For nearly five years, I’ve been driving 25 miles each way to work, passing the same businesses, the same streets, the same houses. One would think the route was ingrained in my head and that I could recreate the long stretches of urban sprawl in my head at night in great detail. But it wasn’t until construction took over my main route that I woke up to what was around me. Before construction, I flew by drove at a safe speed past Paul’s every morning. It was a green and yellow sign, striking visually, memorable in its design but I couldn’t tell you exactly what kind of establishment Paul’s was. I didn’t have time to read the smaller scrawl on the sign and the name of the business told me nothing. Was it a fish market? A data recovery business? A restaurant?
Then the bulldozers got involved. They tore up “Paul’s” sidewalk and road. The transportation department erected countless barrels, which no doubt put quite a damper on Paul’s business. But they did something Paul had never done. They placed a blue sign with white writing at the edge of the road a few feet before where you’d turn off to go to Paul’s and it read simply, “Bakery.” No catchy slogan. No name of the business. No spokesperson or mascot waiving a sign, just plain and simple what Paul was selling. For half a decade, I’ve driven by Paul’s and never once thought to go in. Why would I? I didn’t know what he sold. Now his store had become a morning ritual for me.
Associations also need to be upfront about their offerings. Don’t expect your members to figure out what benefits they will derive by joining your organization. Tell them. Over and over again. In quick, digestible bits. Leave deciphering meaning to Oscar film critics. Present your message and vision in the simplest of terms. Imagine your prospective members, as I was, just driving by with only minutes to process what you’re offering.
If you had to condense the value of your association membership in a simple sign/message, how would you do it?