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?
At a time of unprecedented change your Association can become a Market Disruptor and position your members for success in a slow growth world.
Free eBook “Accelerating Strategic Member Engagement” is available for all Association Executives atwww.potomaccore.com.
According to a recent CNBC post “earnings are expected to be down by some 4 percent year over year, that is an 8-percent reduction from previous estimates.” How does this or any financial news connect to Association member engagement? What happens today influences how executives make decisions about where to invest their precious time.
Is Member Satisfaction A Solution?
No, not really. Under the watchful eye of shareholders, investors, and regulators an executive continually seeks better operating margins and top line growth. Interest in the Association’s success, member benefits, products or services won’t get or keep their attention for long. Promotional materials including what “we do for you” doesn’t really matter either. And special discounts bring them in the front door this year and out the back door next year.
Members don’t really care about the association’s “outputs.” They only care about “outcomes” that address their business/ professional challenges and opportunities. Everything else is just noise.
Business Strategy Conversations
Engagement is not about an Association. Instead, it’s all about developing solutions that improve market and growth positioning, boosting operating performance, and recruiting and maintaining high performing talent. Having conversations about these issues and creating opportunities to share knowledge and develop solutions with other members can accelerate member engagement.
Long Term Positioning
There are no “one-trick” ponies when it comes to member engagement. Aligning the Association as a strategic partner is a long term strategy to:
Quarterly earnings reports, monetary policy, and the value of the dollar all matter. Aligning your Association as an external strategic partner to build solutions and solve problems can accelerate member engagement.
Free eBook “Accelerating Strategic Member Engagement” is available for all Association Executives atwww.potomaccore.com.
Association executives inside and outside of Washington, DC sometimes struggle to secure key executive participation in advocacy meetings with Congressional representatives or regulatory agencies. Do members perceive these meetings as another Association “output” or as an opportunity to drive their business outcomes? If it’s the former, executives are hesitant to leave their office or rearrange their schedule for something not linked to a business outcome.
Strategic Member Engagement
Members care about “outcomes” for themselves, their companies, their constituencies, and their customers. Despite an improving economy, today’s executives face more pressure than ever to innovate, improve operating margins and grow top line revenue. If advocacy programs are viewed as “outputs” (events, journal, newsletters, etc.) chances of participation are low.
In order to change the conversation and accelerate participation and member engagement, all discussions should be focused on member business outcomes instead of your Association’s outputs.
Member Business Challenges
Associations must have sufficient insights into external and operational challenges and opportunities of your members. Most of these challenges apply to both trade association and professional society members. However, they could have a different perspective based upon whether the member you are talking with is wearing their “company hat” or their “individual hat.” If you are not surfacing many of these issues, you may not be asking the right questions or have not built relationships with the right contacts at your member companies.
Advocacy or Business Outcomes?
What are the key steps to driving accelerated participation in your advocacy programs? Focus on business outcomes to change the conversation, discuss members’ external & operational challenges, and facilitate board level strategic discussions about member business objectives. As competition for member dues and participation increases, moving away from Association “outputs” to member business outcomes can help your organization achieve the competitive positioning it seeks.
Free eBook “Accelerating Strategic Member Engagement” is available for all Association Executives at www.potomaccore.com.
When your Association’s founders first convened, did they envision hiring staff that would sell products and services? No, they identified like minded companies who shared the same challenges understanding that they could achieve greater impact together that individually.
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?
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 positioningas essential to their long term growth and durability.
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.
Recently reported economic expansion reflects only one part of an evolving and complex business environment. Cyber threats, disruptive technologies, innovations and social media, an aging workforce, and talent gaps weigh heavily on corporate bottom lines. According to a McKinseyDecember 2014 Global Survey, “geopolitical concerns remain paramount as a risk to growth for executives whose optimism for the global economy in early 2014 has faded over the course of the year.”
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 atwww.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.