Are your board members laser focused on their mobile devices during board meetings? Is there a sense of restlessness at your executive committee and full board meetings? Odds are high that your board members are either preoccupied with business challenges or just plain bored with discussions on Association strategies. One way or another, they might be tuning out and if they are, your board meetings might be perceived as association “bored” meetings.
If your members face top line growth challenges, generational transfer issues, and evolving consumer expectations, how can your Association support member success? Through a strategic planning process that transforms your organization from an inside out focus to an outside in focus. The process starts with a highly engaged and strategically focused board and concludes with a strategic plan amplifying industry growth objectives.
Association Innovation Delivers Growth
What capabilities should your association have in order to deliver revenue growth and strong retention? In the Strategic Member Engagement Survey, Associations & Professional Societies reporting upward 3-year operating results are far more likely to have a very high level of board understanding and strategizing about the business and professional outcomes members seek, and actively engage members in creating new solutions. For IARW, the International Association of Refrigerated Warehouses (Global Cold Chain Alliance Partner), these new and innovative capabilities are serving as an accelerant to revenue growth and retention.
Return on Member Engagement
“Together we achieve a return on member engagement” reflects a six month strategic planning mantra employed by Corey Rosenbusch, President and CEO, GCCA (of which IARW is a key partner) and the Association’s Board of Directors. Collaboratively they determined their industry’s strategic business outcomes and developed an innovation focused strategic plan to drive worldwide top line growth.
Throughout the process board members keenly focused on capabilities and priorities they wanted from their industry association. Their Board Task Force surfaced opportunities to broaden strategic alliances that will extend the industry’s visibility and global reach.
Business Outcome Focus Drives Revenue Growth
Identifying member industry “up-at-night” issues and positioning IARW as a strategic partner to drive business growth is already showing results through recovering former member dues, membership and sponsor growth, and a potential windfall through a new Global Cold Chain Expo to be held in Chicago in 2016.
Association Innovation Delivers Growth
Although Rosenbusch understood the risks of utilizing a different planning process he focused on a different path based on innovation and member business outcomes. To date he reports over $200,000 in new revenue and sees opportunity to grow substantially more and help the industry IARW serves achieve its business growth objectives.
Driving Member Business Outcomes
Can an Association transform itself and become a strategic business partner to the very members they serve? The International Association of Refrigerated Warehouses (IARW) did as much through an intensive strategic planning process. Seeking to understand their impact on their member business outcomes, the Association initiated the process with Board Interviews and a Member Impact Survey.
Forward Looking Data
The Member Impact Survey is forward looking by design and focuses on desired future outcomes that members seek to address their “up at night” issues. The results also generate focused conversations among senior managers and Board Task Force Members.
The decision to move past the traditional member satisfaction survey format reflected a strategic and important departure says Corey Rosenbusch, President and CEO of the Global Cold Chain Alliance, of which IARW is a key partner.
Changing Board Perspectives
At IARW, the results shifted perceptions and thinking about the Association and how it could be utilized to actively promote the industry in key markets. (“Survey uncovers members’ “up-at-night” issues”) It also generated significant dialogue about the future of the industry while it drive culture shifts at the staff and board level.
Although the survey results played a critical role in the update of IARW’s Strategic Plan, Rosenbusch utilizes the impact survey results in member meetings and also in conversations with industry partners. The data helps him paint a picture of the industries’ key opportunities and concerns.
Driving Member Business Outcomes
The journey starting from an “inside out” focus to an “outside in” focus is nearing completion. According to Rosenbusch, “IARW is entering a new arena” and it’s one in which the Association, his staff team, and board are building a more and compelling future for their industry.
A snapshot by the Conference Board of both the U.S. and Global Economy doesn’t necessarily paint the rosiest of pictures GDP growth is projected at 2.9% in the United States while economic performance in the rest of the world will be shaped by “volatility.” In what appears to be a low growth scenario, how and to what extent can Associations be transformed into market disruptors that support market growth?
Be assured that the current slow growth environment or an economic downturn will inflict significant pain on your revenues and membership at some point. Organizational Association balance sheets took significant hits in 2008 and 2009, and there little reason to think otherwise in the current environment. Knowing this should CEO’s maintain traditional Association product and service offerings or should they analyze strategic alternatives?
New products and services penetrating the marketplace have disrupted the U.S. economy from the start of the Republic. At each turn throughout our history, new entrants reshaped a dynamic marketplace. With big data, predictive analytics, and emerging technologies new companies are in several instances upending the marketplace and driving innovation and boosting higher levels of productivity.
Can an Association go beyond traditional roles and provide nontraditional solutions to industries in a slow growth environment? Are boards and volunteers ready for their Association to position and help drive their industry positioning and growth in domestic and international markets?
Since the great recession for profit firms are aggressively developing innovative solutions and products to more immediately help companies address business challenges and grow revenue. Why can’t your association play the same role?
Free eBook “Accelerating Strategic Member Engagement” is available for all Association Executives at www.potomaccore.com.
Traditional Association Thinking? Is there an Association that isn’t yet facing a for profit competitor? Both before and after the end great recession for profit competitors are aggressively marketing their way into Association markets. In what was once sacred ground Associations face existential threats to their long term competitive positioning. Commercial firms are investing heavily in tech savvy marketing and they are making their way into the C Suites of small, medium, and large firms across the United States.
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?
“Outside In” Association Boards?
The overall impact of very highly strategic boards with a high understanding who strategize about the needs of the average member is reflected in Association business model performances. New data from a Strategic Member Engagement Survey shows organizations who are “Outside In” are far more likely to deliver strong performance in retention, annual revenue, primary meeting registrations and timely membership renewals. This and other survey data was shared through the collaboration of icimo, Vertical Leap Consulting, and Potomac Core – Association Consulting.
Why “Outside In” Boards Matter
As Associations and Professional Societies work to remain relevant, a strategic board can provide important linkages to member “up at night” issues and the business and professional outcomes that members want to achieve.
Alignment With Member Outcomes
In an important example, keeping an Association reflective of member business outcomes (“outside-in) is a deliberate focus for Julia Hamm, President & CEO of the Solar Electric Power Association www.solarelectricpower.org. By design, the organization’s board reflects all sectors of its core membership ranging from large regulated investor owned electric companies to small municipally owned electric utilities.
Hamm and her senior team consistently utilize their strategically focused board to understand their “up at night” issues. They utilize direct market feedback to develop products and services which help effectively address and engage members in solutions to their “up at night” issues. “What’s driving us is what they need, not what we need” emphasizes Julia Hamm. This member outcome focused approach helps the organization achieve consistent 94-95% core member retention.
“Outside In” Association Boards?
Strategic boards who provide high level perspectives on member and professional outcomes help motivate and drive Strategic Member Engagement. They also help an Association remain highly relevant on a consistent basis.
For a free copy of the “Accelerating Strategic Member Engagement” eBook, request your copy at www.potomaccore.com
Strategic Member Engagement: Accelerant to Association Membership Growth & Retention
A groundbreaking survey on Strategic Member Engagement shows that Trade Associations and Professional Societies reporting upward 3-year operating results are far more likely to have better data about member issues, have a very high level of board understanding and strategizing about the outcomes members seek and, importantly, actively engage members in creating new solutions. A great deal of actionable data about how these associations are positioning for long-term success is uncovered in a joint survey conducted through the collaborative effort of Vertical Leap Consulting, Icimo, and Potomac Core – Association Consulting.
The Survey, polling 307 executives of national/international trade associations and professional societies, was conducted in October and November 2013.
Strategic Member Engagement Seen As Driver
In reporting the survey outcomes, Bryce Gartner of Icimo, LLC, Dan Varroney of Potomac Core – Association Consulting, and Steve Lane of Vertical Leap Consulting emphasized “strategic member engagement is not about touchy feely member interface, short term sales strategies, or administering tracking reports. Instead, it is a game changing accelerator of Professional Society and Trade Association growth and positioning strategies. Our research surfaces just how much of a driver strategic member engagement is for an association’s business model and the long-term, differentiating value provided to its profession or industry.”
Strategic Member Engagement: Accelerant to Association Membership Growth And Retention
Organizations with upward trending 3-year operating results reported the strongest capabilities are far more likely to better understand member up-at-night issues and to engage members in acting upon those needs. These Association Executives were far more likely to report strong performance in Member Retention, Annual Operating Revenue, Registrations to Primary Annual Meetings, Annual Revenue from Fee for Service Offerings, and Timely Membership Renewals.
A free copy of the “Accelerating Strategic Member Engagement” eBook, is available at Potomac Core – Association Consulting, Vertical Leap Consulting, and Icimo.
Business Outcome Profile
Getting the final membership commitment is difficult for many Associations. Companies remain uncertain about the economic environment and as a result they remain hesitant when it comes to joining another Association. Despite market resistance, new member growth and positive financial reports are expected at board meetings. CEOs continue to face interesting challenges on the membership growth front.
Plato reminds us that “necessity is the mother of invention” and thankfully so. Utilizing member data, Associations can construct a more innovative game plan to grow new members. CEOs and Senior Managers will be pleased to learn, notwithstanding impediments, that new member growth is well within their reach.
Business Outcome Strength Profile
Developing an Association Member Business Outcome Profile reflecting the most active and participative companies is a powerful resource for CEOs seeking a path to new member growth:
- How connected are we to Member Business Outcomes?
- What types of companies/ sectors actively participate in the Association today?
- Which products, services and policy committees draw consistent participation from these sectors?
- What are the pain point reasons motivating current members to participate as actively as they are?
- Which prospect companies reside in the same companies/sectors as your most active members?
Associations can develop an effective list of prospects in the same companies/sectors as the most active members. Why? If the Member Business Outcome Profile shows strong support for the Association among existing members, it becomes more likely that prospects will be open to membership consideration.
Having the benefit of data revealing strong support in key companies/sectors, new member recruitment should become an Association wide effort. Greater participation is a bellwether and Association CEOs should motivate all stakeholders to help achieve new member growth:
- Board Members. Share the Member Business Outcome Profile and strategy with the Board. They’ll want to know their business outcomes are being met. Ask them to be on the team and open doors for staff to meet with prospects. Express appreciation and acknowledge their help at Board meetings.
- Staff. Encourage staff throughout the Association to join the effort to grow membership. Keep them motivated through communication, share regular progress reports.
Business Outcome Profile
One Association achieved its first profitable year in almost five years utilizing a Business Outcome Profile. The following year they achieved the best growth performance in six years. Several other Associations doubled membership, achieved record sponsor performance and drove consistent 90% + retention performance.
“In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity” said Albert Einstein. The global economy, and economic uncertainty make it difficult for Associations to achieve their new member objectives. However, a Business Outcome Profile identifies strategies to to link the Association with memebr business outcomes and create more opportunity to achieve and even surpass new member growth objectives.
For a free copy of the “Accelerating Strategic Member Engagement” eBook, request your copy at www.potomaccore.com.