by Kim Heck, CAE, KCSAE Director
When I first started this article in early January, my working title was: “What does it take to Engage Members?” I listed that the number one strategy is to focus on who you serve and be the best at that rather than providing mediocre services to everyone. Identify what solutions you can provide that your members can’t easily get anywhere else. This is still on-point, but in this highly anxious and unsettling time, our members, like all of us, are balancing many things. The health and safety of families, friends and peers is a top concern followed closely by the economic impacts many are experiencing.
When times are tough bad solutions can be implemented. For example, take the crisis of a declining membership. An association might increase services and lower the cost of dues. Usually cost is not the problem; value is. Standard association vocabulary around value typically includes “our value to our members lies in the networking opportunities they have through us...the educational opportunities we provide...the advocacy initiative we have undertaken on their behalf... [Insert your favorite service here]. Honestly, these services can be found and utilized without belonging to an association. You have to find a clear and compelling reason why someone should join and stay a member of your association. According to Rick Whelan, CDM, Marketing General, the strongest marketing efforts to potential members and those in the renewal stage should clearly and concisely spell out what bad things will happen to them and their careers if they do not join and do not renew their membership.
Wow. That is a very different positioning strategy, but one worth delving into. He gives an example of AAA and its success of showing a frightened mother and child with their broken-down automobile by the side of the road in the dark of the night.
So that brings me back to my new headline, ‘Zooming along’ with our Membership. I’m not sure about your association, but mine has more than embraced Zoom meetings and not just for the purpose of intra-staff or leadership/CEO meetings. Our Town Hall meetings are for our members to connect, ask questions of each other and share what’s going on in their lives. We’re facilitating networking, right? What’s different is the positioning of these Town Hall meetings to our membership. Nowhere do we promote them as networking events. As Whelan suggests, we’ve implemented the strategy that only by joining in these member-only meetings will they gain the widest, most comprehensive understanding of how others in this profession are managing their sports fields during this crisis. Without this depth of knowledge their fields may be slow to recover, sports activity will be delayed, revenues for their city and educational institutions could decline, and their credibility as professional sports field managers may suffer.
Is it working? I’d say, yes, we have huge attendance so we are providing solid value that they cannot get elsewhere. Will this impact renewal for 2021? Unknown. What is known is that we need to continue to find solutions to our members’ challenges that are not easily accessible elsewhere.
Stay safe and well.