The recently concluded ASAE and the Center Annual Meeting in Chicago was a good meeting on many levels. Content value was good. Production value was excellent. Service value was strong generally. And Chicago demonstrates once again that they wrote the book on how to host a major convention (although my memory of Toronto 88 still ranks as tops).
The backdrop to this meeting features a world that is highly accelerated, fragmented, and contradictory requiring organizations to have systems, practices and people that are adaptive, customer-centric, collaborative, and most importantly, open as a culture to promote innovation.
My interests tend toward organizational and product strategy and new business models. So I went looking for sessions that would offer some new opinions and insight.
The good news is there seems to be movement toward redefining how the association sector should design, develop, disseminate, measure and report the value they offer their stakeholders. There were sessions building on the 7 Measures study and the latest Decision to Join results. A sampling (still too small in my view) of corporate best practices in social networking, trends analysis, and innovation management offered a taste of what could really help associations in their efforts to stem membership decline and grow.
For those of you who didn’t attend, here are some of the more compelling observations I heard from sessions I attended along with some further perspective on these topics.
Customer Experience Management Creates Ownership & Word of Mouth
Jackie Hubba “Creating Member Evangelists”
I recommend her two books on social marketing tactics as an initial exploration into how marketing and member relations management is changing. Her session covered some sections of her first book and she delivered them in an entertaining and engaging manner.
Her core take away was the need to develop membership engagement strategy with a primary goal of increasing the feeling of “ownership” a member can have in “their” organization. The more you design the member experience to achieve this aspiration the more likely you are to increase retention and create evangelists to inspire others to become members in your association.
So the old world of simply measuring retention and satisfaction doesn’t go far enough if you seek to expand word of mouth and brand strength.
How do you get there?
As we have discussed in previous posts, associations need to design and deliver “remarkable experiences” from the products and services they create. Without this, you can forget evangelizing. True believers who passionately consume a product or service can be converted into evangelists and ownership of a brand. Developing strategies to manage your evangelists can be helpful in helping you defend or support your efforts moving forward.
A great example she shared was the Barrack Obama private label YouTube channel that provides tools for evangelists to support the campaign to make it their own.
For more ideas on this topic, please consider:
Cancer Detection, A Missed Opportunity and the Decision to Join Study
I was particularly interested in sessions on the new “Decision to Join” study that surveyed 17000 people who were “current members, previous members, or who “never joined” from a group of eighteen associations. Two issues from this study that were assessed were value propositions and participation as a accelerator to membership growth and retention.
In my own experience in membership value proposition construction, the debate is often adversely skewed toward issues of “price value” versus “results value.” In other words, too often people tend to limit debate on value proposition as defined by what the
experience costs and less on what results people received from the experience.
Sadly, the D2J study may have missed a golden opportunity to measure “results value” as a construct of crafting a value proposition. A singular focus on price value can create a dangerous over reliance to member dues or product sales price discount spirals that can depress revenues. This approach does nothing to help you learn how members or consumers feel about how you are able to deliver results from your product or service experiences.
Here is an example of what I mean.
D2J value proposition data seems to show that “benefits for the good of the order” (product or service offerings) are slightly more important than “personal benefits” (discount programs). But what about the underlying purpose for joining in the first place?
When you join or buy from an organization are you more concerned about discounts and the variety of products someone is selling or are you looking for solutions in the form of a product or service experience that fits your needs? What kind of needs do you have to be satisfied? If you can map your needs to a product or service then you make the calculation to join or buy based on how important it is to you, the product or service promise to deliver, the trustworthiness of the brand provider, and then how much it costs.
The D2J study seems to have missed this decision tree and to evaluate it to isolate “results value.”
I keep thinking back to the last song of Tuesday’s general session “It’s all about you”…. But we still don’t know what those 17000 people wanted from their membership experience.
Some good news!
We may have isolated the cancer that is hurting growth in associations today. A great observation stems from two data points in the study.
- Greater affiliation and participation led to higher retention and joining. The more involved the more they promote you.
- Volunteer leaders rank member benefits differently than rank and file members. For instance, advocacy, leadership and networking opportunities were more valued by members with higher levels of involvement. In other words, the rank and file members have more immediate and tangible needs (e.g a solution to a problem) to be satisfied than more nebulous benefits that appeal to volunteer leaders.
If you attended Jeff De Cagna’s Ungovernance session on Tuesday, these data points suggest a fourth principle to add to Jeff’s three to redesign the association governance model. The longer your association waits to implement governance and product development changes that are more “open and inclusive” to the rank and file member, the more likely you can expect to generate lower retention rates or product sales.
Closed ended models of governance and product development in an era of open innovation and product co-creation is THE CANCER in association management today.
A final comment on D2J
There may be a correlation between the quality of competency-based volunteer leadership development programs and the ability to think strategically, maintain focus on mission, make data-driven decisions, and execute efficiently. Maybe a future ASAE and Center analysis can isolate this to validate how rampant this is. Our discussion table during Jeff’s session suggests this is so.
For more ideas on this topic, please consider:
Get Back in the Box Douglas Rushkoff
If Woody Allen were a professor teaching at NYU, then think of Douglas Rushkoff. Normally I like irreverent looks at the status quo, but Rushkoff used too broad a brush to paint the corporate world as the last place to look for innovation.
I preface the following by admitting that I left after 40 minutes but his ranting and slow build up was too much for me.
Let me share what urged me to leave.
- Mass Production, Mass Communications and Mass Marketing are last century’s innovations – While I agree that this has been the driver for many years and may be for some companies still, if Rushkoff is suppose to be identifying opportunities for innovation he is deluding his audience that market innovators are not already focused on the long tail, co-creation of products and services with customers, open innovation strategies and business models. The biggest problems of associations is their lack of innovation history and their inability to leverage their member relations assets to create vibrant communities.
- Associations should leverage their connection and access to expertise and
build ecology/economy specific to that community- Rushkoff seems to think
companies can’t do that. Well consider Nike, Eli Llly, Lego (I could go on). If this is a key opportunity and latent strength associations have, then what keeps them from having leveraged it? Why aren’t there more AHIMA’s who have 40000+ members online in over 150+ online communities? The reason? Most associations are closed models while online community promote open collaboration, innovation and trust. In my view a good question to ask yourself is why don’t we trust our members to collaborate, design products with us, and create community?
- Businesses are becoming brand shells which manage the finance and marketing of their outsourced supply chains – There is truth in this. But the focus should be on market innovators not market laggards. For every Sara Lee there is a Nike.
Of course the kicker for me was unlearning what I thought the Renaissance delivered to mankind.
Rushkoff posits that it was history’s first evidence of the use of outsourcing and the use of proprietary money supply to reduce competition. Hmmmm and I thought this period was more about individual achievement and innovation in art and science.
For more ideas on this topic, please consider:
Part Two on ASAE 2007 to come tomorrow.