Category Archives: High Performance Organization

To Join or Not to Join – Why Is That a Question? Insight from a Millennial.

Millennials

Written by Anne Mazile – Manager, Marketing

As a young professional in today’s workforce, I always enjoy hearing about my colleagues’ experiences. Whether they’ve been in the workforce for 25 months or 25 years, hearing others talk about their past adventures is always fascinating. Changes in technology, work-life balance and work culture are just a few of the important shifts in offices around the world.

Attitudes about membership associations have also changed. In the past, joining an association was a no brainer. At times, joining an association was the only way to get access to valuable resources and networking opportunities. These days, connecting electronically is often cheaper than the traditional face to face conversation. Also, finding industry information has never been easier. All you need is an electronic device with an internet connection to access the latest news.

Why should young professionals join associations? Simply put, why not?

  • Information Resource. Membership associations are still a great resource for information. Associations are a great starting point to get industry perspective and insights. The content provided by associations are curated to cater to you and your industry. Researching information online might be more accessible today but time is everything. Let the association do the legwork for you!
  • Professional Development. Associations also offer numerous opportunities to perfect your skills. Young professionals can gain new skills that can help them excel in current and future jobs.
  • Networking Opportunities. Make connections and grow your network! Networking opportunities are still a big part of many associations’ member value. Mentorship programs are also a great benefit.

Tips for joining an association:

  • Ask for financial assistance. Associations are a great resource. But, financially, they may not be accessible to everyone. Paying for a membership out of pocket can be an hindrance to joining an association. Ask your employer if they would consider paying for your membership for your professional development. In the end, they’ll also benefit from your engagement.
  • Pick the membership that works for you. Many times, associations offer varying levels of membership. Make sure to pick the category that fits you best. You want to get the best value for your membership.
  • Get involved. Paying for a membership is one thing. Using the resources is another. Researching and evaluating the available opportunities may be a big undertaking at first but, over time, the tools you use may offset the cost of your membership.

Joining an association may be considered to be old hat by some but I would encourage others to look into associations that cater not only to their professional life but personal as well. Find resources that aid your professional and personal life outside of your bubble! Ideas that work for one group may work for yours. I always want to learn new life hacks and time management tips! The old adage that there’s an association for everything still rings true today. Find the hat that fits – it’s out there!

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Filed under Association, Association Management, Association Management Issues, Governance, High Performance Organization, Leadership, Member Education, Member Engagement, Member Value Proposition, Volunteer Engagement

What’s the Recipe for Your Member Value Proposition (MVP)? 3 Tips for your Success.

meal-salad-steakYou know that you’re offering great value to your members but are your directors and staff clear on what it is? Are they all on the same page, singing the same tune? Or do they get flustered when they are asked to explain your association’s value to a non-member?

Your MVP is the bedrock of your association and it deserves special attention.

  1. Is your MVP clearly articulated and compelling? Your MVP is not a list of member services. It is a statement of highly relevant value expressed from the perspective of the member. It answers the WIIFM question.
  2. Can your directors and staff all state the MVP in their own words and give real-life examples?

Your MVP is a meal. It’s a combination of comfort (carbohydrates), critical resources (protein) and freshness (vegetables). Here’s the recipe.

Carbohydrates (Comfort): This element of member value is about belonging. Your members feel part of the bigger picture. They share common issues and needs and they connect with other members who “get it.” They recognize we’re all in this together. That sense of belonging = COMFORT.

Protein (Critical resources): This element of member value is about the resources that members receive. It may be stakeholder relations, up-to-the-minute information, or connections that increase business. This is the “meat” of your MVP. Engaged members use your resources for the benefit of their career and/or their business.

Vegetables (Freshness): This element of member value is about mixing it up and keeping your events and programs new, changing and exciting. Be brave and change at least one thing each year. If you keep serving the same meal your members will get bored. Take a chance on something new!

There are three key elements to defining, using and delivering on your MVP.

  1. Take the time and effort to develop a compelling MVP.
  2. Train, train and retrain your directors and staff so they can confidently state the MVP in their own words and give real-life examples of how the association has helped individual members. Encourage your directors to add a personal note that describes how the association helps them specifically.
  3. Keep your MVP delivery fresh and interesting. Don’t get stuck in a rut

Want some help with your MVP? Find out more.

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Filed under Association Management, Event Planning, Governance, High Performance Organization, Member Education, Member Engagement, Member Value Proposition

How To Attract More Exhibitors To Your Trade Show

Trade show concept.In today’s trade show world, exhibitors are questioning the ROI (Return on Investment) of participating in trade shows. What’s the problem?  Here’s what going on.

  • Many trade shows are faltering and this taints the value of the successful trade shows
  • It’s difficult for exhibitors to quantify the value of lead generation at a trade show
  • It’s expensive. The cost of exhibiting is much higher than just the cost of a booth
  • Booth staff have to work at odd times (weekends, evenings, etc.)
  • It’s the same show every single year; same old thing

Many trade show hosts are focused more on generating revenue from their exhibitors, through booth sales and sponsorships, then they are delivering value and returns back to their exhibitors.  This in turn makes exhibitors and sponsors feel neglected.

Others feel that simply making more calls or increasing the frequency of their email blasts/social media posts will be the magic elixir.  It’s much more than a numbers game.  It’s about delivering a compelling and demonstrable ROI to exhibitors and sponsors.

Here are our tips for success:

Tip 1 – Work WITH exhibitors to achieve goals

  1. Ask Questions, LISTEN, and deliver – What are their goals? How can you help them achieve them?  By asking, listening, and helping, you have a much better chance of making the sale.
  2. Partner with them – Make them feel they have ownership in the show.
  3. Collect and share attendee data. Use your registration system to collect useful data about attendees.  What buying decisions do they make or influences?
  4. Testimonials – Collect quotes and/or videos from exhibitors. What value did they get from exhibiting at the show?

Tip 2 – Focus on attracting qualified buyers to your show

  1. Give your exhibitors discount codes to send to their contacts/sales leads.
  2. Partner with other shows to cross-promote each others’ events.
  3. Source a list of qualified buyers and invite them personally to the show.
  4. Look at offering special shuttles to pick-up VIP buyers and offer other incentives to entice them to come to the show.
  5. Make a list of the top 20 to 30 qualified buyer companies, and make a personal visit to them to find out what their goals are for your show. Share this with your exhibitors – existing and potential.
  6. Testimonials – Collect quotes and/or video from attendees. What value did they get from attending the show?

Tip 3 – Convert pre-registrants into actual onsite attendees

  1. Starting 4 weeks before the show, inform them why they must NOT miss the show.
  2. Profile exhibitors and floor demos.
    1. Who is showing a NEW product?
    2. Who are NEW exhibitors?
    3. What are the on-floor demos?
  3. Offer incentives to attend. If they show up, they will receive further discounts from selected exhibitors, on future association events, or any other incentives.
  4. Make scheduled appointments at the show between exhibitors and buyers. That will help ensure that they commit to the show.

Tip 4 – Have exhibitor demos on the show floor

  1. Give a select few some extra space to perform “in-booth” / hands-on experiences in their booth at scheduled times (multiple times over multiple days if needed).
  2. Create a demonstration area where multiple exhibitors can come together to produce a group demo where all the pieces come together.

Tip 5 – Offer an Exhibitor Concierge

  1. A single point of contact to help exhibitors achieve their ROI.
  2. Help them plan their booth.
  3. Help them train their booth staff.
  4. Offer helpful tips on exhibiting.

Tip 6 – Create a pre-recorded webinar

  1. Provide tips for success at the show.

Tip 7 – Keep It Fresh

  1. Change it up every show.
  2. Reward large space and long-term exhibitors with prime space or first choice of location.
  3. See what new technology can be used in booths and on your show floor.
  4. Go back to old ideas that can be re-used. Just because it’s old doesn’t mean it won’t work again.

All these tips, or even just some of them, will help start the process of gaining new exhibitors, new attendees and putting life back into your show.   If you can do only one thing – PLEASE LISTEN!

Are you looking to take your show to the next level?   Contact Erik Naar to learn how we can help!

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Filed under Association Management, Association Management Issues, Event Planning, High Performance Organization, Sponsor Value Proposition, Sponsorship, Successful Conferences, Tradeshows

Failing Fast, Hard and Often – How to use strategic risk strategies to succeed

FailChange is critical. It’s also risky. There are 4 inescapable facts to keep in mind.

  1. We cannot succeed without regular, meaningful change
  2. Some changes will fail
  3. Some changes will fail at first but become successful over time
  4. There will always be a vocal contingent of opposition

There are some changes that are simply essential. You have to do them on an ongoing basis.

Events

Don’t keep serving the same meal. No matter how good it is, people will tire of it. Even if your event is awesome in every way, it will die if you don’t keep it fresh. Also, don’t forget to keep your event price current. Make sure you know your costs and that your price at least ensures break-even.

Member Programs

Keep ahead of the curve. The content, format and delivery of your member programs must continuously position your association as the leader in your sector. Take a chance on radical new ideas for content. Borrow ideas that are working in other industries and professions.

Member Discount Partners

These are the companies you partner with to deliver their services to your members at a special member price. Are your partners working with you to deliver great value to your members? Or not? It’s better to have one great partner that values their relationship with you than many who deliver sporadic, inattentive service to your members. If a member is disappointed with their first call to a partner, they’re not likely to continue down the list. They’ll just assume the whole program is of no value.

Membership

As your industry or profession evolves, it’s important to ensure your membership categories are keeping up with the changes in your sector. Are they still relevant or do they need revisions? It’s also critical to increase member prices on a regular basis. Remember, your costs go up every year. If membership prices do not go up by at least the cost of living each year, you’ll be forced to make a large price increase down the road.

Tips for Pricing

  1. Communicate increases well in advance
  2. Use association leaders as advocates
  3. Keep increases regular, to keep them small

Tips for Member Categories

  1. Keep it simple: No more than 3 categories
  2. Do market research in advance: Where is there potential confusion? Who will be impacted?
  3. Get feedback
  4. Communicate, communicate, remind

 Managing the Opposition

There will always be opposition to change and often the most vocal opponents are long-term, highly influential members. Sometimes they fear losing the comfort of a known quantity. Sometimes they resent the dismantling of a program or event that they helped initiate years ago. How do you deal with the opponents?

  1. Bring them inside the tent. Invite them to be on a task force or committee that’s driving change. If they feel they have input to the future, they are more likely to want to be part of it.
  1. Keep communication open. Don’t hide from the opposition. Keep the lines of communication positive and open and build relationships on common ground.
  2. Nothing works better than success. Keep putting one foot in front of the other. Every successful change weakens the opposition to change.

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Filed under Association, Association Management, Association Management Issues, Event Planning, High Performance Organization, Issues Management, Member Engagement, Member Value Proposition, Successful Conferences

Association Trends – What’s Happening in Europe?

Dutch DelegationBy Asif Ahmed, Manager at Zzeem

Zzeem recently hosted an European-Canadian summit to exchange views on how associations and Association Management Companies (AMCs) operate across Canada and abroad. The 10-member delegation represented various Dutch associations and AMCs. There seemed to be a lot of similarities and differences between Europe and Canada not only in the way associations are run but also in what members perceive as value.

Current research demonstrates that networking is the major reason why people become members of an association in North America. Similarly, it stands true for the Dutch too. One member of the delegation noted that “an opportunity to meet peers and socialize” is the reason why people join an association and go to events. It’s the member to member interaction that everyone is looking for whether it be in Europe or North America. The other similarity that I observed was the fact that their members are looking for smaller, more intimate events where there are more opportunities to talk to the attendees as opposed to the big conferences with umpteen education sessions where people are busy trying to catch the next session.

One of the associations in the Netherlands has had huge success in achieving record attendance at their events by making them free for members to attend. The story doesn’t end there. They have gone a step further by penalizing the no-shows. Yes you read it right! They charge 30 Euros (CAN $45) as they consider it to be disrespectful to register and not show up at the event.

In The Netherlands, they have incorporated XDP which stands for Xperience Design Project.

The next generation of conferences are evolving as multidisciplinary, experiential marketing platforms to better personalize the learning and networking options for attendees. They’re also a hell of a lot more fun.

— Greg Oates

This is fairly a new phenomenon for the North American market. So what is XDP? It is an event built specifically for leaders who plan, design, execute, and support association events and want to:

  • Attract and invite the right people to their events
  • Create positive experiences for the audience before, during, and after the event
  • Keep attendees engaged and, most importantly, coming back

Young Professionals Network (YPN) is yet another growing trend that all parties are experiencing with respect to the structure of their associations. The Europeans have made great strides to empower the younger members by letting them have their own Board and budget for events, which is laudable. However, the challenge they’re facing is the transition for the young professionals to move over to engagement in the ‘regular’ association (for a lack of a better word) once they have crossed 40.

At the end of the day, it was a very meaningful exchange and my regret is that we didn’t get a chance to record the audio of the conversation. Nonetheless, I am happy that they left with some sweet memories – of the mutual learning and the Timbits that we ordered.

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Filed under Association, Association Management, Association Management Issues, Governance, High Performance Organization, Leadership, Member Education, Member Engagement, Member Value Proposition, Volunteer Engagement

Even Associations Experience the “Seven Year Itch”

Seven Year ItchThe “Seven Year Itch” is more than just a romantic notion made famous by Hollywood, where partners take stock of their relationship and decide whether it’s working or it’s time to find something new and “better”.

This also happens to associations and their association management partners.

After all, association management is like any other relationship. In the beginning, each partner is excited and looks forward to a great future together. However, after a time, the “honeymoon period” comes to an end; reality sets in and both parties realize neither one is perfect.

It is at this point that both parties must address any challenges or concerns that arise – real or perceived – in a timely, open way. Otherwise, one or both run the risk of becoming resentful and dissatisfied. These negative feelings can further fester and negatively impact the relationship.

Communication is key to managing the “itch”! – 4 tips

  1.  The moment you think you have an issue – big or small, address it right away.
  2. Keep all conversations open, honest and constructive with solutions and measures of future success identified.
  3. Coordinate quarterly “touchpoint” meetings with the association’s leadership and the association management executives to discuss the relationship. This is when you both highlight what works and where improvements can be made.
  4. Once a year, conduct a more in-depth annual review that includes board and staff feedback prior to your discussion.

Don’t be intimidated by the “Seven Year Itch”.

I am aware of many associations who periodically evaluate their management services and/or conduct an RFP process to compare other services and fees – often around the seven-year timeframe. This is healthy and is a great opportunity for each partner to assess the current and future relationship. It represents a new stage in your relationship, where both of you have the opportunity to build upon what you have accomplished together.

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Filed under Association Management, Association Management Issues, High Performance Organization, Issues Management, Leadership

Have We Turned the Corner? 2016 Benchmark Survey Highlights

Survey Image-2Zzeem conducted the fifth annual survey of Canadian membership organizations for 2016. The numbers tell an interesting story. Below is a short synopsis.

NOTE: A more detailed summary is available here.

In a nutshell, associations are not out of the woods yet, but we may have reached a plateau from which we can move upward. Industry and trade associations are lagging professional associations so for them, it may take a little longer.

Finances

Trend in Membership Numbers, Revenue

Each year, respondents are asked for the 3-year trend in their membership numbers and gross revenue. Last year we saw a sharp spike upward in the respondents who were reporting a downward membership trend and a more muted but still meaningful increase in the respondents reporting a downward revenue trend.

This appears to have stabilized in 2016. In 2016 we saw a sharp increase in the number of respondents showing a flat trend in both membership and revenue. Although the percentage of respondents showing an upward trend has been steadily declining since 2013, the rate of increase in the downward trend has substantially abated.

Current survey results in the U.S. are showing an uptrend for associations. If Canada follows the U.S. as we often do, this trend may be reflected in Canada in the not too distant future.

Reserves

Financial reserves have increased substantially from 2015. The percentage of respondents with a surplus that would cover more than 1 year of operating expenses has increased from 36% to 56%.

Industry/Trade Associations versus Professional Associations

The 2016 survey shows that industry and trade associations are more likely to be struggling in the current environment than are professional associations. The reasons for this may be related to the following facts:

  1. Corporate Membership. Industry and trade organizations are much more likely to have corporate rather than individual members. The employees who are the direct users of member services are often not the decision-makers who approve the member dues payment. If the decision-maker is not aware of the member value, and/or if cost reduction is on the agenda, then memberships are vulnerable.
  2. Amalgamations/Takeovers. Canada has seen considerable consolidation in its corporate landscape over the past few years. When 2 companies combine, one membership is lost to the association. Also, when a Canadian company is taken over by a foreign firm, the head office decision-making is no longer in Canada and Canadian memberships are vulnerable.

Looking for higher revenue?

If higher revenue is important for your association, consider adopting as many of these attributes and practices that make sense for you. Organizations that have these attributes and practices are more likely to have an upward revenue trend and those who don’t, are more likely to have a downward revenue trend. The top best practices are noted in the diagram below. Those on the right, with a yellow highlight, are consistent with the results for 2015. Those on the left, with a green highlight, are new for 2016.

Increasing Revenue

For further information, a more detailed summary report is available here. Copies of the full survey results and commentary are available free to survey respondents. Contact erin.roberts@zzeem.com.

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Filed under Association, Benchmark Survey, High Performance Organization