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All associations do good work. You provide worthwhile services, tools, and information, but sometimes fail to explain them in a clear and meaningful way.

For members to recognize and take advantage of your services, you need to be on their "radar screen" and engage them with concise and relevant information.

The value proposition is the foundation of a strategy for your communications. The more simply and clearly you articulate you association’s advantages, the more likely your members are to listen.

For example: Your research suggests your members most need sales tools and education to help them develop more new business, repeat business, and referrals. The basis of your value proposition may be, “XAR helps you get back to basics with tools and knowledge to help your business grow.” This is the start of your value proposition. Your association’s tools and services are examples of how you deliver on your value proposition.

Here’s an example of communicating your claim: An association offers a multi-lingual IDX search tool. The IDX tool is a feature, but offering it in 13 different languages is a benefit.

How do your offerings tie to services, information, and resources you provide? Through your communications, you'll explain how and why these resources will support and help grow members’ businesses. If you focus on delivering on your promise, you will realize there are many ways to articulate that value.

Integrate Your Value Proposition into Your Communications

Before going external with your new message, rally your staff and board behind your value proposition. Everyone must be a value ambassador. This means determining ways to incorporate the value proposition into all association materials.

For example, member services staff can use the value proposition when a new member joins the association. Include key messages from your value proposition in association headlines, brochures, and articles. Have a standing agenda item that addresses how the value proposition can be and is incorporated into staff’s (and the board’s) work. Review how your staff explains your value proposition and discuss your observations in staff meetings. Look for behavior that backs up your value claims. Recognize staff members who deliver on your value proposition.

Lastly, during board meetings, always question whether the decision being made is consistent with the value proposition. For example, if you develop a consumer website, offer ideas about how it can help members’ sales and marketing efforts.

Conduct a Formal Communications Audit

Consider conducting a communications audit so you can assess how you deliver information today. This requires taking inventory of all the communications channels you use and answering the following questions:

  • How do you communicate to each of your target audiences?
  • Do you tailor communications to fit the audience?
  • Do you deliver well-organized communications?
  • Are your communications a successful sales and marketing tool?
  • Is your electronic newsletter inviting and interesting? Is it mobile-friendly? Do subject lines entice the member to link to more information? Are topics prioritized based on what members say is important to them?

As you uncover the answers to these questions, determine what communication methods are missing that can tie into your value proposition.

Create or Revise Your Communications Plan

Develop a simple communications plan so that you and your staff stay on track with all of your communications and your new value proposition.

The plan should include developing a campaign to launch your value proposition. Create a schedule to disseminate your value proposition to members. You can do this at specific milestones (dues renewal, inaugural/awards event, or conferences), or in your regular communications (classes and advocacy). Determine the channels you will use to reinforce your value proposition (on-line, off-line, social media outlets, newsletters, promotional materials).

There are numerous live opportunities for you to reinforce the value proposition: conferences, events, trade shows, and classes. Based on our example, make sales and marketing tools a priority in your education schedule. Highlight specific benefits in your promotions. Tell members that these offerings will give them tangible sales tools they can use for their next listing presentation.

Another way to communicate value is to present a financial statement of value. This can be a hard copy document, a brochure, or a financial calculator (like the Massachusetts Association offers). Proof of value can be another method of showing members the return on their investment.

You will be more successful gaining your members’ attention when you reinforce the key messages in your value proposition. Your communications are in competition with loads of other communications every day. The more your communications link to your value proposition, the better your chance to win the battle for readership.

Do It All Again

After one year, start over again with either a survey, focus group, interviews, or other research to determine if your efforts are working and to validate the relevancy of your value proposition.

Next: Examples from Associations