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Have You Decided to Re-Visit and Re-Vitalize Your Sponsorship Offers?

Planning Process
“We need to stay on top of the needs of our members and our sponsors.”

“Lately, we have been competing with many more organizations for sponsorship dollars.”

Sound familiar?

When creating and providing marketing material to assist in the engagement and nurturing process, consider the following:

Tangible vs. Intangible:

Companies have several opportunities annually to advertise (in print and online), appear at industry events, and other exposure opportunities. In many cases, there are more opportunities than there is money to spend.  In order to stand out from your competitors, distinguish yourself by:

When presenting a company with a sponsorship opportunity, talk about your members – more than just the statistics of your member base.  Discuss the amount of member activity and the level of their engagement, and how that can impact your sponsor’s business.
Offer them to test the waters:  invite them to an upcoming event so that they can see the benefits for themselves.

Devise and Showcase a Support Program:

You want your sponsors to get as much as they can out of the dollars they spend with your association.  To help them through the process, a simple support program can be created:

Find ways to grow your sponsors’ buy-in to your organization (other than events, advertising and social media opportunities).  This can be done by conducting an intake interview of sorts.  By finding out what their strategic goals are, how involved they want to be, and other specialties that they have to offer can significantly increase the trust between the sponsor and the association.  You can demonstrate that you have their interests in mind.

Get Creative:

And get them as involved as possible:

Did you want to start a research project (or program)?  Instead of just asking the sponsor to pay for it, ask them to also provide additional support.  One easy way is to request that they become part of the committee(s) involved. It will not only show your membership base that they are committed to the specific cause, it provides them with yet another opportunity to be present and face-to-face with your members, providing added value at the same time.
Make sure your offerings are customizable:  How does the company conduct business?  How many staff/sales people do they have?  What is their sales process?  How does your association fit in with their strategic goals?  Prepare unique cover material (letters, emails, etc) that will showcase where and how you fit into their process.

If you can demonstrate additional value, corporations should be more willing to spend the time and the money to bring your organization to the next level.  What else are you doing to increase your corporate buy-in?

Greenfield Services Launches First Annual Member Engagement Benchmarking Survey

Mini Greenfield
Lately there has been a heavy focus on Member Engagement, and whether we are moving the needle.  85% of my conversations in the last 60 days with Association Executives have focused on this, through various channels (such as member recruitment practices; e-communication with members, non-members and other stakeholders; and social media strategies and management).

Many are looking for current statistics so that they have the ability to compare their organization to similar-sized organizations in Canada.  However, while there are some individual reports out there (on social media, and benchmarks on email marketing), I could not find a study out there that covered Member Engagement Practices in general, so that we can all better document progress and successes.

As a result, we have launched our First Annual Benchmarking Survey, which will cover off organizational structure, and membership engagement (recruitment, retention, renewal and engagement questions).

Interested in participating?  Anyone who works for an Association in Canada can share their feedback – providing they have an interest in the above noted areas.  The study will take approximately 35 minutes to complete – and individual results will be kept strictly confidential.  Results will be reported in aggregate and will not identify any specific response or respondent.

Those who respond will have the opportunity to request at the end to receive a copy of the report as our thank you (a $149 value).

If you have questions regarding the study – I would be happy to discuss it further.  Please feel free to reach out:

Meagan Rockett
Director, Client Solutions
Greenfield Services Inc.
866-488-4474 ext 4517

Five Ways to Increase Sponsor Value

Support Network
As a company who gets approached often for sponsorship opportunities, we have to pick and choose who we decide to partner with.

A few months back, we received an email (no phone call, just the email), asking to sponsor/exhibit at an upcoming tradeshow.  Because we knew the organization well, we made a strategic decision to exhibit.  But had I been unfamiliar with this organization, their appeal that the tradeshow would increase our company’s visibility would not have been enough.

At the receiving end of these requests, it got me thinking:  What can associations be doing to engage their potential sponsors better?

1. Engage your members:  And then, advise your sponsors.  Get to know your members, how they want to be communicated with by your sponsors, and then share the information in advance.  Your sponsors will be better prepared to remain relevant.  In turn, they will obtain the respect of your membership base, and become more effective in their communication practices.

2. Tell your sponsors about the unique marketing opportunity:  Whether your potential sponsors are looking to partner with you for B2B or B2C purposes, demonstrate that you know your membership base (and their business) – via research, or testimonials. As a sponsor, I want to know if they are an influencer/decision-maker, how they want to be communicated with, and what their buying cycles look like.  Just offering visibility or industry recognition no longer justifies my spend.

3. Become a Partner:  Do not just ask for a cheque.  That is not a partnership.  Associations with successful partnerships provide access to their members.  Sponsors are able to directly communicate with them (which is why your research is key).  By becoming a partner with the companies you are looking to have sponsor/exhibit, you should focus on their success.  This can easily be done by offering value – help them track their ROI with tracking tools, reporting and member feedback.

4. Become your sponsor’s voice:  Your members will listen to you.  Whether you are sending an e-newsletter, or through social media, you are in the unique position to be leveraging your sponsor’s ability to solve problems – whether through a product offering, time-enhancing solution, or through research that they have done that will benefit your membership.  Associations should be offering to share content through their various channels.

5. Help them build relationships:  As a sponsor/exhibitor, being present to members is very important to me, and this goes well beyond the conference.  Add value to your marketing plan by offering to introduce the sponsor to your chapters, join a committee, or attend local events.

Understanding your member needs is one thing – but if you also understand your sponsors’ needs, and are able to effectively connect the two – you will both increase member engagement and will keep your sponsors paying for the opportunity to showcase themselves.

Delivering on Member Value

Time for change construction sign
In a previous blog, we talked about identifying your niche market and creating new member values. These changes may seem a bit drastic, but the time is right: People no longer join associations just because it’s the right thing to do, and you can expect every member to expect a solid return on their investment (ROI) in your organization.

To keep that ROI front and centre, here are some things you can do to move beyond a list of features and talk about the outcomes and benefits your members receive:

Ÿ  Avoid catch phrases. Your members and prospects are looking for real value, and they’ll quickly detect (and reject) standard jargon they might hear from any other organization. For example, unless you can show that you really offer a vastly better setting for networking, there’s no point talking about a benefit people can receive in many different places, in person and online. 

Ÿ  Talk about the future, not the past. Your association may have been an industry leader for the last 100 years, but that won’t likely matter to someone who’s in her first 100 weeks in your industry. New members will care much more about where you’re going than where you’ve been.

Ÿ  Let your champions tell your story. Your mission statement is important as a quick definition of what your association is about. But newer generations of members will look for feedback from other members, making testimonials an increasingly powerful tool.

Ÿ  Create the right marketing materials. To get to the core of your value proposition, think about how your association makes a difference in members’ lives, or what they would miss if the organization didn’t exist. Find out why new members are joining and build a marketing campaign that showcases that value for potential recruits.

Ÿ  Focus on member value. Can you clearly articulate what your members need now? What they’ll likely be looking for in the next one, three, or five years? What are you doing to anticipate and deliver on those expectations?

There’s a simple way to answer these tough questions: Ask your members. Creating a simple survey can bring you the statistics and the feedback you need to make the right assessment and develop the right member recruitment and retention materials.

Is This the End of Association Membership?

Dead End and Opportunity Crossroads Signs
It might just be the end of membership as we know it. In March, I attended a workshop that pointed to a perfect storm of outside influences that are reshaping associations and their marketing efforts at breathtaking speed.

At the workshop, hosted by the Canadian Society of Association Executives, author Sarah Sladek of XYZ University said it’s little wonder that many associations are watching their membership numbers decline.

·         An unsteady global economy has forced associations into a struggle to build and retain a membership base, and members are demanding more value for every dollar they spend.
·         Changing technology has made information more easily accessible to members than ever before—and they don’t necessarily need an association membership to get it.
·         Demographics are shifting. By 2015, Generation Y will outnumber baby boomers in the work force, and while they may be willing to join associations, Gen Yers will arrive with a very different set of values and expectations.

And as demand for membership declines, there is greater competition among associations, with every organization scrambling to demonstrate superior value to existing and prospective members.

Here are some of the things you can do to reassess your member value proposition and revitalize your strategic direction:

·         Find your niche. Decide what your organization offers to members that sets it apart from the crowd. In the past, your goal may have been to maximize membership numbers. In the new reality, the winning strategy might be to identify the audiences you serve best and find the unique value that you alone can offer them.
·         Find your valuable commodity. And once you’ve found it, capitalize on it. You can eliminate the competition by showcasing your best work and making sure members understand how it sets you apart.
·         Create fabulous member experiences. What does the membership experience look like? Do you know what kind of first impression you make when a prospective member finds you online? What is the member experience for your active volunteers, committee members, and directors?
·         Focus outward. If you’ve been paying a lot of attention to bylaws and internal structures, it’s time to shift focus. Build an emotional connection with your members and show them how they make a positive difference—personally, professionally, and in their community. 
·         It’s all about them. Your marketing materials for new members and renewals should emphasize what members get back when they form a relationship with their organization, and help them remember why they should keep that relationship going.

Unless your association has suddenly lost the impetus to retain and recruit members, Sladek’s techniques can help you get them emotionally invested in your cause. And we can help you market your services properly, to make sure your crucial message is received.