What is your association’s competitive advantage?
Anyone who has been part of managing an association knows one thing for sure: there is an association for everything. The down side to this is that there are usually two or three or four associations for everything. That means that every association must set themselves apart from other associations that are competing for membership dollars. You’re not just trying to get industry members to join, you have to constantly be proving your value over other associations.
It's not unlike business in the for-profit arena. Those types of organizations must constantly be proving their competitive advantage to current and future clients in order to succeed, and the same goes for associations. In my opinion, there are two things that set every association apart from their competitors: their members and their content.
Being a member of your association gives people access to your other members. With most associations, that means access to some of the “biggest and brightest” in your industry or niche. This is absolutely one of the most powerful attractions for potential members, and probably why a large number of your current members renew each year. If they know that becoming a member and attending your events means they can rub elbows with some of the biggest names in your industry, it’s almost a no-brainer.
There's a great opportunity for you to leverage your membership in your growth efforts. Let people know that the Elon Musk of your industry is a member and part of the board, with their permission, of course. Share the fact that your industry’s biggest names are part of your association and I guarantee others will want to be part of that. We all want to be part of success, and showing that those who are already successful value your association will inherently grow perceived value to potential members.
The second thing that sets your association apart is content. There isn’t (or shouldn’t be) any other association that offers the content that your association does. Every single association produces content, whether you know it or not, and I don’t just mean the content you put on your website or your blog. Anything your association produces for your members' benefit is content. This includes things like certifications, guidelines, best practices and more. Members are constantly looking to see what others in the industry are up to, and you can be the voice to allow people to see things like that.
One source associations overlook is member-generated content. Enable your most active members to share their experiences with the rest of your members by making it easy to get that information to you. The number one reason I hear that active members aren’t willing to submit content is it’s too time consuming. If you can make it as easy as possible, and show them how, your member-generated content pipeline will always be full.
Taking the for-profit approach when preparing your association for 2018 might be just what your association needs. Take the time to layout your association’s competitive advantages and you’ll quickly be able to identify the things you should be focusing on and promoting in the year to come.