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Top Posts on The Membership Engagement Blog

2014 was a big year for The Membership Engagement Blog.  Thank YOU to all of our readers to check out our posts on association membership, leadership, tips & best practices, and updates on Greenfield Services Inc.  

Here are the top rated posts from 2014:
  1. Associations Presence on Social Media [Infographic]: This infographic was produced in January 2014, based on the 2013 results from our Pulse Report on membership marketing & engagement.  Want up to date stats?  Check out our 2014 Pulse Report.
  2. Member Recruitment Gone Wrong:  This February 2014 post was based on a piece of marketing material we received by mail, what was wrong, and what could (or, should) be done differently.  
  3. Etiquette for Tradeshow Organizers, Exhibitors, and Attendees: With the rising costs of vendors to exhibit at a tradeshow, we offered some suggestions in Feburary 2014 on what you, as a tradeshow organizer, can do to increase ROI through etiquette.
  4. Sponsors Matter!  Associations need to better engage...:  Without sponsors, many associations could not achieve what they have to do.  But are you engaging your sponsors in the right way?  In May 2014, we offered up some suggestions on what to do, and what to get rid of.
  5. Six Big Questions on How Associations Engage Their Members:  In an era when member priorities are shifting, generational expectations vary widely, and anyone with a free Internet connection can get the benefits that used to come with paid association membership, what’s the future of member engagement?  We discussed this in June 2014; in preparation for our inaugural Engaging Associations Summit.
  6. #Association Concerns - And What To Do About Them:  This blog was written with our 2014 Pulse Report in mind, in September 2014.  What can you, as an association executive consider (or, implement) to help combat these issues?  We discuss it here.
  7. The Engaging #Association Summit:  THE highlight of my year....Greenfield Services took on events this year - with the Summit being our inaugural event, which was officially announced on our blog in February.  Want to learn more?  Sign up for updates!
  8. #Association Goals and Objectives [Infographic]:  In August, our infographic on goals and objectives based on our 2014 Pulse Report was released.  
  9. [Infographic] Member Relationships: In October; our infographic on member relationships was released (again, based on our 2014 Pulse Report).
  10. A-HA! #Engageassn E-Book is Here!: Finally, and to wrap up our highly successful first event, we produced and released our e-book in October 2014, based on "a-ha" moments we uncovered with association executives at the July 2014 event.  Want your own copy?  Download it here.
Thank you ALL once again for visiting our blog!

My favourite posts of 2014 for #Association Executives

There was several great posts that were published this year.  Here is a snapshot of the thought-leadership that came out this year (my Top 10):

  1. What members want: The new meaning of value - The problem with your young association members is that they’re always changing. Each generation is a little bit different; they value experiences differently.  Thanks to XYZ University for this post!
  2. Your non-members: Friends or Foes? - this post divides non-members into four categories; and suggests that non-members are very definitely our friends and a careful, measured and thoughtful approach to engaging with them will bring tangible results, perhaps not today or tomorrow, but in the future.  This was posted on the CSAE Ottawa-Gatineau blog.
  3. How to Develop a New Product Pipeline For Your Association - Innovation is scary for many organizations because it is not something many are in the habit of doing. Create a practice or a habit of innovation and it becomes much much easier. This post provides 11 key steps in the process.  Written by Amanda Kaiser (Smooth The Path).
  4. Why You Need to Tell Your Association Members`Stories Before Your OwnGuilty by association. We are the company we keep. If your association is the sum of your members, you need to be telling their stories first.  Originally posted on the MemberClicks blog.
  5. Your Choice: Change or Irrelevance - This post is short and timely.  It suggests that many organizations are well on their way to irrelevance, and provides three things you can do now to avoid it.  Thanks Andy Freed for your thought leadership!
  6. Facilitation: plan, and have faith - what can we do – facilitators and clients alike – to make it more likely that a facilitated session will go well? Meredith Low provides some thoughts, tips, and best practices here.
  7. The Death of the Mall and Other Association Lessons - great analogies here on the Association Subculture blog - You don't need to obsess about entropy but you do need to challenge your ethos in the face of it.
  8. Membership Practices of Associations with High Retention Rates - this post, featured on the Abila blog, offers up 12 practices that associations who have high retention rates are currently doing.
  9. When Opinion by Committee Can Lead You Astray - how could I have a top 10 list without Jeff Hurt?  In this post (which, by the way, is one of many of his posts that I think are great) says 'When we are designing a conference or planning the next steps of an organization, we need to be aware of the challenges of relying only on the opinions of a committee. Especially if everyone on that committee has the same belief. We need to seek diverse thought that challenges our conventional thinking. And encourage honest open discussion.'
  10. ROI to R.O.M.E - What is R.O.M.E.?  Return on Member Engagement.  Only when board/staff engagement and member engagement are high do innovative solutions surface through a “we” collaboration. Moving to a “we” focused community is about inclusiveness and being open to the possibilities that might surface.  Thanks Dan Varroney for sharing!
What blogs did you see this year that changed the way you think?

Why aren't we all treated the same?

This Fall has been a pretty busy time for conferences for me this year.  In five weeks, I attended three multi-day conferences across Ontario & Quebec, and had the following experience(s):

Conference #1:

This particular conference I attended as a business development opportunity.  While I know well in advance, and based on past experiences, that attending this I will be treated differently right from the outset, the following became very noticeable for me this year:

  • I was driving to this out of town conference, and during one of my stops, I called the hotel to inquire about parking.  The hotel asked me if I was coming in with a particular group, and when I mentioned the conference, they told me that it was complimentary valet parking.  FANTASTIC, right?  Nope.  Upon check out, I had to fight with the hotel to remove the $70 charge to my hotel room.  Why?  Because while I was attending the conference, I was not the right kind of attendee.  They removed it, but it took some effort on my end.  Perhaps they should have educated their team about the different attendee types for these kind of inquiries.
Conference #2:

In this situation, I was hired to be temporary staff of an association who was holding a conference in Toronto.  My role was to cover their social media networks for the weeks leading up to and for the duration of the conference.  This particular conference would be considered a hotel/convention centre's typical "bread and butter":
  •  Upon check in at the hotel, they had not added my room to the master account.  It took three days to rectify this between the front desk, the association and the Sales Manager.  Not that I minded charging this to my credit card, but they were provided the list of rooms to be charged to the master account weeks in advance - and when you check in, are tired, and have a hundred things to do to prepare, do you really want to be dealing with something that should be SO simple?  
  • While customer service at the hotel was "OK" in many other areas, nothing really stood out. There were no extras, and no thank you's.
Conference #3:

My final conference was fantastic; well staffed hotel, exceptional customer service, sponsored events that didn't include any restrictions for the "wrong" attendee:
  • There was a wide-variety of food & beverage options; essentially entirely complimentary to each participant;
  • There were no issues at check in or check out;
  • Hotel staff were consistently friendly & helpful;
  • You were made to feel that you belonged, no matter who you were.
My question to the industry is:  While I understand that you are trying to put your best foot forward to increase future business, why would you set restrictions in so many cases on what you do and for who?  

Example #1 is a very similar conference to example #3.  And yet, I was treated with a significantly different mindset.

And, under example #2, if this business was won based on someone attending a conference similar to #1 & #3; would it not make more sense to continue the same level of customer service that the planner experienced in the first place?

What are your thoughts on conference equality? 

Image courtesy of nongpimmy at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Top Picks for Membership Engagement Tips

Membership Engagement is a hot topic - and it isn't going away very soon...

In a recent infographic I published, based on survey results from the 2014 Pulse Report (our membership marketing & engagement study in Canada), we reported that 47.4% of respondents would increase budgets in membership engagement next year, if they had only one area that could be increased.

I think we know by now the concept of membership engagement; but association executives are struggling with how to engage members, and what they should track to determine if their efforts are successful.

Here are four blogs/articles that I have come across that offer tips, theories and suggestions that are well worth the read:

  1. Engaging Next Generations (featured on the CSAE Ottawa-Gatineau blog):  the article reports on a lunch & learn session that was help for chapter members, and association executives in the Ottawa area.  It featured a panel of three association executives, who discussed the changed that they have made, whether they worked or not; in an effort to engage the next generation of member.
  2. Weak Member Engagement?  Look at Your Staff (featured on AssociationsNow):  This article is a quick summary of another blog post, but the title caught my eye, as I was preparing for a presentation recently that spoke to engaged employees make engaged members.  
  3. Engaging Members in an Era of Profound Change (featured on CSAE):  written by an association executive, this post talks about social change and how it impacts associations, along with some research and recommendations.
  4. 10 Elements of a Winning Member Engagement Strategy (featured on Socious):  this particular post talks about why member engagement is so important, and the 10 elements they believe create an effective strategy, from goals to problems to staffing.
Need more ideas?  Keep an eye out for our member engagement posts, and mark your calendars - as we will be addressing these issues and more during our Engaging Associations Forum, taking place July 23-24, 2015!

We want to co-create with you! #Engageassn

The 2014 Engaging Associations Summit was such as success!  And, it was all due to co-creation.

When it came to planning the program, the summit was not created in a silo - we held focus groups with association executives to learn more about the topics they wanted to hear, the length and time frame of the event, and the format that they wanted for the sessions - and we delivered!

In 2015, we will continue to push the envelope.

What's new this year?  We have a new name (it will now be called the Engaging Associations Forum).  The dates have been set (July 23-24, 2015), and we are looking to you to co-create the content of the sessions.

We want to know what you would like to see - what would need to be on the roster of education to encourage you to register.  We have created a short (really, a short) survey that outlines the thoughts from the original 52 participant's thoughts on education for 2015.  We ask that you look at what they suggested, and let us know what you would like to learn more about.  If anything is missing, we ask that you let us know what that is.

Those who participate will be entered into a draw to win one complimentary pass to the Engaging Associations Forum for 2015.  Click here to take the survey.

And, if you would like to learn more about what happened at the inaugural event in 2014; you can! We recently launched our e-book that covers the thoughts from speakers and participants from 2014.  Download it now.




Heading to #PCMACIC this month?


This will be my first PCMA Conference ever - and not only am I excited to attend, but we will be speaking there too!

Join us in Montreal on Tuesday, November 25th, where Doreen Ashton Wagner (Chief Strategist, Greenfield Services), Rachel Stephan (President & Creative Strategist, sensov/ event marketing), and I will be proudly presenting a case study on event design.  On what?  The Engaging Associations Summit of course!

The session will talk about lessons learned from the inaugural event.  As a collaboration between a consortium of business event industry suppliers, this event pushed the envelope with many different techniques such as pre-event concierge services, innovative meeting design, participant-led "unconference" sessions, and even post-event accountability circles to help participants implement what they learned.

What worked?  What didn't?  Was it worth it?

Join us at #PCMACIC to find out!

In advance of the conference, if you want to download more information, we recently released our e-book summarizing the event.

Looking forward to seeing everyone in Montreal!


A-HA! #Engageassn E-Book is Here!

We are pleased to officially launch our first e-book, and for something that we are extremely proud of.  The Engaging Associations Summit was an event co-created by Greenfield Services Inc., and a select group of partners.

A Moment of Possibilities for Canadian Associations

Ideas and possibilities were flying through the air when participants gathered at Ottawa’s Canadian Museum of Nature last July for the 2014 Engaging Associations Summit.

Small wonder. The Summit program was co-created with association executives and other potential participants. The program was set up to ask provocative questions, foster deep thinking, and set the stage for constant participant interaction.

Participants responded with more than 100 handwritten “ah-ha” cards that captured the blazing new insights that came to them during two days of intensive discussion, networking, and learning.

Our e-book covers topics addressed in July 2014:

  • What are associations for?
  • How do associations improve?
  • Association strategies that work
  • The next evolution of association conferences
  • The changing face of content

Click here to download your copy.

This e-book consolidates and honours the sparks of hope, inspiration, and determination that participants came up with during the 2014 Engaging Associations Summit. Like the association discussion itself, it’s a work in progress. Visit the www.engagingassociations.ca to keep up with the 2015 event. You can also join the discussion on LinkedIn to comment on participants’ ideas, share your own, and help us reshape Canadian associations.

A special thanks go to both Mitchell Beer of Smarter Shift & Rachel Stephan of sensov/ event marketing for your continued partnership & support!


@GreenfieldSrvcs launches into #Association Management...

It's official!  Greenfield Services Inc. is pleased to announce that in addition to offering "à la carte" programs for Professional and Trade Associations, that we are committed to taking it to the next level - with a Full-Service Association Management division!

Since August 1st, 2014, we have worked hard with our first association, the Canadian Society of Professional Event Planners (CanSPEP).  While we are still in a position to offer individual services to well-established Professional & Trade Associations, we are thrilled to be adding ongoing association management to the mix!

We will incorporate our four areas of expertise (Membership Marketing, Membership Engagement, Sponsorship & Exhibit Sales, and Event Marketing) to ensure that the associations we manage not only have a head office address, but that their best foot is put forward at all times.  We believe that an engaged association is one that will grow and prosper, and our commitment to you is to deliver engaging services, and staff to take your association to the next level.


Don't need full-service?  Don't worry!  We are still here for you!

For more information, please contact Doreen Ashton Wagner; Chief Strategist at 866-488-4474 ext. 4512, or Meagan Rockett; Director, Client Solutions at 866-488-4474 ext. 4517.

Small staff? No problem! 4 Tips for Keeping Up with Content

We’ve all been there before: Reading a great blog post or sitting in a conference breakout session where the writer/presenter is talking about all these fabulous ideas you can implement as part of your marketing strategy. They sound great! They’re going to help with so many leads! So many new members!

But wait, how much do those fancy new strategies cost again?

And furthermore, who is going to implement those?

There are some really great content marketing ideas out there and some wonderful companies and organizations that have (what seems like) unlimited resources to carry them all out. But we’re not all in that same boat.

And so, this post is for you—the solo marketer for your organization (or one of the mighty few that are charged with all things marketing). Ideas for keeping up with content at a pace (and budget) you can handle.

Create a routine

This may sound simple, in theory, but we’ve all been there before. We say we’ll do something and, if we don’t write it down, it doesn’t happen. The same holds true with content marketing.

Make content a routine and stick to it. Set aside certain times during your day or week (really, block them off on your calendar) for content. Think about:
  • Setting aside 10 minutes a week for Twitter research and use that as a source to develop ongoing blog content, shared social media posts or topics for newsletter articles
  • Giving yourself 15 minutes a day: Log in to your online channels (ie: blog, social media, etc.) for 5 minutes at the start of the day, middle of the day and end of the day to check for conversations, mentions or comments that need approving or responding to. 
  • Developing a monthly content calendar that has all of your channels (including print, if needed) for content. I have a few included in my “Best Practices in Social Media” eBook.

Understand your audience

Even when we sit in the latest-greatest workshop about up-and-coming trends in content marketing, those particular tools may not be best suited for our audiences. You know your audience best. Embrace that and own it.

  • Define your target audience. There is no need to please everyone and honestly, you want to put the bulk of your resources where the bulk of your audience is
  • Choose the top 3 (or less) relevant channels where your audience is most apt to engage with your content and focus your efforts there.
  • Ask for ideas! User-generated content is great because it allows us to engage our audience AND it takes some of the work off of your shoulders for always needed to think of new, innovative and interesting content to post

Strategize

Are you putting content out there just for content’s sake? Content marketing is for the long haul. Think about some of these questions, make note of the answers, and keep them in mind anything you do anything that is content-specific.

Make sure your content marketing tactics fit with your organization’s overall objectives and goals. If it doesn’t, skip it and move on to another tactic. Content is fast-paced; it’s OK to move on when something isn’t working.

Be Consistent and Patient.

Rome wasn’t built in a day (yep, I used that analogy). But really, it’s important to remember that. You are only one person (or the mighty few) and it makes more sense to be phenomenal at a few things than it does to be mediocre at everything. Results will take time. While you’re waiting:

  • Don’t be afraid to re-purpose content. The article that everyone loved in your member newsletter? Turn that into a short blog post, a 2-minute video slide show, an infographic or a meme.
  • Plan ahead. This is where content calendars come in to play. If you know you have a huge event coming up next month, allow yourself time to schedule your content in advance so that you don’t lose any momentum you’ve built
  • Utilize scheduling apps. For instance, SproutSocial is an application that can be helpful in keeping content consistent and track ROI.


BONUS: When in doubt, delegate. There may be others on staff that can help with content strategies throughout the month. Ask your executive director to send you bullet points of the top 5 things they learned at a recent conference (and turn that into a blog post) or, ask your intern to take pictures of your latest new member breakfast (and share on Facebook).

It’s OK to start small and grow as your resources grow. There are lots of content marketing firms out there
that can help you get started with strategy as well and then give you the reigns to take over. Do what’s the best fit for your organization (and sanity!) and all will fall into place.

BIO  

This guest post was submitted by Melissa Harrison, founder and CEO of Allee Creative, LLC, a content marketing and branding firm in the Twin Cities. Melissa has more than a decade of experience in content management and strategy, branding and design, working with organizations to build strategic social media and online content strategies. Listed as one of the “Top 36 Content Marketers Who Rock” by TopRank and Content Marketing Institute, Melissa believes that organizations must adapt to what customers want, which includes using social media and creative online content to provide relevant, consistent information, in order to survive.  

Melissa is also a four-time recipient of the Hermes Creative Award and a regular speaker on the topics of branding, content strategy and social media. Melissa is also certified by Google Analytics Academy in Digital Analytics Fundamentals. Follow Melissa on Twitter.  

51 Shades of Gray (Hair)

One of the associations that we work with celebrated their 51st anniversary in 2014 at their Annual Conference and Trade Show.  After the big 50th Anniversary Extravaganza blowout in 2013, staff had to work hard to ensure that the 51st Anniversary was just as exhilarating, so that we harnessed the positive momentum moving forward.  While we were successful in making our 51st Anniversary Conference effective and exciting, we also noticed a trend that we may have been purposely overlooking.

As we started looking around the room at the 200+ attendees at the conference, we quickly realized that it was a room with 51 (or more) shades of gray hair.  Our members are aging!  This means that eventually (soon), they will be retiring and passing their businesses on to their sons and daughters or selling them to current employees or outside parties.  And many of these new owners will be younger and new to the industry and the association.  While we’ve enjoyed 50+ years of continued support from our current members, we can’t just assume these new owners will embrace the same principles of joining and supporting our association.

In order to ensure the continued success of the organization, we are going to have to strategically recruit and retain these younger up and coming members.  As our staff and board discussed this new “look and feel” that would be transcending on the association in the next few years, we knew we had to quickly get ahead of the game and create some new services and benefits that would have these newbies not only joining, but embracing and enjoying our association’s activities and services!

Here are some quick tips we’ve found that helped to encourage the younger generation to participate in our association:

Tip 1:  Technician Subscription – We developed a Technician Subscription Program that would allow up-and-coming professionals to try out and participate in our association without investing a lot of money and time.  Our Technician Subscription Program allows participants to receive all association communication (including the quarterly magazine), attend one educational seminar at the member rate and participate in other member benefits for a one year period; all at a very affordable rate.  We even offer quantity discounts off multiple technician subscribers from the same company.  Since we weren’t sure of the success of this venture, we decided to offer this as a subscription service rather than a membership type, which would have required a change in our bylaws.  Since its inception, we now have 28 new technician subscribers, many of whom are under 40 and excited to be a part of our association!  We see these 28 technician subscribers becoming true new members in the near future!

Tip 2:  Social Media Presence – Social media has become very important to the success of associations in today’s world.   Per USA Today, a recent study conducted for an online casino found that one in four people spend more time socializing online, via sites such as Facebook and Twitter, than they do in person.  This means that 25% of the population would rather spend time communicating online than communicating in person.  With this statistic (and the many others found online), we knew that we had to accelerate our social media presence in order to attract and keep our younger generations of current and potential members interested and excited about our association.  We did research and developed a weekly marketing plan to ensure that information was posted to our social media sites 2-3 times per week at a minimum.  We also worked hard to ensure that different information was posted on each of the venues so that visitors didn’t see the same posts on all of the social media sites.  Finally, we created an email newsletter called Agents of Change that we use to remind our current and potential members to visit our social media sites on a regular basis.  With this new focus on social media, our online presence has grown tremendously!

Tip 3:  Mentoring program – We are currently developing a mentoring program, where we will partner a more experienced (gray haired) member with a newer (younger) member or potential member.  They will communicate via social media, email, phone, etc. throughout the year and then meet in person during our Annual Conference.  Our goals with this mentoring program are two fold and include the sharing of a wealth of industry knowledge from the well-oiled professionals with the newbies and also the importance of supporting their industry trade association.  Only time will tell how successful this mentoring program will be, but we’ve already had some good support on both sides!

Tip 4:  Seminar Topics of Interest to Younger Audiences – Like most trade associations, many of the educational seminar topics we offer are driven by the rules and regulations of the state requirements for continuing education for our industry.  But we are lucky in that some of our required educational requirements include Business Practices, which can cover an array of topics.  With our new goal of attracting younger members, we have recently offered seminars like website marketing, online reputation management and online marketing to grow your business.  In 2015, we plan to offer even more topics (both in person and online) that are of interest to the younger audience and play upon their preferences to communicate and learn differently.  We have received very positive feedback in our post-seminar surveys about these new topics!

Tip 5:  Member Grandstanding –  In today’s world, we all love to share any and everything about ourselves on our personal social media sites, but very seldom does this information get shared with your association.    We are now encouraging our members and subscribers to brag about themselves and their accomplishments and to share this information with their association.  We are creating areas on our website, social media sites, in our magazine and other member communications to allow other members and interested parties to learn more about the association, members and industry.  This information adds a human touch to the association, but also may inspire others to share and do great things!

By implementing these tips and continuing to make many other enhancements to our association and the way we communicate with our members, our goal is that the younger generation becomes just as enamored with the association and 30 years from now becomes our new “50+ Shades of Gray!”


Thanks Amy for providing this post!

See you at #CSAE!


The 2014 edition of the CSAE National Conference & Showcase is almost here, and Greenfield Services Inc. is proud to be attending for the fourth year in a row!

Keep an eye out for Meagan Rockett, Director of Client Solutions who will be exhibiting at the show.  Association executives attending the showcase are invited to stop by booth #437 to pick up complimentary new resources:

  • Executive Summary of the 2014 Pulse Report on Membershi Marketing & Engagement Practices
  • Preliminary Program for the 2015 Engaging Associations Forum
  • Other resources to assist you in membership marketing & engagement
  • Our new overview of our full-service association management services

We will also have prize draws available at the booth – including a complimentary pass to the Engaging Associations Forum in July 2015! SO many reasons to stop by and say hello!  If you would like to set up a time to chat during the showcase, please email Meagan to schedule a time to discuss how Greenfield can assist you in achieving your marketing goals.

Safe travels to all attending, and we look forward to seeing you in Niagara Falls!

Why not raise your dues? Some strong - and weak - reasons to keep them frozen

It’s not at all uncommon for an ED or CEO of an association to tell me that they’re raising dues for the first time in a decade or so.

We all know that some products have been dropping in price, where there’s intense innovation in design or production (data storage; low-quality t-shirts). But for most goods and services, we expect them to increase somewhat, don’t we? Do you pay the same for a haircut or an accountant or a movie ticket as you did 10 years ago?

So why are associations so shy to raise dues regularly? They’re often concerned that this will seem like a massive change to their board and their membership. They are often right about the board, but not always about the membership – there’s not usually any kind of significant response at all.

There are indeed some good reasons to avoid raising dues – but there are also some weak ones, which are worth challenging if you hear them.

Six pretty good reasons to keep dues where they are:

  1. The bottom has really fallen out of your profession or your industry. If the economics are very challenged, e.g. if members are losing their jobs or going out of business, perhaps this is not the time for an increase in dues. (That said, it may be that this signals a structural change in your industry which may lead the way to a higher-dues association with fewer members, made up of the industry survivors – or the need to connect with other elements of the industry to sustain the organization.)
  2. You’re really struggling to prove any sort of significant value for members. Maybe significant parts of your membership value proposition have disappeared (e.g. a member benefit that used to be unique to you is now available from a competitor), or you have had some kind of noticeable and significant drop off in service levels. This is clearly a crisis that has all sorts of ramifications, but perhaps this is the time to focus on the fix, rather than a dues increase that you won’t be seen as having earned quite yet.
  3. There’s cheaper competition. This should lead the association to look at its cost structure and fundamental assumptions about operations, because if there are alternatives that are structurally able to offer the same services more cheaply, in the medium to long term that spells doom. 
  4. Your costs have gone down. If there’s been some kind of structural, permanent change to bring down the costs of your provision of services, maybe it makes sense to pass some of the benefits to the members in the form of frozen (or maybe even reduced?) dues. 
  5. Dues were set very high and you need to spend a few years normalizing. The question I would ask here is, how do you know they’re really high? By what benchmark?  
  6. You’ve got a revolt on your hands. If the organization is in some kind of existential political crisis that goes way beyond business as usual, this is probably not the time to focus on dues. 

4 reasons that aren’t so strong:

  1. Sheer inertia. I would suggest evaluating dues every year. They should be a part of your budgeting process, and absolutely part of strategic planning. Inflation alone means prices of your goods and services (rent, salaries, insurance, contracts, etc.) are going to be up around 2% per year - over a decade that means your revenue and your costs are mismatched by over 20%. And if inflation goes up (despite a long period of low inflation, some of us remember different times), this drive gets more intense. 
  2. You think you provide good value to members, but you aren’t telling that story well, so you are hesitant to ask for higher dues. The solution to that is to tell the story – communicate the value provided to members, in members’ terms. And then, look at raising your dues! 
  3. The Board isn’t functional enough to have that conversation rationally. Or the board and staff relationships are acrimonious and there isn’t the time or opportunity to initiate these discussions. These are obviously significant and broad problems. Perhaps the need to do increasingly urgent things like raise dues will provide some of the impetus to actually address those underlying organizational dysfunctions. 
  4. Non-dues revenue is often spoken of as a panacea for many things that ail associations, including the hesitance to raise dues. There is an expectation that non-dues revenue could make raising dues unnecessary. Now, this may be a good point. Some organizations can keep dues low through non-dues revenue, and that may be a sensible trade-off to make. But in many other organizations, increasing or even sustaining non-dues revenues isn’t all that practical. Don’t avoid raising dues before you’ve got the non-dues revenue actually flowing in.

Not raising rates handicaps your ability to throw money at any of your problems. Good organizations can wind up starved for the funds they need to do what they need to do. Raising rates is a completely viable option if you need to raise funds for the strategic options you want to pursue.

You do have to demonstrate value if you want to raise rates – and that’s the best way to sustain your organization anyhow. But if you do in fact deliver that value, don’t be shy to get paid for it.

Meredith Low provided this guest post.  She is a management consultant, focusing on helping organizations and companies understand how, when and where to grow in the context of fast-changing environments.  Her work with associations includes leading strategic and tactical planning, performing assessments to position conferences and meetings for growth and durability, and assessing the needs of members and other stakeholders.

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Event Technology Delivers When You Know Your Audience

Associations get the best value out of event technologies when they commit to understanding and serving their participants, technology vendors Kevin Jackson, Pindie Dhaliwal, and Robert Thompson told participants during the 2014 Engaging Associations Summit.

Kevin Jackson, Senior Partner with Gormley, Ontario-based Biz-Zone, and Pindie Dhaliwal, Manager of New Media at QuickMobile in Vancouver, both positioned technology as a means to an organization’s larger objectives—so that associations must first decide what they’re trying to achieve, before seeking out the technologies that match their objectives. Robert Thompson of AV-Canada talked about innovative ways to use audio-visual and technology to engage attendees at face-to-face events.

What Do We Mean By Engagement?

Jackson said associations increasingly understand the need for deeper engagement, but the first task is to focus on target audiences: whether a campaign will focus on members, staff, partners, or all of the above. In an era of spam prevention and privacy protection, engagement can be risky if it’s done carelessly. But the rewards are sweet, since genuine engagement is also the gateway to wider reach, greater relevance, and more reliable membership renewals.

While a successful engagement campaign incorporates technology, Jackson said it also depends on skilful execution and a consistent focus on audience and purpose. He said associations can improve their own prospects for member engagement by planning for the changes ahead, spending wisely, paying constant attention to relationships and human resources, and never losing sight of the “minimal viable product” (MVP) that will serve members’ needs, in contrast to shiny new technologies that may not sustain their interest.

There’s Revenue in That App

With 1.4 billion smart phones in use as of the end of 2013, and more tablets sold than laptops, Dhaliwal said it should be no surprise that more than 80% of meeting participants bring their technology onsite. The disconnect, so far, is that only 9% of event organizers use mobile apps at their meetings, according to the annual FutureWatch survey produced by Meeting Professionals International.

Onsite apps can cut costs, while helping organizers measure onsite impact and extend the life of an event. And Dhaliwal listed 10 different pathways to revenue through mobile apps:

  • Sponsored splash pages
  • Sponsor listings
  • Featured sponsors
  • Sponsor icons
  • Rotating banner ads
  • Push notifications
  • Exhibition support
  • VideosSurveys
  • Gamification.

Click here for highlights of the 2014 Engaging Associations Summit and a sneak preview of the 2015 event.


Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

One #Association That Has Created Change

This summer, I had the pleasure of connecting with Paul Smith, Executive Director of CACEE (Canadian Association of Career Educators and Employers), due to a post I submitted through a LinkedIn Group.

My post in the group asked for an executive to "raise their virtual hand" and want to be interviewed by me on a change they have implemented within their organization.

Paul graciously provided his time, thoughts, and feedback on how his association implemented a major change in their operating structure.

In this article, Paul shares with me that his organization recognized a need to streamline processes, policies and procedures, how he received buy-in from internal and external stakeholders, the time it took to implement the change, as well as challenges and successes that were found as a result of this.

I encourage you to check out our free resources section, where the interview with Paul is located.  Please look for "Associations That Create Change (CACEE)".

If you are interested in being interviewed for an upcoming paper, I would love to hear from you.  Please feel free to get in touch.

#Association Concerns – And What To Do About Them…

In the recently released 2014 Pulse Report, our research found that association executives are working hard to bring their association into the age of engagement.  With 178 responses, we discovered that some of their top concerns are:

  • Misalignment of staff around strategic initiatives;
  • Overuse of marketing lists;
  • Risk-averse, tunnelled organizational cultures;
  • Relevance of educational offerings;
  • Declining revenues or membership numbers.

Amongst others…

What can you, as an association executive consider (or, implement) to help combat these issues? Here are some thoughts:

  1. Regarding the misalignment of staff; is this a misalignment or a strategic plan issue?  When creating your plan, or deciding on the initiatives that you want to implement; were your front-line team members (those who are in contact with your members and other stakeholders regularly) involved in the decision-making process?  It may be time to re-group with your team to ensure that they fully understand the program, or the plan, and get them on board to achieving your organizational goals.  That way, they can properly communicate them to your stakeholders daily.

  2. Your marketing lists – are they overused?  Or over-emailed?  As an executive, you may need to determine the difference… with the Anti-Spam Legislation in full force here in Canada, it has made your job to communicate with prospect members, sponsors, exhibitors and other stakeholders more difficult; if they did not opt-in, you cannot email them.  Have a look at other marketing methods – phone, social media, and yes – direct mail (it will likely make a bit of a comeback)…

    If it is truly overused list – the answer is to research new potential companies and prospects to market to.

  3. If you believe you are working with a risk-averse team, you are certainly not alone.  But there are organizations who have moved beyond that…in a recent article in Association™ magazine (produced by CSAE), Beckie MacDonald, with the Ontario Library Association states “The best thing you can do is try it and fail, because you’re only going to learn how to do it better”.

  4. If you have concerns on the relevance of your educational offerings – take a look at your suite of programs.  You already know that something isn’t right – look at program purchase history and determine popularity.  Don’t forget to ask your members – it may not be the program at all – it could be timing, location, etc.  Ask them as members what programs they would like to see offered to enhance their professional lives; and determine if it is feasible to offer it to them.

  5. And of course, to complete many of the areas above, it takes time, members and money, which was also a concern listed.  To retain members, you have to be engaging ongoing, and delivering value (in a way that means something to the individual; not the organization).  Retention efforts could be an issue – and I suggest having a second look at your process to see if there is anything else you could be doing at renewal time.

    If these boxes are checked, and you still are not clear on why your membership is declining – then it is likely time to find out.  A comprehensive lapsed member survey to uncover reasons for departure, their experience as a member, etc. will not only give you a sense of why they left, but it may bring them back.  It will also provide you with some fantastic insights on what could be changed to help eliminate this issue in the future.

The 2014 Pulse Report is now available online for download.

How to set your association apart from the rest

As an association, you want to be known as the best. You want everyone in your industry to think about you as the go-to source for information. You want to be different. To stand alone. To be great.

To successfully set your association above the rest, an understanding of your differentiators is key. Those differentiators can be found by defining your target market (which in many cases comes down to the specific industry you serve), competition, niche and position.

Getting noticed through all the other noise and resources available to your members (and potential members) can be daunting. Prioritizing your marketing efforts will help. To start, ask yourself a few questions:

Who’s your target audience, really?

Your target market is not “everyone” and it may not even be everyone in your industry. Think about who you struggle to reach and who you have an easy time reaching. For your association to be successful, who are the most important audiences? If you struggle with member retention but have no problem with new members, your focus should be on identifying how to communicate with those members who are leaving your organization. If you are full of Baby Boomers but struggle to engage younger generations, your focus needs to be on marketing your association in a way that is appealing to younger members.

Identify your top target and some secondary targets for your association and get to know who those people are. These are the people you’re going to need to engage and build relationships with.

Find out what they care about, what’s important to them regarding your industry and your organization, and what makes them tick in general. You need to understand who they are and why they would considering joining your association (or why they are a member already). Narrowing down and understanding your target markets will help you craft better messages that solve your audience’s specific problems and meets their specific needs. This is what will get you noticed.

Who’s your competition?

Before you can stand out, you need to know what you’re up against. Take some time to research your other associations and see how they compare. Think outside the box here. Don’t just look at associations that are in your industry, look to those that are doing is well and who you’d love to emulate.

What marketing tactics and tools they are using? How can you utilize similar concepts in your marketing strategy? Do some comprehensive research to figure out who your competition is and why they matter. Everyone has a competitor. Get to know them.

What is your niche?

Once you’ve researched your competition, get a solid understanding on what makes your association stand out. What can you offer that is unique? That no other association is offering? More than likely, you’re doing things differently already; identify what those things are and what sets you about. Then talk about it!

What’s your position?

Establish who your association is and what you want it to be known for; set your position. What are the essential qualities that set your association apart? Your position should distinguish you from other companies like yours. Your position will be reflected in your brand, but it’s a tool you should use internally.

For example: Home Depot’s position is that it’s the hardware department stores for the do-it-yourselfers. Their brand reflects this in their tagline “You can do it. We can help.” Home Depot has positioned themselves as the store for everyone, not just contractors and professionals. They’ve set themselves apart by being the place to go for DIY home improvement. The spirit of that position is clearly reflected in their brand’s tagline and the types of content they post online. This same exercise can be executed for your association as well.

Be consistent in your messaging

Once you have answered the above questions, spread a consistent message across all your marketing channels. Use your website, print media, social media, video to show your target market who you are. Repetition of a meaningful message will grab your market’s attention and help build your association’s brand awareness. Be consistent, but don’t be afraid to monitor and tweak the message based on what’s working for you and what’s not.

If you want your association to stand out, you need to start with what your members and potential members want and then establish who you are. Understanding your competition, your target market and what makes you unique are the first steps in getting noticed. Building your association’s brand based on market research and self-awareness will help you stand out in the marketplace. Now, go get ‘em!

BIO 

This guest post was submitted by Melissa Harrison, founder and CEO of Allee Creative, LLC, a content marketing and branding firm in the Twin Cities. Melissa has more than a decade of experience in content management and strategy, branding and design, working with organizations to build strategic social media and online content strategies. Listed as one of the “Top 36 Content Marketers Who Rock” by TopRank and Content Marketing Institute, Melissa believes that organizations must adapt to what customers want, which includes using social media and creative online content to provide relevant, consistent information, in order to survive. 

Melissa is also a four-time recipient of the Hermes Creative Award and a regular speaker on the topics of branding, content strategy and social media. Melissa is also certified by Google Analytics Academy in Digital Analytics Fundamentals. Follow Melissa on Twitter

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / Freedigitalphotos.net 

Anti-Spam Legislation Delivers Wake-Up Call to Canadian Associations

New spam prevention laws in Canada were the jumping-off point for a fast-paced conversation about marketing, engagement, and respecting your audience during the 2014 Engaging Associations Summit in late July.

Greenfield Services Chief Strategist Doreen Ashton Wagner opened the session with some startling statistics. She said some associations reported losing up to 80% of their external prospect lists after Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) took effect July 1, for the simplest of reasons: lists age very quickly, and when the organizations asked their less frequent contacts’ permission to continue soliciting them by email, the contacts declined.

Thanks to CASL, it was easy enough for the recipients to make a dent in their incoming email volume. All they had to do was not answer the flurry of requests they were receiving from multiple senders in the second half of June. As long as they did nothing, the senders were obliged to remove them from their lists.

Good News or Bad?

The question for Summit participants was whether the sudden loss of email volume was good news or bad. Panelists Rachel Stephan, Principal of sensov/ event marketing, and Mitchell Beer, President of Smarter Shift, agreed the user response to CASL was an important wake-up call.

Stephan said it’s scary for organizations to suddenly see their email lists thinned out by hundreds or thousands of recipients. But if 80% of a list of sponsors, advertisers, and exhibitors was mostly a mirage, it’s better to aim for a higher percentage return from a smaller, more engaged audience. Beer took the point of view of the audience for marketing emails, asking whether anyone in the room was receiving too few incoming messages. (Shocking spoiler alert: No one raised their hand.)

By relying more on inbound, “pull” marketing, rather than traditional outbound techniques, the panelists said associations can use proactive acquisition campaigns and online networks to develop deeper, more positive relationships with members, sponsors conference participants, and other stakeholders.

New Ways to Communicate

Discussion during the session focused on content marketing techniques that emphasize conversation, peer learning, and community, rather than pushing for a quick sale to place an expo booth, an ad, or a conference registration. The most successful online communicators:

  • Develop detailed audience personas that reflect a deep understanding of the groups they’re trying to reach
  • Listen closely to each audience, to understand what information they need and what they’re trying to achieve
  • Deliver targeted, original content that reflect their audiences’ interests 
  • Give back to the community, by fostering genuine conversations and online engagement.

Participants heard that CASL has forced associations to personalize their marketing and pay closer attention to their audiences’ preferences. Stephan quoted Experian Marketing Services’ recent finding that customers would no longer buy from an organization that failed to take account of their preferences and purchasing history.”

Click here for highlights of the 2014 Engaging Associations Summit and a sneak preview of the 2015 event.

Associations Need To Re-Think Their Value

In an era when interactions are driven predominantly by online platforms, not by 20th century institutions, keynote speaker Jeff De Cagna said associations have to rethink their value in a way that may lead away from traditional membership models.

Technology is creating a new behaviour space for associating that doesn’t require associations,” said De Cagna, Chief Strategist and Founder of Principled Innovation LLC in Reston, Virginia. The inescapable conclusion for asssociations, he added, is that “it’s much more important for associations to create value than to drive membership.

The self-described “association contrarian,” dubbed the “antichrist” by one association executive, urged participants to recalibrate for a world in which:

  • The massive recent growth in world population and social development is directly tied to the evolution of technology, “the only powerful shaping force in the history of civilization.”
  • We now trust robots—also known as algorithms—to guide some of our most intimate and consequential decisions. 
  • One in five people around the world owns a smart phone.
  • The Kickstarter crowdfunding platform has launched 66,000 successful projects, with 6.6 million backers logging 16.5 million pledges worth more than $1.2 billion.
  • Online networks have created a world in which “individual humans connected together can accomplish what once only centralized, large organizations could,” according to Silicon Valley business innovator Nilofer Merchant.

Decision Time for Associations

For associations, De Cagna said, it’s time to decide whether to embrace a networked world or quickly lose relevance. He urged participants to open “value conversations” with their communities, leaving behind a traditional model in which “’engagement’ is code for ‘send me some money so I can sell you more stuff.’”

Associations that operate in that traditional mode “are so overwrought about building membership that they’ve lost track of how to build a strong, sustainable infrastructure,” he told participants.

In addition to delivering greater value to the communities they’ve already identified, associations can gain from a more connected, relevant approach by drawing in audiences and partners who would otherwise have stayed outside the membership wall. De Cagna said one of the greatest vulnerabilities of traditional associations is their failure to “consider the stakeholders who aren’t here,” whose challenges and expectations are fundamentally different from the groups that have already affiliated.

Click here for highlights of the 2014 Engaging Associations Summit and a sneak preview of the 2015 event.

Association Strategy: Bridging the Gap Between Theory and Practice

Filling in the “air sandwich” between strategy and implementation is one of the biggest challenges facing associations, consultant Meredith Low of Meredith Low Consulting told participants at the 2014 Engaging Associations Summit.

Not all associations invest in strategic development. But even for those that do, Low said there’s a crucial difference between setting a broad direction—what she described as “making choices to succeed”—and “capturing and enabling” those choices in a coherent strategic plan and then actually making them happen.

The difference determines how effectively an organization addresses and prevails against strategic challenges it may have worked very hard to understand. And when strategy fails to produce tangible results, it can give the whole strategic planning process an undeserved bad name.

We’ve Heard It All Before

It’s easy to spot a generic strategy that is vague in aspiration and short on delivery, Low said. Try to imagine any association that hasn’t set out to “achieve effective engagement with members and key stakeholders.” To “create and deliver cutting-edge educational opportunities.” To influence public policy, promote and support research, or “strengthen and promote the field through partnerships and collaboration.”

Don’t look now, but that language may not be very far from your strategic plan.

Here’s the problem: When a strategy is that general, it can mean almost anything. So when it comes to implementing the plan and evaluating the results, it actually means next to nothing. Low said the strategy process only works when it delivers specific, targeted goals that point toward actions an organization can and will take – and those they won’t.

By asking the right questions, sharing knowledge, consulting widely, then formulating narrowly, Low said an association can answer the most pressing questions it faces and, crucially, craft a compelling story about what it will do to meet its goals. A clear strategy “can lead not simply to a report on the shelf but, instead, to a stronger, more resilient organization.”

Time Horizons Matter

Low contrasted the 12-month time horizon we often have in a volunteer association president and the longer-term focus that is essential for the organization as a whole and the sector it represents. Although there’s room for mid-course adjustments, she said it’s a mistake to reopen a strategy every year.

“It’s a time investment to get to a commitment,” she told participants, so organizations should be purposeful about developing their strategies and resolute about protecting them, at least broadly: If you shift gears every year, she said, “you don’t have a strategy.” But at the same time, at the level of precisely how the strategy gets implemented, you have to have flexibility to respond to an evolving environment and to the changes within the organization – as you build capacity, as you learn, as you bring in new perspectives.

Click here for highlights of the 2014 Engaging Associations Summit and a sneak preview of the 2015 event.

Event ‘Shatterpoints’ Point to the Need for Change

Associations can strengthen their conferences and protect the revenue they generate by anticipating the “shatterpoints” that could eat into audience loyalty and send the event into a tailspin, consultant Jeff Hurt told participants at the 2014 Engaging Associations Summit.

“One change in one shatterpoint can have a domino effect, with drastic consequences,” said Hurt, Executive Vice President of Velvet Chainsaw Consulting in Dallas, Texas. Acknowledging the Star Wars movie series as the source of the term, Hurt said organizations’ conference revenues could be vulnerable if they don’t achieve at least:
  • 50% paid attendance at two out of three annual events
  • A 65% renewal or “stickiness” rate among exhibitors
  • A 75 to 80% stickiness rate among sponsors.
Looking to the Future

Hurt said a goal can be a lagging indicator, to the extent that strategies are built to address problems an association has already experienced. By contrast, a shatterpoint can be a leading indicator, pointing to future risks that the organization can mitigate or prevent.

After inviting Summit participants to discuss their own measures of a healthy, sustainable conference, Hurt suggested a series of longer-term shatterpoints, including:
  • Secondary revenue stream that represents less than 30% of the total
  • Only 35% of conference participants under age 50
  • Less than 55% of direct expense devoted to the participant experience.
One Piece of a Larger Puzzle

Hurt stressed that conferences are just one part of a larger patchwork of association services and initiatives, and should be seen as part of a continuum of customer and audience touchpoints. The key audiences onsite fall into three categories—economic buyers, decision-makers, and influencers—and more than ever before, organizations can use smart data to define and target the groups they need to reach and bring together.

Although shatterpoints can point to serious risks for associations that don’t pay attention to them, a Summit participant said the impact can be positive if they “blow things up” and draw attention to the potential for change.

Click here for highlights of the 2014 Engaging Associations Summit and a sneak preview of the 2015 event.

#Eventprofs - Heading to @Incentive_Works? See Booth #1439 for #Event #Marketing

Do you work for an organization with a small team who has been tasked with the BIG job of putting on an event?  Doreen Ashton Wagner & Meagan Rockett will be exhibiting at IncentiveWorks August 19 & 20th, and if you plan on being there, you should come by and say hello!

We have worked with numerous organizations, large and small, in assisting with the aspects of the event that are important – but that you do not have time for.

If you have difficulty focusing your efforts in one of the following area:


Then you should stop by Booth #1439, and chat with us.  We will have on hand some tips & best practices as takeaways, and if you work for an association, copies of our recently released 2014 Pulse Report: A Time To Decide (on Membership Marketing & Engagement) will also be available.

We look forward to seeing you there!

A Time to Decide: The 2014 Pulse Report Now Available

After years of resilience and creativity in the face of declining resources, shifting demographics, and changes in member expectations, the 2014 Pulse Report suggests that many Canadian-based associations have gone into a holding pattern in response to the transformative shifts in their immediate future.

The 2014 version of the report is our third annual review of the association sector in Canada, and found that relatively few organizations are pro-actively addressing the key strategic and operational issues that will determine their future strength.

The research was conducted from April through mid-June 2014, and received 178 responses from Canadian-based associations.  We reached out to approximately 1,500 organizations, through our own association client list, and through our partnership with Advanced Solutions International, extensive exposure on social media (including Twitter and LinkedIn Group posts).

Some of the key findings derived from this research are:

  • Membership growth, higher visibility in the association's industry or field, and increased member participation remain the top three priorities this year;
  • Non-dues revenue, insufficient staffing, and lack of funding to support association initiatives were the most serious concerns among respondents.  The overall level of anxiety over these challenges may have been abated somewhat between 2013 & 2014;
  • Alarmingly, no more than 56% of associations have marketing plans in place to reach potential new members and offset steady attrition of existing members;
  • Association executives are well aware of the emerging need for member-driven management and customized service.  Almost half expressed strong concern about their organizations' inability to properly track or measure member engagement.

We recently published the report, and released it at our 2014 Engaging Associations Summit to participants. The study is now available online.  Download your copy today.

The Next Step for Greenfield: Taking Over the Management of CanSPEP


Greenfield Services is pleased to announce it is undertaking association management for the Canadian Society of Professional Event Planners (CanSPEP).  As of August 1, 2014, the company will be providing strategic business development and stakeholder engagement support for this association of independent meeting professionals.

CanSPEP represents a powerful group of entrepreneurs, many of whom are recognized leaders in the meetings and events industry.  Formed in 1996, the organization provides a forum in which members meet to exchange ideas, develop skills through educational programs, and share partnership opportunities that foster business growth.

CanSPEP is an active member of the Business Events Industry Coalition of Canada and an organizational leader in the meetings and events industry.  The average buying power of CanSPEP members contributes over 65,000 room nights and $30 million in revenue to the industry.

In a recent message to its members 2013-2014 CanSPEP President, Catherine Paull, CMP, announced,

Over the past few months the Board of Directors, with assistance from the Past Presidents’ Council, carried out an extensive RFP process for association management services for CanSPEP.  As a result of this diligent process, the Board of Directors has made the decision to engage Greenfield Services Inc. for association management, effective August 1, 2014.  

CanSPEP has grown to become the vibrant association it is today and that would not have been possible without the dedication and efforts of Carol Ford.  Please join the Board of Directors and the Past Presidents’ Council in thanking Carol Ford for her past service and tremendous dedication and extending a warm welcome to Doreen Ashton Wagner and the Greenfield Services team.

Greenfield’s Chief Strategist, Doreen Ashton Wagner, explained the company’s decision to move into the association management company (AMC) space: “Since 2003 professional and trade associations have been turning to Greenfield for project-based member recruitment, retention and engagement.  We’ve also been executing more sponsorship and exhibit sales programs.  But as our associations see shifts in the landscape – with very rapid changes due to demographics and technology – many are choosing to become more strategic.  This means focusing on the “big picture” for their industry, handing the reigns to a proactive, hands-on partner who goes beyond administration.  We’ve been preaching engagement, pull marketing and the smart use of technology for years.  This was a natural evolution for us.

For more information on CanSPEP or Greenfield’s association management services, please call 1-866-488-4474, extension 4512 for Doreen Ashton Wagner, or extension 4517 for Meagan Rockett.

#Engageassn – A Successful Summit

Last week, Greenfield Services, along with its partners, held its first annual Engaging Associations Summit, at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa, ON.  We welcomed 74 people to the event: 52 executives, and 22 partners and speakers.

The launch of the Engaging Associations Summit represented a significant shift for our company.  The decision to create this event for the association industry helps us have a deeper understanding of challenges, best practices and successes of our clients, prospects and the industry in general”, says Doreen Ashton Wagner, Greenfield’s Chief Strategist.

While the decision to create this event was ours, we certainly did not do it alone.  It truly was co-created; from our focus groups last Fall, to our amazing partners this year.  And I was truly speechless when people started to arrive – it was wonderful to see the buzz the Summit created before, during, and after the event!” adds Meagan Rockett, Director of Client Solutions.

Our commitment to the industry and the Summit’s participants won’t stop there – stay tuned for event re-caps in blogs, a case study of the event,  and a live debriefing of the event at the PCMA Canada East Canadian Innovation Conference in November.

And, of course, we have announced tentative dates for 2015, so block Thursday and Friday, July 23-24 on your calendars!

We look forward to watching the ideas and best practices exchanged at the Summit grow, and keep the momentum of engagement going!

When Change Causes Pain, Conflict and Excitement

We have all been there.  When your employer, your industry or your competitors make a change, it can unsettle, disrupt and even cause major friction.  Whether it’s a change in the law, a change in operations or even a move to raise the bar in an industry, change is never comfortable.

Why is this painful?

When one creates change the intent is likely to improve people’s conversations, processes or policies.  Take Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation for example, at the base level, the intent of the legislation is to stop spammers from disseminating unwanted messages, which have nothing to do with your business.

However, when you dig deeper into the legislation, it will actually dramatically change the way small business, and associations market their products, services, events, and membership.

We all knew this law was coming for a while, and when the dust settles, we will all be wiser – and have smarter marketing practices.  BUT the pain is happening now – questions are being raised such as “What do I have to have in place to comply?”, “How much will this cost me to have systems available for tracking?”, and “How much of my communication is actually affected?”

Why does it cause conflict?

Change can cause conflict when groups of people do not believe that you can (or, should) implement this change.  They believe that for the greater good of the company, or the industry, that you should not be the one to make the change.  These are the people who say “When it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

But this thought process is all wrong.  Jeff Hurt recently addressed this in his blog.  He maintains that, when things are going smoothly, it is exactly the right time to look at ways to improve it.  Change BEFORE your process gets boring.  Those who dare, win.  Not everyone will agree, but those who are forward-thinkers, and innovators in your industry, will recognize the attempt to make change for what it is:  someone filling a gap or a need that has been swept under the carpet for too long.

Why is it exciting?

Of course change is exciting!  But why?  Because you are trying to get people to believe in your cause, your process, or your new product/service.  Because you saw a need, heard the feedback, and created something that will help.  And it is a wonderful feeling when you see who will be the first on the bus with you.

Change is going to happen anyway – so it may as well be you who creates it, and reaps the benefits.

What is your organization doing to create change for your members, or for your industry?