As 2020 dawns, many associations are looking to make sure they have a steady influx of revenue streaming in. From focusing on customers to adding value, an expert shares three trends you should embrace this year.
If you’re the superstitious type, you might have eaten black-eyed peas or undertaken some other tradition purported to bring money in the new year. You may even have showed up at work (which, while not superstitious, is effective at bringing in money). If you’re looking to boost the revenue at your association, don’t rely on superstitions. (But, yes, you should show up at work.) While you’re there, lean into the top trends in nondues revenue for 2020 offered up by Sheri Jacobs, FASAE, CAE, president and CEO at Avenue M Group:
Focus on Customers
The first trend represents a big ideological shift: focusing on customers, whether they’re members or not.
“For as long as I’ve worked in associations—20 years—people have always said membership is the heart and the lifeblood of the organization; It’s what everyone talks about,” Jacobs said. “I think there is going to be a pivotal shift, where you no longer think about membership as lifeblood. The real focus is outreach and customers.”
Jacobs said she is not undervaluing members, but rather acknowledging that associations serve people in addition to their members. This strategy is often lucrative because nonmembers pay more. Jacobs’ company did an analysis of sales for a large association, looking at purchases by members and nonmembers, and came to a startling conclusion: “If they had converted these people to members, they would have millions of dollars of lost revenue.”
It’s OK for customers to choose the association’s products, but not its membership. “The shift is, we don’t have to capture everyone as members,” Jacobs said. “It’s OK if membership stays small. For many organizations, if you look at their mission statement, it doesn’t have the word member in it. The mission is to advance the profession.”
Jacobs said she has noticed a trend among employers to not reimburse employees for membership fees, whereas they will pay for products that help employees improve. “Customers are just as valuable as members,” Jacobs said.
Focusing on all customers and your organization’s reach will help improve nondues revenue from other sources, such as corporate sponsors. “I know an association that has maybe 14,000 or 15,000 members, but when they talk about their reach, it is three or four times as strong,” Jacobs said. “They get people in the room who are important for networking in their industry, even if they don’t become members.”
Data can help associations figure out which programs and services are growing and which are declining.
“You might have an audience segment that is retiring or graying,” Jacobs said. “They may be the largest user of something you have. Another segment may be really small, but that segment is growing.”
Even though the big segment may be spending money now, Jacobs said it’s important to see the writing on the wall and pitch to those growing segments accordingly. Customer or member journeys can be helpful by using data to guide customers to the next product they’ll need. “As they join or renew, they are given incentives to use other things we have,” Jacobs said. “People who used this are happy with or seeking these kinds of things.”
Customers will spend money if they value the product associations are offering.
“Individuals [ask], does this create value for me?” Jacobs said. “Does this offer me something I can’t get anywhere else?”
Offering both online and in-person options for meetings will continue to trend. While some worried that providing online access would cannibalize sales for in-person seats, Jacobs said that generally isn’t the case. “People don’t choose an online meeting because they initially were doing the in-person one and this was cheaper,” she said. Instead, logistics meant they could never do the in-person training, but online made it feasible. “If you don’t offer the online opportunity, there is an entire audience whose needs aren’t being met,” Jacobs said.
She also noted that some associations are requiring nonmembers who take advantage of their offerings to subscribe. “A lot of organizations take member content and put that behind a member wall,” Jacobs said. “This is taking your free content that’s out there, and saying if you want access, you have to become a subscriber. That subscription can be free or charge a nominal fee. It’s a way to build your customer database.”
Once people are in the database, the association has an opportunity to show its value through the content it provides. Jacobs said the subscription models she has seen do not provide additional discounts or other perks reserved for members.
Which trends in nondues revenue does your association plan on tackling this year? Share your thoughts in the comments section.