August 30, 2022 |

Value Proposition Lessons that Leaders are Learning

Value Proposition Lessons that Leaders are Learning
“We can’t do business the way we used to,” said an association executive recently. “There’s a lot that we’ve been doing that just doesn’t work anymore. And it’s our job to figure out and sell why what we do is relevant to our members.”

Discovering an association’s unique Breakthrough Value moved to the priority list as the post-pandemic halt transitioned towards business with an appetite towards a new perspective on why the association matters. As you decide how your association will adjust, you may join the leaders who believe that the benefits of discovering your value proposition goes beyond connecting you with more members; it can also help unify your leadership team and staff.

A value proposition is a rationale – a sales pitch – to help influence your customer or prospect to choose your association, another one, or none at all. It is not a list of your tangible products and services. It relays an answer to “Why should I pay attention” with a focus on the solution that association membership delivers. Associations believe a value proposition can help influence members to look to your association for something. It is not a list of your tangible products and services. It relays an answer to “Why should I pay attention” with a focus on the solution that association membership delivers.

If you are considering, are ready to begin, or are in the middle of a value proposition project, here are three considerations that will set you up for a successful outcome. Be prepared for these objections and speed bumps, so that they do not take you off track:

“We provide a lot of valuable services and offerings; we can’t just narrow it down to one benefit and call that our value proposition.” (Association Executive)

If you begin with the member, here’s how to prioritize what you offer, and why.

Perhaps you think of value in terms of tools, services, and other offerings – your list of member benefits. A value proposition is not the tangible services that you deliver. A meaningful value proposition begins with listening to important member groups and what they worry about. When you follow an intentional process, you’ll discover what members need most.

More is not better in this case. You’ll identify one big reason members should believe in your association, and then back it up with a few of the member benefits that support it. The 7-step process in the workbook keeps your group on track.

“Advocacy is why we exist! I don’t care what they (members) said, our value proposition needs to focus on Advocacy.” (Association President)

If ‘work in politics’ does not hit the top of the list of your members’ needs, don’t force the idea on them. Attract them with an emotional rationale they can connect to. Then you’ll have the chance to educate and promote your advocacy efforts and other benefits they may not know about.

As you link their biggest needs to your expertise (Step 3 in the book), and as you develop the theme of your value proposition (Step 4) your message will offer a relevant solution to their needs. If you suddenly dismiss what they need and shift to what you think you do best, you’ll miss the chance to connect with what’s relevant to your target audience.

It’s challenging to look beyond your own view, but if you can continue to refine the message based on the way the the member sees it, you’ll avoid a mis-step that can set you on the wrong course – that becomes a message that focuses more on your than them.

“We now have a shiny new car called our value proposition…now we need to learn how to drive it!” (Association CEO)

Step 6 of Breakthrough Value helps you work through developing your communications and launch plan, with detailed ideas on preparing all your marketing materials (your website to your voicemail recording) for launch. This is specifically for your communications team.

Beyond the communications department, all staff and leaders are an important vehicle for spreading the message. Like media interactions where the best spokespersons learn strategy and approaches for interacting with the media, value propositions live their best life with an intentional discussion to help staff and leaders get comfortable with disseminating your new message and (more important) living your new promise. Part 3 in the book is the bonus chapter called “Preparation to Repetition to Payoff” – Equipping your leaders and staff to sell the new message.

Overcoming these potential roadblocks will offer the chance to clarify the one big benefit of belonging, to focus on what matters them, and to help your team express a unique and unified value proposition to your audience.

The workbook Breakthrough Value walks you through the process to discover and then develop your value proposition. There are other optional online tools to help you. Learn more at

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