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.
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.
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.
If you’re an Association CEO are you thinking about the next recession? Since 1947 historical data shows a recession, averaging every 6-7 years in the United States. With a U.S. recovery in 2009 might 2015 or 2016 be the time frame when the next recession occurs? Even though economic forecasting can be inconclusive, being ready for the next downturn might be a prudent move for Associations.
In a climate of disruptive innovation and tight operating margins where can companies look for education and training solutions? Quite simply it’s Associations, as they have the ability to facilitate new solutions to address evolving member business outcomes. While the traditional Association model “pushes” out training and education programs, innovative organizations structure these products to help members achieve their business outcomes.
In an increasingly competitive and low profit margin world companies only invest time, money, and staff resources where they can drive business outcomes. With fewer dollars to spend, today’s executives look past yesterday’s Association model and instead seek out strategic partners.