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Associations Now

A Crossfunctional Path to a New Membership Structure

ASSOCIATIONS NOW, October 2011 Intelligence

By: Julia Bailey

Summary: How one association's education, marketing, membership, and IT staff worked together to meet members' changing needs.

When the Board of Registry of the American Society for Clinical Pathology launched new recertification requirements for laboratory professionals in 2004, it was clear the association would need to provide new benefits to them. "We knew that if we were going to do a proper job of supporting those members, we'd need to completely revamp our business model," says Steve Ciaccio, CPA, CAE, ASCP's chief operating officer.

Certified laboratory professionals, or laboratory scientists, represent a significant segment of ASCP's total membership of 100,000, which also includes pathologists and pathology residents. Yet laboratory professionals work at the lower end of the compensation scale. And with resources stretched thin, they often don't receive support from their employers to earn credits for recertification.

ASCP faced a twofold challenge, Ciaccio says. It had to restructure its membership from a one-year model to a multiyear model to align with the three-year recertification period. And it needed an online support system to help members track their continuing education (CE) courses, because laboratory professionals were largely engaging with ASCP online.

In 2008, Ciaccio assembled a crossfunctional team to develop the new membership. ASCP's education department tailored its existing online offerings to match the new recertification requirements. The marketing team conducted research to determine what was important to this audience and what price points would work. Membership staff developed and tested various pricing models. Finally, the IT team coordinated a new website that would provide an online demo, registration process, and shopping cart, as well as downloadable CE courses and tracking tools for members. Market research took a year to complete, says Ciaccio, but developing the business model and program took approximately nine months.

Because recertification was the catalyst for its development, ASCP named its new membership plan "re.member." Since its launch in 2009, approximately 9,000 members have gained access to a personalized website where they can search for online courses, print CE documentation, track and submit credits, and electronically submit documentation when they're ready to recertify. Along the way, members receive notification alerts about upcoming deadlines. Membership includes all the regular benefits of ASCP membership and covers the $75 recertification fee.

The re.member project team was able to apply what it learned to a new membership model for another member segment. Last fall, the team launched
"re.member.moc," a new membership plan for ASCP's pathologist members.

In both cases, members helped spread the word with minimal prompting from ASCP. "Through the development of both of these programs, we learned that when you create something that meets the needs of the member, you don't have to market it as much," Ciaccio says. "You have to put it out there, but when members look at the new product, it's evident that you created something to help them solve a problem. It sort of sells itself."

Julia Bailey is a writer and contractor for the American Society for Clinical Pathology. Email: baileycommunications@gmail.com

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