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decisions

We are evaluating marketing automation software and have listed our desired specifications in a spreadsheet with attributes like “must have” and “nice to have.” This sheet helps us easily compare features and see which platforms are lacking our requirements. Plus, after doing 4-6 demos, it helps organize what could be an overwhelming process.

However, choosing a new software platform or AMS or deciding whether to implement a proposed program initiative on behalf of our clients goes beyond a specified list of features.

Using only a spreadsheet to compare features seems sterile and robotic until we ask ourselves nine questions from our project decision matrix document. The questions demonstrate that we actually think about our clients’ missions and goals when making impactful decisions.

When your leadership is considering a new “toy,” be certain it fits in with your goals, objectives and mission. Ensure that you will be able to sustain the initiative beyond the initial excitement and implementation.

When considering a new initiative, ask your team the following nine questions:
1. What are we trying to accomplish?
2. Does this help reach our goals and further our mission?
3. What does success mean for this initiative?
4. What is the desired timeline for this project?
5. What does our resource pool look like?
6. How will feedback be provided by the client?
7. What is the long-term effect of this project?
8. Is this plan sustainable?
9. What are the major risks of the initiative?

These questions deliberate the process to give your organization and board the time to think about the initiative.

Questions like “What does success look like?” are painfully obvious. Yet, how many projects have you implemented where you have not planned to measure when you have achieved success?

Creating a presence on a trendy social media network where your members may or may not visit might be easy to do. Asking yourself, “Does this help our goals and further our mission?” may at least help you decide if it is worth the resources to maintain.

You might be surprised at how these questions could either green light or sideline a project depending on how well vetted, or thought-through it is.

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in Strategic Planning 142 0
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Win win

Have you ever thought about hosting a joint convention with another association to advance your industry? If the answer is yes, I want to share some lessons learned from a recent experience with two trade associations that operate in related industries.

A joint meeting is a great way to create new touch points for a large group of people at one time. It fits within the mission of most associations who advocate for their members and promote new business opportunity. Your members can save money by not having to travel to two separate meetings during the year and these companies can maximize their exposure, and sometimes invest more, due to a greater expected ROI.

It’s not that easy however, because merging two associations will have its challenges. Primarily in how both cultures fit together. Think of a joint meeting more like a business merger or acquisition instead of a meeting - the culture fit is key to operationalize the experience. Your goal should be to deliver on all of the most important aspects of your association meeting, while also fitting the experience into a larger joint program. The cultures match is paramount to achieve success, so the organizers should have a good idea about what events will fit with the norms of each group.

Here are some other things to think about.

Eliminate complexities. Culture matters.
The simpler the better in terms of program format. Remember, this is a new experience for all members. They are not going to your convention this year, they’re attending a joint event (new experience). Don’t fall into the trap of trying to re-create your convention entirely. Both associations must compromise on the format to reduce overall uncertainty of the members. If things get too complex, members will feel like they don’t have enough information and will turn off if they see others engaged who are more familiar with the process. Think strategically about the format of the meeting and how you want members to interact. It won’t work to just take each individual association meeting, merge them together, and wait for the positive reviews to roll in.

Double the networking time
Associations should give members enough opportunities to meet each other at a joint convention. Members want to see their customers, old friends and colleagues first, then branch out to meet new people from the other association. The program should have double the opportunities to network than what you’re used to. This additional time will give members a chance to make their normal rounds and not feel pressured to meet new people at every opportunity. The best connections are made through friends and word of mouth, so give them a chance to talk.

More people overall also means that your members will lose out on those spontaneous runs-ins with old friends and colleagues. This will create a feeling that ‘the meeting is too big.’ Try to create a good balance in your program with large networking events and smaller more focused receptions or meet ups. Often times, we think our normal format can simply accommodate more people with a bigger space. The fact is – people are not always willing to break the ice. Make it easy for your members to feel connected to the larger group. The need to have a place and not feel like an outsider. Matchmaking events can work well in this area, but note it will involve more staff time and support to coordinate a good effort. A poorly planned matchmaking event can have greater negative ramifications than not doing it at all.

Limit the amount of separate meetings.
While each association plans their own business meeting, as well as Board and Committee meetings depending on the rotation, try to limit the one-offs which will make members choose. These events for only one group can create an environment where members of each association are attending their own events instead of actively participating in the joint programming. It’s almost like having two groups in the same space but living in their own silos. The more opportunities there are to choose, the more people will notice non-participation from the other side and think it’s a symptom of the people not wanting to be engaged. For example, host your new member and first timer events together. Another idea is to have staff from each group work together on the other’s events. The association staff can help introduce members to each other and promote a positive dialog about collaboration that helps all attending. 

Maximize your keynote speakers.
The educational program is probably the easiest part of the joint meeting, especially if the groups have similar interests, but don’t overlook its importance. Selecting a very high-profile speaker will create a unique excitement that’s not the norm. Selecting two or three really good speakers has its advantages also if you plan to do breakout sessions or deeper dives. Don’t hire more than three speakers though, or your members will feel like they are missing out. Inspiration and business leadership are two qualities to look for. Don’t get too technical or specific on content because it won’t apply to all attendees.

Control your costs, but don’t go cheap.
Make sure people get the most important parts of your convention experience, then compromise on other aspects. The members are paying the same rates to attend the joint meeting, so when they see double the amount of people, they will naturally think the convention will make double the profit. Meeting planners know this is not the case. Large groups incur additional costs for security, F&B and more, so be conscious of how everything is presented. If your members are used to plated dinners, don’t go with only reception style meals because its makes more sense for a larger group. Also, don’t have each association order their own food, make it consistent.

This is one of the hardest parts about merging cultures for a joint meeting to decide how revenues and expenses are matched. That being said, a joint meeting is a great time to try new things and innovate, so don’t be afraid to try something new where it makes sense. After you meet your basic needs, be creative in how other aspects of the event are presented.

Have fun. Be a Champion.
In the end, your members want to feel like you have their back. They appreciate responsiveness, honesty and the feeling that you have their well-being at heart. Have fun at the event and be a champion on-site for your organization. Offer help to all attendees, promote a positive and collaborative mindset, and introduce people to one another. The little things are noticed.

Joint meeting organizers have a very important role to play in supporting volunteer leaders who have been involved in planning for many years. Let them help you spread the word about what’s really important at the meeting – advancing your industry and creating new business opportunities.

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in Event Management 199 0
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live chat quote

We all want instant answers when we go online, and our members (prospective and existing) are no different. B2B and B2C companies have long known that quick service enhances the customer experience, leaving a positive overall impression. That’s why live chat has become so popular in online commerce. Live chat may not be new in the for-profit world, but for most resource-strapped, small/medium staff associations and AMCs, it is. 

According to Insite Software, live chat on your website can directly lead to “better member engagement, higher conversion and member satisfaction.”

  1. Live chat increases conversions by 20%. Live chat helps answer customer questions, removes buying objections and results in a more confident consumer.
  2. Customers who chat are three times more likely to buy. Live chat provides a method for more direct and personal interaction with customers, resulting in an increased likelihood that they will make the purchase.
  3. Live chat improves customer satisfaction levels. Chat offers customers a more immediate way to get their questions answered. As a result, customers walk away from the interaction feeling more satisfied and positive about your brand. While percentages may vary by industry, it is clear live chat’s instant gratification increases satisfaction and shortens the sales cycle. Data shows that as many as 59% of people who would have otherwise called, were completely satisfied with their online interaction.

Live chat for associations
For associations, live chat can lighten the load of your call center and administrative staff. Plus, because live chat is mobile friendly, association staff can easily monitor activity and answer questions anytime, anywhere. That doesn’t mean live chat requires 24/7 chained-to-a-desk service. Many companies staff their chat during business hours only and offer the option to leave a message in the off hours. This is totally acceptable. 

An added bonus to being instantly accessible is the ability to see where your web visitors come from (a Google search or referring site) or what organization they are with. It’s gratifying when you recognize returning visitors by name.

Most live chat services are relatively inexpensive, starting $5 or $10 per month. Many have a free trial or “freemium” model. Some even integrate seamlessly with Wordpress, Hubspot, Salesforce, and other online tools you’re already using.

Enhancing member satisfaction
Live chat gives our staff the opportunity to engage with our members in real time. Thanks to a small piece of code that I installed on our association website, I’m alerted instantly when (“Ding!) a member is having login problems that cannot be fixed by the “Forgot Password” button, (“Ding!”) a member has a question about completing his online profile, and (“Ding!”) a prospective member has some questions before submitting an application for membership.

With live chat, I enjoy being able to quickly help our members go about their business with usually little impact on my day. In my experience, most of the interactions involve some online technical issue, finding a resource for a member or nurturing a potential sponsor or member relationship. Like any good customer experience, listening and providing decisive help is key.

If you use live chat, you will notice patterns in the questions you get. They may help identify problems with your website, conference registration site or learning management system. Perhaps a web page is confusing or lacks some information. Share what you learn with your marketing or web person to ensure that information or the customer-flow through your website is optimized.

While some days are busier than others and it appears as though I am falling down a rabbit hole of busy work, I know that, with live chat, I am directly affecting the bottom line of the association by enhancing customer satisfaction — for only a bit of labor and little if any monthly fee.

Source: B2B Marketing, American Marketing Association, Pekala, Nancy

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in Web & Technology 557 0
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gig economy

Every day in the United States, 10,000 Baby Boomers turn 65, a trend that will continue until 2029, when the last boomers reach the traditional age of retirement. This mass exodus from the work force is already creating a vacuum of skills and experience. The Society for Human Resource Management reports that replacing retiring Baby Boomers is one of the key challenges facing HR professionals.

Despite the demographic facts, few organizations have planned for how to retain and accommodate an aging workforce, according to the SHRM report, The New Talent Landscape: Recruiting Difficulty and Skills Shortages. Most employers are taking a wait-and-see approach to labor and skills shortages.

This demographic phenomenon presents associations with an opportunity to step up with solutions. How? By offering education, benefits and networking opportunities that support older employees who want to remain active participants in the work force.

Here are six ideas for how your association can serve older members, based on my experience as a boomer who counts herself among the many who expect to work well past 65.

Technical skills training. Everyone knows how quickly technology changes, but many employers continue to hold onto the notion that older workers can’t learn new technology. This is a generation that went off to college with manual typewriters and slide rules; we have a demonstrated ability to adapt. What training can you offer to help all of your members learn new technical skills?

Industry knowledge. Sure, we’ve “been there, done that,” but we still need to stay current in trends and developments in our field. Is your association the go-to source for developments in your industry? Are you ahead of the curve in reporting industry news? In addition to offering original content, do you help members sift through the avalanche in their in box by curating information from other sources?

Flexibility. Many older workers work part time or on a contract basis. Some choose to work in the “gig economy” because they want more control over their schedules or they are away part of the year. Others are caring for grandchildren or aging parents (or both). Or, part-time or freelance work may be the only gig they can find. How can your association offer these members the flexibility they need?

Affordability. Because employers can be reluctant to invest in the professional development of aging employees or contract workers, your older members are more likely to be paying their own membership dues and registration fees. What are some ways you can offer affordable opportunities to participate in your organization? Can you offer a membership category for part-time employees or freelancers? How about meeting for breakfast or happy hour instead of hosting more costly dinners?

Networking opportunities. If you’re part of the gig economy, you’re always looking for the next job. Members of all ages want opportunities to network that involve more than a business card exchange. How can your association help members make meaningful connections and showcase their expertise? When you’re looking for a guest blogger or workshop presenter, consider inviting older members.

Camaraderie. One of the reasons people continue to work past retirement age is the sense of belonging that comes with the workplace. Associations are ideally suited to offer members the social benefits of working together for a purpose. What are some innovative ways your association can involve members who have “graduated” from board and committee service but still want to be a part of the group?

While much has been written about recruiting and retaining younger members, I encourage you to consider how you can engage older members. In the end, we participate in associations for the same reasons younger members do – professional development, social interaction and a commitment to a common goal. Rock on!

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in Workplace Issues 1025 0
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Several years ago it was all the rage for company presidents and executives to write a blog. The idea was to give one’s organization a voice of leadership beyond the motto, mission statement or "about us" page.

In theory, this is excellent. Since the executive is the visionary and chief cheerleader to the organization and its members or customers, she should have a voice both internally and publically to manage morale, politics and issues the company or association faces.

But creating a well thought-out post of 500-750 words can take hours of writing and editing. To establish and maintain a public presence, some CEOs and presidents have taken to having a ghost writer write their weekly post. This could backfire however, as the writer may not capture or channel exactly how the executive speaks or communicates. The constituency or membership may say ghostwriting is inauthentic and is contrary to the spirit of the idea of the president blogging to begin with.

There is another way, with a little time, to capture your president’s thoughts, share them with your customers or members, and perhaps even make a deeper impact.

How? Video. You’ve probably already heard that video is becoming the medium on which we are all learning, searching, communicating. It’s not inconceivable that YouTube will surpass even Google as a search engine.

CSIA 2016 complete the survey

You can create a simple video in less than 15 minutes a week that may, for all intents and purposes, be more powerful than a blog. Check out this video we made with AMPED President Lynda J. Patterson. Here Lynda addresses attendees of an upcoming association partner conference and builds anticipation. And here, in a post-conference video, she asks attendees to complete the conference evaluation.

I shot and edited these videos on my iPhone, and uploaded them to YouTube. Both took me fewer than 10 minutes to complete. Lynda put together a few bullet points, rehearsed briefly, and executed these well.

I like them because they don’t look too polished, but are professional enough to send out to the masses. These didn’t cost us any studio time or any money other than the initial investment in inexpensive equipment, totaling $125, plus a smartphone. You don’t need a studio or expensive equipment, just a smartphone, lapel mic, a tripod and a mount

I recommend that you reference my article, “Four key elements to shooting better videos” for some easy tips and tricks to making videos very easy and accessible.

Good Luck!

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in Marketing and Communications 1034 0
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LinkedIn Goals


People use LinkedIn for some of the same reasons they join associations — for professional development and to connect with colleagues. This makes LinkedIn a great tool for associations! It provides an opportunity to both expand and add value to membership through increased brand awareness, engaging with members and reaching potential new members.

Business profile
LinkedIn users can learn more about your association by viewing your business profile. They can choose to follow you, so that they receive email notices when you post updates to your profile. I did some research on this, and came up with this list of suggestions to really showcase your association through your business profile:

  • Make a strong first impression by making sure your business profile information is complete and includes your web address. Include your logo and an enticing background photo.
  • Provide more in-depth information for those interested in learning more. One way to do this is to create a separate page on your profile for each member benefit you offer. Include member testimonials on these pages for each service.
  • Upload your member contact emails into LinkedIn, and then use LinkedIn to send out emails inviting them to connect with and follow your business profile, and to join your discussion group (more info on discussion groups is provided below).
  • Use LinkedIn’s advanced search function to identify potential new members, and invite them to connect, follow and join.
    Keep all your followers interested and engaged by posting frequent updates about your association and your industry. Include both your own content — such as blog posts — and curated content.

Discussion group
Cultivate a sense of community among your target members, by starting a discussion group around your industry or specific topic of interest. It's generally recommended that you keep topics here general in nature, rather than centering the group around your association exclusively. When setting up your group, use industry key words in your group name and description, and consider making your group open (not by invitation only), but subject to group manager approval. Here are some additional suggestions for maximizing engagement within your discussion group:

  • Invite all staff, members and industry leaders to join, and engage with, your discussion group community. All group members will then have your group logo and a link to your group on their LinkedIn profile.
  • Consider setting up a separate page on your website for the discussion group, to give the group additional visibility. Similarly, consider setting up a Facebook page or group and invite members of each network to join the other.
  • Add discussion starters regularly, trying to focus on group members’ needs and concerns. You can mark a particularly strong or relevant discussion as featured, to pin it to the top of the group feed for a period of time.
  • Join other related and relevant discussion groups to connect with potential new members. Interact with contributors in those groups, and start posting valuable thoughts or shared articles. Once you establish yourself, begin sharing announcements from your association, too, such as for upcoming events. This encourages members of those groups to become involved with yours, as well.
  • Auto-send an email to new group members. Welcome new members and encourage them to begin participating by selecting your Manage button, then Templates on the left.
  • You can, and should, email your discussion group members regularly using the Send Announcement option. Consider offering free content from your association, cultivating potential new members. Announcements will also get added as a discussion thread for your group.
  • Over time, you will be able to identify strong contributors within your discussion group. Perhaps your next search for an extraordinary board member or keynote speaker might begin and end in your LinkedIn discussion group!

As you continue to build and leverage your presence on LinkedIn, cross promote both your profile and discussion group wherever possible, including on your website, in your newsletter and on your staff business cards. Likewise, every time you host a webinar or attend a conference, be sure to put out notice, both on your profile and in your group, that you will be in attendance, as well as invite everyone you meet to join you on LinkedIn.

Building a valuable LinkedIn presence may take some time, but in the end you will reap a more robust association through increased membership growth and higher member engagement.

 

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in Social Media 940 0
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Lynda Patterson, FASAE, CAE, president and owner of Association Management Partners & Executive Directors (AMPED) has been named a Guiding Light advisor to the Association Transformation Organizers (ATO). Patterson is one of an esteemed group of sector advisors who deliver energy, wisdom and affirmation to the principal visionaries of ATO, who are themselves leaders in private, public and association sectors. The group strives to guide transformative change that is actionable and builds sustainable success.

ATO is convening a thought leadership think tank of association leaders to develop the agenda for succeeding in the next 5-10 years. The focus will be on the CEO/ED role and what it will take to successfully lead their organization through the changing landscape.

Their research to date has identified several priority issues including:

  • Membership – creating more viable models and benefits
  • Businification – the adoption of private sector practices
  • Talent – the identification, recruiting and development of staff
  • Member business disruptions – members themselves are experiencing challenges
  • Value generation – understanding how value is created and received in the new market

Read more about Association Transformation Organizers.

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in News Archive 1561 0
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