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3 Visuals That Will Drive Your Association Value

In today's fast-paced world of association management, everything moves and changes so fast. With this rapid pace of change, it is easy for board members, staff, and volunteers to get distracted by elements that take them off course in meeting the mission of the association.

No matter what your mission statement says, the ultimate focus for any association should be to "do things for their members they can't do themselves." When an association has a laser focus on serving member needs, it leads to maximizing their involvement, engagement, and passion. These lead to higher retention rates, financial security, and strength for any association.

I was reminded this week of a blog post I wrote a year ago that asked the question to associations: "Are you just COLLECTING dots for your members, or are you CONNECTING the dots for your members?" It is a huge distinction to make with your staff and leadership. You see, associations who are just COLLECTING dots are pushing a perceived value to the membership that everyone struggles to believe in. Those who are pushing "actual value" are CONNECTING the dots of value to actually having an impact on members.

In the first quarter of 2016, I wanted a series of visuals that would keep our association focused on CONNECTING the dots for the members that would drive actual value to maximize our membership. They are:


As association leaders and staff enter the doors of serving members, I believe it is critical they ask themselves, with every decision, the following questions, as illustrated in the picture:

Are We Doing Things For Our Members They Can't Do For Themselves?

Through the internet and other online services, members have instant access to an unlimited amount of information, connection, and offerings. This has diluted, for many associations, their value proposition. They have continued to sell a "perceived value" instead of "actual value." Every professional or business owner continues to have elements of their business or life that keeps the up at night. They are areas of challenge. These key areas are the place where associations need to be laser-focused on in order to create solutions and add value for their members.

Are We Member Focused?

I know many associations who think they are member focused, but what they really are is focused on a strategic plan that drives issues that are important to the Board. Every initiative, program, or strategy should have the needs of all members considered in developing the final output. It is important for staff and leadership to have their ears open constantly to hear the major pain points where members are asking for help. It's in these areas that programs, services, and initiatives are developed that hit at the heart of creating solutions for members.

Are We Truly Maximizing Value?

As you put your focus on members and develop value that puts emphasis on doing things for your members they can't do themselves, this will drive maximum value and lead to higher membership recruitment, retention and most of all engagement. Member value needs to be focused on programs and issues that members cannot live without and can't actively access anywhere else effectively. I tell people all the time to "quit trying to develop new slick ways of marketing your perceived value" and "start providing actual value that gets members attention." Develop solutions to for the areas your members are challenged the most and selling membership and retention becomes less challenging.

Do We Provide a Value With a WOW Factor?

You may not like it, but our society today has been trained by "Reality TV." It is harder today to get member's attention than any time in our past. It is important for your association to look at the delivery of your programs, events, and messaging as it is the actual offering itself. This involves having your staff very engaged in the creative process of developing the WOW factor, that will grab your member's attention. Impress them with every action you take.


IBM recently released a study that shared that over 60% of C-suite executives #1 fear was the UBERIZATION of their company or business model. Uberization is the process where an unknown technology or business model comes out of nowhere and changes how you compete, in a way that makes your company or association irrelevant in the marketplace. We have seen this market disruption happen and happen fast. UBER and Zillow are two prime examples of how technology developments came into the marketplace and took over well established business models.

The radar screen above is very important for your staff and leadership to look at, and to constantly ask, "What technology developments, demographic shifts, and consumer buying habits are changing that could dismantle our value proposition?" As you identify these, you should mark them on the radar screen to keep a constant watch. Once identified, it should also compel your association to look at being the market disruptor and develop the element that could drive member satisfaction to all time highs. Think about it...what if the taxi cab association had developed UBER? What if the real estate associations had developed Zillow? Their value propositions would be off the chart. Instead they are spending valuable resources trying to compete with outside forces that they were not paying attention to. I encourage you to turn on your radar and find the UBER or Zillow in your industry. If you do so, membership recruitment, value, and engagement will not be an issue in the future.


Having lead associations for over 20 years now, I've learned there are 4 key elements for associations to consider when making decisions:

- Making Right Choices

- How to Spend the Money

- What People Should be Involved

- How to Invest the Time

Every decision comes down to: choices, money, people, and time.

However, I see boards and staff, more often than not, making decisions without connecting all four of these areas to the decision. They will make choices irregardless of the future financial impact. They will spend money without considering the time needed to make the biggest impact. They will involve people without regard to time or money.

These four elements in the decision making process are not mutually exclusive. To maximize your ideas, output, and execution, that lead to maximizing member value, it is important that you give consideration to all four of these areas with every key decision:

- What CHOICE needs to be made?

- What PEOPLE need to be involved to maximize the outcome?

- What MONEY needs to be invested to maximize resources?

- What TIME needs to be allocated so we ensure success?

Working through these four questions in every decision will help your staff and leadership to leverage the association resources for creating solutions with maximum value, member engagement, and WOW factor, that grabs your member's attention.

Remember, people are very visual in today's business environment. Print off these 3 visuals and frame them in your meeting room or board room, to keep your association focused on what's important. If you would like a high-res copy of these three visuals, you can download them at my website, Click on Tom's Visuals under the Tom's Speaking Programs tab.

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