I’m very excited about the opportunity to share with you the conversations I’m having with association industry leaders during this pandemic and cover some of the topics, issues, and questions I’m getting from our clients and share them directly to you.
“Should I be doing our membership renewals now?”
Many of you are in the midst of this if your billing cycle follows the fiscal year and you may be sending out renewals right now. My answer to that question is yes. My sense is you are delivering unprecedented value to your membership base like never before. I have seen some of the best content, engagement, and advocacy possibly in the history of your organization. It absolutely makes sense to drop that membership invoice. However, I would also give them the option for a payment plan or a payment deferral. Be generous and be generous with your tone. This may be the best time to have a conversation about the real value that your organization brings them. I also think it is absolutely critical for you to do everything you can to keep some of the business transactions in place. After all, I think we’re in a scenario where we should not say no for people that we want to do business with. Give them the option to come back to you with deferral plans, payment plans, or other options. Don’t say no for them.
“Should we recruit new members during this time?”
I have seen a number of associations making trial membership offers during the pandemic with an intentional plan that includes converting people into paying members. I think it’s absolutely critical to do so because the problem with trial memberships is that after the trial few end up joining. However, now may be a great time to offer a trial membership program because of everything that you’re doing for your industry, just make sure you have a plan on what you’re going to do afterwards. You may also want to consider relaunching the association with your new value proposition and provide access to prospects to some of the materials without a full access membership. The idea is to connect and build your brand right now. The easiest thing to deliver right now may be education or certification; you may want to loosen your membership requirements there, especially for jobs where people must be on site and they could be doing nothing right now at their homes. Offer them the opportunity to get information to pursue their certification, to get online education in an environment that’s absolutely unprecedented. In other words, whether it’s renewal or a new membership, there’s never an opportunity like now to establish our relevance and these businesses.
“Should I cancel or delay my meeting that I have planned?”
Adjust the meeting instead of cancelling. There could be components that you could conduct online, ask partners to sponsor some of the content that’s already been prepared. We’re hearing from our clients that tell us they have thousands of people consuming their online content. I recently had a great conversation with our friends in the state of Illinois, they had 500 to 1000 people on their educational webinar. Wow. I asked, “Hey, are you developing sponsorships for those?” She answered, “Oh my gosh, I didn’t even think about it, we will next week!” This is a great opportunity to include your partners. You may have delayed the in-person meeting but that doesn’t mean you should delay the delivery of great information to your membership base and non-members.
We should also begin to prepare for smaller, more exclusive meetings, which were becoming very popular prior to the pandemic. There are exceptions, however, large events were struggling in terms of delivering valuable information and ROI to individual attendees. The small meetings are going to be the ones that I believe will become increasingly popular. I think meetings will change for the foreseeable future. Here’s an example: an old guy like me may not be ready to go to a huge event in the future and travel across the country to do it. I’m not sure how our mindset is going to be affected in terms of attending large scale events going forward. There may be a resistance in this area for a very long time.
“As a leader, how do you respond to the crisis?”
Here’s how I’m dealing with it. First, I wanted to be very honest and realistic about the problem. Could this put us out of business? Hey, I don’t know, it could. Here’s what I do know: every single day feels like a week. Ebbs and flows. Lots of emotion. Lots of high points. Somebody wants to work with us! Lots of low points. A long-term client has to pull the plug on a project. You need to be realistic about what could happen.
The second step is to assess where you are. What are the strengths and weaknesses of your organization? Focus on the strengths that you have, not just the weaknesses and how the ship might sink. Address the opportunities that exist for you. I can tell you that from The Moery Company perspective our ability to deliver podcasts, videos, webinars, and live content is something that we’re used to and will continue to focus on. We’ve seen the consumption of our content go way up and I think that will serve us for the long term. This is why I’m doing videos on almost a daily basis; it’s something we can do to provide value and we are already good at it.
The next step is to develop three plans. The first is minor adjustments that you need to make such as finding areas where you can be leaner. And, by the way, I found some savings and some things that we should have been doing better anyway and we’ve implemented them immediately. The second plan is for a crisis that includes significant changes regarding salary, changes in the direction of the company, and other things that you’re going to have to monitor. There’s going to be some pain in this one. The first plan may cause a little bit of discomfort, the second one is going to be hurt more. The third plan is for survival of a total meltdown. What I’m planning on here is when we’re basically hand-to-mouth, staying afloat, trying to keep the Big Red M surviving and getting through the next few months. That’s the third option and I don’t even want to look at it. The point is, I’ve put the plan together. I put that plan together with zero emotion and during a time that I could really think clearly about it.
There’s going to be a rebound, eventually. The challenge for us as leaders is to save the organizations right now to keep them from going under. This will provide you with the opportunity to bring people back on board that you may had to lay off or furlough. Survive so you can thrive in the future.
I hope all these points are helpful to you. I’m thinking about your families, your associations, and your businesses. I wish you the very best.
Associations play a crucial role in fostering community, knowledge-sharing, and professional growth. To ensure their continued relevance and growth,...