23
Jun
15

Us vs. them

member_engagement_retentionWe hear it all the time: We live in a “me” society. Most of us, at some point, have asked, “What’s in this for me?

Associations aren’t any different. Think about it: How many associations want to boost revenue by hoping their members buy more? How many times have we wished we could just get more volunteers?

In other words, we ask, “How can we get our members to do what we want them to do?”

Newsflash: It’s not about us. It’s about them.

“Unfortunately, while we’ve been busily building and marketing the programs, products and services we think our audiences might like, the world has changed,” write Elizabeth Weaver Engel, CEO & chief strategist, Spark Consulting LLC, and Anna Caraveli, managing partner, The Demand Networks LLC, in their new whitepaper. “In 2015, customers are looking for more than a transaction; they’re looking for custom solutions that can be constructed only through authentic relationships of the type, duration and intensity they—not you—want.

Focusing on member engagement, Engel and Caraveli provide some guidance for associations to transform their thinking: Instead of defining engagement as what they value, associations should be asking how they can help their members accomplish their goals.

Here are some “what-ifs” for associations to consider:

  • What if, instead of membership and product sales, our goal was to enable members to achieve the outcomes that matter most to them?
  • What if, instead of looking inward to try to build the perfect product, we looked outward to our audiences, interacting with them to understand their needs and experiences?
  • What if, instead of viewing members as passive consumers of our benefits and programs, we worked with them as co-developers of the value our associations provide?
  • What if, we gave up control and encouraged our audiences to define the terms of their own involvement with us

And yes, sometimes this means competition.

Elizabeth Engel, CEO and chief strategist for Spark Consulting, LLC.

Elizabeth Engel, CEO and chief strategist for Spark Consulting, LLC.

The key is to figure out how your association, better than other organizations, can truly engage members and potential members. Thanks to 24-7 access to information, simply being experts in a field won’t cut it anymore. Your members can find information anytime, anywhere, with a click of mouse.

So how do associations compete? They should use their networks to build engaging communities and to listen to their members’ collective voice to learn what really matters, the whitepaper suggests. Associations should ask: What do our members really want to succeed? What are the needs and issues we can help address?

“Adopting the outside-in approach to engagement means your sole goal is to create value for members,” Engel and Caraveli said. “Everything else (program categories, mix of benefits, organizational structure) can be questioned, transformed or even eliminated as long as doing so solves your audiences’ problems and creates value that engages them.”

Some tips:

  • Ask people to contribute. Don’t just create products, events and resources you think people want. Instead, engage your members’ skill sets. Ask them to help create value.
  • Work toward providing your members’ goals – not your own. Get rid of the things that aren’t working and instead focus on those that are. The most engaged members are those who feel you truly care about their personal and professional development.
  • Include everyone, from every department, in your engagement strategy. It shouldn’t just be the job of the membership department. This means breaking down internal silos. It’s important for everyone to work as a team, rather than people looking out for themselves. Sometimes this means getting rid of the fat.
  • Act – don’t just talk. If you ask for members’ feedback, truly mean it. Be willing to make suggested changes. Remember: It’s not about sales; it’s about your members’ success.

It’s not easy, and it may require an entire shift of focus. Simply put: Associations may have to dump the old and bring in the new.

Anna Caraveli

Anna Caraveli, managing partner, The Demand Networks, LLC

But it’s worth it.

“Properly understood, engagement is nothing more or less than the development of real relationships with our members and other audiences,” Engel and Careveli wrote. “Authentic relationships take time to develop, involve increasing commitment on both sides, require us continually to be learning more about each other and are focused on helping each other achieve important goals. Through the process of developing genuine relationships, associations become necessary partners in helping our audiences achieve their most important goals, and we achieve our goals—to be financially healthy, vital, growing, mission-driven organizations—as a result.”

16
Jun
15

Is it time for an event sponsorships makeover?

Tara Ericson

Tara Ericson, group vice president at Naylor Association Solutions

This month’s guest blog post is by Tara Ericson, group vice president for Naylor Association Solutions, where she oversees group publishers and specialized industry market teams. It was originally published on Association Adviser.

Do you have a three-tiered (platinum, gold, silver) event sponsorship offering? Have you offered the same sponsorship opportunities year after year? Is your sponsorship revenue stagnant or declining?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, your exhibit and event sponsorship offerings may need a facelift.

Experts say 85 percent of a trade show’s revenue comes from selling exhibit space. The other 15 percent comes from sponsorship and advertising. According to Velvet Chainsaw, however, associations are shifting more effort into capitalizing on trade show sponsorships and advertising in response to vendors’ desires to reach potential customers in more meaningful, creative ways. Furthermore, vendors are relying on associations to come up with those creative ways to reach attendees before making a sponsorship investment.

If you’re already responsible for multiple parts of planning and executing an event, your sponsorships are likely on auto drive, and a total reinvention probably seems daunting. But don’t let the idea of reinventing sponsorships intimidate you. Here are five tips for growing your event sponsorship revenue.

Customization is in demand.

Based on the 2014 Association Benchmarking Report, only 42.8 percent (of association executives surveyed) said they were trying to customize their advertising/sponsorship programs to a company’s specific needs, and only 10.1 percent fully customize each sponsorship opportunity.

We encourage you to take a more sponsor-centric approach when developing your event sponsorship offerings. Building flexibility into your event sponsorship campaign allows the sponsor to tailor its messaging and branding more effectively toward your attendees.

Divide your sponsor prospects into different buckets to segment those prospects who are most likely to participate in a customized event sponsorship package. Use a consultative sales strategy in which you try to match your association’s event objectives and education track with your sponsor’s objectives and branding.

A good example of a customized of sponsorship might look like this: An event sponsor purchases a sponsorship package that includes a full-page ad in the association’s magazine, adjacent to an article related to its industry segment, that runs prior to the trade show. The ad directs readers to the sponsor’s booth. At the event, the sponsorship package includes signage at a specific education session that reaches the sponsor’s targeted attendees, permission to distribute a leave-behind, such as a key for each attendee, at the education sessions that will unlock a prize at the sponsor’s booth, and an online banner in the event’s daily e-newsletter.

Keep it fresh.

Associations that host events always need to look for and offer the next new thing in sponsorships to keep their event fresh for vendors. Combine innovative ideas with unique sponsorship opportunities to create new sponsorship revenue streams.

  • Main Lobby DJ Sponsorship: Music creates great ambiance, especially if it’s happy and upbeat. This approach allows the sponsor to have signage on the DJ table and to insert its own audio commercial every 10 minutes.
  • Cocktail Ice Luge Sponsorship: Sculpted ice structure with the association logo and sponsor logo. This provides great exposure in a fun and entertaining environment.
  • Product Developers Reception: An invitation-only gathering held during the larger show, at which guests hand-picked by the sponsor for their interest in the sponsor’s products can view a prototype and speak with the sponsor about its offerings.

Go REALLY BIG.

Have two or three high profile, exclusive sponsorship opportunities for vendors willing to invest a large sum to reach your members. Too often associations shy away from asking for the big dollars for fear of upsetting their membership or a lack of confidence that they will sell. But if you don’t offer it, you will never know if you are leaving money on the table.

The key to successfully selling these event sponsorships is to keep them big, loud and exclusive, which can be fun for you and for the vendor.

These loud sponsorship opportunities should come with the honor of having the sponsors’ brand in every single part of your event. Make a huge splash with marquee sponsorships so your vendor is portrayed as the king of the event, and no one is left to wonder who the premier sponsor was.

RT_SPONSORSHIPBut don’t forget the little guys!

While going big with your top sponsors, don’t forget to create some low-budget options for new companies entering the marketplace or for companies of any size that haven’t been doing business with you.

Associations should work with sponsors to find a price point that is mutually agreeable when introducing new event sponsorship offerings or when working with a first-time sponsor. However, if you offer a discounted rate, always note the original price on the invoice and reflect the savings so your sponsor will anticipate having to pay the full price upon renewal.

Give sponsors what they really want

Your greatest asset is your membership, and your sponsors are willing to pay for time with members. Sponsors appreciate the branding opportunities that signage and swag offer, but being able to talk directly with their target market is the most coveted benefit your custom sponsorships can offer. Meeting with vendors at events saves members some legwork and often creates awareness of solutions they didn’t know exist. Incorporate access to your members into your sponsorship packages through appointment-based sessions, promotional emails, print and digital media, VIP cocktail parties and speaking opportunities.

09
Jun
15

Time to breathe…and think long-term

Strategy-Small1Meeting professionals are some of the busiest people I know.

But thanks to periods of economic stability, for the first time in a decade, these always-on-go folks will have time to take a breath and think strategically, according to Meeting Professionals International’s Meetings Outlook, 2015 Spring Edition. It was developed in partnership with Visit Denver.

This year has been, and will continue to be, defined by intelligent growth for the meetings and events industry, the report found.

For starters, 60 percent of survey respondents predict an increase in live events, while 56 percent predict an increase in virtual events. Part of the reason: Young professionals are realizing the value of face-to-face networking.

Other key findings:

  • 74 percent of those surveyed predict better business conditions.
  • Industry professionals plan to use mobile apps more strategically this year, including location-based technology for session check-ins and networking.
  • Budgets are still a concern, so organizations plan to host more local meetings, compress meetings into shorter times and increase use of technology.

“It takes opportunity, resources and the desire to be able to think strategically to consider how to improve relationships and to be smarter with how folks use the tools in their toolbox,” said Bill Voegeli (MPI Georgia Chapter), president of Association Insights — the company that conducts the Meetings Outlook research. “Now is one of those rare times.”

While this is good news, opportunities also bring challenges. For instance, it’s a sellers’ market, so meeting professionals will need to contend with shorter lead times. As such, pop-up meetings are becoming more common. And sometimes, when attendance is low, venues tack on charges.

shaking-handsIn addition, with the increase in live events comes the need to build face-to-face communication skills (much tougher than communicating behind a screen).

Budgets are increasing, but with a planned uptick in live events, resources won’t go as far. At the same time, food and beverage costs have increased, so organizations will need to come up with creative budget solutions (i.e. purchasing their own AV equipment, rather than renting from a venue.) The key: During budget planning, think long-term and out of the box.

It’s an exciting time for meeting professionals, and to help foster success, MPI lists some tips in its report:

  • Offer attendees more engagement while gathering more data through your apps to help inform future meeting design.
  • Crowdsource: Publicly display social media posts from attendees, such as comments and photos.
  • Make your eRFPs pop with clear details, and consider working with CVBs to streamline the process.

“All of this is opening a new era for meetings, as attendee behavior data is going to explode — and it will help in shaping meeting design in multiple areas,” said Christian Savelli, senior director of business intelligence and research for MPI.

What do you think? Does your organization have a strategic plan? Are you doing things differently? Let us know.

03
Jun
15

Is your organization mobile app ready?

Whether or not your association currently utilizes a mobile app for its annual meeting or as part of a larger, annual engagement strategy, the question remains: Just how ready is your organization to deploy a mobile app?

Recently, I had the opportunity to utilize my mobile app prowess – as a former education director and current learning strategist – to partner with mobile engagement company Results at Hand to develop a simple, 16-question Mobile App Readiness Assessment.

Today, you are invited to take part in this brief assessment at no cost to you. With only 16 questions to answer, you’ll receive a unique score and relevant resources tailored to your results immediately upon completion. Assessment topics include intended audience, preferred features, adoption rationale and more.

The results from this assessment will be used to draw conclusions about the current state of mobile practices within the association community, and will offer thoughtful insights and actionable recommendations that may be used by organizations like yours in future benchmarking and strategic planning efforts.

1367683_origThere is no compensation for responding to this assessment; however, all respondents who complete it are eligible for a complimentary copy of the final report resulting from this research. If you choose to participate, please answer all questions as honestly and as completely as possible. Participation is strictly voluntary and you may discontinue participation at any time. Completion of the assessment will indicate your willingness to participate in this study.

Thank you, in advance, for taking part in this valuable research. Should you have questions or require additional information, please contact me.

To begin, click this link. As you complete the assessment, please select the one response—unless otherwise indicated—that best describes your answer to each question. All reported data will be shared in aggregate form only. No individual data will be released.

Thank you again for your participation. We look forward to sharing the results with you later this year. In the meantime, if you’re craving more mobile resources, check out these 17 Stats for the Mobile Skeptic or these 2015 Strategic Mobile Trends for Associations and Event Leaders.

28
May
15

Bonus Content – Event Garde e-news – June edition

Amanda Toy, associate director of sales, Greater Lansing Convention & Visitors Bureau

Amanda Toy, associate director of sales, Greater Lansing Convention & Visitors Bureau

Q & A with Amanda Toy, associate director of sales, Greater Lansing Convention & Visitors Bureau

Q: It’s a beautiful summer day in Michigan. What would we most likely find you doing? 
A: I hear it is supposed to be nice, mild weather this summer: my favorite! You will either find me taking adventurous walks with the kiddos at one of Greater Lansing’s awesome parks or enjoying a cool summer drink on the back deck with my hubby.

Q: Would you rather swim in a pool, lake or ocean…and why? 
A: If I can see my toes, I vote for the lake!  There is nothing that shouts “Pure Michigan” like wading around in one of our GREAT lakes.

Q: What’s your favorite summer vacation spot?
A: Kayaking is the best (usually with a kiddo riding along).  So relaxing!

Q: If you could be a summer cocktail, what would your name be and what would you taste like?
A: “Summer Chill!”  Mint, gin, sprite, raspberries and blueberries.

Q: What’s your favorite summer smell? Summer taste? Summer feel?
A: Smelling the lilacs in spring reminds me of the green, warm summer right around the corner. BBQ chicken with fresh fruit is a summer must. I’m not one who likes to be hot, so a cool breeze on an early morning walk is the best feeling of summer!

26
May
15

3 E-learning Myths It’s Time to Put to Bed

Jeff Cobb

Jeff Cobb, co-founder of Tagoras Inc.

This month’s guest blog post is by Jeff Cobb, co-founder of Tagoras and co-host of the annual Leading Learning Symposium, a high impact event for leaders in the business of lifelong learning, continuing education and professional development. It was originally published on the CommPartners blog.

With the global e-learning market now valued at more than $100 billion, we are well past the point where e-learning is simply a trend. It has become a fact of life for learners of all ages, and particularly for those who are coming up through the K-12 and higher education systems – in other words, future association members and lifelong learning customers.

In spite of this shift, there is often still reluctance on the part of organizations to fully embrace e-learning and promote it as a flagship offering. In my experience, there are three key myths at the root of this reluctance and it is past time to dispel each of them once and for all.

Myth No. 1: E-learning is not as effective as classroom-based learning

There is – and has been for decades – a reliable, valid body of research that refutes this claim. As Ruth Clark and Richard Mayer put it in their classic E-learning and the Science of Instruction:

“From the plethora of media comparison research conducted over the past sixty years, we have learned that it’s not the delivery medium, but rather the instructional methods that cause learning. When the instructional methods remain essentially the same, so does the learning, no matter which medium is used to deliver instruction. [13-14]”

In other words, if appropriate methods for achieving the desired learning objectives are used, the medium (e.g., online or classroom) matters relatively little.

Perceptions of e-learning tend to suffer from the fact that it is often designed poorly, but in most cases, dramatic improvements can be made with relatively straightforward changes and without breaking the bank. I recommend Clark and Mayer’s book as the first place to look for actionable suggestions.

Myth No. 2: Creating interactivity in e-learning costs a lot

In my experience, this myth springs from a misunderstanding of what “interactivity” means. The default assumption seems to be that it involves adding animation and game-like elements to courses, but effective interaction can be achieved with much simpler methods.

Whether in live or self-paced e-learning, simply posing reflective questions or scenarios to learners is arguably a form of interaction – one that can be enhanced by having the learners respond via chat or discussion board. And simple quizzing is another. Indeed, low-stakes quizzing throughout a learning experience has been shown to be one of the most effective ways to make learning stick. Another is to have learners download worksheets they can make use of before, during or after a course experience.

Of course, if you do want to add animation or game elements to your e-learning experiences, even the cost of doing that has dropped through the floor. Many self-paced e-learning authoring tools now provide a variety of ways for adding in software-based interactive elements with no programming knowledge at all. Used judiciously in combination with some of the other options suggested above, these tools can empower organizations to create highly interactive e-learning without breaking the bank.

E-learning Concept. Computer KeyboardMyth No. 3: People won’t pay for e-learning

This one has staged something of a comeback with the rise of MOOCs and other free content, but it doesn’t take much more than observation and common sense to dispel it.

People have been paying thousands, even tens of thousands of dollars, for online degrees for decades now. The online training site Lynda.com, recently acquired by LinkedIn for $1.5 billion, was operating profitably on around $150 million dollars a year in revenue at the time of the acquisition. I routinely consult with associations that have e-learning businesses generating hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars.

I could go on and on, but the point is that it has been clear for ages that people will pay for e-learning that actually delivers value. The rise of “free” content has not and will not change that. What it has changed and will continue to change is the imperative to actually deliver and prove you are delivering value with your e-learning (and all of your other educational offerings, for that matter). If you are having trouble getting people to pay for your e-learning, value is the first issue to investigate.

So there you have it: It is possible to create e-learning that is as effective as classroom-based learning, provide for interactivity at reasonable cost and assuming you do these things and communicate the results effectively, charge appropriately for it.

And that’s no myth.




meet aaron

Association learning strategist & meetings coach. Founder & president of Event Garde. Passionate about cooking, running, blogging, old homes, unclehood & pet parenting (thanks to Lillie the pup).

meet kristen

Writer, editor, public relations professional. Digital content manager. Proud mom of three. Total word geek. Spartan for life.

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