The Pathway to being a Remarkable Association

Next week, I have the opportunity to do a presentation taking a look at the future of associations. I will start the talk by reviewing the past. Specifically, I am going over the findings of ASAE and The Center in 7 Measures of Success: What Remarkable Associations Do that Other Don’t.

As you may recall, this book resulted from a thorough study under the guidance of Jim Collins (Good to Great) comparing 18 matched associations. “The project’s value lies in discerning the often subtle differences between two well-matched organizations – what one association did or didn’t do to give it a performance or financial edge on its counterpart” (page 8).

I think the findings of this study are as valid today as they were in 2006 when the book was published. Here is a short review of the Measures of Success.

1. A Customer Service Culture -- “Remarkable associations build their structures, processes, and interactions – their entire culture – around assessing and fulfilling members’ needs and expectations” (page 24).

Customer service goes beyond customer satisfaction. In fact, we do not even ask customer satisfaction questions on surveys because we find that lapsed member report virtually the same level of satisfaction as current members.

2. Alignment of Products and Services with Mission -- “Remarkable associations speak passionately about fulfilling their mission and constantly test their ideas for products against that mission, using it as a touchstone for everything they do. . . To find the right mix of products . . . remarkable associations engage in experimentation” (page 28).

The goal for an association is to become an indispensible resource for a member. I think this comes from focusing on the three drivers of engagement, vision, reward, and relationship.

3. Data-Driven Strategies -- “If there is one phrase that sets remarkable associations apart from their counterparts, it’s ‘data, data, data.’ They gather information, analyze it, and then use it to become even better” (page 38).

As an example, just in the area of membership recruitment, testing and then analyzing data can commonly improve performance as follows:

• List tests – Can impact response by 500 percent.
• Offer tests – Can impact response by 200 percent.
• Creative tests – Can impact response by 100 percent.

4. Dialogue and Engagement -- “Many with the study group would no doubt echo the employee at the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) who said, ‘We all discuss decisions openly with each other. We have a desire to collaborate with each other, and we do it in mission-driven ways” (page 44).

SHRM membership is reported to have grown by from 36,000 in 1992 to over 250,000 today. Need I say more?

5. CEO as a Broker of Ideas -- “While CEOs may be visionary leaders, what’s more important is their ability to facilitate visionary thinking throughout the organization” (page 49).

We are in a knowledge economy. The organizations and clients that I have seen thrive have a culture of ideas. Ideas are the currency in the organization.

6. Organizational Adaptability -- “Our data confirmed that no organization – regardless of how remarkable it is – can predict change with full accuracy and therefore be on target with its response . . . Our data indicate that remarkable organizations do not panic . . . They maintain a clear understanding of their core purpose” (page 58-59).

Remarkably through this recession, we have seen a consistent trend that organizations that stayed in the market and continued to reach out to prospective members came through the past year in good shape.

7. Alliance Building -- “[Remarkable associations are] secure in who they are and what they bring to the table, these associations communicate clear expectations for each specific partnership and do not hesitate to walk away if a win-win situation does not materialize. But they’re also willing to admit what they can’t do on their own.”

Everyone wants to partner with successful organizations. Be sure to look in the mirror before you propose an alliance.

2 comments:

Keith said...

As always, well-done Tony!

Keith Greene, SPHR
Director of Membership & Customer Relations
BoardSource

Richard Gott said...

Wise words that are relevant to any membership organisation or association. Well written.

Richard Gott
The MemberWise Network