Is Your Association Losing Conference Market Share?

associationIs Your Association Losing Conference Market Share? In several cases, Associations cite lower attendance, drop in sponsorship and lower net performance. A market trend revealing the rise of for profit competitors is making the conference landscape even more challenging. For profit companies have considerable marketing prowess and are a force to be reckoned with. However, Associations conceivably have even greater competitive advantages than they might have thought.

Impediment or Opportunity

For profit competitors exist only on the periphery of member company business concerns. Could the motivation be perceived as transactional and purely profit driven? Quite possibly yes. On the other hand, Associations have mission focus and longer term relationships. Members view their Associations as their partners and maintain a connection point beyond profit motive.

Associations can leverage their competitive mastery by playing to their strength. Their long term connectivity means greater understanding. Associations reinforce their member bonds when they provide conference solutions that address member pain points. The Association’s  mission focus, content platform and long term relationships place for profit competitors at a significant competitive disadvantage.

Keep in mind that where for profit companies have marketing capacity, Associations have content, member pain point connections and relationships that run deep in their culture.

Associations can surpass for profit competitors in the conference space by leveraging inherent and powerful advantages.

6 Ways Associations Win the Conference Competition

 1. Data driven strategies connect Association to members. Use member survey data to quantify and member pain point needs. The data is the foundation for conference agendas, planning and execution.

2. Lead with your strength. Utilize members throughout conferences to lead and serve as panel experts and present at plenary sessions.

3. Outperform the competition. Consistently conduct best in class content conferences. Provide memorable take away solutions for attendees.

4. Go beyond traditional marketing and promotion. Invest in multi channel high impact marketing promotion and public relations strategy.

5. Pick cherries where cherries grow. Pinpoint traditional and social media outlets where prospective attendees consume information. Flood these markets with specific pain point promotion.

6. Nothing sells better than committed members.Utilize Volunteer Leaders to articulate value, and encourage traditional constituencies to attend conferences. E mails from them will much more likely be opened and read anyway!

The Networking Advantage

Associations by their nature are communities of people who share policy, professional and or business interests.  Members value and in some cases treasure these relationships. All Associations possess this advantage and should think of new and creative approaches to help their members network.

Many conference attendees measure the success of their conference experience by the number of new relationships they minted. On boarding networking appointment software in conference registration platforms is a certain winner. Associations should make the investment (if they have not already done so), this is one expense that ROI stamped all over it.

Is Your Association Losing Conference Market Share?

Associations like everyone else must live, function, and thrive in challenging times. When it comes to competing with for profit conference providers, Associations have considerable competitive advantages. Despite heavy investment by for profit competitors, Associations have  strong foundations where members rely upon them to deliver solutions year after year.

AssociationFor Tino Mantella, President & CEO, Technology Association of Georgia (http://www.tagonline.org/), the focus is on member pain points and meetings that address and satisfy those needs. In a seven year window, the Association experienced 600% membership growth, solid conference attendance and strong sponsor revenue performance. Leveraging their existing Association assets while addressing member pain points keeps them relevant and ahead of competitors.

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

3 Core Strategies to Win New Members

core strategies3 Core Strategies to Win New Members. Long gone are the days when corporations join Associations on the basis of “good citizenship.” The severe downturn resulted in high volume dues reductions and membership cancellations across the board. While some signs in the economy are promising, the recovery is not as robust as many had hoped. New member acquisition is still a steep hill to climb and it requires new thinking. Building a strategy from the Prospect’s Business Perspective helps Associations sharpen their market focus and grow membership.

Life Inside Prospect Companies

Corporations manage their businesses for maximum cash flow, and spending decisions must reflect positively on quarterly and annual earnings. Also, having sufficient liquidity to invest in acquisitions and having ample cash resources to withstand another downturn is a common theme. How do Associations and membership organizations come to grips with this reality? By developing campaign strategies from a prospective member’s vantage point.

Times Have Changed

The view inside the C Suite at prospect companies is decidedly different than the 1980’s. Today, fewer executives are tasked with performing more functions and in many situations the majority of sales and earnings growth comes from outside the United States. The task load is substantial.  More meetings and increased travel makes it nearly impossible to get and keep an executive’s attention for more than a few minutes.

Senior corporate executives must deliver results, and they are not interested in membership pitches. They need solutions that help them and their companies achieve business objectives.

 3 Core Strategies to Win New Members

1. View the marketplace as Prospect Executives do

Prospect companies, similar to members, are tuned to their own channel “WIIFM” What’s In It For Me. They join Associations where they perceive their participation moves the needle and help them achieve their business objectives. Research prior to meetings is essential. Utilize a legislative and regulatory impact statement to confirm and quantify critical needs. Determine how pending regulations or legislation impedes the company’s ability to meet profit targets in the next five years. (http://bit.ly/1btcvac).

2. Provide regulatory, legislative or training solutions that help prospects achieve results

Cite specific examples of how membership contributes to their bottom line. Utilizing the “pain point” issues, show how participation helps the company achieve their business objectives. Point to tangible examples of how other companies (customers and competitors) leverage their membership to achieve their business objectives. Have contact information available if prospects want to contact other executives for references. Nothing sells new members better than satisfied members!

3. Have an engagement culture assuring impact on policy and the Association’s overall direction.  

Not every company can have a senior executive serving on an Association’s board. As a result, they expect an Association culture that welcomes, considers and accepts new input. With time and financial resources short prospects expect a community focus where everyone works collaboratively to achieve the same objectives.

3 Core Strategies to Win New Members

Looking at recruitment from a Prospect’s Business Perspective helps Associations and membership organizations open more doors and secure new members. Some CEOs are seeing appreciable success. An Association is enjoying their third year of above plan new member growth and a different CEO reports consistent double digit new member growth.

One Association Executive noted “the cookie cutter and boiler plate approach no longer works. Prospects want allies to help them achieve success in the marketplace.” Absolutely correct, anything less than that will close more prospect’s doors than it will open.

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

6 Ways to Boost Conference Attendance

boost conference attendance

In the aftermath of the great recession, growing conference attendance has become a herculean task. Tighter travel budgets, greater demand on executives’ time and more competitors are forcing Associations and Societies to modify the way they market conferences. What’s clear is organizations that use a multi-faceted marketing approach are meeting and in some cases exceeding forecasts.

Tougher Competition for Conference Dollars

 In today’s world, a well-funded marketing strategy is a must for Association and Society conferences. Why? Sharper marketing by competitors will stifle attendance growth and limit an organization’s profitability and net operating revenue. Reflecting upon recent conference performance one Association Executive said, “It’s time to raise our game on the marketing front, we rely on conferences to fund new programs and initiatives.”

With higher stakes on conference attendance and profitability, it only makes sense to recruit outside expertise.  In years past securing an outside public relations/marketing firm was viewed as a luxury, but not any longer, it’s becoming more of a necessity. Since outside public relations/marketing firms also compete for clients, they can be flexible in pricing. Associations and Societies can leverage negotiations and structure contracts in a win/win manner.  Asking a firm to be a partner, and work for an agreed upon fee for service up front with generous incentives if attendance meets or exceeds budget could be attractive.

6 Ways To Boost Conference Attendance

A fully integrated marketing approach will set the stage for strong conference attendance. What matters most is that Associations and Societies utilize multiple platforms to proactively and aggressively reach target markets and achieve or exceed attendance targets:

1. Conference promotion.  Provide: Conference Video, Save the Date Postcards, Sponsorship prospectus, brochures, advertisements. Update Website weekly with all materials.

2. Media engagement. Pitch reporters to attend and conduct interviews. Also, ask media to serve as panel moderators.

3. Extend reach. Implement a barter ad program, reach out to key publications and arrange advertising agreements for the media outlets to publicize conferences in exchange for attendance, booth and selective moderating roles at programs.

4. Ad placement.  Secure print (local and national business journals) and online ads.

5. Affiliate marketing agreements. Send promotional emails to sponsor’s membership base, conference listing on affiliate sites, and exposure in their newsletters.

6. Target E Mail. Segmented direct mail, email. Purchase additional email addresses.

Added Sweetener

Conference registrants appreciate the ability to confirm networking meetings when they register. If your Association or Society offers this service, communicate it across all platforms. This capability is a “must have” and organizations that don’t have this capability should make the investment as soon as possible. In many cases, networking is a key reason why executives attend events. Adding this dimension to conferences will encourage more attendance.

6 Ways to Boost Conference Attendance

BackBay Communications was tasked with elevating awareness, attracting attendance and sponsorship for a financial conference in the height of the recession. Bill Haynes, the firm’s President, and his team developed and executed an integrated marketing campaign that covered the waterfront for their client. By driving powerful messaging through print and online advertising, direct mail, email, event marketing, affiliate marketing, website content, video and media relations, the conference attendance exceeded expectations and broke records.

Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg once noted “The biggest risk is not taking any risk…In a world that is changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.”  Making the investment in an outside Public Relations/ Marketing Firm might look risky but it’s an investment worth making for Associations and Societies.

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

 

 

 

Association Speed to Market

Association Speed to Market

 As Associations compete for the seemingly smaller pool of corporate dollars, CEOs, senior managers, and boards want every possible competitive advantage.  With Conference and Training vendors fighting for their piece of the pie, they know how to leverage a powerful CRM (Customer Relations Management) and custom databases to get at the market place quickly. In order to remain competitive, Associations too need the same speed to market. There are plenty of technology tools and alternatives, however CEO’s and Senior Managers should begin the process with an information scan.

Start at the Beginning

Regardless of Association size, the effort  should start with a full inventory of member, sponsor and prospect data. Determine what exists and develop a smart list of what else is required. Most importantly, make sure that the Association is capturing up at night issues and company participation. This is the information that helps formulate Data Driven Strategies for organizations.

Know Thy Marketplace

Maintaining a full profile on key aspects of members, prospects and sponsors is essential.  Sir Francis Bacon noted that “Knowledge is power ” and for Associations, updated market information is omnipotent.

Every database should at a minimum contain the following information about members and sponsors, and have a treasure trove of data on prospective members:

Members and Sponsors

  • Issue and regulatory concerns that impact member or sponsor company’s ability to achieve their business objectives.
  • Participation in up at night issue activities, i.e. committees, calls to action.
  • Updated contact information for executives who approve member dues or sponsorship’s.
  • Complete descriptions of member and sponsor products and services and industries they serve.
  • Record of significant staff interaction with member and company executives.
  • Staff relationship owner.

Prospects

  • Issue and regulatory concerns that impact prospective member or sponsor company’s ability to achieve their business objectives.
  • Complete descriptions of products and services and industries they serve.
  • Board Members in similar industries or who have similar issue or regulatory concerns.
  • Participation in up at night issue activities, i.e. committees, calls to action.
  • Updated contact information for executives who approve member dues or sponsorship’s.
  • Inventory of Associations prospective members or sponsors participate in.
  • Record of significant staff interaction with member and company executives.
  • Staff relationship owner.

Ready to Add Speed to Market 

With complete member, prospect and sponsor profiles, Associations are then ready to add capacity.   The updated database is complete but not capable of driving speed to market. As the marketplace moves in real time, Associations require the capacity that only an effective CRM capable resource provides.

CRM capability should provide Association’s the ability to deliver:

  • Analytics reflecting member engagement and participation.
  • Net performance trends.
  • Member and prospective member or sponsor business outcomes.
  • Capacity to segment data and deliver focused messaging.

If an Association database and CRM are missing any of these elements they should identify new technology solutions that will complement their existing infrastructure.

Association Speed to Market

For Associations making the plunge adding speed to market at your association makes a difference. Leveraging updated data and CRM capacity, one Association doubled grass roots program participation and another Association achieved record conference profits.

Vendors are competing more aggressively than ever for their share of conference, sponsor, training, education and certification dollars. Although budget investments face increasing scrutiny, adding CRM capacity will enhance an Associations speed to market.

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

association speed to market

 

Association Membership ROI or Distraction?

Association Membership ROI or Distraction? How did your Association fare on retention and new member growth in 2012? Before end of year, some membership decisions were on-hold, the fiscal cliff among other things were causing companies to hold off renewing or even joining your organization. What did your members decide? It’s connected to whether or not your members perceive their membership as an ROI or a Distraction.

Stay or Go Equation

Companies are evaluating membership differently.  Now companies have a Stay or go Equation. They evaluate by asking is this  membership is an ROI or a Distraction:

  • If it’s a distraction, members vote with their feet and go elsewhere.
  • If membership has ROI, your Trade Association is connected to your member’s business objectives.

Your  metrics will help you determine your Association’s ROI.

Three Step Process to ROI

1. Data Driven Strategies

Example – Quantifying policy impact on corporate business objectives.

2. Core Connections – Help companies achieve business objectives

Example – Do strategies to retain, increase participation, grow new members and sponsors reflect a core connection?

3. Member Engagement – Transformational culture change to “We”

Example – Members are more easily engaged once they see their association working as a strategic ally to advance their business interests through consensus. When they don’t feel actively engaged,  they form their own coalitions, forums and on-line communities.

Association Membership ROI or Distraction?

Steve Lane, President and CEO , Vertical Leap Consulting and I developed this path to Association Growth. Our research says your Association adds value, connects to your members’ business objectives and your members are more engaged.

How can this process help your Association grow revenue and membership?

Much more on Association Revenue Growth at www.potomaccore.com/blog