Individual or Company Members: Why Not Both?

Individual or Company Members: Why Not Both? Associations Now September/October 2015 By: Joe Rominiecki

A group membership program for corporations at the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers shows how a traditionally individual membership organization can engage more of its industry through an added focus on companies.

On the road, hybrids are all the rage. They're a growing trend in associations, too.

From 2011 to 2015, the percentage of associations offering a combination of both individual and company memberships more than doubled, from 13 percent to 29 percent, among respondents to Marketing General Incorporated's "Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report."

The Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers is a part of that trend. In early 2014, it unveiled a group-membership option for companies it calls the Corporate Alliance Partner Program. SCTE has been an individual-membership organization since its

founding in 1969, but the new program engages companies by offering discounts on dues and training if they enroll a certain percentage of their employees as SCTE members.

The change was a way for the association to evolve without abandoning the foundation it already had in place, says Bill Schankel, MBA, CAE, vice president of marketing at SCTE. "We looked at changing the membership structure around, but we didn't want to go from a professional individual member society to a corporate structure," he says.

Instead, the hybrid approach—keeping individual memberships but adding a company-engagement strategy—has fulfilled SCTE's vision to serve all levels of the cable workforce during a time of industry consolidation. "How we packaged the corporate alliance program gave us a vehicle to really make that happen," Schankel says.

So far, 11 cable-operator companies have become partners, plus five supplier companies. In less than two years, SCTE's individual membership has increased from 14,000 to more than 20,000 as a result of the partner program, and its training revenue has doubled.

The association had to learn a new approach to member service, with account executive roles established to maintain close, ongoing relationships with partner companies. The hardest part of hybrid, though, has been technical. SCTE's systems had always been optimized for individual memberships.

"The systems and the business processes are a project that's been in transition since the start, and we're still trying to really nail down what the best process is to handle it and to simplify it," Schankel says.

[This article was originally published in the Associations Now print edition, titled "Hybrid Model."]

Joe Rominiecki

Joe Rominiecki is senior editor at Associations Now.