Membership organisations differ from profit-making entities as they have the added dimension of their key stakeholder – the membership – heavily involved in the management and governance of the organisation. This can be, and often is, a delicate balance to get right.
I have worked in and for membership organisations since 1995, as well as profit-making businesses both large and small. My ’employed’ career was spent with membership organisations and international corporates and since becoming an Independent Practitioner in 2004, I have continued to work with membership organisations as well as small businesses, from sole traders and micros. I understand membership organisations from both the inside and out.
What makes what I would do for you special is that my experience blends the uniqueness of working in membership organisations with an understanding of member requirements from SME, corporate and individual perspectives. As a member of various membership organisations I have personal experience of what works well and, just as importantly, what doesn’t work. I am also a Board and Council member of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations and chair their Professional Development and Membership Committee. I walk-the-walk AND talk-the-talk.
Membership Services provided
Providing what members are looking for in order to convince them to join … and just as importantly, renew their membership … is the lifeblood of membership organisations. I audit member offerings and advise on and recommend solutions, e.g. CPD programmes, training and qualification provision, benefits of post-nominal use.
Membership marketing is about putting members front and centre of what you do and remembering the three cornerstones of effective membership organisations: the 3Rs – Recruitment, Retention ans Relationships. Membership marketing is how you keep the membership pot full with as little leakage as possible. I formulate strategies to help you achieve the delicate balance of providing and communicating the services members need with generating a commercial return.
Member value propositions
There is a tendency for membership organisations to rely on companies / individuals wanting to be ‘in the club. This frame of mind relegates members to almost an afterthought, with products / services / benefits provided because they can be, with the expectation that the membership will value them. A Member Value Proposition (MVP) offers members a clear reason to join, remain or contribute to the member organisation in terms of what they think is valuable. An MVP is why a member chooses one organisation or none at all. An MVP is not a list of member benefits.
Member journey and mapping
What a member needs from their membership with you is likely to change depending on where they are in terms of their career stage or company size. If you are a trade body, smaller companies may highly value the access you provide to the bigger players with the view of winning contracts, and larger company members may highly value the opportunities you provide in terms of access to politicians and civil servants. If you are a professional body, a member who is new to the profession may highly value the CPD opportunities, whereas someone with more experience may value the ability to network with other senior professionals at your events. Establishing the stages of a member’s journey, and mapping this against the products / services you provide, will identify gaps or surpluses which link to income streams.
Member communication audits
The art of effective member communication is to speak to each member as though they are an individual – not one of many. This equally applies to when your membership is companies – you need to communicate with your contacts as though they are individuals. Establishing your touchpoints, i.e. the connection points with your membership, and making the communication relevant to their needs through messaging and the medium used can, and does, make the difference between a member staying or leaving to join a different organisation.
Competencies are the skills, knowledge and behaviours required for individuals to perform certain activities well. They provide clarity on what is expected of an individual and establish a clear link between individual and organisational performance. A competency framework describes what is expected across a range of competencies of those working in a profession and empower individuals by letting them know what to do; how to do it; why to do it; and when to seek help and advice. They are valuable in terms of appraisals and planning professional development.
You need to prompt a reaction in order to get people to ‘do’ something. How you achieve this is by what you say. You need to determine the right thing to say to resonate with your audience / stakeholders, and then feed this into everything you do and say. Consistency is the key.
Whether you are a non-profit, have charitable status, or need to make a profit, commercialisation of your products and services will fund future activity for members. Your members should not be seen as cash-cows, and importantly if you want them to stay as members, should not feel that you are bleeding them dry whilst deriving little from their membership. Establishing what you do which generates an income, what are loss-leaders and what is a drain on your bottom line needs to go hand-in-hand with identifying gaps to fill with new products / services and amending an offering to make it more appealing.
Business awards programme
Many membership organisations hold award programmes, do you? They can be a highly effective way to reward and promote best practice in your industry/profession … but need to be done right. You need to position them as THE awards to win and not be one of the me-too award programmes who jump on the bandwagon as they can see pound signs. If you are the pre-eminent trade association or professional body then you should seriously consider holding an award programme to provide examples of great work for others in your industry/profession to aspire to and be inspired by.
… How can you take advantage of these services?
To revitalise your membership activity, have the benefit of a PR specialist on your board, understand the ramifications of the decisions you want to make on your membership, or for a fresh approach to your membership offering, let’s have a chat.