Rumblings of the next global recession make headlines almost daily. If the predictions are true, associations could be headed for difficult times when it comes to member engagement and event attendance. To make matters worse, most association leaders use flawed logic when navigating an economic downturn. But not all the news is negative. An impending recession or other crisis is an opportunity to strengthen your association so you can thrive no matter what the future brings.
Here are five recession myths that hurt your association plus advice on how to shift your thinking to ensure resilience into the future.
MYTH 1: Your value proposition must change for a down market.
REALITY: Your association needs a strong value proposition always. “Things” like events, content, and thought leadership are easy for your audience to cut. However, it’s tougher to cut a cause and a community they are passionate about. That’s why you need a solid value proposition that answers the question: “What am I paying for?” Lead with your cause and prove you offer real, tangible value. Show you are a resource people can depend on. Emphasize the value of your network. Be so helpful that your base can’t imagine getting through a recession—or an average work week—without you.
MYTH 2: Associations should reduce programs that don’t produce revenues.
REALITY: Your members rely on your association for resources that enhance their careers and make their lives better. Some of these resources don’t generate measurable ROI for your association, yet they are invaluable to building trust with members, driving engagement, and creating loyal brand ambassadors. It’s a bad idea to cut programs based on revenues alone. It’s a great idea, on the other hand, to cut anything that doesn’t generate some sort of value for your members. A recession is an opportunity to examine your programs, services, publications, events, and other resources. Cut anything that could distract members from your core value.
MYTH 3: Low engagement is a red flag for a recession.
REALITY: Low engagement is a red flag that your value proposition is broken and your strategy is flawed. Many associations already see a drop in engagement, and a recession isn’t here yet. If one does arrive, engagement will get even worse and event attendance will decline along with it. Recession or not, now is the time to be proactive with modern digital marketing that differentiates your association, builds trust with members and prospects, and delivers value over time.
MYTH 4: It’s a good idea to decrease staff and marketing.
REALITY: Many associations think they need to lay off staff, eliminate outsourcing, decrease marketing funds, and review vendor contracts to cut potential excess from the budget. All of these are terrible ideas. Laying off staff means you will be less capable of serving your members’ needs. That can only lead to a drop in engagement and retention. Instead of decreasing marketing funds, you should increase them. Even if you see a lull in membership during the recession itself, you’ll be that much farther ahead when it’s over if you invest in marketing now. More people will know about you vs. competitors, and they’ll come to you first when they have money to spend.
MYTH 5: You should wait to see how bad things get.
REALITY: Don’t wait for disaster to strike before you take deliberate steps to strengthen your association. People don’t make the best choices amid chaos. Reactive mode is never as effective as being proactive. Right now is a great time to examine your value proposition, strategy, and prospecting efforts to make sure they all serve the needs of your current and future members.
The best way to survive a recession is to strengthen and improve your association before one hits. Know and articulate your solid value proposition, invest in marketing and prospecting—especially to find the next generation of leaders, and focus your efforts on resources that deliver real, tangible value. These are best practices for success regardless of current events.
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