I’ve got a very direct message for you today: it’s time to get tough. Things aren’t coming back like they were. This is a test. What grade will your association get?
This is a great opportunity for us as well, here’s what I mean:
This is probably the biggest professional economic test we are ever going to face within our associations and in our lifetime. You will look back and recognize that it either knocked you out and it was never the same or you came out of it by punching through and in better shape than before.
It’s time for us all in the nonprofit, in the association, and in the small business space to get tougher.
Here is a personal take how to get tough and come out of this stronger on the other end of the pandemic:
I have developed a daily Power Five list, a list of items I must do every day. Some of them are business related, some of them are not. For example, my current list includes the following: read scripture, work out, say I love you to my daughters and my wife, send a thank you note, and contact 20 associations. I try to do those things every single day. Some days I win, some days I lose. It’s not a to do list, it’s a Power Five list that helps me stay focused on reaching personal and professional goals and live a better life. It also helps me stay productive. I got this from Andy Frisella, who’s a leadership guru, and I encourage you to follow him.
The other thing I want you to think about is how to measure yourself every single day. It’s very difficult, in this day and age when days and weeks blend into each other, to measure yourself every single day and share that measurement with someone else. Measuring and tracking your progress towards goals is more important than ever.
And here are my recommendations for associations:
There are a number of things that will happen in the next several months, if they’re not already happening in your association right now regarding membership, events, and sponsorships.
Membership recruitment, engagement and retention will be – for the foreseeable future – the key revenue driver for associations. Most trade associations are generating somewhere around 60% of their revenue from membership. That is at risk at a greater rate than it was before. I don’t think we can expect a 90% retention rate in 2021. Some associations tend to be good at recruitment, engagement and retention but often not all three. We’ve got biases and we have strengths. My point is, we should be good at all of those now.
Have a specific plan, activity, and pipelines each week. Feel free to refer to past episodes of Association Hustle to hear membership recruitment strategies.
Have a full year, step-by-step plan and start slow. Provide your members value and then continue to build it up as they become active in your association. As you know, activity and involvement in the association improves the probability of retention.
Consistently building the case for the value of your association, over time, is important because when the invoice drops for renewal – regardless of the economic environment – they’re going to say yes.
Never balk from renewing a member, even if times are bad. Use the right tone but renew them.
Hey, I’m a business, too. I would never think about skipping invoicing a client for the work that we did. You’re doing the same thing as an association. In my view, associations need to get better at this. Fewer members and prospects are going to be around and more associations are going to be after their involvement and trying to get them involved. You have to be the best at this to come out on top. I know this because I work with so many of you and your associations often share the same members. Do you think that they’re sitting in their corporate headquarters and going, “Hmm, which one is the most valuable to me?” I guarantee you that they are.
The future is uncertain as far as events and the way they have been executed in the past. We’re going to need a more diversified way to connect vendors and suppliers and in the delivery of education. Attendance for large events may not be coming back any time soon. And, to be honest with you, we were relying on a trip to a resort or Las Vegas or Orlando to prop up the rest of our business model, and we were doing it way too much. We were relying on destinations to make our association more viable.
How do we make sure that attendees and sponsors continue to get value from the events? We can still deliver on those things, even though we’re not going to the Greenbrier.
Attendees want education, learning from each other, and learning how to better run their business. This has never been more true. They’re learning these things during sessions and in the hallway. How do you translate that into a virtual experience?
Sponsors want to get in front of your membership with meaningful conversations about their services, to showcase their expertise, and to build their brand. Those things have not changed. They still want to accomplish those things. In fact, I think the need for this type interaction, and value of that interaction, increased during this pandemic.
We’re going to see sponsorship opportunities change with meetings going virtual. However, this opens up more opportunities for consistent connections in multiple ways. We may see smaller in-person events. We will also see more virtual events moving forward. Connecting with members through virtual meetings becomes increasingly valuable. I’m not sure that will ever go away. In fact, I hope it doesn’t. Now, we can actually connect and bring people together in a variety of different ways. We’ve learned to be able to do that because we can’t go to Orlando and do it during a golf tournament.
We’ve been struggling with these for a while. The exhibit hall, in many cases, lacked energy. It was difficult to connect with younger members. Moving forward, we’re going to see smaller and more specific virtual face-to-face meetings and in our live events moving forward.
These are the things we have to get really good at when it comes to membership, events, and connecting people in general. All of those qualities that members wanted from associations prior to the pandemic are things they still want. The only thing that has changed is the means of delivery of those values.
Here’s what else I believe in, and I’m not going to back away from it: in our company we’ve established one of the best, if not the best, program for sales, memberships, sponsorships, ads and exhibits in the association space. And that is for good times or bad. We’re not really a necessity when things are good and you’re just chugging along. The good days are over, the new days are here, and you can and must do it better. Your revenue generation operation is absolutely critical right now and we can help you with that. Whether it’s a good day, or a bad day, we are with you all the way to help you generate revenue and weather the storm.
How can we help your association weather the storm?