Membership organizations have faced unprecedented challenges in the last few years between the impact of the economy, massive changes to so many industry sectors and professions, and constantly evolving technology and ways of doing business. New entrepreneurial membership web sites may enter your niche that offer online services that meet many of your members’ needs at a lower cost.
There is a sea change in people’s attitudes toward associations and other membership organizations. It is no longer a given for people to belong to a professional or trade association.
The bottom line – it is not about your organization, it is about your member or customer. What is in it for them?
What are the compelling reasons that people should belong – not because they are in this profession or business but because your organization gives them benefits that they cannot live without. Do you know what is important to your members and prospective members? What they need and want? What problems keep them up at night? How can you help solve them?
If your answers to these questions are based on historical answers, it is important to revisit them through market research, listening to your constituents through social media and what they say when they contact your organization, and having regular conversations with members and prospective members in key segments. Take every opportunity you can to chat with people and listen carefully to what they care about. Ask questions about how can we help you, how can we make a difference in your life and to your business?
What are your constituents’ core needs, the motivations that center their professional or personal lives? Emphasis on personal vs. professional lives will vary depending on your type of organization. But if making a difference in the community is the most important motivation for a large segment of your members and prospects, everything from your product/service mix to your messaging will be very different than if their key motivation is being influential/prominent in their professional field.
Changing to Ensure Future Success
It often becomes clear that you are not offering the best services and benefits to meet your members’ needs now and in the future. Developing those new benefits goes hand in hand with assessing current ones and having the strength to discontinue resources and services that no longer position your organization for the future. It’s never easy to let go of sacred cows but critical to free up the staff time and resources for the game changing new benefits that will.
When a downturn hits, it’s natural for people to look for things to cut from their budget. What can you do to make sure membership in your organization is so critical to your members’ success or fulfillment that they would need it all the more in bad times?
If your members were looking for an organization to belong to today that really served their professional or personal needs, what would it look like? What services and benefits would they get?