You and your leadership invested significant time and effort in developing the association’s Value Proposition – a concise message that connects what you do with the most pressing needs and concerns of your members. You no doubt have a nice graphic depicting the value proposition and everyone feels really good about the work accomplished. Perhaps it’s now featured on your website and included on staff email signatures. And of course there was that nice article in last month’s member newsletter.
So, are you seeing results? Has it made a difference? Was it worth the time and money?
These are important questions to ask and hopefully you are able to proudly say “Yes!” to each. If not, then you need to take a step back and look at your “post-value proposition” activities. Simply creating the value proposition and posting it on a few documents or your website is not enough. To realize significant success your value proposition must become a living part of the association—from strategic planning to ongoing communications— from the president and top officers through to staff—and not just senior staff, but any staff member who interacts with members.
After working with dozens of associations to discover and create their unique value proposition I’ve observed three factors which are strong indicators for getting results:
- Association executive active involvement. You must set the bar high and make clear your expectations to staff. “We WILL use our VP in the way we communicate at every level of our organization.” You must instill a new culture for getting the message to the right people at the right time. To both members and leaders. If you don’t infuse your value proposition into operations, no one will.
- Communications and other key staff “own” the value proposition. Ideally these folks were involved in its development. Regardless, they need to fully understand why the VP is important, have prepared and planned for its integration into the programs they manage, and have a personal buy-in to what it stands for. To help the trickle-down effect, encourage a spirit of creativity and fun around the VP for all staff. Brainstorm in staff meetings how to demonstrate the value proposition, with members who call the service line, at education classes, and wherever there’s an opportunity to connect with a member…or a member’s concern or need.
- Involved volunteer leaders who believe. Full involvement in the value proposition workshop is generally all that’s needed to get (and keep) volunteer leadership excited about the VP and to make them true believers. Their enthusiasm is important—for influencing other members and future leaders year after year, and to ensure support for resources needed to effectively implement and communicate the value proposition.
Marc Lebowitz, CEO at the Ada County Association of REALTORS® in Idaho sums it up nicely: “All of this depends so much on having the right leadership in place, a talented and able staff, and a really strong project leader.”
While all three factors are important, it’s the combination that is key. “Our membership services attitude and communication—coupled with live, enthusiastic voices and positive face-to-face experiences—is working in tandem with our consistent value messaging. I don’t think that one without the other works as well,” says Carol Platt, AE from Osceola County Association of REALTORS® (Florida).
I recently asked a few of the association executives I worked with about getting results on their value proposition. Here are a few comments I got back.
- People are repeating our message to each other; they are remembering our slogan of service, not just our mission statement (which was rarely remembered).
- Looking back on the last 12 months we are seeing several “member awareness” and “member performance” indicators that our messaging is getting greater penetration.
- Instead of always talking about what we are not doing or what we should be doing, [members] are talking about what we are doing. It is affecting a positive communication culture which I think will affect their personal businesses and their lives and will draw people to volunteer and belong to the association over time.
- Our value proposition is allowing us to articulate services that are most valuable to our members and narrow the focus to what we know they need most – not what we think they need. It is a differentiator between us and the providers of similar services.
- We are now focused on giving consumers an entertaining experience looking for homes, with the confidence that they will connect with the right Realtor® when the time comes. We use [the value proposition] to guide our staff and web developers as we redesign and promote our website.
Without results, the investment made in developing a strong value proposition for your association is just another “nice idea we once tried.” In today’s association environment you must show results—and results that can be tied to meaningful metrics. One association CEO reports (ironically) they have had to reduce their revenue line for late dues fees by some $20K as members are now paying dues on time and with minimal complaints. He attributes this directly to the VP messaging of the past year! Now there’s a result worth paying for.