At the beginning of the year, your association usually has a handful of top prospects that you want to bring into your association. And, there’s a reason for that. They bring in prestige, brand, and influence in your government relations activities. They have lots of people that can participate in your meetings, conventions, and non-dues revenue efforts. They’re also likely to be in your top revenue category for membership. It makes a lot of sense. This week we talk about tips to “catch the big fish” and when to let the prospective fish go.
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Hi, it’s JP Moery.
I know that, at the beginning of the year, you usually have top prospects, some large multinational conglomerates, that you want to bring into your association. And, there’s a reason for that. They bring in prestige, brand, and maybe influence in your government relations activities. They have lots of people that can participate in your meetings, conventions, and non-dues revenue efforts. They’re also likely to be in your top revenue category for membership. It makes a lot of sense.
I’m a big fan of taking on strategic initiatives to bring in these big companies. My belief is that it has to be done a little bit differently because they haven’t joined up until now and, frankly, they usually need a certain strategy or a certain set of tactics that are a different than the normal mid-cap or small businesses that you’re recruiting into the organization. They need that because they’re joining for a different reason than some of those smaller entities. So, I’ve got some tips for you and I also have some things that I may recommend that you avoid.
First, identify the top 10 membership prospects for the year, by size. This doesn’t mean you’re not going to get another 50 in other areas but get those top 10 key accounts. The reason why I want you to focus on it is because these take more time, resources, and thought. I want to separate them out as a separate initiative and I have found that 10 is a pretty good number. If you get larger than that you start to lose your focus and you’re not able to implement as well. The first thing that you do with each one of those members is determine what key problems, or opportunities, your association could solve for them. That’s going to require some research and some thought. It’s going to require checking out their website, looking at their financials to see what challenges they might have, it may involve looking at statements from their CEO or other leaders about things that are important to them. Things like sustainability, workforce, industry image, or whatever it might be. Look for areas where your association connects on those issues. That’s absolutely important. Why? Because they haven’t bought into the idea that joining your association is a good idea for them. Participating in industry associations, attending conventions, and the CEO joining the board of directors is obviously not that compelling to them. Normal association recruitment tactics just haven’t worked. This is why we’ve got to be able to connect with them on a particular issue that you can help them solve. Okay?
Connect with an existing member that you have that had a similar problem. Let’s say it’s workforce development. You helped solve their workforce issues by some public/private partnerships, or whatever. Collect that story. We need to show this prospect an example of how we helped a similar company on the same issue. Then, develop your list of potential leaders to communicate about this membership opportunity. Here’s what I’ve found over time: so many of our association lists don’t go into a great deal of bench strength. We’ve got one or two contacts at the company but we really, in my view, need to get multiple contacts with that large prospect. Then, we’re going to push out a series of e-mails, or direct phone calls, to the senior leaders in this organization. We need to develop multiple connections about the problem that we can solve for that organization and how show them how we did it for someone else. So now we’ve developed a specific idea and we’re communicating with multiple channels within that company. We’re talking to manufacturing, communication, senior leadership, procurement, etc. It’s going to be great to develop that list. You never know where your angle, or your opportunity, is going to come from. We send out the information to connect on this particular issue with the story of how we help a current member on that issue. We then ask another association leader, or member, of the same kind of status and stature, connect with the senior leadership of the perspective member company. This is going to involve your work, this is going to involve research, this is going to result in a tangible reason for them to join. Follow it up with a member company. Use the testimonial story to provide the real-life example of value. This is the way you start to penetrate these large companies on something that’s very tangible. I’m boiling this down to the real basics for you but that’s the way I would go about it.
Now, I’m going to give you some things that I want you to avoid.
Don’t let them participate as a non-member. You lose leverage when you do that. Do not continue to let them in, participate, and get the benefits for free. They’re never going to pay for it. Don’t grovel. You have a great organization and value proposition so don’t get in one down position just because they’re a large company. In my view, they aren’t a great company until they’re participating and adding value to the industry. I see a lot of times where the association is too thankful that they would even consider or talk to them that they’re in a one down position. They lose a lot of respect and influence that way.
My final recommendation for you is this: if you can’t find a key problem or solution that you’re going to help them with then don’t waste your time. The fact of the matter is, for decades possibly, they’ve avoided being a part of the association. They don’t buy into the regular value proposition that you’re offering to everyone else. This is the reason why I’m recommending that you get narrow on a particular problem for them. Sometimes, they just are not interested.
I had an association that we worked with that had a multinational conglomerate with many business lines and the association kept groveling to this company. Frankly, their line of business would be a large association member but, for the company, it represented about 5% of the revenue. That 5% was a rounding error and they didn’t even really care about it. So, the association didn’t care. They kept banging away at them and wasting their time, and mine, because it was a big brand. And, I can tell you, they were never going to join that association and they never have. The very best thing is to move on. That’s why I’m recommending for you to identify a really big topic, or a key problem, that you might be able to solve for them. If you don’t have that they’re not a key prospect.
Hey folks, I hope this is helpful for you. It’s tough work but it’s absolutely worth the effort because if you can land two of these large key accounts, your association is going to be in great shape for the new year.
Best wishes to you, we’ll talk soon, bye-bye.