Mission, vision statements and core values vary from one association to another. Yet despite their differences, associations are poised to play a vital role in our society. They give voice to an industry or any group that shares a common concern. They provide a host of member benefits including networking, professional development, information, research, statistics and a forum to discuss common problems and solutions. Yet despite all these resources and services, surprisingly few members take advantage of these programs.
Associations of types and missions are struggling with low member engagement and participation. The value proposition associations offer their members can now be found by other means. Once a primary resource for relevant industry-specific information, associations now compete with a host of tailored information resources proliferating online. What’s more, in some industries there are now a host of competing associations representing the same industry. Private firms have entered the fray by holding their own industry networking events and offering seminars, conferences and other educational programs.
Furthermore, the association’s ability to leverage lower group rates and discounts on products and services is being overshadowed by the countless savings aggregator, comparison pricing, and auction sites. Most of these services are available at no cost.
Now, more than even, affinity group and association marketers, have to find a way to make their offerings stand out in an increasingly crowded marketplace. But ironically, just the opposite is happening. As more associations outsource their marketing to third-party product providers, member marketing is becoming less and less member-centric.
Too often, a member communication is nothing more than a broad market message with the group’s logo added for effect. Is it any wonder then that members see more and more association offerings as generic and nothing special? They perceive little to no added value and over time, the lack of exclusivity and value causes them to question the value of their dues dollars.
In the current economic environment, associations are facing downward pressure on membership dues and increasing pressure to provide more relevant, compelling, exclusive value, specific to the association and not easily found elsewhere. In order to continue to survive and thrive in these challenging times, associations will need to re-define what membership means and develop exclusive value in order to continue to attract and retain members.
Bodden Partners is a full-service marketing firm that specializes in affinity group marketing. Our clients enjoy some of the highest participation levels in their member benefits programs. If you would like a free affinity marketing consultation, contact us for a custom recommendation.