Amid the uncertainty and the scramble to learn Zoom, share screens, and change backgrounds in 2020, a better way for associations to recruit and retain members emerged.
Our collaboration with many associations through the chaotic pandemic years taught a key lesson about growing and maintaining membership organizations.
Build a problem-solving brand.
Understand Your Brand
Conduct research to understand how the industry perceives the value of membership in your association.
More than a logo, a brand represents the perceptions your stakeholders have of your organization. Do they see your association as an annual meeting coordinator, a newsletter distributor, or a business problem solver?
Brand research establishes a perceptions baseline, giving your leadership a clear understanding of the association’s true value to members. It helps associations make behavioral changes that maximize value and drives the virtual and in-person programs that shape perceptions of an association.
Even if your association brand is strong today, will it set you up for success down the road? SIOR, the leading professional society in commercial real estate (CRE) and the highest regarded designation in CRE, recently conducted research to evolve its brand and ensure it reflects the organization’s strategic goals and vision. The research identified the common themes and perspectives among the membership and illuminated three key brand characteristics: the sense of constant improvement, use of innovative technology, and pursuit of excellence. SIOR’s are always in motion achieving, growing, innovating. They are, Always Moving Forward.
Lead with Solutions, Not Benefits
Uncover specific member challenges by conducting market research; gear marketing, communications, programs, content – and member benefits – toward alleviating those issues.
Most associations recruit and keep members with benefits available to them. But the pandemic proved that members need leadership most. Overnight in 2020, associations stepped up to meet members’ sudden need for education about COVID’s impacts, new ways to connect with peers, and solutions to minimize the pandemic’s effect on business.
Market research helps you understand the pain points that affect your members’ operations. Is the industry beset by a talent shortage in a specific area? Is it hindered by supply chain snarls, inefficient processes, materials costs, or something else?
Several tools support research efforts, including Survey Monkey, Google Forms, and TypeForm, and firms like ours can help, too.
Knowing what business challenges worry members most, you can use marketing, communications, programs, content – and member benefits – to address them.
Become a Destination for Peer-to-Peer Collaboration
Whether in person or online, provide your membership with opportunities to collaborate and solve its biggest challenges.
Zoom and other video conferencing tools are second nature. That gives associations committed to solving member challenges an incredible engagement resource.
Virtual connections are easy, affordable, and have a huge reach that enables members to share concerns and ideas, welcome guest speakers, tackle a particularly thorny issue, and learn from each other.
The Food Processing Suppliers Association (FPSA) has established networks that focus on specific areas of work that span across all segments of the food and beverage industry. The mission of the Networks is to integrate topics across food sectors to facilitate cross industry collaboration, knowledge sharing and create new ways for members to engage. The Networks have also been instrumental in generating content and expertise for FPSA’s events and resources.
In-person events are back. Members want face time with peers, and it pays to go the extra mile on event experiences.
Once-in-a lifetime entertainment, unexpected activities, or memorable excursions, for example, take networking opportunities where members want them – off Zoom screens and out of hotel ballrooms. Associations that find new ways to delight their members will deliver meaning, create memories, and add real value.
The pandemic thrust associations into an unprecedented leadership role. Maintain it by building a problem-solving brand that addresses member concerns and provides collaborative opportunities to overcome them.
Ready to increase the value of your association to members? Talk with the experts at Brand Federation and CSG Creative about sharpening a problem-solving brand and improving member recruitment & retention efforts. Contact us today.
Rian Chandler-Dovis and Paige Cardwell
Brand Federation & CSG Creative
Rian Chandler-Dovis is a Brand Federation partner, residing in Cabo San Lucas at the southern tip of Mexico’s Baja peninsula, and an accomplished brand builder who relies on research-driven insights to shape winning strategies. She has developed strategies for dozens of the world’s best known brands, including General Motors, American Express, Samsung, PepsiCo, Colgate, Macy’s, MIT, World Wildlife Fund, and others. Rian also is a fierce advocate for remote work and its power to strengthen organizations by enabling workers to live their best lives.
Paige Cardwell has been creating strategic and results-focused multichannel marketing campaigns and developing innovative association brands for more than 30 years. Her blend of strategic insights and creative savvy offers each client smart solutions to marketing and branding challenges intended to grow audiences and increase revenue. Paige founded CSG 20 years ago to serve the unique needs of associations and nonprofits. As president, she leads the talented CSG team and oversees the marketing, strategy and branding initiatives for all CSG clients.
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