At the start of your board meetings do board members ask themselves “I hope they try selling stuff today?” Of course not. If anything, they want your organization to stop selling stuff. In today’s disruptive environment they are preoccupied with their business challenges and global uncertainty. Hearing endless staff reports and selling stuff is not where they are at anymore. Today’s board members want strategic meetings focused on their external challenges and they want their Associations to help them address these challenges.
Please Stop Selling Stuff
When your Trade Association was launched, your founders were focused on how an organization could address business challenges and achieve specific outcomes. They believed a combined effort would accomplish more as an industry or a profession that they could on their own. It’s a safe bet that your founders never imagined that they should hire staff to “sell us stuff” at board meetings.
Board Members Tuning Out
Everyone listens to their favorite radio station “WIIFM,” What’s in It for Me. If you observe several board members staring at their mobile devices or texting during your meetings, they’ve already switched channels. Keeping them tuned in to your channel means you must address what they hope to hear.
Highly Engaged and Strategic Boards
How do we make your Association remain number one on their listening dial? First, elevate your board meetings to strategic conversations about board member business challenges. Secondly, minimize the staff “report out” practice as much as possible. Instead, discuss how these business challenges could be addressed through your association. This makes your meeting relevant and helps to justify a board member’s time away from their business.
What do our board members really tune in for at Board Meetings?
- Discussions addressing critical business challenges and opportunities and how their Association could help address these challenges.
- How the Association is continually building more allies to help leverage the industry’s position to reduce regulatory compliance costs.
- The organization is investing its revenues to produce market research or technologies that provides meaningful insights to reduce costs or grow top line revenue.
Understanding Board and Industry Perceptions
Every board member has different expectations, business challenges, and business opportunities. Knowing and understanding these issues help to align your board meetings with the strategic outcomes that your board members care most about. You can surface these perceptions through your strategic business planning process through:
- Industry or Profession Focused Board interviews.
- An industry wide business impact survey (instead of an association focused product and service satisfaction survey).
This detailed and actionable research helps you identify and prioritize the issues that move the needle for your board and the membership. In doing so, your organization can reposition itself as a solution partner and in doing so become more relevant.
“WISP” A Station Your Board Wants to Hear
Increasingly Trade Associations are positioning their organizations to that of a Worldwide Industry Solution Partner (WISP). For example, NPES, the Aluminum Association, the American Staffing Association, the Society for Vascular Ultrasound, and the Jewelers of America have transformed themselves into WISP’s. Each of these organizations are finding new and innovative ways to serve their members, promote their industry, or help to accelerate the relevance of an important field inside the medical profession.
Worldwide Industry Solution Partners
WISP’s align with and drive business outcomes for industries. For GCCA, the Global Cold Chain Alliance, it’s about helping the industry manage and rein in their regulatory costs:
- In 2009, the industry’s fines and inspections increased by more than 300%.
- GCCA signed the first OSHA Alliance with the new administration in mid-2010.
- The Association collaborated with OSHA on safety initiatives, and inspector training.
GCCA’s actions on behalf of the Cold Chain helped reduce compliance costs considerably. By understanding member expectations, member business challenges and top line growth opportunities, the association is much more relevant. What’s more, associations like GCCA are increasingly listener favorites. Its strategic plan is a chart topper, it reflects the industry’s challenges while it helps drive business growth through the Association. GCCA is not selling stuff, it is driving industry business outcomes.
Stop Selling Stuff
Although there are visible signs of economic growth, global terrorism threats and weak consumption are holding back more robust growth. If we want board members to stay tuned to our channel we must play what they want to hear or they will tune us out. So if your board members are sarcastically saying “I hope they try selling stuff today?” It’s out of frustration and only a matter of time before they vote with their feet and their checkbook and tune in to an entirely different channel. What they really mean is stop selling stuff and instead help their industry address its challenges and drive its business outcomes.
Free eBook “Accelerating Strategic Member Engagement” is available upon request for all Association Executives at Potomac Core – Association Consulting