Like all businesses, associations need members and customers to survive. Did you know that there are more than 100,000 associations in North America? The American Society of Association Executives says that over 1,000 new associations open each year, and for-profits are cluttering the airwaves with their own messages of membership (big box retail club, anyone?).
NAIOP is one of many real estate-related organizations. With developers, owners and investors as its primary members, the association also serves professionals engaged in the development process. Architects, brokers, engineers, service providers and more all play a role in NAIOP and help create the synergy and business opportunities that members enjoy.
Naturally, keeping membership growing is always key to our success. So what is the value of membership? How can it be shown to prospective members so that they are incentived to join? Rick Whelan, president and CEO of Marketing General, shared tips and knowledge he’s developed in his 39-year association career to NAIOP chapter executives during NAIOP’s annual Chapter Leadership & Legislative Retreat in Washington, D.C.
Where do consumers and members diverge? Consumers develop a loyalty for a product or service, but members look at the buy from a more personal angle. They are searching for the “get” – as in, “What do I get by being a member?” Traditional items seen as benefits – networking, legislative representation, education – are available from numerous resources outside of your own. So what makes an organization unique? Associations must ask themselves: What can your customers and members get from you that is markedly better than what they’d get elsewhere?
The message varies depending on the audience. Selling to younger professionals can take a very different path than a pitch to a mid-level manager or the CEO. For example, a young professional is interested in not only what they’ll receive for their membership investment, but they are seeking the access to – and perhaps the ability to pattern their own careers after – seasoned, executive industry icons.
Organizations need to offer products and services to every stage of a professional’s career, from the first day at the job to the senior vice president looking at retirement, Membership resources and support are key to retaining relevancy and importance to members.
And it’s beyond dollars – sure, membership dues can be expensive, but if members are experiencing true value, price tag is rarely the issue.
Touting your own success is important in making sure members are aware of what you’re achieving on your behalf. And battling out the noise is tough – who doesn’t get enough email newsletters, magazines or mail? The key is to realize that you are never fully, effectively reaching your members. Your job is to be a constant drip of news, and it doesn’t have to be a list of everything you’re doing. The secret is that what you share has to be relevant to them, and that message can vary by member type, age or interest.
So what do members want? Time, comfort, knowledge, health (success!) and a voice at the table. They want to volunteer, serve on committees, give back. And what’s at the bottom of their wish lists? They want to avoid more work, bad information, embarrassment, worry and paying too much.
What similarities have you found between your business customers and prospective members of NAIOP? How can you help sell the value proposition of the association, and what’s the message you share when you convey the importance of the organization? Sound off in the comments and let us know your thoughts.
Kathryn Hamilton, CAE, is Vice President for Marketing and Communications at NAIOP Corporate.