Inventing Your Association’s Future. Guest Blog by Frank Kenny
I forewarn you, what you are about to read may upset you.
I won’t blame you if you choose not to read it. What I have to say here starts off rather unpleasantly, but it does offer hope, and direction for those looking to innovate and try something new.
Before we begin, please do me a quick favor.
When you do that search you will get this chart. It represents Google Search interest for the term “Associations” by year.
The trend line for Association interest over the past 10 years is horrible.
The numbers show that comparatively few people today care to search for things like, “Should I join a professional Association” or “What does a professional Association do for me?” or “How can membership in the (fill-in-the-blank) Association help me?”
People just aren’t as interested in Associations anymore, at least according to this piece of data.
Should we just ignore this? Is interest, and therefore relevancy, not an issue to be addressed? Many people in the industry have said it isn’t an issue.
Let’s do a few more business-related Google Trends queries.
Content Marketing. The data shows a sustained upward trend for this modern marketing technique. The vast majority of Associations are doing old school interruptive marketing. Content Marketing provides massive reach into the community at very little cost, yet few Associations are leveraging this trend.
The Membership Economy (started trending after 2011). Subscription and membership economy companies are changing the way we are entertained, buy life’s necessities, purchase software, etc. It’s a massively disruptive shift. In the membership economy, it’s not about a single purchase of a product or service, it’s about creating exclusive audiences and lifetime customers. A core tenant of the membership economy is relationship building. This helps organizations retain their members as the company discovers and serves current wants and needs. Retention, or reducing churn as these companies term it, is paramount. Associations could learn a thing or two about building online relationships, exclusive audiences, and truly knowing and serving their members’ current wants and needs.
The Sharing Economy (started trending after 2011). People are flocking to companies that save them time, effort, and money. This model lends itself to offering your members and customers solutions at scale. Think Uber, Airbnb, and Kickstarter for your members and community. If you want to grow your budget, the only thing holding you back today is your imagination, as your members are already spending their money on things that your Association could be brokering or helping them acquire.
Why don’t many Associations offer the other things members and prospects are paying too much for or things they want and/or need?
Your Association is perfectly positioned to leverage these new trends.
It’s time for Associations to act from their strengths and enviable position in the community. As the saying goes, “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”
If you want to secure your Association’s future, start doing real Content Marketing today. People will be thrilled to get content from the Association (and Association team) that informs, entertains, and inspires them. Quit interrupting people with what’s important to your Association and start providing a lot more value through content that is important to your members and prospects. This is top of funnel work.
As for acting like a Membership Economy business, focus not so much on wham-bam inbound lead generation but on building exclusive, proprietary, audiences. Build those relationships and get to know your members and prospects inside out. Segment your market and build your tribes. This is middle of funnel work.
Then, as a Sharing Economy business, offer the product and services that your members and prospects have told you they want and/or need. Solve your segment’s specific problems. When you do, you become indispensable. This is where the conversion happens, at the bottom the funnel.
It sounds simple enough, but it isn’t. Truth be told, your Association should have started this years ago when content marketing, blogging, and permission marketing went mainstream. If your Association doesn’t have a blog or similarly interactive platform where you provide value without pushing your own agenda items, you aren’t doing content marketing.
If you are not segmenting and growing your exclusive online audience, you aren’t truly getting to know the wants and needs of your members. You aren’t leveraging the Membership Economy.
Finally, if your Association is not delivering products and services that your segments ask for, or already buy somewhere else, you aren’t leveraging the sharing economy to the benefit of your members and community.
Don’t feel this is the right time for your Association to leverage these disruptive trends? Waiting for the case studies to help your organization avoid any potential pitfalls?
I will leave you with this a quote from Seth Godin, "If you wait until there is another case study in your industry you will be too late.”
Source: All the charts were sourced at https://www.google.com/trends/
Frank J. Kenny is an internationally recognized author, professional speaker, and consultant. He is on the faculty of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Organization Management (IOM). He has taught social media, digital marketing, and technology strategies to business audiences from around the world.
Are you interested in even more great tips from Frank Kenny? Download our Association Engagement Bundle. It includes three resources to help your Association connect, lead, and grow – including Frank’s Social Media Checklist for Associations.Frank Kenny