.  For profit companies are aggressive competitors too as they enter the market providing conference, sponsorship and other products to would be Association members.

Everywhere Associations look, competitors are ready and waiting to eat into their market share.

5 Competitive Game Changers

Competitive intelligence is a must. Know what competitors are doing and how they are driving value into your Association’s marketplace.  And, be prepared to measure your impact, establish your Association’s uniqueness and unleash high impact media and marketing to highlight value:

  1. Use annual surveys, qualify and quantify member, prospect and sponsor business objectives.
  2. Keep only those advocacy, product and service initiatives that match with “pain point” issues.
  3. Partner with name brand companies to develop and release research accelerating your marketplace’s competitiveness and profitability.
  4. Collaborate with social and business media to share and communicate cutting edge research.
  5. Engage members, prospects and sponsors in a transformed “we” culture.

Run Like A Business

More and more Association Leaders are and have transformed their Associations into finely tuned businesses. On a consistent growth trajectory and determined to compete aggressively, the Technology Association of Georgia (TAG), www.tagonline.com, uses annual market data to keep advocacy, products and services connected to market “pain points.” TAG also aligns the Association’s Strategic plan, operating plan and employee performance objectives. Over an eight year period they grew membership by 600%.

Associations Can Outlast Competitors

A number of Associations have convincingly made a strong business case and grown membership and sponsorship despite fierce competition. In addition to the Technology Association of Georgia, the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), www.aota.org,grew membership by 40% (http://bit.ly/13toV3I).

For a free copy of the “Accelerating Strategic Member Engagement” eBook, request your copy at www.potomaccore.com.

Can Associations Outperform For Profit Competitors?

Can Associations Outperform For Profit Competitors? Until recently, Associations competed for membership, product, conference and service dollars in a limited universe. As for profit companies and not for profit organizations scour the landscape to identify and expand into new markets, they are competing head to head with Associations. While different sectors report varying degrees of competition, the health care segment is especially seeing its share of competitors.

A number of Associations (http://bit.ly/1clxzHpare primarily experiencing lower conference attendance and reduced profits. However, in several cases, competition from for profit firms now include products and services as well.

Law Changes Open doors to Competitors

AssociationsFred Somers, Executive Director, The American Occupational Therapy Association (www.aota.org), a nearly 50,000 member National Professional association, sees competitors on the for profit and nonprofit front. In this and potentially other instances, the enactment of the Affordable Care Act may have opened up new opportunities for competitors.

For AOTA, competition in areas that include publishing, professional development and continuing education are part of the new competitive landscape. Regardless, Somers convincingly asserts that his Association maintains significant competitive advantages.   


Win by Playing to Your Strength

Professional Society focused entities like AOTA carry considerable competitive advantages. Having considerable bodies of knowledge, long lasting relationships in the educational community and the membership can be quite advantageous. AOTA, similar to other health care related Associations, have research data and practice experience that in many cases span decades. Although for profit companies and even new nonprofit entities may bring strong marketing, they still lack the data and strong connection to a loyal and committed membership base.

Play The Hand Your Dealt

Knowing what levers are available can also make a difference. Associations have unique facets they can easily leverage into marketing and growth opportunities when necessary.  Especially in the health care segment, Associations can rely on one of their core constituencies to achieve the marketing equivalent of a hole in one.

Can Associations Outperform For Profit Competitors?

As the economy slowly improves from the great recession of 2008, Associations are seeing the playing field for fewer discretionary dollars expand well beyond membership.  Everything from conferences, publications, products and services are now in play.  Aggressive for profit competitors are leveraging their extensive resources  However, the new competitive challenges facing Associations may be opportunities instead.

AOTA, similar to other successful Associations and Professional Societies, is transforming competitive threats into market growth opportunities.

For a free copy of the “Accelerating Strategic Member Engagement” eBook, request your copy at www.potomaccore.com.


How One Association Achieved 40% Membership Growth

membership growthHow One Association Achieved 40% Membership Growth. As Associations continue their struggle to find their membership growth sweet spot, other organizations are discovering a durable path to growth. A case and point is The American Occupational Therapy Association (www.aota.org/) where Fred Somers, their Executive Director, proudly reports 40% cumulative growth. While the numbers are impressive, their heightened focus on member value and constant innovation is equally impressive.

Up at Night Issues

From the outset, it’s Somers understanding and forward vision that’s shows how closely AOTA’s member challenges are reflected in their impressive suite of products and services. Serving and representing a dynamic critically important profession, it’s member resources, including it’s newly launched website, display how closely connected to their member’s up at night issues the Association is.

Defied Gravity

With the Association celebrating its centennial year in 2017, the Board of Directors provided a detailed vision of the where the Occupational Therapy professional was heading. The vision galvanized the profession and motivated AOTA’s senior management team to reposition its value proposition and heighten its relevance inside the profession.

While modernizing their member acquisition tactics was important, it was astute strategies and strong execution which helped AOTA defy gravity and accelerate membership growth.

1. Re engaging the Academic Community – Motivated students and professionals entering the profession to see AOTA as a critical resource provide education and continuing education.

2. Bringing younger professionals into the leadership pipeline – Attracted more Occupational Therapy professionals to membership at earlier career stages.

3. Establishing National Partnership Projects with Larger Employers – Delivering customized value to this segment and quickly demonstrated higher ROI (return on investment).

Retention and Member Engagement Opportunities

Despite remarkable membership growth, AOTA’s Somers readily acknowledges that success is a journey so much more than it is a destination. Although the Association achieves approximately 85% membership retention, AOTA and Somers are utilizing data to determine improvement opportunities:

How One Association Achieved 40% Membership Growth

Fluidity, flexibility and ongoing product and service innovations must be data driven in order to achieve large scale membership growth. AOTA’s member growth success reinforces how data, when employed effectively, helps Associations develop products and services that members need in order to be successful in their profession.

As discretionary member dollars become less available, Association memberships will continually face heightened scrutiny. Both Fred Somers and AOTA provide more than a beacon of hope. Rather they provide a successful business model that could be applied and help other Associations satisfy their members and grow their memberships.

For a free copy of the “Accelerating Strategic Member Engagement” eBook, request your copy at www.potomaccore.com.