Monday, February 18, 2013

Finding Clear Skies in the Fog of the Future

You know, it's a funny thing about associations...I often wonder how association executives can tell the story of their association with "passion" when they don't even participate as an association executive in ASAE or state SAE.   Yet they wonder why people in the association they lead aren't members.  Execs don't attend an annual conference, yet wonder why their members don't attend theirs, and most of all, association executives don't participate in industry-wide benchmarking studies, and wonder why they struggle to get participation in their own.

I believe participation as association executives in things like membership, meetings and benchmarking, in the world of associations, is sort of like "paying it forward."  It's walking the walk, meaning what you say, and "believing" what you say about the power of associations.

With that said, I want to put focus on an area that I feel associations are losing out on.  It's a benefit that associations of the future should put a lot of time and effort in developing.  Associations that succeed in the future will be associations that "do things for their members that members cannot do themselves effectively."

One of the most powerful benefits that no member can do themselves effectively is industry wide benchmarking.  It is costly for any one company in both time and money to organize, coordinate and fund the benchmarking effort.  Hence, it is the perfect set of golden handcuffs for an association to wrap around their members.

No matter what industry, benchmarking provides unbelievable inside intel about what is going on within any set of member companies and the industry.  With the economy and business climate being in such a fog, no one feels great about hiring new people, making capital investments or just feeling good about the daily direction of where you are headed.

It is a powerful source when you can open up a set of industry data to see where trends have been and where they are headed.  Especially given that trends have been developed from "actual data."   Our association does monthly sales trends, as well as, quarterly operational cost studies.  It's all online, secure, confidential and easy for members to input data and download real time reports.

We believe benchmarking clears the fog of the future that provides clarity of where the industry is headed, where areas of growth are, and what areas of your business need improving.  You can't know that just looking within your own company.

Every business has 5 to 10 major numbers that can tell you how that business is doing.  I want to challenge association executives reading this to do two things:
  1. Set up a benchmarking task force in your association, and have them try and nail down the 5 to 10 meaningful numbers that could tell you everything about the direction of the business in your industry.  These can be related to sales figures, sales calls, or any operational cost items.  Then survey your members to see how many would participate if they could receive a quarterly report of their figures compared to the industry and local region.
  2. TAKE TIME to participate in one of the most powerful association benchmarking studies in the U.S.  This study is put out by Marketing General with incredible data to provide to your staff, association leadership, as well as, any membership committee.  It shares intel on membership recruitment, communication strategies, and non-dues revenue structure.  Marketing General brings to associations nearly 35 years of testing, market research and data analysis of member behavior and membership marketing.  Simply put... they deliver the intel you need to know to grow your association.
I performed the survey for our association and it only took 15 minutes.   Our association will reap huge returns from the data I will get back from this comparative report... you can to if you invest the 15 minutes.

CLICK HERE to participate in their study.  DEADLINE IS:  Tuesday, Feb. 19.  Don't Delay!

If you are serious about growing your association, you need to look into benchmarking for your association members and take the Marketing General Survey.  Your members and board leadership will thank you.

If you have any questions on benchmarking, feel free to contact me at

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