Best Practices for Association Executives Integrating New Technology

Forward thinking association executives are always looking for new ways to add value for their members. So when a social media platform such as Facebook launches a live video option it is tempting to try integrate the service as quickly as possible. While experimenting with new platforms can be rewarding for your association be wary of how many resources are dedicated to trend chasing.


According to a recent article on Association’s Now, association’s should balance their focus between primary marketing platforms like email or an internal social network and third party platforms like Facebook or Twitter. The piece has one standout message that is easy to forget: “These platforms have business needs that don’t match your own.”

This means that their focus changes, features can go away and what an algorithm deemed important one day can be deemed unimportant the next. So if your association spends time and money perfecting something like Facebook live there is no guarantee that Facebook will continue offering the service the way they have been or at all.

Social networks offer an unprecedented ability to connect with current members, the public and future members. So try new services that are offered by social networks but experiment with a plan.

  • Decide how much of your marketing budget you want to dedicate to experiments
  • Examine what is working for other brands, associations, and companies using the service
  • Do not be afraid to fail. Failure is part of experimenting so expect it and embrace it. You’ll learn something.

How does your association handle integrating new trends with current social media strategies? Let us know in the comments or on social media.

Association Executives Should Consider Sponsored Memberships

A recent article on Associations Now sheds light on the trend of sponsored memberships for associations. According to the article the Society of Plastics Engineers started offering free student memberships in 2014 through a sponsor funded subsidy. In the 15 months since launching over 1,000 students joined SPE more than doubling the total number of student members.

A similar program “ScaleUp” launched nine years ago by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. It has increased membership from below 3,000 to over 22,500 students.

The main difference between the two programs is where the sponsorship money comes from. SPE is sponsored by another trade organization while AIChE is sponsored by corporations. Each funder has their own benefits and drawbacks but is clear they both can boost membership.

AICHE teaches students how to make liquid nitrogen ice cream.

AIChE teaches students how to make liquid nitrogen ice cream.

What should your association do with this information?

Look at your membership demographics and identify any areas where you are under-performing. Millennials and students are two groups associations often struggle with. It is possible that they have never heard of your association or do not know the benefits of joining. By sponsoring memberships association executives can demonstrate the value and purpose of associations.

Seek out sponsors by looking to other professional organizations or corporations your members frequently interact with for funding. Be sure to explain the value of their sponsorship by giving them a concrete example of a time when a member from your association provided something they needed.

Would sponsored memberships work at your association? Let us know in the comments or on social media.

Association Executives Must Make Their Trade Show Unmissable

The Entertainment Software Association’s annual expo, E3, will miss one of it’s most prominent exhibitors Entertainment Arts (EA) this June. EA is organizing a separate which is set to start the day before this year’s E3 and run in tandem with it.

According to Association’s Now EA’s departure from E3 could reduce the ESA’s exhibit revenue. It may also signal a trend of exhibitors seeking out different ways to engage their audience away from the traditional trade show booth model.

With that in mind here are three simple steps your association can take to keep exhibitors coming back year after year. 

Press, exhibitors and attendees watching Nintendo's 2011 E3 presentation.

Press, exhibitors and attendees watching Nintendo’s 2011 E3 presentation.

Emphasize Exclusive Attendance Perks

Before your expo begins ensure all exhibitors know about the great opportunities available to them. You can drive this excitement by including networking events, talks, and special discounts. It could be as easy as offering members a chance to have their product or booth featured in the next newsletter. These little steps go a long way in retaining exhibitors.

Walk The Show Floor

This will allow you to notice problems as they start to arise. Engage exhibitors with questions about their product and booth. Take time to ask them about their specific needs. Was their set up easy? Is the space conducive to the experience they want to offer attendees?

Keep a running list of things your exhibitors like about your conference. If you believe something is going well get confirmation from exhibitors about it. This demonstrates you truly care about what your association members are working on.

Distribute A Post Show Survey

Within a week of your expo send out an email survey to attendees to collect their feedback. Consider making responses anonymous to encourage brutal honesty. You might not like everything that they fill out but in the long run it is better. Harsh feedback will improve your expo next year. When association members are deprived a platform for open and honest feedback the likelihood of further miscommunication or alienation occurs.

When association executives take a proactive in approach in expo planning members notice and appreciate it. Don’t assume that because your show has had success in the past that it doesn’t need to be tweaked or improved.

Does your association already use one of these strategies? Are there others we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments and on social media.

4 Ways Association Executives Can Increase Member Engagement

Association executives all experience some anxiety over member engagement, satisfaction, and loyalty. They wonder “Am I doing enough for members?” This is an impossible question to answer in exact terms however it is worth trying. A great first step to take is increasing member engagement. When members are engaged and involved with their association they are more communicative. Communicative members are more invested in their association and therefore less likely to leave it.

Driving Engagement

One unexpected place to look for inspiration is the video game retailer Gamestop. A recent piece in Associations Now highlights what the company does for members of their PowerUp Loyalty program. PowerUp’s members get basic benefits from a free membership tier and discounts from a paid one. Members who pay for the small annual fee make up 71 per cent of the company’s sales. That figure is a testament to how engaged their paying members are. It proves that what they are doing is working.

Associations Now features four things that make the PowerUp program effective.

gamestop association exectuives

Free Membership

Establishing a two tiered membership system has generated sales leads for Gamestop. They have free members of PowerUp sign up with their email address. After a customer is signed up Gamestop is able to track their buying habits and interests.

Some associations such as The Alliance for Women In Media already have a free membership category. Free members get access to materials that were previously held under a pay wall but have limited say in the association.

Rewarding Loyalty

The article recommends that associations adopt a points based rewards program. It is an uncommon thing for associations to do but “it might be a missed opportunity, because earning rewards can drive long-term gratification and build a more lasting relationship with a member than a one-time discount.” If you know of an association that offers a points reward program let us know in the comments.

Personalizing Everything

By collecting large amount of data about members associations have the ability to offer personalized service to their members. Gamestop uses their data to recommend new games based on past purchases. It is currently getting their in store employees to scan member cards so they can see the customer’s entire purchase history.

For associations having individual, easily navigable files on each member creates an incredible opportunity engagement. It allows associations to follow up on comments made by specific members. By fostering caring environment where members feel listened to and valued associations will stand out.

Understanding Mobile

Open your association’s website on your phone or tablet. Now try to navigate through it for key information. If it is a frustrating experience for you it likely is also frustrating for your members. Having an unresponsive and difficult to navigate mobile site will create a negative experience for members that will stick with them. So spend some time tweaking the site your members will thank you.

Did these tips get you thinking differently about association membership? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.

Association executives are you getting the most out of Twitter?

As association executives you are always looking for ways to get your word out into the world. There’s a lot of noise about what you should and not should be doing on social media to spread your message. We think the best way is to look at a success story and see what they did right.

Twitter for association executives

The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) have worked hard to create an engaged audience on Twitter. If you have spent time trying to do this yourself you know this can be difficult. Competing for users attention with the sheer volume of messages can be intimidating.

So what is NAM doing differently than other associations? For starters they’ve done a great job of identifying where their voice needs to be heard. This year they focused on the State of the Union address and presidential debates.

According to a post on Twitter’s blog the town hall meeting dynamic that happens on Twitter during political events lets users weigh in and learn about issues in real time. “This dynamic makes the platform a prime marketing channel for trade associations and advocacy groups seeking to shape the national dialogue”

During the 2015 State of the Union address NAM had over 100,000 engagements. This means that everyday americans following the debate got see manufacturers needs. It also delivered a clear message to politicians about the importance of manufacturers in America.  

NAM’s social media manager Martha Sprague was pleased with how the campaign played out.

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“The power of now is very important for our association. On Twitter, we’re able to insert ourselves there, get our point across, and engage with new audiences, new followers, and really push the needle a little bit further,” Sprague said.

Does your association have a success story comparable to NAM? Tell us about it in the comments.

Fear of Change is a Fallacy

Think of the last five situations in your association strategy execution that were “all talk and no action.” Was it really a fear of change that prevented progress? If you really dig deep into each situation, you will likely find one or two humans that blocked real progress because they just didn’t make the effort. I work with people of all intellects, and I can honestly say I come across very few unintelligent people…but I certainly see my share people that just won’t do the work required to make real change and progress.

In associations big and small, you will find individuals that simply don’t want to put forth any more effort today than they did yesterday. Perhaps you know someone who won’t pitch in as part of a team to get things done, or won’t learn a new way of doing things. Do you work with someone who will in no way put their neck on the line?  Whether its school or work or volunteering, high achievers often just pick up the slack because they don’t want the work to suffer, and it is often just easier to “do it myself.”

“Fear of change” may be the most overused synonym for laziness in the association workplace, but we use many terms in our organizations, that if we look closely enough are really just euphemisms or code for laziness. Stay tuned as we explore 8 common euphemisms for laziness.

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