You and your leadership invested significant time and effort in developing your association’s value proposition – a simple, concise message that connects what you do with the most pressing needs and concerns of your members. You no doubt have a nice graphic depicting the value proposition and everyone feels really good about the work accomplished. Perhaps it’s now featured on your website and included on staff email signatures. And of course there was that nice article in last month’s member newsletter.
How long before you can expect results? Will you see a payback from your investment of time, money, and manpower resources?
These are important questions to ask and hopefully you are able to proudly say, “Yes!” to each. If not, then take a step back and look at your “post-value proposition” activities. Simply creating the value proposition and posting it on a few documents or your website is not enough. To fully realize success, your new rationale must become a living part of your association—from strategic planning to ongoing communications— from the president and top officers through to staff—and not just senior staff, but any staff member who interacts with members.
After working with dozens of associations to discover and create their unique value propositions, I’ve observed three success factors that lead to a change in member behavior:
- Association Executive active involvement. Set a high bar and make clear your expectations to staff. “We will all use our VP in the way we communicate at every level of our organization.” It will take effort to instill a new culture that conveys your message to the right people at the right time. If staff and leaders don’t infuse your value proposition into operations, no one will.
- Communications and other key staff “own” the value proposition. Your staff needs to understand both why the VP is important, and their role in living and conveying the message. Make sure they have ample time to discuss and practice the pitch so they learn how to integrate the value message into the programs they manage, and have a personal buy-in to what it stands for.
- A President or President-elect who believes in what you did. Their enthusiasm is important—for influencing other leaders and also future leaders year after year. A president who rallies the rest of the leadership team and staff will ensure consistent communication of your value proposition.
What do results look like?
Here’s what association executives say about results they see after launching their value proposition:
- People are repeating our message to each other; they are remembering our slogan of service, not just our mission statement (which was rarely remembered).
- Looking back on the last 12 months we are seeing several “member awareness” and “member performance” indicators that our messaging is getting greater penetration.
- Instead of always talking about what we are not doing or what we should be doing, [members] are talking about what we are doing. It is affecting a positive communication culture which I think will affect their personal businesses and their lives and will draw people to volunteer and belong to the association over time.
- Our value proposition is allowing us to articulate services that are most valuable to our members and narrow the focus to what we know they need most – not what we think they need. It is a differentiator between us and the providers of similar services.
- Our membership services attitude and communication—coupled with live, enthusiastic voices and positive face-to-face experiences—is working in tandem with our consistent value messaging. I don’t think one without the other works as well.”
Without a commitment to measure and look for improvement, your value proposition will be just another “nice idea we tried”. In today’s association environment it is critical to show results for your efforts—and results that can be tied to meaningful metrics. One association CEO reports (ironically) they have had to reduce their revenue line for late dues fees by some $20K as members are now paying dues on time and with minimal complaints. She attributes this directly to the VP messaging of the past year!
Now there’s a result worth paying for.