The New Association Hustle



I’ve got some business and association related observations for you that I’d like to share with you. And let me tell you, I’m fired up about them!
Recently, I’ve been wondering if and how the value of the employee relationship is going to change. Here’s what I mean. Maybe part of the value – and the reason we hire people – is to control them. We had them come in to the office, looked over their shoulder, and made sure that they were there from nine to five. We controlled them and then we paid them based on the control that we have. Now, in this environment that we’re currently in, people are working remotely and we may not see majority of our employees on a daily basis. We’re participating in Zoom calls, which is how we’re engaging with each other majority of the time. Your employee – or the consultant – looks very much the same.
We’ve lost the in-person control and connectivity. I wonder if we’re going to be, as associations, much more open to outsourcing and hiring people on a part-time basis to fill in the gaps. We’re also learning that we don’t have to control really good people that execute. We give them the goals and perspective and they take the ball and they run with it.
I’m also thinking about the way that we smooth out the membership experience for our member companies. We’ve got to make it easier. Think about the way we’ve been engaging with folks recently. Instead of going into a retail store and walking the aisles we now order it online and the retail employee comes outside to deliver our order to us. They let us know, every step of the way, if there are any changes – such as an item substitute – and when the delivery was completed and can be found on our porch.
Think about how the association membership can be improved. Can we put the value proposition in a bag, explain it, and deliver it to individual member prospects? Membership engagement is going to be intense and we are going to have to bring member value to them. We’re going to have to figuratively meet them at their car and give them the information, the insights, and critical information that we have as part of our value proposition. It’s no longer going to be about a list of benefits that they have to find themselves. We’ll have to push it to them, engage them, bring the value of membership and the insights to the member company or the individuals that we represent.
The Death of Meetings
This may make some of you very nervous. What I mean by the death of meetings is not necessarily meetings overall – or forever – but the death of a lot of events that I’ve been to over my career. The type of meetings that are boring, longer than necessary and a waste of time. The types of meetings where there’s a passing of the gavel and you spend all day sitting in a uncomfortable chair waiting for when it’s over so I can go meet the people that I really want to talk to in the hallway and at the reception, counting down the meetings so I get up to my room to check what’s going on in my business today.
“Come and see me live” is no longer going to be the model. The focus is going to be on providing specific information and pushing it out so that attendees can access it whenever they want. Can it help them make better business decisions? Can it help their company be more profitable? Can it make their business essential that their customers want? If we don’t have that information available to them when they want it and be able to deliver it to their car door or to their front porch, they’re not going to come see us put on a show live anymore.
Sales is fundamentally changing right in front of our eyes. It’s no longer about describing intangible services and what a member gets when they give us money. It’s now all about delivering information, expertise, and the specialty network of people that they’re going to hear from and they can pull that information whenever they want it. That’s going to be the key moving forward.
Final Thoughts
It’s going to require the most incredible amount of work ethic ever in the association game. We all know it. Now is the chance for the real hustlers to win and win in a big way. You’re going to be more successful and valuable because you’ve embraced the idea of hustle. And, frankly, that’s what it’s going to take to win in this new era for associations.


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