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  • Renata Lerch

The Demand For Value

The Demand for Value

The relevance of any organization, for-profit or not, is a result of its ability to create value. We can develop innovative products, services and membership models, but if they don’t result in value creation to consumers or members they are not going to help any organization stay relevant.

Industry research shows that the main reasons for members not renewing are lack of engagement, high membership price, and member retirement. This is inevitably the consequence of the low value members feel they have received for their investment. This is also a sign that offerings haven’t been attractive and properly communicated to the younger generation of professionals. Consequently, most associations are seeing either no growth or a decline in membership.

Meanwhile, new companies can transform the market overnight with novel technologies and innovative products. In times of saturation when competitors enter the market as a result of blending industries and low entrant barriers, associations need to become a lot more focused on building their unique value proposition.

The need for differentiation

Innovative organizations often revisit their product line with a critical perspective of what represents true value to customers. This is done by designing products and services centered on providing the best possible user experience. With the explosion of technology resources, consumers are becoming not only accustomed to a variety of ground-breaking products, but also to seamless experiences. Similarly, associations that can demonstrate the ability to add a layer of differentiation in their offerings showcase a much-needed competitive advantage.

Membership and trade associations are in a great position to leverage their unique community model to differentiate themselves from new entrants. Their robust body of knowledge, typically recognized as non-biased and from high-caliber subject matter experts, is a fantastic asset that not many associations leverage extensively. First-class research, industry benchmarks and statistics represent another set of differentiators that very few for-profit competitors have the latitude to match. Add to that a solid, and often global, group of peer members for mentoring and networking, and you can hit the grounds for relevance.

Many trade associations are creating a value proposition around advocacy. It is a distinctive opportunity to engage professionals, academics and subject matter experts to accelerate influence locally or globally, and support the work of members through lobbying, policy making or technical resource.

Leveraging the strengths of an association along with the creation of unique benefits accessible to members-only can bring high value, resulting in improved member acquisition and retention. If done well, they can also attract the media and influencers to consequently accelerate brand exposure and asset.

Leveraging partnerships

As a recognized centre of body of knowledge, associations are in a great position to attract corporate partners. It is in fact an unmatched opportunity for them to connect theory to practice, generating distinctive business models and frameworks. It creates the perfect environment to accelerate industry innovation and experimentation as a result of networking, best practice sharing with subject matter experts, funding, and technical resources.

Large corporations in tech and healthcare are taking the lead in creating partnerships with universities and associations, tapping on their scientific and engineering minds in a variety of domains, fostering game changing R&D and phenomenal advances in biomedical, engineering, education, sciences, just to name a few. It also supports the general mission of associations to improve lives.

These collaborations offer associations access to new target audiences, markets and even potential economies of scale.

Wrapping it up with great technology

Technology is the backbone of practically any relevant business. It is more than just an operational tool, it sustains the full member value stream, especially with the current explosion of data.

Members very often experience a variety of digital touchpoints with associations, including their websites, mobile apps, meeting platforms, learning management systems, content libraries and online collaboration with peers. Therefore, it is imperative that a well thought out plan to integrate disparate systems data and authentication should be developed. Otherwise, the short window to engage members electronically is lost.

A further challenge for associations is the hybrid approach to custom-built software with off-the-shelf systems. A good architectural plan for full systems integration enables a single digital point of entry and consistent look and feel across all platforms, resulting in seamless user experience through the entire digital journey. A strong IT infrastructure also enables internal cross-functional solutions, such as data integration with martech, sales and billing.

Regardless of size and budget, technology should be an integral part of the strategic planning of associations, leveraging advances such as cloud computing, machine learning, analytics, and software-as-a-service to maximize business operations and innovation. Leadership can enable that by giving IT a seat at the decision table, rather than the typical report to the CFO or COO. Many organizations are now creating a new role, the Chief Digital Officer. While the traditional CIO role focuses mostly on operations and infrastructure, the Chief Digital Officer is responsible for transforming traditional systems into digital value streams.

IT expertise is in large demand these days, making the role more relevant is not only necessary to implement the right solutions, but also to attract the right talent.

Renata Lerch is a hands-on leader with international experience in Fortune 500, consulting, advertising agency and not-for-profit associations. She has managed global marketing and market development teams for over 20 years, delivering successful programs in the Americas, Europe, Asia and Australia. She is the founder of Integrated Niche, a global and Agile Marketing think tank. /


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