Sylvia Gonner, CAE
Sylvia Gonner, CAE, is founder and CEO of CultureWiz and vice chair of ASAE’s International Associations Advisory Council.
A compelling value proposition demonstrates the unique benefits an association has to offer, how it can help members find the solutions they need most, and why choosing to be part of the community will benefit them. Here are six examples.
Will people renew their memberships this year? It’s hard to predict. So much has changed that will affect people’s decision to join or renew with their professional association in 2021. Added to that, associations often lack the most basic tool to foster the acquisition, retention, growth, and engagement of their customer base: a well-defined value proposition.
When asked “why should I join?” associations tend to make two critical mistakes in answering: They list a litany of services and products they offer, and they define value from their internal perspective—basically rehashing their mission. So, if a well-defined value proposition isn’t a long list of benefits or a one-sided marketing slogan, what is it? And why is it important to have one?
“Value” is defined as the benefits and solutions people can expect from joining, while “proposition” captures the commitment of the organization to deliver on its promise. Value propositions are unique to each organization, must be carefully crafted as part of a broader strategy, and should be periodically revised to remain relevant.
Value propositions are unique to each organization, must be carefully crafted as part of a broader strategy, and should be periodically revised to remain relevant.
What makes a good value proposition? Here are some examples.
Demonstrate added value. Members and customers are attracted to organizations that bring them tangible added value and make their jobs easier, better, and more productive. At the Institute of Internal Auditors, the value proposition clearly spells out the added value of belonging: “Membership Means More: Connect More, Know More, Save More.” The services and benefits the organization offers are consistently grouped into these three categories to demonstrate the additional value of belonging.
Focus on member needs. Members are more likely to join if an organization offers a product or service that fulfills their actual needs. A value proposition is best based on feedback from members—from surveys, for example—that clearly prioritizes their top needs. The International Franchise Association communicates value with a clear member-needs focus: “Gain visibility and build your business with an IFA membership. Together we will improve your profits and professional future by empowering you with access to practical resources and a strong community of professional peers.”
Clarify unique benefits. What distinguishes your association from the competition? What makes you unique? When an association is the recognized authority or representative of a trade or profession at a local, national, or international level, it’s vital to highlight this as a unique value. At Meeting Professionals International, this unique position is made clear in the statement that “MPI is the voice of professionals around the world, advocating for the industry and its significant economic impact.”
Establish a partnership. Demonstrate value by being a partner in your members’ journey. The National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors tells members, “Together we can take on anything. … By joining NAIFA, we become your partner, elevating your performance while providing a greater purpose to your professional work. We help you advance your career. We protect your industry. We enhance your credibility.”
Be exclusively inclusive. This may seem a contradiction in terms, but associations must learn to be exclusively inclusive. Advancing diversity and inclusion is key to ensure associations thrive, gain insights, and stay relevant. Offering access to a diverse community of peers who share common interests and passion for a profession, trade, or cause is a sound value proposition. It’s even more powerful when a member testifies to the value of belonging to the community. In a brief video, a member of the International Coaching Federation explains that ICF is a “wonderful community to be part of … a place where any coach can come and spread their coaching wings.”
When communicating value, it’s equally important to differentiate the exclusiveness of belonging by making it clear which benefits are members-only. The Risk Management Society used an effective visual of a side-by-side comparison table during its recruitment and retention process that shows differences in product accessibility and price. A strong value proposition should include what is exclusively accessible to members, by tiers, or to those who pay a premium.
Deliver on a promise. Finally, value should be articulated in terms of the commitment, the expectation, and the promise the association offers. What outcome can your members expect? What results can your organization help them achieve? It’s best to craft a unique value proposition from scratch, but here is a simple model to help you get started:
Our member value promise:
To [achieve results/solve problems]
In 2021, it will be essential to spell out your value proposition, make it visible on your public-facing forums, and use it consistently in recruitment and retention campaigns. And after all the transformative events of the past year, be sure to review your value proposition and update it if necessary to ensure that it reflects the current reality, even if your organization’s core value proposition remains unchanged.