New Revenue Plus Member Satisfaction Equals a Win/Win

By: Andrew S. Lang

How the Marble Institute of America took a nondues revenue stream from $0 to $25,000 in a single year.

Sometimes an additional revenue stream doesn't bring in buckets of money, but is a great idea nonetheless.

"What?" you say. "I thought this was all about making net income."

Well, other than terrific member satisfaction, there is little I like better than additional net income. But what if you can have both?

The story begins back in 2004. At that time, the leadership of the Marble Institute of America (MIA) had focused on the fact that its membership wanted new ways to connect with architects, designers, and kitchen and bath dealers to encourage their use of natural stone in new buildings and remodeling. However, times were good in the building and remodeling industry, and the energy for developing a new effort to fulfill this particular member desire simply wasn't there.

MIA Speakers Program By the Numbers

MIA Staff: 9
MIA Budget: $1.9 million
Number of Speakers (2009): 10
Number of Speakers (2010 to date): 100
Budgeted Revenue (first year): $0
Projected Revenue (first year): $25,000+

Cut to 2009, and you find the building and remodeling industry in utter disarray. For MIA, membership was declining, sponsorships were harder to get, and registrations for most programs were down. Creative solutions were definitely needed.

MIA Vice President James A. Hieb was part of the team that was seeking solutions. Hieb says that as he was running through alternative solutions, he recalled the 2004 comments from the leadership. In response, he asked, "Can we find a way of making money while we give our members better access to the architects, designers, and builders who will buy from them?"

The answer was an elegant one. Almost all of the companies that MIA's members sell to belong to associations, such as the American Institute of Architects and the American Society of Interior Designers, that require continuing education to maintain a professional credential. Because MIA had been successfully producing continuing-education units (CEUs) for its members since 2002, perhaps it could arrange a hassle-free method for its members to train their customers while providing those customers with inexpensive CEUs as well.

What was created as a result was a win/win/win. The potential customers attending the continuing education receive good-quality CEUs at an inexpensive price. MIA members have an opportunity to spend extended quality time with potential customers, while in the role of the acknowledged expert.

But what does the association gain? Let's begin with the revenue stream. Enrollment fees, which are paid by each presenter who signs up, are currently $250, but will soon move up to $325. For this fee, presenters are trained (at annual meetings) and are provided with access to a variety of PowerPoint presentations and other materials.

Once presenters are enrolled in the program, they must pay a $250 annual renewal fee. For each course that presenters subsequently give, they must pay either a $50 fee or place an order for $50 of product from the MIA bookstore. While these are not huge numbers, it is satisfying to hear that in the program's first full year of operation MIA expects to net in excess of $25,000.

But there are ancillary benefits to MIA that are perhaps even more important. The members who have signed up love the program. The effort was started in October 2009 with a beta group of 10 MIA member companies, which each paid to have one presenter trained. Since the beginning of 2010, the number of members and presenters involved has grown to include more than 30 MIA member companies and a total of 100 speakers.

Hieb makes it clear that while on the surface this is an education program, in reality it's become a tremendous sales tool for the members and a strong member retention program for MIA. He says, "It is tying the members to MIA in a way we have never been able to connect them to us before." I don't know about you, but that plus $25,000 in new net income for the first year sounds like a big winner to me.

Andrew S. Lang, CPA, is president of LangCPA Consulting LLC in Potomac, Maryland. Email: [email protected]