The following is a snippet of a full whitepaper by the same name: Fostering an (Insanely) Great Connection With Your Members. You can download the full whitepaper for free at the bottom of the post. Enjoy!
The passing of Steve Jobs, Apple’s Co-founder and former CEO drew an incredible amount of worldwide attention. From all of the media coverage, documentaries and a newly published biography, I think almost everyone on the planet has learned of his passing. While some people wondered what all the fuss was about, many others describe a loss akin to losing a family member.
I was struck by the different ways people described Jobs’ impact on their personal and professional lives. Over one million people sent emails to Apple sharing their thoughts about Jobs – his friends, colleagues, rivals and customers, all feeling the need to articulate the influence he had on their lives. They felt a personal connection to Jobs even if they had never actually ever met or interacted with him. It made me think of a big picture question that could be asked of your association:
What would it take to have an emotional connection with your members where the products and services you provide are anticipated, accepted, evangelized and loved by the very people you designed them for?
Before you try to answer, I want to break the question down into four key areas where Jobs enjoyed unparalleled success and built his legendary reputation.
Is your association innovative in the ways you bring value to your members and prospects alike – challenging the status quo in search of what will be needed in the future instead of simply relying on the way it has always been?
Are there typical product or service offerings you could present in a new light that would enchant and create greater brand recognition and loyalty for your association? Perhaps taking an idea from the for-profit world that excites you and implementing it within your association. Maybe taking the tried and traditional format of your annual meeting and turning it upside down to create an event that will have everyone talking, whether they were there or not.
For associations to innovate and succeed in the challenging environment facing them, they cannot live in fear of acting on a new idea. They must be open to looking at an old problem in a new way, while giving themselves permission to fail. Associations must embrace change like never before, being open to taking risks to build a stronger organization that is sustainable and relevant to the industry or profession they serve.
Has your association made an investment in technology that has created a shift in how your members interact and communicate with you, allowing greater access to the products and services you offer?
You must design for the future you want to build. Design a member experience based on undeniable value. If you are standing pat and counting on your association to maintain the status quo with any success, there will be no future to design.
Younger members and prospects will come to expect and demand more from your association than you have ever delivered before. The speed and breadth of advances in technology are unprecedented and have changed the playing field for all businesses – including associations. Entire generations that have never known life without technology are now entering the workforce. They will be the new members you will have to serve. To paraphrase Jobs, you need to “put a dent” in your members’ universe by having a big vision for their future that will inspire them and earn their loyalty – a vision that you can deliver.
The Drive for Excellence (Also known as Insanely Great in Apple speak)
Would you rank the programs and services you provide your members as great?
Is your staff task-driven instead of focused on providing the best member experience possible? Do your offerings get watered down because you are trying to be all things to all members? Simply put, do you focus on a small segment of your membership that ends up driving inefficiencies, preventing you from providing outstanding value to the vast majority of your members?
Do you offer every new affinity program that comes around in the name of non-dues revenue? Do they generate real interest and provide value for your members?
Sometimes you need to say no to 1,000 things to find the one that brings unquestionable value – you know something that is insanely great!
If you surveyed your members would they rate membership in your association as invaluable and key to their professional success?
More than ever, associations need to cultivate intimate relationships with their members. That personal connection is key to the long-term health of an organization.
Develop a vision for the future and build on it. Understand what members want to accomplish in their careers and lives, tie your vision to it and tell that story often. Make communication a cornerstone of your brand every day. Make your story consistent across all platforms: website, advertising, marketing materials, social media and presentations. Most important, enable your members to become an integral part of that story – allow them to make it theirs.