This dues season, make them a proposition they can’t refuse … paying for!
As much as a board of directors represents your members, the truth is that often they do not. Board members are highly invested in the governance of the association and therefore plan (and think) from their view – the inside out. Because they think something is important or valuable, they also believe they know what members need most. And while well intentioned, the result can cause a real disconnect with the membership.
It is the member’s perception of value that will impact their decision whether to write that dues check for the coming year—especially when the year just ending is full of unpaid bills.
Nearly all REALTOR® associations face the challenge to overcome a lack of clarity about the value of membership. Volunteer leaders and association executives alike tend to think they know the biggest benefits of membership (the what), not the value proposition (the why). Our share of real-life examples include Board Presidents declaring what THEY think is most valuable, and what SHOULD be valuable to members. In doing so, the association loses an important opportunity to articulate what is most important to members on the street. It is focusing on the most critical worries and needs that ensure an association is focusing on the right things.
This article will help you see why thinking about value from the outside in – starting with what members most worry about – will help take an important step into new priorities for AEs to think about, plan for, and talk about, in order to create an enticing window for members to see your association’s portfolio more clearly – and with a new set of eyes.
Put a definition on that value proposition!
To begin, a message of value is not a list of services you offer. It is not advocacy, or the public awareness commercials running on morning news television, monthly networking breakfasts, or CE courses you offer in your training center.
A value proposition is an explanation (yes, even a sales pitch) that convinces your member to pay attention, take advantage of and use the services and offerings that you are really good at. It continually reminds a member why they should choose to belong to your association, versus a competing association, or no association at all. So your message has to set you apart.
Key messages about your unique value will give focus to your planning. It will help give your leaders sound bites to speak about in their message, and ultimately help you convince and connect with your members who aren’t clear about the answer to “so what?” or “Why do I belong here?” The message is a framework for your association’s communications.
The Road to Solving Your Problem
It helps when you are clear on the reason you need a value proposition in the first place. Clarity about the “why” makes the process very clear. Some associations believe they need a value proposition to solve a strategic issue with member loyalty, or conveying more with their communications. Others need to unify their staff or help leaders look and plan differently. Yet others think they know how much they offer to members, but need a clear and unified way to express it. When you are clear about the motivation for this project (the why), your staff and leaders will be more satisfied with the solution.
Take a purposeful look at your members’ needs first, then match those needs with what you do very well. It’s a radical shift in thinking. This change in perspective helps organizations to “question everything” and re-think how they plan services, organize and invest, and set long-range goals.
Lasting Propositions are Etched in Stone
Creating a custom value message is not an agenda item:
- The best process involves a group of a diverse of members and leaders.
- It takes nearly a full day work through the discovery process.
- Attendees learn their role in advance, including what a value proposition really means. Most task force members find this is a really motivating process.
- The key messages are unique to your association. You can’t copy someone else’s.
- The process is an investment. Whether you conduct it yourself or hire it out, it takes time, group thinking, and an investment in follow-through to develop a message that’s meaningful to members and sustainable for leaders and staff.
- Finally it’s a commitment to keep it alive. While you don’t necessarily need expensive print collaterals (hurray for email and electronic newsletters), don’t kid yourself that there’s not an investment required if you plan to impact a change in thinking.
Your message should be the window through which your members are looking at and exploring.
A new message will change the way your association approaches its business. It helps you evaluate all of your services and develop a member communications strategy. Your explanation is a new rationale for members to think about what you offer them to see your expertise in the context of their business. It puts member needs into focus and helps leaders to make decisions from the members’ point of view.
This is a shift for many organizations who want to convince members what should be important them. The discovery of what members need most can create some meaningful dialog about your member services. Do the services you offer today connect the dots for members in a meaningful way to change their thoughts when they sign that dues check this year?