What to Change, What to Keep the Same – Association Field Report (August 28, 2020)



We’ve got two questions to answer during this week’s filed report: what is changing and what needs to stay the same?
Here’s an observation in terms of change: every weakness that you have is currently being exposed. One of the weaknesses that we’re seeing as we’re working in the field – we’re selling memberships, sponsorships, and things like that – is data. Your sales team can’t be successful without good data and information. Associations need to move quickly in this area. If you don’t have good list, good execution of your prospectus, and a clear membership narrative then your association will struggle. All of those things are absolutely essential to be able to get into the market and move quickly. We’re actually adjusting some of our processes! We are making sure that those things are in place first before we ever go to the market. It’s difficult to build an airplane while you’re in the air. So, that’s one thing that I definitely see that’s changing.
The narrative for membership needs to be very bottom line oriented. What I mean by that is this: in 2021, companies will be making a choice about their membership. We know this – and you probably do, too – most companies that join associations have multiple association memberships. However, in 2021, they will have smaller budgets to spend on association memberships and they’re going to make decisions around the groups that have been most helpful to them over the last year. They’re also going to be looking at their bottom line to see which organization gave them a good return on investment.
What should we keep the same?
For those of you who are not familiar with our model, we do consulting – on sponsorship, membership dues, strategic planning – and our core business is sales. We sell memberships, sponsorship, ads and exhibits. One of the things that we did from the start that has been absolutely essential for us to survive today was the fact that we have a retainer plus commission model. You can find some people – I don’t know if they’re suckers or not, that’s up to them – that will do sales work for commission only. However, in the environment that we’ve been in the last several months, there’s value in setting up your business for survival now and success in the future. I know how difficult it is to set up the process, to set up your Salesforce infrastructure and your CRM, get your data, and sales and marketing insights. I know how difficult it is, therefore, when we set up our business, we set out model to be retainer plus commission.
The fact of the matter is, over time, we’ve lost business because of that model. There are people who told us that we’re too pricey. However, we’re not going to change our pricing model because it’s been critical in helping us survive during the pandemic. If we were commission only and selling sponsorships, I don’t know where we would be today.
The bottom line is, there are things that you should change right away: look at infrastructure and data. Then, there are things that you should keep the same. Just because things are a tighter and the business dynamic has been altered, doesn’t mean you should make changes to the core principles of your business. Keep those the same.
Hope that’s helpful for you!


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