Are Associate Members Your Association’s Biggest Missed Opportunity?




Today, the most progressive and growing organizations fully embrace the associate member as part of their organization – recognizing the revenue opportunities beyond their dues; while others reluctantly absorb them into the fold.  In fact, some decades ago associations didn’t even invite associates to important gatherings.  They were not welcome. For today’s associations who continue to operate behind the times – the associate member is your organization’s ‘biggest missed opportunity’ as they bring so much the table.
Right now, great organizations are making associate member value comparable to core members. And, I think that’s a great thing. Here’s why:
The lines are increasingly blurred in nearly every industry. Think about some of the top-line supermarkets. Consider this: are they grocery stores or restaurants? Or, are they drug stores?  Probably all three.  The same concept applies to suppliers.  They may have business components that are consulting, manufacturing and supplier depending on the industry make up. If you put the associates in a box and ignore them – over time, they will go elsewhere to gain a valued membership and to meet clients.
Very importantly:  associates really know the industry your association represents. The associate brings to the organization an expertise that the core members don’t have. The core members only have the perspective of one company; while the associates have a vast perspective as they have hundreds of client companies. Are associates a group you want in your organization and participating as part of the game? I think so.
The third reason is important in terms of revenue growth: the associate member understands the association value proposition quicker and easier.  No time needed explaining advocacy or industry relations here. It makes total sense for the associate to join because the association is comprised of their customers. If I’m looking to spend my time and money somewhere – it’s going to be a place where my customers are.
Because the return on investment is pretty direct for associate members, the way in which you manage their inclusion is a great barometer of your organization’s business savvy. Several metrics include: how well you leverage the opportunities associate members present, how to utilize them for content, how you sell them, get them to join, and keep them. I would make the case if you can’t retain your associate members, you certainly won’t be successful with your core.


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