In today's cosmic world that is moving at light speed, everyone lives in a realtime I want it right
now environment. The rapid pace society that demands innovation and the "next thing" is in constant motion and creating ongoing challenges for many associations. Change is being fueled by a perfect storm of changes in consumer buying habits, emerging technologies and demographic shifts like we have never seen before.
Tradition style thinking on boards that of strategic planning every one to two years, tabling ideas board meeting after board meeting and are "stuck in how things have always been done" are really challenged to keep pace with member needs as everyone buys into the Amazon 1-click purchase get it today mentality.
Life is moving and changing at world record pace for sure. However, their is hope for every association.
You see, having been CEO of 3 different organizations that all rose to the top of their fields over my 22 year career, I have identified 10-qualities that are key to any association leading change, being on the front edge of innovation in their industry and maximizing member value and engagement. Our current association has grown over 1,500% in net worth over the last 11 years by being laser focused on these 10 elements.
Yes, it is all about value and engagement. I'm a firm believer in the notion that members
support" your mission & strategic plan... They BUY your value. With high value comes engagement. When you maximize engagement, it solves volunteerism, non-dues revenue program participation and meeting attendance. The list goes on.
The following are the first 5 of the 10 elements your association needs to excel at if you are going to maximize value and engagement and execute as an association in a way that makes members scream your association name and beg for more. I will share the last 5 next week. As you read these, rate your association on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being awesome on how well you feel they perform in each area. Here are the first 5:
ELEMENT #1: Members Have to Remember WHY They Joined
Every association began on their established day way back when over a group of individuals or companies banning together because they understood there was power in numbers. They didn't join over some non-dues revenue program. They joined to fight the forces that were coming against them and they needed to protect the way they did business. They joined together for 5 basic reasons:
- To ORGANIZE Themselves
- To COORDINATE Their Efforts
- To SPREAD The Costs
- Build Trusting PARTNERSHIPS
- Do Things Together More Effectively Than They Could as Individuals
If your association members don't believe in this FIRST, this is where apathy is present. Association members need to see your association as THE HOPE, THE ANSWER and THE PATH to a better way. They need to BELIEVE they are stronger with you than without you.
ELEMENT #2: Your Staff and Volunteers Must Be Passionate to the Cause
The moment of truth for any association is when someone asks a staff member or volunteer, "So tell me about the association and why I should join." Whether it's a member wanting to know the latest developments or a prospect looking to join, what comes out of the staff member or volunteer's mouth will dictate whether someone feels the passion and presence of the association in the industry. It is critical that all staff and volunteers understand the influence and impact of the association so they feel committed to the cause of the association. That feeling should be felt by everyone they talk to in the industry.
ELEMENT #3: Your Staff and Leadership Should Represent the Diversity in Your Industry
In today's diverse society, this goes without saying. Every group of diversity brings market opportunities, thought leaders and new ways of thinking that every association needs to tap into. Varying groups have different wants and needs. One size does not fit all. It is important your association be open, welcoming and inclusive to all diverse groups in your industry and ensure your staff and leadership represents that diversity.
ELEMENT #4: Effective Flow of Membership
I am a big believer that if you have an effective flow of member recruitment and engagement, retention is never a problem. It is important that you have a well thought out plan of engagement the moment someone joins the association and touch points over their membership life each year to engage them in ways they would like to engage. People have 5 levels of emotions you need to ensure you are touching in your recruiting and engagement strategy:
TRUST: Before they engage, members must trust your association. How much front end trust building are you doing?
CARE: Once members trust you, they need to know you care about their needs.
ESTABLISH RELEVANCE: Once they know you care, members now are really open to what you do for them and are ready to engage.
PERSONAL GROWTH: Now that your relevance is clear, they proceed to engage and experience your programs and see growth in their career or business.
REAL CHANGE: This is where passion occurs and they become loyalists and get full involved in the association.
ELEMENT #5: Doing Things For Members They Can't Do For Themselves Effectively
I don't care what industry you are in, individuals and businesses have key components to their operations that are not perfect and keep them up at night. Everyone has friction, anxiety or stress in their business model where they need the combined forces of others to help them maximize people, productivity and profits. Your association should be the driving force of identifying these areas and creating programs and services to help your members excel and succeed in personal and professional life. Some key areas for any association to look at are:
Forecasting Future Growth
Interpretation of the Vast Amount of Information They Are Exposed To
These are just a few of the many areas members can do better together than individually. This one element is the key to your value proposition. Every non-dues revenue program should
be a relief to a pain point in your member's business model. Talk, ask and survey your members about where the pain points are in their way of doing business. Listen and look for common themes and seek to build programs and services that make a real difference in the competitive advantage.
So those are the first 5 of my 10 elements. Being an effective association for your members isn't rocket science. It's putting focus on the fundamentals of board innovation, maximum value and staff execution that matters. Instead, many put focus on finding the next big thing or selling perceived value to try and grow membership. Wrong thinking in my opinion.
If you have value and perform at high levels in these 10 areas, your association will excel in growing membership, financial health and influence in your industry. Stay tuned next week as I deliver the final 5 of my 10 keys to getting members to scream your name and beg for more.