The Xperience2014 Customer Conference, held March 31 – April 1, 2014, at the Vinoy Renaissance Resort in St. Petersburg, FL, provided an Xcellent platform for YourMembership.com customers, employees and industry thought leaders to connect, engage, and grow. Throughout the show our guests had the opportunity to attend sessions focused on business, marketing and association management best practices. We’ve put together a summary of the most notable association management ideas and recommendations that each speaker addressed during their presentations.
1. Shrink to Grow
Understanding, adapting, and knowing when to let go, in today’s increasingly competitive environment, are the keys to your associations’ success.
Shrinking may seem like a counter-intuitive path to growth and relevance, but best-selling author Mary Byers, CAE, discussed the significance of proficient resource allocation. Associations are finding themselves in an environment that is increasingly diverse, unstable, and competitive. In order to be successful they must acclimate, by becoming more skillful, creative, and disciplined when it comes to managing their resources. Thriving associations build on their strengths, concentrate their resources, and abandon the programs that are not delivering value to their members.
2. Use Data to Strengthen Your Relationships
Determine what your members’ needs are in order to understand how to collect and use data.
Kathie Pugaczewski, CAE, CMP, Vice President of Communication and Technology for Ewald Consulting, showed us how to utilize data to improve member relations. She recommended that you do not collect data you’re not going to use, use primary sources of data, go deeper instead of wider when collecting data, and then make your decisions based on that data. Following these practices will enable you to gain a more comprehensive understanding of who your members are and how to deliver content that is relevant to them and promotes greater involvement. Onboarding, clear communication, and personalization are paramount to your members’ satisfaction.
3. Form Strategic Alliances
Partnerships are the wave of the future because associations stand to gain access to resources, expertise, customer bases, and influence when they correctly capitalize on partnerships.
Mary Byers, CAE, encourages associations to develop alliances with other associations, vendors, government agencies, NGOs, consumer groups, media, charitable organizations or foundations that have similar memberships, resources, expertise, goals or issues. When forming an alliance it is important to identify what you are looking for, the benefits to you and your partner, what you have to offer, and where your weaknesses or needs are. Proper planning and negotiation are paramount to this process — your partnership should have clear guidelines, metrics, and a plan for all possible outcomes.
4. Develop a Ladder of Engagement
In order to turn prospects into members, new members into long-term members, and one time volunteers into volunteer leaders, your association needs to utilize the data you collect to identify the triggers that will help you manage the lifecycle of your members and prospects.
Elizabeth Engel, M.A., CAE, CEO and Chief Strategist for Spark Consulting, demonstrated how you can create deeper engagement with members and prospects by understanding where they are in the “buying cycle.” You need to move them from simply connecting with your association to fully engaging, and as engagement increases, cost-effort commitment increases as well. That means moving prospects from something as simple as a free enewsletter, to a low-cost webinar, to attending events, and ultimately becoming a member. New members should be offered a welcome series, segments and personas, and targeted offers to ensure long term membership. One time volunteers should climb from micro-volunteering, to mission-driven task forces, and eventually reach volunteer leadership positions.
5. Manage Your Board More Effectively
The AMC Institute offered a unique perspective on what it takes to effectively manage boards in order to grow the associations they manage all the while growing their own businesses in a competitive environment.
Dede Gish-Panjada, MBA, from the AMC Institute, and Pam McKenna, CAE, of McKenna Management and an AMCi Board Member, shared their views on what principles they learned and put into practice from the book “Race for Relevance: 5 Radical Changes for Associations.” Associations need to understand that they cannot be everything to everybody, due to the limitation of resources in today’s economy. Your board has to be able to determine what brings the most value to your members, while also staying in step with the strategic initiatives of the organization. In addition, associations need to increase their investment in technology. On average, associations dedicate 5 percent of their budget to technology when they should be allocating 15-20 percent in order to keep up with the changing demands of their members. Two key components your association should focus on are overhauling the governance model to be more in line with your organization’s 5 or 10-year strategic plan, and making sure that the skill sets of your board members supports those goals. The same idea applies to the CEO and association staff. Make sure that your board empowers your staff by assembling a team that has the right skills and expertise to serve your members and board as effectively as possible.
There were so many great ideas shared at Xperience2014, some outside of the meeting rooms where YM customers met with their peers and shared the best practices they have developed from their own experiences.