Questions About Value Proposition


Today, association executives are talking about value. Putting their value into words. As one AE puts it, “We must be relentless in convincing our members that we matter to them in order to survive. It’s our job to show them how we matter.” (M. Cano)

Here are some questions that Association Executives (and their boards) ask about the value proposition project and how AE’s and Melynn answer them.

If you don’t see an answer that fits your question, please contact us!

Q: Does the VP change over time?

A: Ideally your message will be relevant for ten years – but you should re-evaluate every strategic planning cycle (every one, two and three years) to continue to strengthen your commitment to your members. Significant changes in member needs or an association’s expertise may require a change to your promise of the value you deliver.

Q: MISSION – Did the VP process cause you to rethink your mission or vision?

A: Association Executive, Marc Lebowitz revealed that the value proposition compelled ACAR to rethink everything, including modifying their mission. While this is not the intent, it often happens. Since the value proposition starts with the member, sometimes this perspective compels an association decide to better align these models. In this case, ACAR considered a new mission statement.

As Michael Readinger, CHHSM ED says, CHHSM board and staff rely on member perspective to ensure that the mission, vision and philosophy align with their needs. It matters because their take on our association is essential to the creation of a staffing model, business model, governance structure and communication plan that are relevant, impactful and sustainable.

Q: What is hardest part of the whole process?

A: Coastal EVP, Sheila Dodson stated it was painful to let go of what THEY thought members wanted – what THEY thought was important for members to want. It was difficult to overcome the quandary of “choosing” only three member groups. Coastal didn’t realize until later that developing a single message based on the needs of several specific member groups, their commitment will reach most members with a clearer, more relevant message of what to expect from the association.

Q: PITTFALLS – What’s the most common “pitfall?”

A: Since volunteer leaders know more and understand more about the value of the organization, it’s common that they want to dictate the value proposition. In other words, they want to tell members what should be important and valuable, even after the systematic process to uncover what members worry about and need most. To maintain the integrity in the process, leaders need to support what their task force identifies as the intersection of the association’s expertise that appeals to the largest cross-section of members.

Q: STANDARD VALUE PROPOSITION – Why can’t one value proposition fit all associations?

A: (1) While associations share similar member segments (like new, tenured, or full-time active members, business owners, among others) each has a different opinion of which are most important
(2) Because member audiences differ, their needs and concerns differ.
(3) What one association does very well is different than what another other association delivers with excellence.
 The way you deliver your services, and your values are different than any other association.
(4) The two have to match up – the target audiences’ needs and what the association excels at today.

Q: EXAMPLES – Why don’t you show actual examples of value propositions from other clients?

A: Each value proposition is unique to the association. We encourage you to listen to your members and then uncover your unique value. You will cheat the process if you are influenced by other value propositions.

Q: ISN’T IT ALL PART OF MARKETING? What’s the difference between a value proposition plan and a marketing plan?

A: Communications Director Sarah Kessler discussed how a strong value proposition actually feeds the association’s marketing plan. She and her colleagues invested considerable time to develop how and where the messaging fit in. She uses it daily in marketing materials, programs and communications.

Q: STRATEGIC PLAN – How does the VP support your strategic plan?

A: Association Executives execute their value proposition differently. Strategic planning looks at long-term issues facing the association and its members. The question most associations ask is “how will we strategically strengthen and continue to deliver on our value proposition?” What issues are standing in the way?” 
These become possible strategic issues for your plan.

Q: KEEPING IT GOING – What is the key to extending the life of the value proposition? How do we keep it alive for years to come?

A: I’d like to answer this from an unsolicited conversation from a volunteer leader: Jolon, an incoming Board President, was involved with the CEO in leading the value proposition project. Now that the message is final and launched, she has communicated directly with every one of her committee chairs and given them the following direction: “Committee work for the upcoming year will be based on two criteria: (1) linking the committee’s work to one of the key value points of our value proposition first, and (2) the activity fulfilling a strategic goal. Any work that does not satisfy these two benchmarks should not come to the board of directors.”

Q: LEADERSHIP PRIORITY – How can a Board President and Association Executive keep enthusiasm for the value proposition with the next-in-line leaders?

A: Every time Jolon communicates about the value proposition, she makes sure her successor is right there next to her so that he hears it, and gets to know the three key elements of the message. It’s as thought the promise is coming from both of them. She acknowledges that the next-in-line is not as passionate about the value proposition as she is – since he wasn’t part of creating it – so this is her way of repeating and reinforce the message with him during his president-elect year.

During the upcoming strategic planning process, the value proposition will be very visible. Jolon added: “There is no more important work than making big plans about how to strengthen our promise of value that we worked so hard to create.”

Q: SESSION LENGTH – If I want to do this myself, is it possible to get the information we need in 2-3 hours?

A: Maybe … it’s having them interact and talk for several hours past the “regular” answers and really get them to talk. After dozens of these sessions, here is the minimum time you need to get the right information:

Hour 1 – Why do this? (Step 1) We explain what segmentation is, why do it, and select three member groups to talk more in detail about (it takes that long);
Hour 2+ (Step 2) We identify the three groups’ biggest worries – first as small groups, and then debrief and ask others to verify;
Hour 3+ (Step 3) Turn those worries into “what do you need that would overcome those worries?”
Hour 4 – What your organization does that answers one, two or more of their needs. When I facilitate a session it takes at least 5 hours – in addition to a pre workshop webinar so they know what to expect and what they are there to do.

Q: MEETING ENVIRONMENT – What is your experience regarding having this meeting around food and drink (specifically alcohol)?

A: Drinks the night before, or drinks after the session is fine. This is a business meeting. You need their full “clear” attention to make this worthwhile. Make sure the environment supports it.

Q: CONFERENCE CALL – Can someone who is unable to make the meeting attend via teleconference?

A: I don’t recommend this. It is more distraction than what you get out of it. The workshop is not a focus group. It’s not Question & Answer format. The value comes out of getting these people in the room talking, challenging each other, and brainstorming together.

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