Some Thoughts on an Excellent Post from Association Inc.

One of the blogs that I link to on Membership Marketing as a “Blog of Value” is Association Inc. The last post entitled “Random Thoughts on New Rules for Association Growth”, is well worth reading. The post speaks to market focus, ownership, dues revenue, data and testing. You’ll find some great ideas to keep the sun from setting on your ship.

Association Inc reminds us to focus on our market not a product. Success comes when we know our marketplace inside out. This intimate knowledge allows us to anticipate needs and create products that meet those needs.

Ownership of whatever product we create for our members is also critical. “Grants, sponsorships, “affinity programs” – these all have a role to play, but in and of themselves will not lead to sustainable, exponential growth because they depend on the whims of others.”[1]

As I have commented on this blog in Exploring Alternative Membership Models, the actual concept of membership has been appropriated by many for profit companies. Many of these companies provide membership for free or at a low dues price, which allows the member to take advantage of discounts and special services.

An example that you may be aware of is Sermo ™ – a free membership site with 60,000 physicians and growing,

Because of this, diversification of income streams is wise. As an ancient proverb reads: “Give a portion to seven, or even to eight, for you know not what disaster may happen on earth.”[2]

Using data effectively is another key point. I have used the quote before from the renowned marketing professor Philip Kotler, he says, “Successful companies [or associations] are learning companies. They collect feedback from the marketplace, audit and evaluate results, and take corrections designed to improve their performance. Good marketing works by constantly monitoring its position in relation to its destination.”[3]

Finally, Association Inc. recommends rapid prototyping and testing of new initiatives. This culture of innovation is foundational for success. “Most companies [or non-profits] would be better off if they made fewer billion-dollar bets and a whole lot more $10,000 or $20,000 bets – some of which will, in time, justify more substantial commitments. They should steer clear of grand, imperial strategies and devote themselves instead to launching a swarm of low-risk experiments.”[4]

Are there any other insights that you would add to these?

[1] Association Inc.
[2] Ecclesiastes 11:2
[3] Kotler on Marketing, Free Press, 1999
[4] Gary Hamel and Lisa Valikangas, “The Quest for Resilience”, Harvard Business Review


Chris Davis said...


Thanks for your recap. I read this on Association Inc.'s blog and thought it was an interesting post with good information. As I commented on the original post (which has not shown up yet), this could be recapped in three words: ‘Members, Members, Members’ - member feedback, member involvement, and member data.

As I have said before, and eluded to in my most recent blog post on listening to members, members enjoy giving their feedback. Find out from them what they need and focus on offering those products and services. Then get feedback from them on how you’re doing - record it - and periodically, re-evaluate your offerings, adjusting to the needs of the members. Members also like being part of something new – something exciting. Get them involved in your testing and ask them what they would do to make it better.

When members are happy with the benefits and experiences they receive from their association - when they feel they have ownership - they will talk about your association with others. I could not think of a better way to promote your association’s growth than through the praises sung by satisfied members!

One thing I would add is to create an open forum between the members and moderate what is going on. Not only would this facilitate healthy discussions between the members, but would give you an idea of what they are thinking…which could be tied into the ‘Using data effectively’ part of the post.


Tony Rossell said...

Chris -- Good points. Yes, having a feedback loop for members is key. But serving a market also means gaining understand with those outside the membership also. What can an association do better to attract those who are not part of you? Serving a market not a product is key. Tony

KareAnderson said...

Even "giving feedback" is different than the new social media where a continuous, multi-directional, transparent conversation is possible - and a growing number of our members, prospective members, exhibitors/sponsors are seeking/expecting that kind of communication.

Echoing the apt Sermo (for physicians) reference cited in this community conversation, I wrote about how for-profit social media entities could steal "our" members

Tony Rossell said...

Kare -- Thanks. I have enjoyed reading your blog. There has also been a fairly extensive conversation on social networking on the ASAE membership list serv. You will see when I get my post done on trends facing associations that social networking is a huge area that will impact associations. Tony