Lunchtime Links: What Corporations Can Learn From Associations

Why too much incremental change leads to disappointment. Also: how to create membership value that matters.

There’s no shortage of advice in the blogosphere from corporate leaders to association executives. But companies can learn from nonprofits too. We’re talking to you, Apple.

Lessons learned, and more, in today’s Lunchtime Links.

Flip the script: Association executives are often reminded of lessons from the private sector. “Often the larger and more successful the company is, the more nonprofits can supposedly learn from it,” writes account executive Dustin McKissen on the Stronger By Association blog. McKissen recently Googled “What associations can learn from Apple,” and more than a page of results with different iterations of that same topic appeared. But what if you flipped the script? Could corporate juggernauts like Apple stand to learn something from their nonprofit counterparts? McKissen thinks so. He cites the tepid response to Apple’s latest iPhones 5s and 5c as an example. The excitement that Apple has come to expect from product launches just isn’t there. McKissen blames the lull on too many incremental product changes—and says that’s a problem with which association executives are familiar. “Staying ahead of the competition—whether the competition is Samsung or a for-profit company hosting conventions aimed at traditional association members—requires the willingness to try something new,” writes McKissen. Many associations have been forced to learn this lesson the hard way. Has yours?

Value that matters: When you get down to it, most associations face a single core problem: how to find and create value for their members. Accomplish this and the prevailing wisdom is that all those other goals will fall in line, eventually. But creating value is sometimes harder than it seems. Writing for The YourMembership.com Blog, content and client marketing director Christina Smith discusses the difference between gimmicks (simply offering things for free and chalking them up as “value”) and “perceived member value,” or PMV. Smith defines PMV as “the kind of value that will have people eager to join and members hard-pressed to leave.” But what’s the secret? How can associations make the leap from gimmicks to genuine member benefit? The only way, says Smith, is to ask. Survey your members and have frank discussions to get a feel for their needs. Is it events they crave? Mentorship programs? Exclusive content? You won’t know until you ask.

Team builder: No leader can succeed on an island. It takes teamwork and the combined efforts of staff to grow any organization, big or small. Writing for Inc.com, Eric V. Holtzclaw, founder and CEO of marketing and product strategy firm Laddering Works, offers five suggestions for how to build better teams within your organization. For one, it’s imperative that leaders play to employees’ strengths. “If a team member isn’t good at details, they will never be good at details,” writes Holtzclaw. “You need to decide if they do the rest of their job well and if so, partner them with someone else who can help shore up their deficiency.” Among his other suggestions, always let employees know you have their backs and create a goal that your teams can work toward. Want more? Read Holtzclaw’s full list.

How do you promote stronger teamwork within your organization? Let us know in the comments.


Corey Murray

By Corey Murray

Corey Murray is a contributor to Associations Now. MORE

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