Keep That Love Burning
Developing a meaningful relationship with members of an association is much the same as “keeping” the romance with business customers. And like in any relationship, members may eventually lose interest with their association. So the constant challenge for the associations is on gaining and retaining members, as well as providing benefits that members are looking for.
First things first: The Association’s mission
Based on my experience, an association must first define its mission to its industry or community. Just like what I learned in marketing, an association must have a brand positioning. It is only then that a member can see the significance of membership and his or her role to help achieve this mission. As an example, the mission of the Philippine Council of Associations and Association Executives (PCAAE) is to promote association leadership and governance in the country by building the capacity of association board members and executives. The collaborative efforts of each member allow sharing of best practices to improve their skills and knowledge to eventually upgrade the level of professionalism of various associations in the Philippines.
Communications and recruitment
This mission has to be communicated properly in order to recruit, as well as retain, members. Membership recruitment channels that association usually tap are educational events, partnerships with other associations, and through online and database marketing, among others. Events that promote the association’s mission are targeted ways to recruit members interested in the topic and/or advocacy. Signing them up in these events and continuing the relationship afterward are critical to sustaining membership.
Is the association’s value proposition still relevant?
Some associations that have been in existence for so long often fail to update their value proposition to its members. One of the easiest ways to find this out is to ask members who have remained, those who have left and new members recruited. This will provide the association with a 360-degree viewpoint of different cycles of membership.
Based on general findings, most members of business associations are looking for knowledge and training to upgrade their skills, as well as for the networking and partnerships. Nonbusiness associations seek better ways in fulfilling their missions through collaboration and expertise sharing with others.
If an association “owns” a certain expertise, such as association governance, then it should be the “go to” for any questions that members may have to improve their governance. An association, thus, must proactively be able to provide content and new trends or information to its members on topics that will help them achieve their purpose. Examples of these touch points include content through e-newsletters, access to exclusive information in the web site, industry research papers, learning programs, such as seminars and conferences, supplier directory, government policy updates, ASEAN and global information and the like.
The experience of each member with the association must communicate the best customer service. This way, members will feel that they are important to the association’s mission, and not just because of their payment of membership dues. If each touch point is well managed, a smooth and meaningful relationship with each member will be achieved by the association.
In summary, only if the associations are able to fulfill the member’s purpose of joining will they remain to be relevant and be able to “keep the love burning” through meaningful touch points and excellent customer service.