DCA Live recently interviewed top association leaders which included President & CEO of Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America, Michelle Korsmo. She was asked - “What will the biggest issue facing ALL association leaders in 2020 be?” She responded with, “Knowing the association’s value proposition. The days of joining associations because that’s what industry members do is past. Associations have to earn their dues like every business must earn their customers.”
Michelle makes an excellent point here. Associations should view themselves as businesses and their members as customers as generational changes in the market become increasingly apparent.
For-profit businesses must constantly adapt to the demands of their customers (or risk being ditched). For example, when Apple and Google Pay took off, stores began offering mobile scanners for convenient checkout. When shoppers then wanted to spend less time in stores, same-day pickup and faster delivery services came along. And when the traditional online shopping experience began leaving much to be desired, retail apps boomed.
Once each of these progressive shifts were made, it sent a message to consumers saying, “We hear you.” And in turn, consumers felt valued. Their modern expectations were being met. Now take this notion and apply it to your association. When mailing letters became outdated, did you switch to email? When printed event maps and handouts felt inefficient, did you switch to an event app? And now that email and websites have become much less utilized altogether, have you given members a year-round app?
If your answer is no to any of the above, an evaluation of your value proposition is highly recommended. Why should someone pay for your membership? Is the offered product worth it? Will consumers be satisfied with the experience? Are they getting what they need? And does the experience hold up against those of other businesses and services they use?
What’s been the biggest differentiator between businesses that have come out on top of the technological shift throughout the last decade and those that are withering away, is the ability to modernize. For example, department stores Target and Kohls hopped on mobile and in-store pickup early on. Sears and Kmart did not. Sears and Kmart are now rapidly closing their doors. Consumer needs were not being met. Target and Kohls on the other hand, remained strong within their customer loyalty. Their shoppers have had instant access to their products and services through their phones that has only gotten better over the years, and because of that, they continue to participate in much more positive shopping experiences.
Really what it all comes down to is selling yourself. Be that shiny bright object to your members. Not one in which could be overlooked or replaced. Work for their membership and loyalty and avoid resting on past expectations. Anticipate and adapt to their modern communication, content and engagement needs.