Category Archives: Member Value Proposition

Are You a Good Host? Or do you leave members to figure it out on their own?

WelcomeAssociations spend a lot of energy trying to attract members, engage volunteers and recruit directors and staff.  But what do you do once you have captured them? Do you make them feel welcome and valued at events? Are you a good “host” or do you leave members to figure it out on their own?

Onboarding is an essential, yet often overlooked, part of association management. It is critical to ensure immediate engagement and ensure members are familiar with the resources and opportunities offered and to feel that they fit within the organization. Otherwise, you risk losing their support before the first year is over.

Turn the focus onto them by anticipating their expectations, needs and wants and help them to fulfill these:

  1. Identify and articulate the Member Value Proposition (MVP). Ensure leaders understand the MVP of the association, and can easily state how the association addresses member needs.
  2. Create a new member onboarding process. Ensure they receive extra attention in the first 12 months to get them engaged.
  3. Director, volunteer and staff training. Ensure that your association leaders are trained to be good hosts at events.  This means “working the room” at association events, introducing members to each other and make everyone feel valued and welcome.

The time and effort spent on the front end being a good host and designing good onboarding processes will pay off immediately and contribute to your sustainability and success.

Find out more about your MVP.

A strong MVP is also one of the 8 elements of the High Performance Membership OrganizationTM

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Using Earned Media to Increase Your Association’s Visibility

pic-media-strategySuccessful earned media is public media exposure that results from your successful efforts to create content that (a) provides journalists with a story that is sufficiently intriguing to their audience to get published and (b) segues effectively to your association’s messaging and increases your visibility.

How do you “earn” media exposure? It’s free but it’s not cheap. It’s not cheap because it takes constant vigilance and creative thinking to develop stories that are both media-worthy and effectively communicate your messaging. This requires the effort of staff members or external consultants.

Here are 3 tips:

  1. Use Google Alerts or a similar service to inform you of stories that you can piggy-back onto and segue to your messaging.
  2. Be prepared to repond as soon as a headline breaks. In order to do this you need to be well-prepared.
    1. Develop your top key messages first. What information do you need to communicate? e.g. The province needs more social workers or, we need to reduce the barriers to cross-border trade.
    2. Develop language that will provide a segue from likely headlines to your messaging. For example, let’s say that your key message is that Manitoba residents would be better off if the province had more social workers. The headlines most likely to provide a natural segue to this message would be “bad news” stories in which an individual falls through the cracks in the system and suffers a negative outcome.
    3. Contact the journalist who wrote the story and offer one of your trained spokespeople as a commentator. Ensure they’re well briefed before you get a call back!

A typical segue to use for all stories of this type might contain these 3 elements:

  • “We’re so sorry to hear that <this unfortunate event> took place on <date> at <location>.
  • “Unfortunately this might have been avoided. We have so few social workers in <the relevant system/location>, their case loads are far beyond acceptable levels. Unless the situation changes, unfortunate events like this are likely to continue to occur.
  • “Fortunately, the solution is both simple and cost-effective. Studies show that social workers actually save the province money <insert data>. By increasing the ratio of social workers to case files by xx% we could avoid an estimated <xxx tragic situation description> each year.…and so on.

Let me leave you with 4 steps to success from Warren Weeks of Weeks Media

  1. Ask yourself: Why do we want media coverage? What do we hope to accomplish?
  2. Who are we trying to speak to and what do we want them to do?
  3. Write the story. What will make an interesting read for your audience? (refer to #2, above)
  4. Which journalists should you pitch the story to? Do your research. Look at what they’ve published and ensure their audience is a fit with your target audiences.

Read our blog on visibility for more on this topic.

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Does Your Association Need More Visibility? Here are 3 Tips.

pic-convert-social-media-trafficYour association does great work? Does everybody know what you’ve accomplished? Or do you sometimes feel like nobody is listening?

You’ve probably informed your members, but did they read your communications? Did it sink in?

Your members are so busy struggling to keep up with their day-to-day tasks they have little time left to read and digest your association’s communications.

In order to get your message into the minds and hearts of your members, prospective members, and stakeholders, you need to get your message out through multiple media and multiple messages. Remember that you’re competing with everything else that lands on their desktop. So focus on your options.

  1. Multiple Communications Channels
    1. Member-only communications. In these communications, you give members information that no one else receives. What do you need to know, to stay one step ahead of non-members? The typical media for these communications are member email and private social media groups.
    2. Public communications. In these communications you give a “teaser” that informs readers of your activities with limited detail; encouraging non-members to join the association to get the rest of the information. The media for these communications are social media post and public groups.
  2. Using Government Relations
    1. Publish a government relations report on a regular schedule. Give your members inside information that they need to know to prepare for the future. Both good news and bad news about the results of your government relations activities are valuable. If the wind is blowing in a negative direction you can give your members a competitive advantage by ensuring that they are the first to know. Repeat the highlights in your regular member communications with a link back to the latest report.
  3. Using Earned Media
    1. Successful earned media is public media exposure that results from your successful efforts to create content that (a) provides journalists with a story that is sufficiently intriguing to their audience to get published and (b) segues effectively to your association’s messaging and increases your visibility. For more information on successful earned media read our blog on Using Earned media to Increase Your Association’s Visibility.

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Millennial Engagement. Boomers need to let go.

Millennial EngagementI recently worked with an association that had a board comprised primarily of “boomer” directors. Recognizing the importance to diversify the board, they actively recruited younger board members. Unfortunately, when push gave to shove, these newcomers were not given leadership opportunities and the board continued to function as it had before.  In turn, the younger directors became disenchanted with both the board and worse, the association.

Each generation brings unique strengths and qualities that an association can take advantage of to achieve strategic initiatives and ensure sustainability. The younger generation will lead the future; the older generation provides a historic perspective and experience. Instead of focusing on bridging generation gaps; think of it more as an alignment.

These are suggestions from our experience, on how to work with multi-generational volunteers, members and staff:

  • Allow both boomers and millennials to manage programming for their own cohorts
  • Older team members must delegate meaningful authority to younger colleagues
  • Ensure both groups are focused on the same goals and governed by some policies, but let them both choose “how”
  • Track each group’s progress against objectives

While each generation has different needs, values, attitudes, perspectives and styles, it is smart practice to have young and older people work together. Collectively – they are an unstoppable team.

Remember that the first step in member engagement is articulating and communicating your member value proposition (MVP). It may be different for each of your boomer and millennial cohorts.

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Do You Know Your Association’s Member Value Proposition? Guess what – it’s not a list of services!

MVPA recent survey1 of Canadian membership associations showed that only one third of chief executives were confident that all of their directors could clearly articulate the association’s Member Value Proposition (MVP).

From a strategic perspective this is a problem! If your leaders can’t state your MVP, how can they be effective ambassadors for membership?

Be aware, your MVP is not a laundry list of member services. It is a statement that describes the pain or desire that the organization solves for its members – in language that speaks from the perspective of the member. It helps to define the value of the association in terms of how it addresses member needs.

Here’s an example of the difference between the typical list of services you see on an association’s website and a member value proposition statement.

This is a list of services for Association XYZ.

“Association XYX provides these member benefits:

  • Training and certification for the CRE designation
  • Networking at regional events and the national conference
  • Advocacy at Queen’s Park”

In this list of services, the association is speaking from its own perspective; “This is what we do. Aren’t we awesome”.

In contrast, this is an MVP statement:

“Membership in Association XYZ gives you:

  • Training and certification to increase your skills, confidence, professional credentials and compensation.
  • Networking and support to increase your connections and achieve your career goals.
  • Employer relations advocacy to help your employer recognize the value and worth of your professional role on the team.”

In the MVP statement the services are articulated in terms of why those services matter to the member.

A clearly articulated MVP allows the board and the management team to prioritize strategic objectives and move the association forward in ways that resonate with members and stakeholders. Find out more about your MVP.

A strong MVP is also one of the 8 elements of the High Performance Membership OrganizationTM.

Contact us for a copy of the survey results (erin.roberts@zzeem.com)

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Member Engagement Starts with the MVP

Association-MVP2

I was speaking with a board director of one of my favourite clients yesterday and he was troubled by the lack of member engagement at his association. I asked him, “what is your member value proposition?” He responded that he knows they provide value  but he’s not sure how to describe it. He told me that they get lots of non members out to events but they can’t seem to covert them to membership.

He told me that association staff and directors “freeze” when they’re asked, “why should I join?” This is a huge problem with a simple solution. There are only 2 steps.

  1. Take the time to understand and articulate your MVP (member value proposition) in a way that answers, “what’s in it for me?” for the member. Find out more about your MVP http://www.zzeem.com/MemberRecruitment.aspx.
  2. Train, rehearse, train. Drill that MVP into every staffer and director, repeatedly. Each staffer and director is an ambassador and they must be able to answer the WIIFM question in their sleep.

Like any other product or service, the value of membership is no more or less than the value the individual member attributes to it. How much does he or she “need” the membership, what money will it put in their pocket, what emotional value does membership provide (or substitute Maslow’s Hierarchy here) and how much can they afford to pay?

Ultimately you value your membership just like any business would value a product or service.

Answer these questions.

  1. Who are you selling to?
  2. What is the member value proposition to that type of member?
  3. Can the member value proposition be quantified? For example what is the member discount on events and how many are there?
  4. What are the competing opportunities for membership services? Are there other associations who compete with you for members? If so, what do they provide and what do they charge for membership?
  5. How much can a prospective member afford to pay?

Here are some things to consider:

  1. Your member value proposition is not a laundry list of what the organization does. It is a succinct, compelling description of the value of membership to the member. The value proposition of your organization is what makes your existing members renew each year and brings new members in the door.
  2. What is the credibility and visibility of your organization? If it is a well-established, trusted and highly credible institution it’s worth more than membership in an organization that no one has heard of. That’s why you pay more for a degree from Harvard than for one from the University of West Quackenbush.
  3. What is the visibility of your member services? If your organization does a great job of marketing the value of the membership then it’s “worth” more.
  4. What is the quantifiable value of the services provided by membership? Do members receive a significant discount on events and other services? Do you provide professional education or certification? If so, what is the value of the education?

Remember it all starts with your member value proposition. This is the bedrock of the sustainability of your organization and many organizations cannot articulate it. Last year, our annual survey of membership organizations told us that less than a third of organizations surveyed were highly confident that all of their board members could clearly state their value proposition to a prospective member.

Find out more about how to articulate your member value proposition www.zzeem.com/MemberRecruitment.aspx

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The Power of 3: Clearly Defined Missions, Visions and Member Value Propositions

mvp_superheroes Vision, Mission, Member Value – Oh my! I always suspected these were a load of crap but over the years, I have gained a deep appreciation of the importance of having thoughtful mission and vision statements that align with clearly defined member value propositions.  Frequently member organizations write mission and/or vision statements –that are vague and general, post them on their website and then …forget about them. Often, there is little to no connection with the member value proposition.  This is a big mistake because together these 3 elements are powerful and intrinsically linked to the organization’s success and sustainability.  Collectively they answer the questions “Why are we here?” and “What are we trying to solve”.  Mission and vision statements are “ground zero” for the member value proposition – together they define and determine the value that is delivered. So how do you differentiate between the mission and vision statements and the member value proposition?

The Mission Statement

This statement describes why we’re here, what we do and for whom. It tells prospective members right away if they have a connection with the organization. It defines what makes us distinctive and answers 3 questions:

  1. Why does our organization exist?
  2. For whom?
  3. To do what?

e.g. In order to increase recognition and professionalism amongst administrative professionals in the Greater Toronto  Area, the GTA Administrative Assistants Association provides training, certification, support and employer relations advocacy for administrative assistants who work in Toronto.

The Vision Statement

This statement describes an ideal end state to which the organization aspires. It may be a self-referential goal (e.g “we are the best….”) or better still, an aspiration on behalf of its members – perhaps it is even an unachievable, ideal goal. Vision statements answer 2 key questions:

  1. What needs to change?
  2. What is the dream/ideal end state? (i.e. what does success look like?)

e.g. A thriving, respected profession where all administrative assistants in the Greater Toronto Area are highly qualified, highly valued and fairly paid by their employers.

Member Value Proposition

This statement describes the pain or desire that the organization solves for its members – in language that speaks from the perspective of the member. e.g. Membership in the GTAAAA gives you:

  • Training and certification to increase your skills, confidence, professional credentials and compensation.
  • Networking and support to increase your connections and achieve your career goals.
  • Employer relations advocacy to help your employer recognize the value and worth of your role as an administrative assistant.

I encourage associations to invest in the time required to determine and clearly articulate vision and mission statements and define their member value propositions. Taken in isolation – they are simply statements. Collectively they are a powerful, driving force.

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