Posts Tagged ‘associations

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.

14
Apr
15

Can associations keep pace in the tech race?

This month’s guest blog post is adapted from an original by Hank Berkowitz, moderator in chief of Association Adviser eNews. He wears many hats, however, and to see those, visit his LinkedIn profile.

Hank Berkowitz

Hank Berkowitz, moderator in chief of Association Adviser eNews.

About 60 percent of respondents to our latest unscientific reader poll said they’ve encountered more surprises in technology over the past 12 months than in any other area of association management. That includes membership growth, non-dues revenue, social media and Big Data.

Associations are generally not early adopters of technology, but they are taking steps to close the knowledge gap.

According to Fara Francis, chief information officer of The Associated General Contractors of America, association leadership now welcomes IT to sit at the table to participate in identifying the organization’s business strategy and goals.

“With this posture, technology is now given significant consideration in most associations and as such, a plethora of technology trends are now being adopted and implemented,” she said.

Staying current in this age of “throw-away technology” is a huge challenge for every organization she’s involved with, said Patti Stirk, a long-time IT services entrepreneur and now an investor and adviser to AgeCheq, which creates technology to protect children’s online privacy.

“Not staying current with electronic payment methods and communication methods risks disenfranchising donors,” she said. “It’s no longer simply about email and a Web page.”

Mobile
Members of all ages, not just up-and-comers, are likely interacting with you via a mobile device. That wasn’t always the case five years ago.

According to Naylor’s chief innovation officer Marcus Underwood, as the typical screen size has grown rapidly, so has the way in which people use their devices.

“In the past, messaging and searching for quick answers (through search engines) dominated the usage,” Underwood said. “Larger screen sizes have led to increased consumption of in-depth content. The types of content (articles, video, blogs) allow associations to communicate with their members in ways never before possible.

“This larger screen size has also freed up space that can be used for advertising or sponsorship. This is key for many associations as the non-dues revenue model is often necessary to pay for these new content streams.”

That’s also why designing your sites with responsive design—the ability to experience optimal viewing of a website from any source: web, phone or tablet — is “now mandatory,” explained AGC’s Francis.

As David Trust, CEO of the Professional Photographers Association said, “Trying to do business without tapping into all of the ways people communicate these days is like trying to hold back the tide with a sandcastle.”

Of course, no discussion about mobile technology would be complete without a nod to the explosion of mobile apps. Nearly half (42 percent) of respondents to our unscientific reader poll said mobile apps have had a bigger impact on their association than any other factor. No other tech development came close.

Underwood said gamification is one way that associations have rapidly boosted engagement with their mobile apps. And he said associations can now make content mobile accessible without having to rely on native applications that must be managed through a third party.

“Making your content mobile and web-friendly is far more cost-effective, and it doesn’t require specific downloads,” Underwood said. “The vast majority of ways an association needs to communicate with its customers can be done through smart, adaptive mobile web design.”

technology-727x350Marketing Automation
Another important trend we’ve seen is the number of associations now using marketing automation platforms to automate repetitive member communication tasks. MAPs also enable you to market to members selectively and with more relevance on multiple channels, including email, social media, websites and more.

Chad Lloyd, marketing manager of Boxwood Career Solutions, said MAPs help associations connect to members at the “appropriate time” and on a “personal level” so that your communications seem as though they were created just for that one single member.

Whether built in-house or more often licensed from vendors, MAPs use “digital body language tracking” so you are able to understand exactly what your members and prospective members are interested in and customize your communications with them, Lloyd said. That, he said, has gone a long way toward helping associations avoid two of the biggest member long-time member irritants: (a) Marketing to folks who aren’t interested in what you are sharing and (b) burning your list by over-communicating with your contacts and causing them to opt out of your communications.

07
Apr
15

Social butterflies may learn the most

social_mediaMaybe one of the reasons I love Pinterest so much is that I’ve learned how to use basic household substances to remove stains; how to make cute Thanksgiving pinecone turkeys; how to make pasta from squash; and the list goes on and on.

In other words, I’ve admittedly expanded my horizons with social media.

By now, you know I’m an avid user of Facebook and Twitter, partly because I realize the potential of social media to educate. Yep, I said it: It’s possible to learn from social media.

In fact, the term is “social learning,” and associations are slowly embracing it as part of their learning efforts.

Last April, consulting firm Tagoras conducted an informal survey about associations’ use of social technologies for learning products and/or services, and shortly thereafter released a whitepaper on the topic.

Social technologies are defined as any technology that allows users to communicate with each other via the Internet or cellular networks to share videos, graphics, etc. Examples: blogs, discussion boards, social networks (Facebook, LinkedIn), YouTube and podcasts.

Of the 102 respondents, more than half reported they use social technologies for learning, with 25 percent indicating plans to do so within the year. Not surprisingly, YouTube ranked No. 1, followed by discussion forums and Twitter. Facebook and LinkedIn, thanks to their discussion capabilities, were also popular.

In addition, a placed-based annual meeting of members was the No. 1 type of learning product associated with social technologies.

So why should associations adopt social learning, according to Tagoras?

  • It’s a natural fit. Associations are social in nature, striving to connect people with similar wants and needs. So social tools – for which there are groups, pages and forums to bring together passions – simply make sense.
  • Social learning boosts retention. Discussion forums allow users to learn from each other by asking questions, sharing ideas and reinforcing concepts from classes, while also fostering the building of networks.
  • It’s ongoing. Often, learners attend a class and after it’s over never revisit the knowledge they gained. But by using a blog or WiKi, users can revisit archived topics anytime.
  • Social learning is motivational. It’s exciting to see classmates, colleagues and peers succeed and social media and social technologies make it easy to share such news.

social-learning_smallThe Tagoras whitepaper cites several examples of associations that have successfully used social learning. But in short: Twitter chats; Facebook discussions in which people answer a question or respond to a comment and to each other; and live-tweeting during a conference.

If participation is a concern, associations can require members to participate in weekly discussion forums, contribute blog posts and participate in Twitter chats or Google hangouts.

All this said, the Tagoras survey found most associations don’t have a social learning strategy in place. At the same time, respondents indicated lack of resources and budget as top barriers for dabbling in social media. And some associations fear their staff isn’t skilled enough to successfully engage in social learning.

Nevertheless, efforts don’t have to be expensive or complicated, Tagoras says.

“Given that social learning is effective, why not try it, if you’re not already?” it wrote. “To our minds, the case for social learning is made, and the question at hand is not whether to make use of it but how to incorporate it as effectively, as strategically as possible.”

31
Mar
15

Nonprofits and associations are hiring…even in a candidate’s market

Now hiringWe’re nearing college commencement season. In about six to eight weeks, excited college graduates around the country will don their caps and gowns, ready to hit the workforce with enthusiasm and a bit of trepidation.

And so, once again, we’re reading a lot about hiring – and in some cases, lack thereof.

But there’s good news for graduates and jobseekers in general: Associations and nonprofits are hiring.

According to a recent report by Professionals for Nonprofits, nearly 60 percent of nonprofits increased their staff size in 2014 and 55 percent plan to add staff this year. And, with demand exceeding supply, salaries are on the rise.

In fact, 70 percent of the organizations reported two to 10 vacancies in their organizations. As for hiring priorities, fundraising and membership tied at No. 1, with marketing and communications taking the No. 2 slot, followed by technology.

“In a major shift from 2014-2015, our survey results show that it has become a candidate’s market, increasing the challenge for nonprofit managers to find and hire the staff they need and to pay the higher salaries required,” the report says.

And demographics are shifting. Gen X – those born from 1965 to 1981 – still make up most of the workforce. After a few years under their belt, these employees are ready for leadership positions. That opens the door for Gen Y staffers – those 32 years old or younger – who now comprise half the workforce, as reported in the study.

Gen hiresWith the shift comes changing expectations and skill sets. Gen Y is ripe with entrepreneurial spirit, independence and technologically-savvy minds. They know they’ve got the leg up, which means hiring has become more difficult for nonprofits, the report found. Job seekers can afford to be a bit more selective. Not surprisingly, the top reason for turning down a job offer was compensation. The second reason? A perceived lack of growth opportunities.

So what does this mean for associations and nonprofits?

PNP offers some tips on hiring:

  • Pay competitive salaries
  • Foster a positive workplace culture and environment
  • Cultivate opportunities for growth, training and professional development
  • Avoid a lengthy hiring process so “the good ones” don’t get away
  • Be clear about job responsibilities and rewards
  • Look for potential leadership capabilities in staff and new hires

All this said, here’s my two cents. My first job out of college was working for an association, from which I moved to another association. Neither was afraid to take a chance on a recent college graduate, and showed it by offering me competitive compensation and fun, inspiring work environments.

Both jobs (in the editorial and communications division) were incredible experiences, so I encourage you to tap into the newly graduated young professionals in your area.

24
Mar
15

Time for a MOOC-like makeover

moocMassive Open Online Courses. The public seems to embrace them, while higher education remains skeptical of their educational value.

But either way, MOOCs probably aren’t going anywhere, so it’s wise to take some tips from their success.

So what’s a MOOC? Essentially, it’s a teaching format that’s open and accessible to learners around the globe, provided they have Internet access. A MOOC is a social, networked learning experience that blends a subject matter expert (instructor), technology and convenience. In other words: a hybrid-learning format that appeals to today’s 24-7 learners.

In the background, a successful learning management system is key to operating a successful MOOC. Many associations already employ a LMS, and since they retain experts in niche and trendy areas, they’re prime to offer their members a MOOC-like learning opportunity.

That’s according to Web Courseworks, a learning technologies and consulting company. It recently released a whitepaper with 10 tips for instructional designers and LMS administrators, inspired by the success of MOOCs.

There are MOOC-like things associations can do to entice learners. Since associations are nimble and can respond quickly to industry trends (much more quickly than higher education institutions can), associations are prime MOOC providers, the whitepaper says.

Associations need three things: people (SMEs, instructional designers, LMS administrators), processes (course development, marketing) and technology (video, left-navigation layout).

“Professional and industry associations … don’t have obligations to a tenured faculty, so they can recruit faculty based on what content is in high demand; and their members are applying new knowledge and techniques in the field, giving them the ability to provide valuable job-related training,” the authors wrote. “Learners should be turning to your association to fill gaps in academic training and address evolving standards and techniques within a community of practice. Use the promotional power of a MOOC to ‘claim’ a hot topic and gain recognition as the go-to source for related educational material. A timely MOOC is a great way to connect educational and marketing goals.”

Word of caution: A MOOC isn’t a webinar and it’s not a regurgitation of a PowerPoint presentation.

Yes, put your SME on screen, but involve your instructional designer. Rather than overloading learners’ brains with a massive amount of information, Web Courseworks suggests chunking up information – in short segments – based on learning objectives.

mooc.org_And it’s important to check in with your learners to make sure they “get” it. The whitepaper suggests offering two- to five-minute video segments, with a check-in wedged between segments. Simple multiple-choice questions, or weekly quizzes with unlimited attempts and feedback, work well. Of course, this means LMS administrators need to ensure systems are capable of importing and exporting questions and managing social learning elements.

Perhaps the biggest draw of a MOOC is its social learning function. It’s impossible for an instructor to answer all questions, so students rely on each other for assistance. Discussion forums, in which peer feedback can occur, are musts for MOOCs, the whitepaper says.

Of course, all of this is moot if learners aren’t motivated. So, try offering digital badges and certificates (shareable on social media) for credit completion or educational advances.

Oh. And MOOCs are generally free, or at least low cost.

“Think of a MOOC as an entry point for members into your educational offerings,” Websource says. “It can be the ‘loss leader’ that grabs the attention of learners and promotes premium items in a course catalog. Advertise related course offerings within a MOOC, or use it to satisfy prerequisites for a larger certification program. Transform ‘free’ into ‘freemium’ by offering a MOOC as a small piece of a larger professional development and certification puzzle.”

What do you think? Does your association offer a MOOC? Or, do you offer webinars that could be transformed into MOOC-like offerings? Share your advice here.

In the meantime, check out a previous blog post on MOOCs.




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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