And 4 Things to Add to Attract, Retain, and Engage Members of All Ages

4 Things to Throw Out of Your Association’s Broken Business Model

4 Things to Throw Out of Your Association’s Broken Business Model

In the past, associations thrived on in-person events, networking, education, and certifications—the more the merrier. But for years there has been a shift away from this old thinking to a modern approach where digital is king and people are less enticed by “stuff.” This shift was happening gradually until COVID-19 slammed on the accelerator. What began as a strategy to attract younger members is now essential to serving members of all ages. Your old business model is officially broken, and engagement is about to take a nosedive. It’s time to learn from your younger members so you can fix your business model, drive engagement, and thrive.

What We Know About Younger Members

  • Younger members grew up with Google and are used to instant gratification.
  • They’re careful with their money and slow to make a purchase.
  • They value community and purpose.
  • They trust people more than corporations.
  • They’re highly adaptable and can react quickly to any crisis or disruption.
  • They live online and are comfortable working and networking virtually.

A New Reality for Boomers and Millennials Alike

When COVID-19 hit, even the Boomers had to pivot and adapt. Here’s what the new reality looks like for members of all ages:
  • Google is the go-to resource (and your biggest competitor).
  • Money is an issue for everybody as the next recession looms.
  • Community means more now than ever.
  • We can get by with less stuff in our lives.
  • We don’t have to be there in person.
  • We can adapt to almost anything.
  • We can learn to use new technologies and work virtually.

Just like that, your association’s old business model centered on in-person events and endless offerings doesn’t work anymore. But the need for resources and support hasn’t changed. You have a golden opportunity to reinvent your association and serve members better than ever before.

What’s Out? What’s In?

Fixing your business model is a matter of removing clutter and adding value. It’s not easy, but it’s the only way forward.

OUT: In-person only resources
IN: Digital everything

Crisis or no crisis, your members don’t always have the time, money, or inclination to travel to your annual conference or even attend a local networking event. You need digital resources people can access quickly on their own terms. Templates, content downloads, virtual networking, job boards, webinars, and podcasts are just a few ideas. Break your event into time-conscious virtual tidbits, such as hour-long webinars, information packets, or online discussion panels.

OUT: Too much stuff
IN: Real resources that answer “What’s in it for me?”

Consider the cereal aisle at the grocery store. There are 16 different kinds of Cheerios that water down the brand and overwhelm the consumer. Your association faces a similar problem with your events, certifications, and education. Don’t be Cheerios. Focus instead on your core competencies. What do you offer that your members can’t get anywhere else? Which events deliver the biggest return for your members’ time and money? Don’t worry about revenue. Worry about delivering actual value and the revenue will take care of itself.

OUT: Sales pitches and corporate speak
IN: Meaningful, authentic human connections

The days of slick sales pitches and impersonal “professional” language are over. People are tired of being sold to, and they demand authenticity and transparency. The voice of your association should be human, conversational, and personal. Tell stories. Create online communities. Whenever possible, connect members and prospects with each other and get out of the way. Third-party endorsements are far more powerful than messaging straight from your organization.

OUT: Impersonal communications
IN: Behavior-based communications that are mindful of the customer journey

Nobody wants another impersonal eblast. Instead, use marketing automation to deliver timely, relevant content through marketing automation. Let each individual’s browsing, email, and social media behaviors dictate the next steps in your messaging.

If you can master how to attract, engage, and retain your younger members, you can do it for anyone. Start by throwing out old thinking and extraneous clutter. Then, add in a modern digital approach that delivers value through authentic human connections and a personalized customer journey.

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3 Ways Associations Can Replace Lost Event Revenue


We Are In Crisis Mode, and It's Unclear When We Will Be Out of It.

On the other side of crisis: does your association have a plan?


5 Ways Associations Can Help Their Members During COVID-19



3 Ways Associations Can Replace Lost Event Revenue

If you’re feeling the financial squeeze from cancelled or postponed events, buckle up. There’s more pain ahead as a recession looms large and fears abound. You need a proactive plan to replace lost event revenue so you can ride out the storm and ensure success into the future. Here are three essential steps to take right now.

1. Attract more members

There is power in numbers. The more people you can rally to your organization, the better off you will be financially in the long term. Invest in member acquisition now to ensure you have a solid base to sustain your association.

2. Focus on being a resource

Of course you need revenue to survive as an association, but focusing solely on money right now is insensitive and tone deaf. A phased approach to revenue generation is your best bet.

Start with empathy. Be a trusted resource for members in a time of crisis. Give things away for free if you have the means. Avoid overt sales pitches. Retaining your base and building a following now can ensure long-term loyalty that will turn into revenue later.

When things start to improve, you can be more aggressive with money-making initiatives, for example:

  • Simultaneous in-person and virtual events
  • Vendor-sponsored webinars or Twitter chats
  • Advertising (especially while webinar attendance is high)
  • Gated content for lead generation
  • Paid content or resources for direct revenue streams

3. Go virtual with your event

Transition your event to the virtual space so you can continually deliver value to your base, crisis or no crisis. Use these strategies to help you make the move:

Host smaller virtual events

Instead of transferring your entire multiday event online, consider breaking it into smaller sections, like webinars, livestream keynotes, and panel discussions. Many of your members simply don’t have time for a two- or three-day event. Smaller, bite-sized resources are more feasible, especially during a crisis.

Offer on-demand resources

On-demand webinars, information packets, resource libraries, or online portals can offer the same value as your in-person events with an added advantage: Each individual can choose when and how they want to engage with your association.

Build online communities

Your event gives like-minded people a place to belong. Foster meaningful online communities to maintain that camaraderie even when they can’t be together in person. Post open-ended questions to spark discussions. Share videos that showcase member success stories. Offer free downloads that solve pain points. Host virtual happy hours.

Be a conduit for connections

Your in-person event puts all your members, vendors, and industry leaders literally in the same room. While you can’t exactly do that virtually, your association can still connect the dots to help all your constituents get what they need. Job boards, Q&A forums, hotlines, virtual networking events, online marketplaces, and member portals can help people connect directly so they can learn, share, collaborate, and achieve their goals.

Offer insider deals

For many associations, the annual event is a place for special deals and discounts. Work with vendors and industry partners to make exclusive offers to your members and virtual event attendees. Offer free or discounted association membership to retain your base and ensure they will be around to make purchases from you down the road.

Replacing lost event revenue is a matter of identifying the high-value components of your association—the pieces that serve your members best—and repackaging them for easy, convenient consumption by the people who need them most. Focus on serving members and the revenue will follow.

Share this post in LinkedIn:

We Are In Crisis Mode, and It's Unclear When We Will Be Out of It.

On the other side of crisis: does your association have a plan?


5 Ways Associations Can Help Their Members During COVID-19