At the majority of associations, member engagement takes a back seat to fighting fires and meeting budget expectations. Over time, member dissatisfaction, poor retention, or weak membership growth can prompt boards to ask the tough questions.
In several instances executives are demonstrating the direct linkages between their efforts, member outcomes, and their association’s business model. They understand that corporate and individual members view their participation with associations through a very different lens than when they had relatively few go to sources for information and knowledge sharing.
Change The Conversation
People value and make contributions to the activities that help them achieve something they (or their company) value. Continually generating more activities is unsustainable; it also creates an unfocused “all you can eat buffet.”
Member Contract: Focus On Member Outcomes
Corey Rosenbusch, President & CEO, and his team at GCCA (the Global Cold Chain Alliance), www.gcca.org worked closely with their largest member to craft a 3 year member contract linking the member relationship to their strategic business outcomes. In doing so, they moved the conversation away from “here’s what you get for your money” to “here’s the power of engaging with others in your industry/profession to create new, innovative solutions”.
ROI TO R.O.M.E.
Only when board/staff engagement and member engagement are high do innovative solutions surface through a “we” collaboration. Moving to a “we” focused community is about inclusiveness and being open to the possibilities that might surface. Increasingly, associations, including the Global Cold Chain Alliance, recognize the significance of “we” collaboration and strategic member engagement (see 2/24/2014 posthttp://bit.ly/1g8g1J2).
The 2017 PWC 20th annual CEO Survey, fourth quarter domestic GDP numbers and the 2017 Conference Board Global forecast of 2.3% economic growth show just how challenging business conditions are for today’s business decision makers. Organizations can help their members convert these challenges into growth opportunities by utilizing 4 AssociationDisruption Strategies. In doing so you, can position your organization as disruptive growth agents for the Industry or the Profession you serve.
Embracing the hyper competitive environment is essential in a time of global uncertainty and disruption for all Association and Professional Society Leaders. “We have to disrupt ourselves every day,” notes Thayer Long, President of Reston, Virginia based NPES. He points to how his Association is answering the call and positioning itself to be a growth agent for the printing and imaging industry. In a recently completed Strategic Plan update, he reflects on how NPES with Board and Market guidance is addressing challenges and competitive threats for the Industry and the Association.
Transforming into agents of change and growth helps keep your organization more relevant. In today’s environment, members demand real time solutions that advance their concerns and achieve results. By adding these 4 Association Disruption Strategies into your planning process, your organization becomes an important part of everyday conversations.
4 Association Disruption Strategies
Obtain Actionable Data – Understanding challenges and opportunities for the Profession or Industry you represent is a must. Utilizing an impact and member engagement focused survey can help you obtain more realistic assessments of how relevant and connected your organization is to the outcomes that members seek to achieve. Taking your members pulse annually through impact and memebr engagement surveys will especially help keep your organization aligned with your members and their customers.
2. Position the Association as an Outcome Driver– Changing the conversation from “here’s what you get for your money” to “here’s the power of engaging with others in your Industry/Profession to create new, innovative solutions” positions your organization as a thought leader and a solution provider.
3. Deliver Products to Drive Impact – Avoiding the “all you can eat buffet” environment that adds more products dilutes value and dampens staff enthusiasm over time. This posture also causes your members to perceive your Association or Professional Society as less relevant. For example, a data based approach that utilizes survey results from members and their customers can validate what your members need to achieve their business outcomes. Using this approach NPES was able to affirm the need to deliver actionable Industry Research for Global Print Manufacturers, Printers, and the Big Brand Companies.
4. Keep Strategic Plans Nimble – As business cycles shift, your organization must be able to adapt and remain relevant. For instance, it’s not yet clear on what the Post Brexit environment will look like nor is it clear how health care policy will evolve. Collaborating with your board to build and adjust an organization Business Plan instead of the traditional Strategic Plan helps you respond instantaneously to market changes.
Applying these 4 Association Disruption Strategies to develop your new Business Plan can help your Association or Professional Society accelerate its relevance and motivate higher levels of Member and Industry engagement. By doing so, your organization becomes the focal point for the Profession or Industry you represent. For NPES, extensive survey research and strategic deliberations with their board positions the organization as the focal point for the global imaging and printing industry growth.
4 Association Disruption Strategies
The Merriam Webster definition of disrupt helps to frame the decision point for you as an Association Executive or an Executive Director:
“to cause (something) to be unable to continue in the normal way: to interrupt the normal progress or activity of (something)”
In today’s uncertain and anemic growth environment, should Associations and Professional Societies utilize their Business Planning (formerly known as Strategic Planning) process to “disrupt themselves?” Is there any other choice?
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.”
Member Value Drivers?Too often an association’s internal discussions are about tweaking “outputs” and not creatively driving the “outcomes” that members really care about. This only fuels the “we/you” culture that exists in so many associations. Associations can get into trouble when internal discussions infer “we know what’s best for our members”. If members don’t feel that they can impact things that they care about, they form coalitions and on line communities outside of the association. (http://bit.ly/1qEaS3H)
Outcome Focus and Member Value Drivers
Members only care about “outcomes” that address their business and professional challenges and opportunities (See ROI TO R.O.M.E.http://bit.ly/1nCFqiU). Change the conversation from selling and testing satisfaction with association outputs (conference, journal, etc.) to engaging members in ways that facilitate knowledge sharing and collaboration with other members.
Up At Night Issues
Whether obtained via survey, focus groups, interviews, roundtables, online community dialogue, social media tracking or other mechanisms, it’s essential to understand how an your association is currently impacting member objectives. This requires securing actionable data about member perceptions of their environmental and operational challenges. If these issues aren’t surfaced, Associations may not be asking the right questions.
Member Impact Surveys
Associations should utilize impact surveys instead of satisfaction surveys as impact surveys are forward looking. They focus on the desired future outcomes that members seek to address their “up at night” issues.
Member Value Drivers?
Strategic member engagement begins with changing the conversation from “outputs” to “outcomes”. An “outcomes” focus drives member value and helps to accelerate competitive positioning and Association operating results. (http://bit.ly/1g8g1J2)