Trade associations are under continuing pressure to find innovative ways to deliver value to their members. Associations serving auto dealers, retailers, and real estate agents have likely been seriously affected by the recession. The economic downturn has dented revenues and renewals and members might be asking the unthinkable: what's the return on our membership dollars?
Here are some some tips for improving association performance:
1. Don't take your membership for granted - understand the challenges they face and work with them to deliver value-added programs and services. Newsletters and publications might not be as valuable to them in the age of the internet so you need to develop new products and services and innovative delivery mechanisms.
2. Reexamine your processes - analyze your member-facing processes and measure how well they are delivering value to the membership. Are they as fast as they need to be? As flexible? As cost-effective?
3. Simplify processes & procedures - processes and procedures become unnecessarily complex over time. Simplify them to their bare essentials; i.e. focus on what the membership needs and phase out the rest.
4. Engage your staff - train staff to treat members like customers. Members are the lifeblood of your association. Give staff the leeway to streamline workflows to deliver better value to members.
5. Encourage staff to ask 'why' - when problems arise, stop and ask this simple question. More often than not, the response to a problem is a bandaid so the problem just lies dormant for a while. Asking why and using simple root cause analysis tools such as a cause and effect matrix can produce lasting solutions for what appear to be complex problems.
Engage members, engage staff, and strive to continually innovative.