Tuesday, September 27, 2011

WOW...This Membership Thing Really Works!

Over the last year, I've been hearing and reading from many people about the "so-called" change in the association membership model.  How you "must" look at the "free dues" model to succeed in the future.  How people will not pay you for what they can get for "free" on the internet, and that young people are not joiners.

I'm here to tell you I'm more excited than ever about the paid membership model!  We live it everyday here at MTI, and it is working better than ever, because we have put our focus on three key areas "every" association must do in order to create amazing value, charge "RETAIL" dues to their members, and have them love paying it.

KEY #1!
You MUST Provide services and products that your members can't provide themselves effectively.  Did you hear me?  Provide themselves effectively.  Let me share the big lie many have bought into...members can get everything more effectively because of the internet.  IT'S NOT TRUE.  Here is an example.  I was at a FSAE Think Tank, with 35 top association executives a couple of weeks ago.  We were talking about this subject, and an executive right next to me started talking about the issue of, "he didn't need FSAE to be able to pull together people and have a meeting like this.  Members don't need an association for that anymore as much," he claimed.  He has BOUGHT into the LIE!  I immediately piped in and stated that, "You paid $50 to be at this 2-day event with 35 of the best minds in association management, and you're telling me, that for the $50 you paid to be at this amazing event, you could pull together this crowd for 2-days?  Who's going to do your day job?"

You see, this executive didn't understand how to relate his own value to the value he was receiving from his association.  It would cost thousands of dollars in raw cost, time, and lost opportunity cost for him to take time away from his daily association duties to pull together a 2-day meeting of 35 association executives.  Each attendee received it for $50 from FSAE.  That is amazing value!

The association I manage, MTI, is experiencing this amazing phenomenon every month.  This past month, we sent a letter to 45 former members, to let them know if they were continuing to use a copyrighted legal document on their invoicing, that that was for MTI members only, and they were subject to penalties and fines for copyright infringement.  MTI had just spent $10,000 to strengthen the document earlier in the year, and didn't charge members a dime.  The phone rang off the hook, and numerous former members have rejoined.  Why??  Because they recognize MTI was doing something "more effectively" than they could individually.

Many Assns. Membership Model
KEY #2
Narrow Your Focus of Benefits!  We don't live in a, "throw it on the wall and see what sticks" world anymore.  It is imperative associations pick the 3 to 5 things they do better than anyone in the world, and handcuff their members to it, and give them a reason to love it.  MTI does 5 things their members need, better than anyone in the world of its industry, and that members CAN'T do effectively on their own:
  1. Online training that is relevant and member driven.
  2. Monthly, quarterly, and annual benchmarking to help members make great business decisions.
  3. "Instant Access" to 5 professional consultants, and the largest network of heat treaters in the world, to get quick solutions to daily operations and technical challenges.
  4. Instant, online connection to members online, with like areas of expertise, demographics, and years experience.
  5. Face to face conferences that allow members to combine business with pleasure, and experience nice economies of scale, while connecting their families with other industry families, as well as, business opportunities and education (becoming a nice trend for associations).
No one in our world provides those 5 things better than we do, and members CANNOT do them more effectively themselves.

KEY #3
Do ALL that you do with the WOW Factor.  Members want to be a part of something exciting and bigger than themselves, and they want to know three things when looking at you as an association:
  1. Can I trust you?
  2. Do you care about me and my needs?
  3. Do you do EVERYTHING with EXCELLENCE?
We do everything to ensure our member experience at every level is not boring, but has the opportunity to create memories and emotions that drive them to love our association.  For example, we don't just ask people to update their online profiles.  We have a 60-day spectacular, online event, where if you update your profile, you will be placed in a drawing to win one, of two, $250 American Express Gift Cards for Christmas!  We will hold the drawing in a video, and call the person up live to capture their excitement, and push it out for members to see.  This shows members they are part of something exciting!

Our performance reflects that excitement:  Our membership is 15% higher than it was 6 years ago.  Our per member revenue is 28% higher, driving our total member surplus up 572% by year end 2011 (during an economy in 2009, where our members sales dropped as much as 70%).  Our member sales are back to record levels, and that growth in member surplus has allowed us to do some pretty amazing and valuable things for our members, without adding cost to them.  Now that is a valuable member model!

Don't buy the lie!  The membership model works.  The key is focusing in on the 3-things I've stated above.  I know, because my staff and I live it everyday!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Why the Traditional Association Model is Stronger Than Ever

A lot of talk has been pouring over the internet recently regarding whether the traditional association model works in today's crazy, fast, and ever changing environment.  The answer is...it is more powerful than ever.   Let me share why.

I like to compare the traditional association model to that of the traditional car model.  Cars of today have the same four components they did in the 1960's, with an engine, body, frame, and four wheels.  The car has always been the best and most efficient mode of transportation for the average person.  Yet the cars of today outperform cars of the 1960's, because of technology advancements and re-engineering.

Associations are exactly the same.  The traditional model of today encompasses the same core elements as the 1960's, in that associations provide groups of people with a common passion, a purpose, and a chance to:
  1. Organize themselves
  2. Coordinate their efforts
  3. Leverage the costs over many people
  4. Do things as a group, they could not do individually, effectively
  5. Build trust to take advantage of business opportunities
There is no other model that allows a group of people with common passion and purpose, to pull off such great accomplishments as the association model does.  For all of you who believe social media can assimilate people with a common purpose, you're fooling yourself, because someone has got to execute and do the work.  Social media allows people to talk, write, and shout out a lot, but at some point, someone has to leave their computer and do the work.  This is where the associations rules the day.

With technology advancements such as social media, gotomypc, go to meeting, Skype, and mobile, the association model has made the association model stronger and more powerful because:
  1. We have now given the smallest member in the most remote location an opportunity to be involved in the conversation.
  2. We have empowered our members to connect 24/7.
  3. We have engaged our members to have a louder voice because the voice has expanded.
  4. We have become more important as a trusted filter to the incredible amount of wrong information on the internet.
The reason people view the association model as dead, is because many CEO's and execs have viewed technology advancements as a threat to their control and association model, instead of the path to re-engineering that which can propel their association to expand their reach to rule their universe.
I know this, because our organization still runs a traditional model, with a baby boomer board of directors, baby boomer members, and committee structures.  However, over the last six years, our association has aggressively made technology advancements, and re-engineered our habits, and the member satisfaction, member loyalty, engagement of the younger generation, and financial strength of our organization has never been higher.

Here's the deal:
  • People WANT to accomplish something bigger than themselves with groups common to them.
  • People WANT to be a part of something exciting.
  • People WANT to believe in an organization who can empower them to make it happen.
If any association implements technology advancements, and the right re-engineering around the five core association elements mentioned above, I believe they can rule their universe and engage the loyalty of their members.

As the commercial says..."Life comes at your fast.  Stop talking and start doing."