What's Next - Redefining Your Value Proposition

Episode Thumbnail
This is a podcast episode titled, What's Next - Redefining Your Value Proposition. The summary for this episode is: <p>When was the last time you revisited your association’s value proposition? If the answer is anything other than “this year,” it’s time to take another look.</p><p>According to 2021 data, nearly half of associations think their value proposition is only somewhat compelling, not very compelling, or not at all compelling to members.</p><p>Offering your members what they want and communicating that clearly is essential to member recruitment and retention. In this session, you’ll learn how to start an ongoing conversation with members to understand what they want and need sooner, defining how you meet those needs succinctly and effectively, and developing a strategy for revising your value proposition</p><p><br></p>
Strategic planning based off of what you do and don't know
01:47 MIN
How to define a value proposition
00:38 MIN
Conversational engagement
00:59 MIN
Do we know the value of our membership?
01:56 MIN
Tom's technique to get the board into an entrepreneurial attitude
01:04 MIN
The key to membership engagement
00:55 MIN

Alex: Welcome to the member engagement show with Higher Logic, the podcast for association professionals looking to boost retention, gain new members, and deepen member involvement.

Heather: Throughout our show we'll bring on some experts, talk shop about engagement, and you'll walk away with strategies proven to transform your organization. I'm Heather McNair.

Alex: I'm Alex Mastroianni. And we're happy you're here. Hi everyone. If you tuned into the show a couple of weeks ago, you may have heard the first session in our what's next for associations webinars series on marketing in a post pandemic world. We're back with another episode in this series and this time it's all about your associations value proposition. How to find out what members want and need? How to meet those needs effectively? And a strategy for revising your member value proposition. Today we're joined by three folks, Dave Wells, CEO at Prop Fuel, and Tom Morrison, CEO at the Metal Treating Institute, along with Beth Arritt, association strategist here at Higher Logic. And they're here to share their must- know takeaways about your value proposition. If you'd like to take a look at the slides that they use during the webinar, you can find them in the show notes and stay tuned because there'll be joining us for an episode in the next couple of weeks to share even more about value propositions and measuring member engagement. Let's take a listen,

Beth: Afternoon everyone. Welcome. I'm Beth Arritt. I'm an association strategist at Higher Logic, but in my past life, I actually spent a lot of time in associations, including the last almost seven years at AAAE, where I was the VP of marketing before I came over to Higher Logic. So let's get started. I'm thrilled to be back for session two as I mentioned. Today, our topic is a really popular one in associations right now, it's redefining your value proposition. So I'm going to turn it over to our speakers and ask them a question. Why are you speaking here today? So Tom, let's start with you.

Tom: Well, I'm speaking today because I am literally obsessed since I got into association management with value proposition and engagement. In my opinion, engagement solves everything. It solves meeting attendance, it solves finances, it solves so much about thought volunteerism. And so we've been obsessed with that and we've had some phenomenal success over the last 15 years with 83% of our members being engaged on average in one or more of our programs, and a 97% retention rate every single year, which leads to our 2600% growth in 15 years. So I really believe what we do works and it really puts focus on value that leads to engagement. So I always challenge people to listen in and hear what we're doing because results is what we've got with how we've approached it.

Beth: So, Dave, what about you?

Dave: Hey Beth, did you moderate the first session too?

Beth: I did.

Dave: You did? Okay. I'm a little competitive so I'm kind of hoping at the end of this session, you might evaluate us versus your original session. I'm just curious how you might score this one versus the original in terms of value.

Beth: That's a difficult question. We'll see.

Dave: All right. So my name is Dave Well. My purpose in life these days is to help organizations communicate in a more human way, because I think we've been given these resources and these tools to broadcast really well, and just broadcast in volume, but that's just not how humans communicate. And so that's what I'm here doing these days. I'm an entrepreneur. My first business was Peach New Media. It was the learning management system. Started that in 2001 and we sold it in 2015. And then we started this. My partner, Cameron, and I started this back in late 2016. And this is called Prop Fuel. Prop Fuel is my... Somebody said this to me the other day, we put prop in value proposition. I thought that was pretty clever, right? Little bit cheap. Oh, it was you Beth. Wasn't it you that said that to me the other day? I'm going to put the blame on you. So a little cheesy, but I'm going to go with it nonetheless. But yeah, prop fuel is the company we have right now. It's a communications platform and it's designed to create more human two- way interactions between organizations and their members. So that's what I'm doing here today, trying to bring the human into digital.

Beth: Excellent. Okay. So before we dive in, we've got a quick poll question that's about to pop up. So how would you rate your value proposition? And your options are going to be somewhat compelling, not very compelling, and not at all compelling.

Dave: Hey, Beth, you know what's interesting about this? While we're waiting for people to answer, I've worked with hundreds of associations, but more recently about close to a hundred associations that are always evaluating their value proposition and trying to figure out and learn and listen to what their members have to say. It's stunning to me how often an association actually knows if their value proposition sucks. And they're like," Yeah, we offer discounts and a little bit of education, which they don't really care about." That's someone that's saying a value proposition isn't so good. But then I think today we're going to talk about some really, really cool value propositions with organizations that have an amazing retention rate.

Beth: Yeah. Agreed. And I just think that now, given everything that's going on, is such a great time to actually talk about that. So I think that this conversation is happening at just the right time and that there are a lot of people who are really going to be able to benefit from it. So we have the poll result. 63% said that their value proposition was somewhat compelling. 28% said not very compelling. And 9% said that it was not at all compelling, so that's good.

Dave: Not bad.

Beth: That's good.

Tom: Yeah, two thirds feel like they have a compelling value proposition and a third don't.

Dave: I wish it was flipped the other way. That would make me feel like there's more value in the presentation we're giving. I love how it's always the A student that wants an A+. Have you ever noticed that? You get the C students, they're not really that interested in... Yeah anyway, Beth, it's all you.

Tom: You know what, though, it's a moving target these days. You never know what it looks like in 12 months. You always have to be on your game when you're trying to meet members' needs.

Dave: True.

Beth: Well, I think that just even feeling that it's somewhat compelling means that you know that you're near the mark and you just need to redefine it some in order to make sure that you're hitting the mark. So I think that's a good spot still for the presentation.

Tom: I agree.

Beth: So to that end, how do you start an ongoing conversation with members so that you can understand what they want and what they need to center?

Tom: Well, if you go to my slides. There you go, thanks, Beth. So here's what I think. The very first thing that associations need to do is to try and figure out what they don't know they don't know. I've done strategic planning for 25 years and so many associations are trying to make a strategic plan based upon what they think they know in their little world, but they're not looking at the micro level, but not looking at the macro level. So the next couple of slides, I want to unpack some things that are going on that's going to really have an external impact on association. That's going to impact the internal more to the external forces. So if you look at these four numbers here, these four numbers are going to drive everything in associations and corporate world in the next 10 years. A hundred million is going to speak to growth. There's a hundred million people between 11 and 36 right now. And so in another eight years, they're all going to be, that's a large part of the millennials and gen Z. I did a webcast with Dave, that we talked about the largest wave of membership opportunity in our history is coming our way because we have this hundred million people coming into their prime earning years, where they're going to have enough money in their 30s to actually buy a membership. So with all that growth is going to come challenges, and it's going to be labor challenges, because we all see that our members are struggling to find labor. There's 3 million more unemployed people than there are jobs or jobs that are unemployed people right now. There's not enough people to go around. 40% speaks to disruption. Get this, by 2029 Fords says that the fortune 500 companies, the fortune 500, 40% of them will not be here in 2029. Your memberships could be connected with those 200 companies and you don't know which ones they are so it's important that you're staying abreast of what is going on in the world of disruption in your industry. And 82% speaks to the industry 4.0 in the internet of things, people that implement that over putting in new labor sees an 82% positive change in their efficiency. So these four numbers are going to really drive a lot of stuff going on in the future.

Beth: I have a question about one of those numbers.

Tom: Go ahead.

Beth: 3 million and labor are going to have the money to buy memberships, but will they? Because a lot of the stats coming out say that that generation is not necessarily interested in a membership.

Dave: Oh stop it.

Tom: Hey Beth, here's the thing. I'm the last of the baby boomers. Baby boomers didn't join anything in their 20s. They joined it in their 30s when they got their first big raise and figured they didn't know everything and they could use a connection. Millennials that are getting into their 30s are doing the same thing. They're joining when they see a value that increases their values of marketability as an individual or corporate. So you just got to find out what they want, what's true to their heart.

Dave: I just want to insert a comment right there. The whole dialogue around the non- joiners, I personally don't buy into it. And here's the difference, that's one of the few things we really agree on Tom. You have the fairly younger generation, and it's not even the younger generations, it's any tech savvy person that is inundated with content everywhere. So you think about Instagram or Snapchat or TikTok, and you're flipping through these things really fast and you stop on one that's intriguing for some reason. It's got some value proposition. Whatever it is, it's got something that's intriguing. So what has happened is we have these awesome filters for content that you didn't need in the 80s, in the 70s, or even the 90s. You didn't need a filter as much as we filter things today. It's not that they're not joining, it's just that people are really looking for the things that offer a strong value proposition, hence today's webinar.

Tom: And before we go on the next slide, a thing that you bring up, Dave, which is very crucial point, the re- imagining of value proposition is that associations used to own information until the internet came along. But now, because there's a plethora of bad misinformation, what associations now own really good, is the interpretation of the information. That's where they got to jump in and get into the urban interpretation. That's where they are the authority of it. So, we're moving on to the next slide.

Beth: There was a study fairly recently that said that associations were now the most trusted news source, because they actually curate the information with either, they have a similar point of view, a similar mission as you, and they curate the information so that you get what you know you're going to be interested in, which I thought was fascinating. Oops, sorry. I went too far.

Tom: So moving into now, what are the three driving forces? And there's four here, because we've got this new one called the unexpected, but three driving forces that associations really need to pay attention to are emerging technologies, demographic shifts, and consumer buying habits. Those three together are swaying how industries are functioning from a positive or negative. So if we go to the next slide, I'm going to break down. So these technologies you're going to see are actually, these are the 10 technologies that are going to really transform everything. I want to give you a little sense of how. So you look at the self- driving cars. We all talk about the self- driving cars. Self- driving cars, there's a study done that says it's going to do away with 90% of all accidents. Think about that, 90% of all accidents. Guess what industries immediately have to start thinking differently. The paint and body shops. Well, think about it, paint and body shops, personal injury attorneys, DUI schools, here's a biggie, how about organ transplants? 20% of all organ transplant comes from the accidents that happen on the street. They've got something to think through. And the sign industry, self- driven cars don't have windows, they have digital monitors on their sides. The sign industry marketing executives aren't crazy people. They're going to not be on those signs, which is going to drive the sign industry, the billboard industry crazy. So just one of these 10 technologies, one simple change had a damaging effect to 10. And my question to every association is when you're looking at your value proposition, what are you doing to provide information on these changes in these technologies so your members can really think about how they're going to do business differently when sensors, drones, machine learning, virtual reality, are all in their business full force. And blockchain. They call that the internet 2.0, that's going to change everything from mortgages to title insurance, to everything. That's where the real value propositions are coming in, is helping your members have the right information so that can make great choices about their life has change is happening.

Dave: Tom, it's not just about the information. And we've talked about this, we're going to see some examples in a little bit of organization of associations that are actually creating technology themselves for their members not just information. I know you know that, but I want to be very clear, getting involved in these technologies as an organization can be incredibly valuable to the members.

Tom: Let's connect that dot real quick. So what Dave is saying is that the national taxi cab association had a chance in 1988, they could have came out with the Uber technology and they would have owned the taxi industry if they had been the ones that came out with that technology and an app and they didn't, and Uber came out with it and really put them behind the eight ball. So associations should be looking in their industry to ask themselves," What is our Uber? What could we own and licensed that can enhance our value proposition for the membership?" I'm sorry, Beth, jump in.

Beth: So my question is, with talking about providing the information versus getting involved and things like that, how exactly do you define a value proposition in the first place? What would you say a value proposition is? What should you be looking to have in it?

Tom: Well, to me, a value proposition is very simple. It is understanding your member's highest pain points every day, real estate agents, doctors, business owners, manufacturing CEOs go to work every day with issues right here that they're trying to figure out that are pain points for them, that they need innovative solutions. And really forward thinking associations are finding solutions. They're one, identifying those high pain points, and then they're creating solutions to help members deal with those and be successful with those. To me, that's what value propositions really are. It's solving problems for the largest pain points, because guess what? If you can solve the biggest problems for your members, they're never going to want to leave. That's where they want you to be at.

Beth: But then you have to redefine your value proposition once you've solved that to move on to the next problem.

Tom: Like we said in the beginning, value proposition is very dynamic. It never stops moving.

Beth: Wait, Dave, you didn't interrupt or argue or disagree.

Dave: Totally agree.

Tom: That's two things that we agree on, Dave.

Dave: I got nothing really insightful to add to that one.

Tom: I'm going to drink to that.

Dave: I wonder if everybody's like," Oh my God, what do these people drink?" Well, Tom's drinking Five Hour. I got my diet Mountain Dew. And Beth just down an iced coffee.

Beth: An iced coffee about as big as my face.

Dave: So lets go.

Tom: So when this happened, emerging technologies to the next slide, Beth, we kind of move into the next phase is demographic shifts. Everybody's been talking about these ginormous baby boomers, gen X and millennials. And we're in, we're demographically set right now to have the largest economic growth in our history. Why? Because we have the two largest generations, baby boomers are coming into their retirement years and spending tons of money in retirement and healthcare and millennials are coming in every year, three and a half to 4 million people turn three huge ages, 18, 24 and 32. 18 is they become a semi adult and they start getting out and getting a job and spending some money or going to college and buying a car. 23, 22, they're renting their first place. And 32, they're buying their first home. For the next 10 years, 4 million people are going to be hitting those three ages, that's going to drive the economy like crazy. And guess what? Industries are going to grow, agriculture, healthcare. Healthcare is going to double the next seven years. You've got aerospace, construction and housing on the housing side is going to... We're 25 million homes short of fulfilling all the homes needed the next 15 to 20 years. And then electronics. Every one of those millennials and gen Z is going to have a cell phone, a tablet, some kind of thing. So you've got to know this demographic data in order to ask your members the question, how does this impact our industry so we can capitalize on it? So the demographic shifts are going to be huge. And everybody wonders where the labor problem was, Beth, is that big trough you see right there. A demographic friend of mine said," People wish they could go back 15 years ago and have more babies and we'd have enough employees today." But you can't recreate babies like that since we have to live through that. But in the next nine years, all the millennials and gen Z will be in the economy and we'll have a hundred million strong. And if they at least go to work, we're going to have enough employees to fulfill the employment. Right now, the big high value proposition for associations is how to help their members muscle through the next nine years where there ain't a lot of employees. That's a big one.

Beth: I appreciate you actually remembering that my generation exists. Most people don't, they just go straight from baby boomers to millennials. We don't exist. So thanks for remembering gen X's.

Tom: When I'm in a meeting and I ask everybody in the room, when I'm talking about the millennials, how many gen X- ers just had their spine turn? And a lot of them raised their hands. But I want to say gen X at least once in this meeting and they love it. And you can't forget them because gen X is, that's where the value proposition is got to be forwarded to because they're the leaders today. Right now, gen X is leading the companies, leading the boards, they're leading the way to the future and we've got to bring them in.

Beth: Yep. And we are already so used to getting forgotten that we love it when anybody remembers us. So, Dave, what were you going to say?

Dave: I just said reality bites. It's a classic gen X movie. Ethan Hawke. Is that right? Ethan Hawke? Wasn't he a writer?

Tom: Yep. Before we get into unpacking how do we have the conversations around this, because remember everyone listening in, the reason this is so important is to have a macro view at 30,000 foot to understand what you don't know you don't know could be influencing your value propositions. And here's what we all like to talk about now is what are the new norms coming out of COVID where there's some opportunities for value? And here's some of the ones I've really studied up on. Everything's got to be digital, you got touchless, health hygiene conscious. What are you doing to educate your people on health hygiene? HR is going to be as powerful as the CFO in most companies, because all the rules that are coming around human resources now with COVID and other things. Remote work, what are you doing to educate your people on remote work, virtual meetings, digital selling? A lot of customers don't want their salespeople coming in their plants nowadays because of the whole social distance thing, so what are you doing to help your members create digital selling tools they can show off their capacities and expertise through the internet? And the largest one is cyber security. With all this connectivity, cyber security is huge in every single industry. So these are other areas where people can find value in helping their members solve pain points, because almost every one of these 10 is a pain point for some members at some level. But you know what? The last 10 years we've been talking about content marketing, associations telling members what they need to know and who they are and what they need, to conversational engagement, which is going back and forth in the conversation to understand what your members need, because remember, your members aren't who you tell them they are. You're to them who they tell their other members they are. So I'm going to turn it over here now to my colleague, Mr. Dave, to jump in and start telling a little bit, because he's got a little bit to say on this thing called conversational engagement.

Dave: Hey Beth, can you go back one for a second? I think this is really interesting. Look at some of the words here, digital, remote, virtual, digital, cyber. I was like," Oh my God, everything's getting just highly processed. Everything's turning into bologna all of a sudden." And when you go digital, I think it's fair to say generally speaking, I would debate this with myself if I was on the listening side of this, but generally speaking, you're digital and you lose that connection. We have tea with somebody and you're sitting across the table, Beth bite your lip, give me a minute, you're sitting across the table, you're having tea with somebody or you're drinking a beer with somebody at the bar and you're connecting with people. There's this one- to- one dialogue. For me, I'm a dog lover. You can see right over my shoulder here, that's one of my first dogs named Zoe and we had that portrait painted. But I'm a dog lover. Whenever I see somebody walking down the street with their dog, I'm going to go up to that person and I'm going to start a conversation with the purpose of getting some loving from that dog. That's my objective. So every conversation, generally speaking, has an objective. Just like when you start a conversation with your members, sometimes, usually, there's an objective, a place where you want to take that conversation. So for me, when I see somebody walking their dog, I want to pet the dog. So I walk up to the person and say," Hey, what a beautiful dog." I start a conversation," What a beautiful dog." A little prompt, warmup sort of thing. And then I ask a question," Is your dog friendly?" And based on how they answer that question, that will determine the outcome of my action. If they say," Oh yeah, my dog loves people," I'm moving in for some loving. If they say, on the other hand," No, my dog's a little rescue and a little timid and doesn't really like people all the time," I'm going to back up and give the dog a little room because I do love dogs and I want to respect the dog. So that's a conversation. You introduce yourself, there's some dialogue, there's a question, you listen to the answer and you take action based on the answer. Yet, the way we communicate digitally, most of the time with people, is in the form of a broadcast. We're talking at people. You can take me to the next slide, Beth, but we're broadcasting stuff at people. And the reason we do that is because it's the easiest way we know how to do it. It's the tools we've been given. We used to do everything in person at conferences and stuff. And then we used to do direct mail. Now, no conversation going on direct mail, but you're sending stuff. And then we said," Okay, well, how can we send stuff digitally now?" And then we get email and we can send stuff through email. And then we have better email. And then we get really intelligent email, which is marketing automation, but still, it's just really sophisticated broadcasting is all it is. So yeah, go ahead Beth.

Beth: But is it? If you do it right, it's not. If you do it where you're doing your campaigns and your automation so that it reacts to what people do. For example, if you're using a web tracking campaign. So you're reacting to an action they take to show them more about something they want to know and get feedback. If you're using it so that when they click on specific things, you know that," Okay, they're going to want information on this and you take them off into the thing, giving them something they know." Isn't that kind of a digital two- way conversation?

Dave: It's a one and a half way conversation. What you're doing there is, it's an interactive, that's the way I would describe it, it's an interactive digital display. You click on things, something happens, something pops out of the hat, or something that brings you to a page. That's interactive. That's what I would call that. True conversations don't have necessarily an ending, a stop point. So a true conversation starts with a question, you listen for a response, there's an action, and it might continue back and forth for quite some time. So from a digital perspective, what we've done with, and this is where I have these goggles on through taking this philosophy and applying it to technology, but the purpose of Prop Fuel is to be able to take this concept of this human engagement, this ask, capture, and act methodology, and scale it so that you don't have to pick up the phone or you don't have to go in person to conferences because you just can't do that with 5, 000 members or 95, 000 members. You just can't do that with your members on a regular basis. And so there is a level of automation in here that ultimately leads to human interaction. So there's one or two more things I want to say, but if you want to know more, and that's as deep as I'm going to go with conversational engagement. And I think we can put this in the link, this is a little ebook we created called A Conversational Engagement. You can find that at propfuel. com, right at the top. So check out, you can download that ebook, conversational engagement @ propfuel. com. Now, this is an example of what we are traditionally doing. This is like, you sign up for something. In this case, this happened to be the process somebody used to acquire new members. And conversational engagement, by the way, use it in new member onboarding. Oh my God, what a great place. How many times do we use behavioral and transactional data to assume we know what it is somebody wants when they join? Why don't we just ask them," Why did you join us?"

Beth: That's what we were talking about the other day, that context. The combination of the two, because the context, they may or may not tell you exactly what they're looking for, or maybe not know what they're looking for. But if you have what they say they're looking for in the context with what their actions are actually taking.

Dave: So you use behavior and transactional data to put them into a bucket, and then you take that bucket and you start a conversation, a unique conversation with people in these buckets. Yes, Tom?

Tom: Here's the key. When you have tens of thousands of members, and people on here probably listening to that, when that can all happen with no human involvement, you've leveraged technology to maximize engagement, the servicing end of it, which members need, they need fast data answers. And what you're talking about, automates that process without human interaction. And that's powerful.

Dave: Yes. And I would argue the goal is to provide human interaction when and where it's needed. So the goal is to take your 10,000 or 90, 10, 000 people that you're interacting with every day, and figure out of those, who are the 26 people I really need to connect with personally today? Who are the 26 people that need some human touch? And so if you can take a process like this and apply it to your member communications, now you're really, really effective at taking behavioral data, transactional data, marrying it to contextual data or this conversation engagements to exchange so that you know who to talk to and when to talk to them. So in this scenario, what we're looking at here is somebody who, it was member acquisition. They had a whole bunch of people that had signed up for something on their site, but they weren't members, they just signed up and gave an email address. And so what this organization did said," Oh, we got somebody to sign up." Send them a benefit and ask them to join and send them another benefit later and ask them to join us, send another benefit and ask them to join. Now take me to the next slide, because this is the way when this was applied, it doubled their success rates. It doubled it. And so when somebody signed up, they said," Why did you sign up?" It's almost so obvious, if somebody were to walk in the room and had just joined your association or signed up or something, what you would do is you'd walk up to them, introduce yourself, say," Hey, what brought you here today? How can I help you? What'd you sign up for?" You'd ask them a question. You start a conversation. Then based on their answer, you will take action. And that's what this does. It's an automated way of doing that so that we can take people down a certain path. In fact, I use this as an example all the time. I don't know which one this is, Mission To Malawa. So this is a, choose your own adventure book. And it's a very, very similar approach, but Tom, back to your point, with the intent of identifying people that you actually connect with on a human level.

Beth: I'm going to bring this back to the subject, because I'm sure that the people are probably sitting there going," What does this have to do with value proposition? How does this relate to the proposition value?"

Dave: Thank you. Yes, great, thank you for doing that because I think I was getting distracted by my enthusiasm. So where this takes us to the value proposition is oftentimes we're assuming we know what the value is to the membership. So you send out a survey and you want to know," What does our membership want?" As if the membership is a person. And you've got 42% of your membership that joined for this reason, and 26% that joined for this reason, and so on. So now you have buckets of people and so you can shape the value proposition. With conversational engagement, you can get down to the market of one, you can talk to an individual and connect with that individual and give them the journey that they want at the individual level. You're no longer segmenting or looking at buckets of people at the granular level, you're talking to individuals and that's where true value comes from, when you can actually connect with an individual and give them what they need, what they want, that's value.

Tom: And you know what's powerful about that, Dave? Is, if that one person may be thinking a little differently than others, and once you figured that out, it may extrapolate into many other people saying," Yeah, I have that problem too. I want some of that action."

Beth: And I think that's where communities actually help out a lot because then you're having that discussion, all of them are having a discussion with their peers about it, facilitating that. It's a treasure trove of information there. So not only are you a good networking and a benefit for your members, but it's an amazing thing for you to find out exactly what they're looking for.

Dave: I love the community because it's a peer- driven discussion. Whereas, with conversational engagement is by definition is an organization- driven conversation. Peer- driven versus organizational- driven, both incredibly valuable.

Tom: Beth, I think the people are asking," How do you go about the process of determining what value is?" And we've been driving this right here, I call it bringing your value alive, and I even do it from membership engagement, but alive stands for a very simple set of things that I've got written here, that we started doing this in 2006. We identified specific challenges we were faced with as an association before we started our big growth pattern. And what we did was we said," We got to ask the right questions." When you're looking at values, it's imperative that you ask the right questions to the members to get the right answers of their high pain points. And then it's imperative that you listen intently to listen for those common things to where you can say," Okay, that sounds like a good program to map over 22% of our industry." Then it's imperative that once you get that feedback, you then innovate with solutions, you've got to solve the problem. And then you have value creation, because if you have good solutions to the right questions that they have problems, you're going to create great value creation. And guess what? From there you need to engage with excellence. You need to have engagement that has great customer service, prompt responses, and make sure it has value. So that's what alive is. That's a simple strategy that I really encourage every association, when you're looking at any program, ask yourselves," Do we have the right questions to know what we didn't know? Did we listen intently? Did we innovate the right solutions? And did it create value? And are we able to engage it with excellence?" If you do those five things right there on anything you're worked on in your association, I guarantee you're going to come away with a good program, good set of value.

Beth: Yep. So then the next question becomes, how do associations meet all of those needs?

Dave: Yeah, if I could, I'd love to start this conversation, Tom, and then I know you have these three questions, but I'd really like to point out something that we discussed earlier. And I think we have a few examples of these. I know of a few, I think you know of a few. There's associations that are basically creating platforms, softwares, or tools for their members. So it goes beyond education. It goes beyond certification. It goes beyond discounts. It goes beyond the conferences and the networking and the socializing and the advocacy. It goes to creating a tool that becomes critical to my job or my existence professionally.

Beth: AAAE did that. We created a tracking tool for airports to be able to track Uber and Lyft and the different rental or rideshare cars as they come on and off.

Dave: And it was a member benefit, right? You had to be a member?

Beth: You did not have to be a member, however, you did get, I believe just, I just got to make sure how that works. But all the airports who did it, AAA doesn't have airport members, they have individual members, so it works a little different. But yeah, it was a product that they needed because they were just relying on self- reporting from the rideshare companies.

Dave: So I'm going to give you a couple examples. Now, there's one example, I'm going to give you a couple more just to get your mind spinning a little bit. I can't go into much detail about these because I really don't know much detail, but one of them is the National Council of Architectural Registration boards, NCARB. And they built this thing called Lineup. G Ortiz, Guillermo was leading that charge, but they built this team project management software called Lineup. You have the Construction Standards Institute, CSI with Mark Dorsey at the helm. They built a specifications platform for their members. Again, that's construction standards. It's actually standards platform. Again, I can't go into a of detail. Tom, I know you're doing something with benchmarking, is that right?

Tom: Yeah, creating certainty in the future is absolutely when you're investing$ 2 million on a piece of equipment, you want to be certain about what's going on with the future. And we have created a program that helps us with ITR economics, create forecasts for the next one, two, and three years for our industry with real data so they can get a sense of, in this dynamic economy, when is it going up? When is it going down? And it's been very successful for our members to help minimize and almost eliminate all the uncertainty they have in those decisions.

Dave: What about, Tom, your pallet friend, the palette organization?

Tom: Oh yeah, the National Wood and Container Association surveyed their members and got their board on board to spend six figures on a platform that when you buy a refrigerator or a washing machine, it's usually on one cookie cut pallet, and because it doesn't fit on there seamlessly, it would fall off and get scratched and it ended up in clearance instead of selling for retail. Well, they created a software program that would engineer and CAD draw the perfect pallet for the perfect exact appliance or whatever you're shipping. And that took off like gangbusters for them. So they created their own Uber and added great value. And I think they doubled in revenue and membership and everything, it was incredible to watch happen.

Dave: You just touched on something right there, you said you got their boards buy in. So talk about that for a second. How do you get the board to buy in on this entrepreneurial, innovative spirit that I think we're suggesting? In fact, again, that's the premise of our podcast, associationstrong. com, that's the premise of the podcast you and I do, Tom. And in fact, that's where Higher Logic found out about us is through that podcast. But that's what we talk about all the time. You're the association guy, I'm the entrepreneur, and we're bringing those two perspectives together. So how do you bring the board into this entrepreneurial attitude?

Tom: So there's a couple of different things you got to do. One, you got to scare the crap out of them and you got to disturb them enough. There's only two reasons people don't make change. Hear me out on this, there's only two reasons people don't make change. They're not aware a problem exists, or they're aware the problem exists and they're not sufficiently disturbed enough about it to do something about it. So it's imperative that you give them the right information like the first six slides I gave you today, to disturb them enough to say," We don't have a choice, but to change." So there's some very fine strategic planning people in the association sphere that you can bring in to help them get to that point. And then once you get to that point and they say," We're ready to hear how we can change," then it's imperative that you look at things like Dave's act, that he talked about earlier, and then this alive here to get to go out and ask, once your board is on board, then you can go out and have the freedom to ask your members what you need to ask to find the pain points of how you can transform how they get to do business. And I swear, if you just follow this alive technique after you get your board's input, you can dig in and find a lot of good stuff in there. There's a lot of value in this in the next 10 years to be had by associations.

Beth: So just to talk a couple minutes, because we've got a quick Q and A coming up in just a couple minutes about just effectively measuring engagement to assess that value proposition effectiveness. How do you know if it's effective?

Tom: So real quick, Beth, before I get to that. So data metrics is really key in effectiveness, but here's what the up on what Dave said, there's one more thing, one crucial element to getting a board's buy- in, is showing them a period of metrics. Mine was showing the net worth, the net reserves of the association. And when you show it going like this, no one wants to be the board that ran the association in the ground. That gets their attention really fast. Retention rates, recruitment rates, you showed over a 10 year span so they get a perspective on the trend of where they're headed, that will change their mind in a second, because now they've got to stand before the membership and explain," Why are we going this direction?" That's another way, because you can't argue with data.

Beth: Sure you can. You can argue with it, doesn't mean you're going to be right.

Tom: Well, exactly. But when the data lines going like this, unless you've miscalculated the data, you can't argue that we're going the wrong direction. But our sense of metrics, in my opinion, we track every single percentage rate of members attendance or participation, every 13 engagement points. And then we lumped them into 3 buckets. If they're not paying us anything but dues, but they get our benchmarking report, then they're information members. If they actually pay money and buy something from us, like our training, they're transactional members. And if they volunteer or go to meetings, they're emotional members. We have an emotional connection with them. And our goal is to get information members to be transactional members, to create more non- dues revenue and get the transactional members to be volunteers and come to meetings. And that really helps you understand who your members are at different levels, so you can approach them with different messaging because like Dave says, the same message does not resonate with all your members as a group. You need to get down to the individual.

Beth: We did something similar at AAA. We basically listed a hierarchy of the most engaged thing you could be doing. And then we just went down the line all the way to, you have an account. And there were at least 10 levels of it. And we basically said," Okay, here's all these people in here. What do we need you to do to get them to the next level? How do we need to get this group to the next level?" And just measured how everybody went up the levels over the space of, I think we did it six months with the test to start out with. But yeah, once you start looking at that and you know where everybody is and what you need to get them to next, for the most part, then you start to get an engagement plan right there in front of you, which is helpful.

Tom: Well, the number one question, this is the key to membership engagement in my opinion, I haven't seen it work it's charm. Many of us get information from an association that says," Hey, register for our national meeting coming up in October." Well guess what? Most people think they've already registered, especially if they've come through before. But many people don't know, so the key to engagement is you send out one or two general members, but at some point, you start sending an email out that says," Our records show that you have not," the moment they see the word not, subconsciously they get FOMO and they're like," Oh my gosh, I thought I'd registered for that," or," I thought I was in that program," or," I thought, I thought." When you see not, that's why it's important to send different messages to people that are not involved, as opposed to those that are involved, because the moment you say not, it's going to kick in FOMO and they're going to want to say," Okay, what do I do to get involved?" So that's kind of a key to, in my opinion, of individually getting people engaged.

Beth: I like that. What are you not doing? What are you missing out on? I like that. As long as you don't use it too often. If you use it every single email, like anything, it becomes, people become immune to it. So you have to be thoughtful about when you use any tactic like that. We are already into question and answer time, but before we do, I want to get Tom's three questions. I want to talk about those really quickly. And then we have some questions to start answering.

Tom: Well, this is just real basic, Beth. So people take strategic planning and make it way too difficult. I like things to be very simple and if you just take these three questions, if you laid your strategic plan out across the table and simply ask these three questions at yourself," What are we doing that we should be doing differently?" So you're doing it and it's a good value, but you need to be doing it differently to add value. What are you doing? What are you not doing that you should be doing? This is because change is happening, and you need to step up to some new benefit. Or what are you doing that you should stop because you need to sunset a program because it's not relevant or it's finished. So we've been asking these three questions of our strategic plan that we had in 2004 every other year. And it has worked like a charm. You really cover everything you need to change about your plan if you just ask these three questions.

Beth: I think that the last one is particularly important because there are a lot of associations like," Well, we've always done that. We have to keep offering. We have to keep doing that, so- and- so expects it." Okay, that so- and- so expects it. What about the other 12,000 members?

Tom: Well, that's why you have metrics because when you see it doing this, then that means it's time to do something different.

Beth: Yep. But first you've got to make sure you have the metrics, that's always important. I do think that's a great sentiment to end on. I definitely think there's a lot more for us to unpack it some other point in time because I love these discussions, but we are at the end of the session, unfortunately. Really appreciate everyone for joining us today. Thank you again so much to Dave and to Tom, really appreciate your insights and expertise.

Alex: We hope you enjoyed today's webinar. Before we officially wrap up, I'd like to share a special message from Higher Logic about our annual conference, Super Forum. Jeff, over to you.

Jeff: Hey there, I'm Jeff, the director of customer experience at Higher Logic. And I'm excited and I'm coming to you live from my phone right now, I couldn't even get to my computer. But our annual conference, Super Forum, is back and registration is now open. So Super Forum 2021 is going to happen from October 19th through the 21st. It's going to be free. It's going to be virtual. We've looked at paring down the schedule, making sure that you can attend all throughout the days and hopefully find some sessions that are really packed full of insights that are going to help you connect with your customers and members more effectively. And actually, one of the things is that many of the episodes you've listened to on this podcast have actually been from last year's program. We've tried to repurpose that content and try and use it over the last 12 months. So if you want to learn more, register with the link that is in the podcast description, we're going to drop that in there and we hope to see you there.


When was the last time you revisited your association’s value proposition? If the answer is anything other than “this year,” it’s time to take another look.

According to 2021 data, nearly half of associations think their value proposition is only somewhat compelling, not very compelling, or not at all compelling to members.

Offering your members what they want and communicating that clearly is essential to member recruitment and retention. In this session, you’ll learn how to start an ongoing conversation with members to understand what they want and need sooner, defining how you meet those needs succinctly and effectively, and developing a strategy for revising your value proposition

Today's Host

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Alex Mastrianni

|Sr. Manager of Product Marketing at Higher Logic
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Heather McNair

|Community Industry Expert

Today's Guests

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Dave Will

|Co-Founder and CEO, PropFuel
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Tom Morrison

|CEO, Metal Treating Institute