Archive for September, 2021

How the Right Technology Kept This Association Prepared for the Unexpected

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Rachael Bell, director of content and communications at the New Jersey Society of CPAs, discusses the power of community.

The work of a certified public accountant (CPA) involves a lot of preparation. So it might not come as a surprise that the director of content and communications at the New Jersey Society of CPAs was as technologically prepared as anyone could be when the pandemic abruptly disrupted the association world in early 2020.

“About 10 years ago, we were looking for technology that would help our member committees and interest groups communicate better,” says Rachael Bell. “The technology we were using at the time had very limited functionality, so we began utilizing the Higher Logic community platform to connect these subsets of our members.”

Bell admits that the association initially underutilized the platform’s capabilities, but after the team at Higher Logic recommended opening up a communication channel for all 14,000 members in addition to the smaller groups, it completely took off. “I’ve been here 32 years and I would say it is the best thing we have ever done for our members,” she exclaims. “It was a situation where, ‘If you build it, they will come.’ They embraced it full on.”

The ability to easily and quickly ask questions and get answers from fellow members was extremely useful in those early days, and it proved to be invaluable as the pandemic emerged right before the 2020 tax filing deadline. “During the height of the pandemic, activity in our Open Forum (full-member community) increased 160 percent,” reports Bell. “To give you perspective, we had 823 total postings from March to June 2019 compared to 2,170 postings for the same period in 2020.”

And this tech has staying power. While the level of activity has dropped off from its 2020 peak, they have not dropped back down to pre-pandemic levels. “March to June 2021 had 1,370 postings, which is a 66 percent increase from the same period in 2019,” Bell says.

“All of our segments of members engage with the community forum, but it is really valuable to our sole practitioners,” Bell explains. “They don’t have an in-house network of colleagues to turn to for questions and issues that arise, and so this open forum has provided them with that network.”

As the one in charge of all content for the association—including NJCPA’s quarterly magazine, articles on its website, blog, two podcasts, and social media posts, Bell says the key to engagement is the automation tools that Higher Logic provides. It creates a daily email notification that pulls in all of the topic discussions from the prior day. Members also have an option to choose real-time email alerts about new posts.

“Members can choose whatever cadence they prefer to fit their schedules,” Bell explains. “The system also automatically reaches out to members who haven’t posted in a set amount of time to re-engage them. The emails are automated, but they look like they come from me, so I often get replies back saying, ‘Sorry I was on vacation!’ or something. It’s great because even though it is automated, you can customize the message to make it warmer and more personable.”

Bell believes the success of the community continues thanks in part to restraint from her department. “We have a policy of not using it to market our programs. If somebody asks a question and we have resources to address it, we’ll post that. And we proactively post breaking news that impacts our members. But by not flooding the community with marketing messages, members really feel that it is their group.”

The interconnection has helped everyone at the association during these difficult times, and Bell says it has been rewarding to see the community boards continue to flourish. “We get many unsolicited compliments and thank yous, members saying that they couldn’t be helping their clients if they didn’t get this information from us. And those sorts of messages are just amazing,” she says. “It’s a great payoff for me and for the staff who have been working long days to help keep our members supported and thriving.”


Higher Logic, the industry-leading, human-focused engagement platform, delivers powerful online communities and communication tools to engage members at every stage of their journey. Higher Logic provides a robust engagement platform and strategic services with over a decade of experience in building personalized and scalable community engagement programs. We serve more than 3,000 customers, representing over 350,000 online communities with greater than 200 million users in more than 42 countries worldwide.

 

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What Makes a Membership Marketing Campaign Successful?

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Advance planning, member research, and clear goals can make all the difference in an effort to increase membership numbers. An association expert offers advice on charting a course for success in your next campaign.

So many things are out of our control right now, and recent research on association membership is not painting a pretty picture. Forty-seven percent of associations reported a decline in membership and 45 percent saw their renewal rate drop in 2021, according to Marketing General Incorporated’s latest Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report. One way to create order and regain some footing is a marketing campaign aimed at tangible goals, like increasing member recruitment and retention.

But before launching a campaign it’s a good idea to figure out what kind of campaign is necessary, says Brianna Martin, senior marketing and events manager at Mighty Citizen. Associations often want to focus on a specific campaign, but it doesn’t always line up with what is actually needed, which is why she recommends conducting a needs assessment. “I definitely think it is something everyone should do,” she said.

Gather Member Data

Start the research with stakeholders to get more information about the industry and how the association fits into it. Then conduct member interviews to assess their perceptions, what they find valuable, and where they think value could be added.

“You can’t make assumptions about who you think your members are and what’s important to them—what keeps them up at night,” Martin said.

This process takes time and resources that associations don’t always have. But most associations conduct some type of member interviews, so Martin suggests adding those needs assessment questions to the interviews and surveys you’re already conducting. The good news is, you can use the information culled from that research for purposes beyond just a campaign strategy.

Use the information from the interviews to build out personas that represent the target audience for the campaign. If you don’t have the time or money to create personas, you can still build out an audience profile. Next, determine the crux of the campaign by figuring out goals, strategies, metrics, and more. Martin suggests using a template to keep everything in the marketing campaign straight.

Risks, Strategies, and Buy-In

Another key component is factoring in risks and opportunities. If you are trying to do something that you haven’t done before, or if you anticipate challenges, make sure stakeholders know about it ahead of time. Risks could include launching digital advertising for the first time or making changes to a newsletter, which could result in higher unsubscribe rates. The benefits could outweigh the risks, but it’s wise to be upfront with stakeholders from the start.

Then it’s time to get into strategies about how to reach the goal, keeping in mind that several strategies can be focused on the same goal.

Once you’ve developed strategies, it’s a good time to stop before going any further, Martin said, to meet with stakeholders and anyone else who needs to approve the overall campaign. Make sure you have complete buy-in. “You don’t want to start getting everything in place and scheduling without making sure everyone is on board,” she said.

The last step is to create a schedule. Tools like an Excel spreadsheet, a Word document, or project management software can help you build a calendar. “Just make sure you have one,” she said, “and then make sure it’s all in one place.”

So many associations are scrambling with reduced staff who are stretched thin and wearing several different hats. That’s why planning is key. “The success of anything is having a well-thought-out plan and strategy,” Martin said. “It just keeps you organized, and it helps you for the future.”

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Why This Association Says Print Remains a Vital Piece of Its Communication Strategy

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Gordon Dixon, Executive Vice President of VTCA, explains the value that print publications bring to its membership offerings.

In a world where updates continue to come at a breakneck pace, it is no surprise that more and more associations are dialing back on their print efforts and doubling down on digital communications. In fact, according to the Association Adviser’s 2021 Association Communications Benchmarking Report, print media usage slowed to the lowest level since 2018. The survey of nearly 500 leaders of North American trade associations, professional societies and association management companies further reveals that for the first time in 10 years, print magazines were not among the 10 most valued communication channels for association professionals.

Does that mean print, as a means of keeping members connected and informed, is effectively dead?

No, says Gordon Dixon, executive vice president of the Virginia Transportation Construction Alliance. VTCA provides a number of printed materials to its members and doesn’t plan to stop anytime soon. “I still see value in printed material,” Dixon says. “For one thing, it is physically present in your face as opposed to an email or post that may very easily be missed. When you look at the number of emails you get a day, you’re only going to go through so many before screen fatigue sets in. But having that publication or document laying there on your desk—you may not get to it right away, but it’s not going anywhere.”

Dixon likens print versus digital to an in-person meeting versus a virtual one. “I don’t think anyone would disagree that in-person conferences are more memorable than those held over Zoom, and I feel the same way about print. For me, there is something about reading off the printed page that leads to more retention of information, that has a longer-lasting impact.” Plus, he says, printed materials can be a powerful marketing asset. “Whether it is a mailer or a publication, that physical content catches people’s attention and is a great tool for our member recruiting and renewal efforts.”

That’s not to say that the VTCA is 100 percent all-in on print as their only communications tool. The association puts out a staggering amount of content via nine publications, and six of those are digital. “Two-thirds of our members are people who work more in the field than in their offices—contractors, engineers, inspectors. So having information available on a device when they are traveling makes it easier to access and keep up with new information as it comes in.”

So it’s not an all-or-nothing proposition—it’s all about finding the right mix of platforms and cadence of delivery to serve the total membership’s needs, Dixon says.

“At VTCA, we’re going forward with a balanced approach and trying to understand what kind of communication pieces our members want,” he explains. “Anecdotally speaking, the more corporate types tend to want more digital these days, whereas the traditional family-run businesses seem to lean a little bit more towards printed materials.”

The VTCA leans on its partnership with association solutions company Naylor to better understand what types of content their members want, and uses that data to bring greater value to their membership and as a tool for increasing ad revenue, Dixon explains. “Knowing open rates and click-throughs on the digital pieces helps us understand what subject matter people really want to hear about, and in addition, empowers us to sell more ads in those areas or charge a higher rate because of the higher demand.”

But whether the platform for communication is print or digital, the main goal is the same in Dixon’s eyes. “We want to provide our members with information that they can’t get anywhere else. And our mix of communication tools is a crucial component to that, making sure that they get whatever support and materials they need to be successful.”


Naylor Association Solutions provides innovative association tools and services for strengthening member engagement and increasing non-dues revenue. Our offerings include member communications, management of live and online meetings and events, online career centers, Association Management Software (AMS) and Member Data Platform (MDP), full-service association management and online learning. A strategic partner to professional and trade associations in the U.S. and Canada, Naylor serves more than 1,700 associations across 80+ industries. For more information, visit https://www.naylor.com.

 

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How to Work With Destinations to Plan Safe In-Person Meetings

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Creativity and adaptability are key to help you welcome back delegates to successful events.

Travel restrictions are loosening and in-person meetings are ramping up. However, it’s still a dramatically different world for associations looking to host in-person events and conferences. Fortunately, there are steps that planners can take to do this safely—and it starts with forging strong relationships with destinations. Here’s a look at a few best practices to equip you as you welcome back delegates.

Start by researching the destinations that appeal to you as a fit for your event. Many destination marketing organizations (DMOs) and convention and visitor bureaus (CVBs) are experts on their destination’s health and safety protocols. By reaching out to them directly, you can ensure you have the most up-to-date information to make an informed decision. Many also have dedicated sections on their website with information on protocols and helpful resources. DMOs and CVBs are also experts in what makes a city unique, and can offer great advice on the best things to do and see to elevate the delegate experience.

In many amazing destinations, there are innovative initiatives in place that go above and beyond standard measures. For instance, Montréal launched a 720° Safety Protocol where a 360° sweep of the city has been completed—twice—checking everything from hotels to taxis to ensure a safe experience during the pandemic. Extra steps like these go a long way to help attendees feel comfortable.

After exploring what steps destinations have taken, take stock of procedures and protocols at a destination’s venues, hotels and restaurants. For instance, the Shaw Centre in Ottawa has developed its own safety guidance plan, including a dedicated team that monitors hygiene standards and clean common contact points. As a starting point, ask your DMO or CVB contact pointed questions: Is technology, such as touchless check-ins, embraced? Is the venue able to host events with both virtual and in-person components? Does it accommodate social distancing?

Finally, it’s wise to assess the types of outdoor spaces that are available. Many people are likely to feel more comfortable meeting outdoors — but not just anywhere. Especially successful events often take place in extraordinary venues, such as the foot of a towering mountain or in a charming coastal city. In addition to promoting wellness, settings like these are also more likely to spark big ideas and leave attendees feeling energized.

As we navigate the return of in-person business events and conferences, it’s important that associations are creative and adaptable. By working closely with local DMOs and CVBs, you can ensure your attendees feel confident in attending.

Plan a conference that people feel safe and comfortable attending—host in Canada and watch your attendance soar. The Destination Canada Business Events team can help you meet with purpose.

 

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Leadership Pro Tip: Write a Vision Statement for Your Remote Team

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If your employees are struggling to see your organization’s purpose, a vision statement can help you clarify. Just don’t make it too pie-in-the-sky.

A remote workforce and a hot job market make a tough combination for employers who want their team to feel connected and engaged—and motivated to stay rather than look for greener pastures elsewhere. It’s especially tough if your employees regularly complain that your organization has no “North Star,” as the Harvard Business Review recently put it

Now is a good time to refocus on the North Star on your horizon.  

What’s the Strategy?

A vision statement, a document stating what your organization stands for and what it represents, is an important tool for guiding your team. And the team can even take part in the process of shaping it. Virtual Vocations recommends a five-step process that starts with a virtual team meeting in which everyone discusses what motivates them and their work.

The statement needs to be clear, short, and realistic. “While your team is working remotely, they need to be reminded from time to time about the business goal. Therefore, a one-sentence and concise team vision statement will remind them what they are working for,” the site’s Jessica Fender writes.

“Creating a clear and optimistic vision statement is the best thing you can do for your team,” she says.

Why Is It Effective?

The most effective statements are grounded in realism. Writing in HBR, CEO coach Sabina Nawaz warns that a statement that is too broad or is unclear about how the team can turn it into day-to-day action won’t benefit anyone. 

“Some vision and strategy statements are at a high, 50,000-foot-view level. They might sound good but leave too much to the imagination of an employee operating lower to the ground, trying to make a connection between their day job and the purported purpose of the organization,” Nawaz writes. “Make sure the message is adapted for delivery at all levels of the organization. When someone completes a project, underscore how their work ties to the big picture.”

What’s the Potential?

Fender says the vision statement represents the now, but it should be built to last.

“While it is important to keep your team focused and get quick results, you should also think about the future,” she writes. “Before sending the vision statement to the team, you should consider future goals.”

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The Simple Platform That Drives This Association’s Ability to Serve Its Members and Grow Its Revenue

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Association marketing professional Julianne Ryder explains how the right tech empowered her small team to make a big impact.

Every sector within the association world has been affected by the pandemic, but for the members of the United Motorcoach Association, business came to a screeching halt in an instant. “The shutdown was almost immediate for motorcoach operators at the onset of Covid because people weren’t taking group travel,” recalls Julianne Ryder, director of marketing and communications at the United Motorcoach Association. “It was just devastating to our industry.”

In response to the financial crunch experienced by the 700 companies that make up UMA’s membership, the board of directors decided to waive all membership dues starting in April 2020. That gave much-needed relief to existing members, says Ryder, and “it also allowed us to bring in companies that had not been members before and needed our services very badly.”

In addition to suspending dues, UMA also threw itself into advocating for the CERTS Act, a direct relief program for the private bus and motorcoach industry, and was a big part of this first-of-its-kind legislation passing in Congress. “That was a pretty big victory,” says Ryder. “That money is now flowing into our member’s accounts, which is very positive for their ability to stay in business.” Ryder takes great pride in the bill’s passage, and in UMA’s ability to deliver value and support when its members needed it most.

As motorcoach companies move toward safely re-opening operations, the UMA is reengaging with its community and revitalizing its dues-based revenue stream with the retargeting platform Feathr.

“We knew Feathr would be great for this because we have used them in the past to promote meetings,” says Ryder. “The platform allows me to automate a lot of our marketing and also control my spend and which type of ads we’re using very quickly and easily. And we see again that we are getting a lot of clicks and conversions with this membership dues campaign.”

Ryder is also leveraging Feathr for an advertiser-based revenue stream. Since the pandemic hit, the UMA transitioned from print to all-digital publications and newsletters for its members, and Feathr is helping advertisers make that transition as well. “It took a little time, but we were able to authenticate our digital audience and have been successful in getting a couple of companies on board to try it out,” she explains. “We can guarantee their impressions and a certain timeframe that their ad will run, and Feathr allows them to check the status of their program. It is very simple to use and basically sells itself at that point.”

“Sometimes when you’re using a new technology platform and you have a small staff, you can feel a little lost, but Feathr never let that happen to us,” she says. And with its support, Ryder and the rest of the UMA team can put more time and energy into delivering on their mission. “It means a lot to know that our efforts help these companies continue to be successful, because that is why we exist. And with a small staff like ours, it’s more of a challenge, but we feel an obligation to make sure that people are getting value for their membership dollars.”


Feathr has thought of everything to help get associations up and running with digital advertising. Its dedicated flock of experts advises on unique revenue-generating campaigns and provides graphic design and implementation services to ensure successful marketing campaigns. Partnering with Feathr ensures your association’s success for years to come.

 

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The Pros and Cons of Clubhouse Marketing

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The audio-driven social network might not be for every brand, but it nonetheless offers lessons that associations can latch onto.

The social network Clubhouse, launched as an invite-only service last year, grew into a juggernaut at the beginning of 2021 on the back of its audio capabilities. Momentum has slowed a bit, but it nonetheless remains one of the year’s most fascinating social networks, a re-creation of the serendipitous conversation many missed during the pandemic.

Associations might see an app like Clubhouse and immediately ask whether it makes sense to add to their marketing and content mix. So we’ve gathered a set of pros and cons that might help you decide how to tackle Clubhouse, along with your relationship with other new social platforms too.

Pro: It’s a New Way to Interact With Audio

While its cultural peak might have passed earlier this year, Clubhouse still represents the vanguard of a new class of platforms that support scheduled live discussions within the app, which can draw lots of people at once.

The platform has attracted celebrities, high-profile venture capitalists, politicians, and early adopters interested in new forms of social interaction. For associations looking to gain a foothold in a new medium, it’s one of the first places you might want to land.

Associations love audio, with many seeing success through podcasting and similar strategies—and Clubhouse is a way to further expand your reach.

Con: It’s an Easy Model to Clone

In the roughly eight months since Clubhouse first went viral, a number of competitors have emerged. Twitter Spaces is the most prominent, but other social networks, such as Facebook, have also gotten into the action. Even Spotify—which has boosted its podcast game in recent years—has its own take on the Clubhouse model.

The result is that depending on which platform eventually emerges as the app of choice, Clubhouse itself might not end up being the vessel in which you take part in this audio-driven format.

Pro: It’s a Platform Ripe for Experimentation

If you’re looking to try new things with your membership, new social networks are a great way to test the waters. Experimentation can energize engagement, outreach, and marketing to new types of audiences. On top of that, it can teach you new tactics to try on platforms you’re already using.

And in the world of associations, where strategy can sometimes slow plans down, something experimental can feel like a shot of vitality.

Con: Brands Are Still Figuring It Out

While Clubhouse carries a ton of potential for marketing, it didn’t immediately connect for many brands. Speaking to Digiday back in April, Deloitte Digital’s Nathan Young noted that many major brands had not done anything major with the platform as of yet.

“There’s been some novel use cases where brand mascots appear in discussions and some experimentation with sponsored chats,” Young said, “but we have not yet seen brands make any major plays.”

While outlets like Politico have found ways to make Clubhouse work, joining now would still make you a pioneer without a template on how to make an impact.

That can be exciting, based on the nature of your organization, or it can be daunting. Case in point: It’s difficult to actually track anything.

Pro: It’s Exciting and Full of Opportunity

The best part of a new social network is that it offers a new way to think about something that matters to associations: community.

Some have compared Clubhouse to early iterations of Twitter, thanks to its addictive nature, potential for meeting new people, and high level of accessibility, with all the good and bad that entails. But as the platform matures and more options become available (and, let’s face it, as brands become a bigger part of the audience), the community may shift, just as with Twitter.

Con: Your Audience Might Not Be Into Clubhouse Yet. Or Ever.

With new networks, it’s worth keeping in mind that your audience may not be ready for it at this time, and that your own engagement with it might be exploratory rather than tactical.

Darrell Keezer of Candybox Marketing suggests that, much like any social network, it’s important to understand if your users are actually there and structure your approach accordingly.

“Marketing 101 tells us to define our target audience and build marketing plans around those targets, including reach, mediums, and frequency,” he writes for Forbes. “If you cannot find your customers or vendors on the platform, it may only help you become a resource for your own personal development.”

And it’s possible that they may never end up there. To give you an idea of how fast the hype cycle is: Some have already declared Clubhouse dead.

When it comes to social media hype, the cycle works fast. But you can still learn something.

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Is Your Association Overlooking the Power of Social Media?

Written by GSF Editor on . Posted in Federation News, news-feed

Texas Aggregate & Concrete Association President and CEO Josh Leftwich breaks down his simple approach for making a meaningful impact with social media.

There’s no question that social media has the power to connect people, share vital information and spark transformational thinking. It’s impactful, it is immediate and in its most basic form, social media is very easy to use. You snap a pic, write a caption and click share.

So with such a low barrier to entry and such high potential for reach, why do so many associations undervalue and underuse social media? In a survey of nearly 500 senior leaders of North American trade associations, professional societies and association management companies, Association Adviser’s 2021 Association Communications Benchmarking Report found that less than two in five respondents strongly agree that social media is a high priority, and only one in five strongly believe their social media strategy is well-defined.

For many associations, it comes down to a matter of resources. Staffs are small and stretched to their limits attending to revenue-linked initiatives like membership growth, annual conferences and credentialing courses. And in some associations where the membership and association workforce are aging, there can be a reluctance to adapt to new communications strategies.

The staff at the Texas Aggregate & Concrete Association (TACA) is not big by any means. Josh Leftwich, President and CEO alongside two other employees, plus external support members, serve the organization’s entire membership base of concrete producers. Yet despite their limited resources, Leftwich has made it a priority for the TACA to maintain a strong presence on social media. “Look, it is probably something we want to do better at—there is always room for improvement—but we do have a pretty good effort to get stuff out there on our channels.”

His communication strategy targets both short-term and long-term goals. “The great thing about social media is it reaches so many people so fast and you can get out messaging really quickly, which is very important for us, especially during legislative sessions,” says Leftwich. “Policymakers can see the social media posts from our staffers and easily get more insight on what our association is about, what we’re doing, and what we’re advocating for.”

The TACA also leverages social channels to push users to their own platforms. “We’re driving users to our app where they can engage with articles, videos and member profiles.”

To those overwhelmed by social media, who have yet to engage because they feel stuck, Leftwich advises to not overthink things. The best first step is to simply start. And to start simply, “We don’t have the resources to do the kinds of big profiles we’d like to do of all of our members, so we will post pictures of people and companies working on cool projects. Everyone loves to see themselves highlighted like that, and it shows that our organization is out there, that we’re plugged in, representing our members and supporting their efforts.”

Finding your voice on social media is trial by error, Leftwich advises. “It’s a very fluid thing, not at all a one-size-fits-all type of deal.” What works for his association might not work for everyone, so he advises experimenting. If something gets a lot of engagement, great. If not, try something else. The same goes for the different social media platforms. While it is simple enough to use a third-party app that allows you to post on multiple platforms simultaneously, you may find one is more “sticky” with your members. For the TACA, they find their best results are found typically on LinkedIn, which is not uncommon. In the Benchmarking Report, 60% of respondents said they saw the highest engagement on LinkedIn, with Facebook coming in a close second.

Social media isn’t disappearing anytime soon—if ever—therefore, associations would be wise to give it as much time and attention as possible. “It’s really not too hard to do,” says Leftwich, “and it can have such a big impact on all of your association’s efforts.”


Naylor Association Solutions provides innovative association tools and services for strengthening member engagement and increasing non-dues revenue. Our offerings include member communications, management of live and online meetings and events, online career centers, Association Management Software (AMS) and Member Data Platform (MDP), full-service association management and online learning. A strategic partner to professional and trade associations in the U.S. and Canada, Naylor serves more than 1,700 associations across 80+ industries. For more information, visit https://www.naylor.com

 

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How a Mentorship Program Cut Costs Without Losing Its Value

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A revamped mentorship program not only reduced expenses but also ended up with lots of surprising advantages for participants and membership staff. Find out why a more hands-on approach was a good thing.

Cutting costs has been the name of the game in the past year and a half, but it doesn’t mean a program has to lose it value or end altogether. Case in point: the Solid Waste Association of North America downshifted from a fully automated mentorship program, which was hosted by a vendor, to a hybrid version that is partially automated but also manually driven.

“It’s been challenging, but it’s also been fun,” said Shelby Truxon, SWANA’s membership program manager. And members love it.

How did SWANA do it? First, the program switched from an automated year-round enrollment to two fixed times a year—once in the spring and once in the fall. This created a “sense of urgency,” Truxon said, because there was a deadline to enroll in the program. And they went from unlimited participants to a capped number of 20 participants total, which created added incentive to sign up.

A More Personal Touch

Another reason for limiting participants is there is more manual work involved. The automated system was, no surprise, more hands-off. “We barely had to talk to them or walk them through the process,” Truxon said. The downside of that is, with the fully automated system, sometimes participants would look for matches, not hear back, get discouraged, and then give up.

“We didn’t always know right away if they were having a hard time finding somebody, or if they had questions,” she said. Now, if they have questions, they contact Truxon directly, and she can have a conversation with them, which gives the program a more personal touch. The manual aspect of the revised program has been helpful for participants because online they were on their own.

“Now I’m there to walk them through the enrollment and matching,” Truxon said. “So, it’s not as confusing as it used to be.”

The fixed enrollment schedule also has made it easier for Truxon because she knows when it’s coming—in February and September—and can plan for it. Once the matches are made manually, emails are set up in the automated system to send to the mentors and mentees once a month for six months to check on them and recommend different program worksheets they should be using to track their progress.

The change from a fully automated program to a hybrid one has not diminished its value. “We’ve gotten nothing but positive feedback,” Truxon said.

Passing the Baton

Another advantage is, the program helps SWANA members usher in a younger generation. “As current workers age out, we need somebody to fill their place to make sure the industry continues, and others know what to do,” she said. It also introduces the industry to students who are looking for career paths and industries to join.

“We’ve had several students who have signed up with mentors and, as a result, they plan on working in our industry now,” Truxon said. Before, they didn’t know much about the industry but participating in SWANA’s mentorship program and having a personal, one-on-one connection with an industry professional makes a huge difference, she said.

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Build a Better Pricing Strategy Around Your Webinar Offerings

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Many associations spent 2020 giving their webinars away for a free. However, a new report suggests organizations should offer a mix of both paid and free webinars to help boost nondues revenue.

With many associations looking for additional ways to generate revenue as they try to recover from the economic turmoil of COVID-19, some are turning their attention to monetizing webinars. Tagoras, an educational consultancy that produces the Leading Learning podcast, recently surveyed associations and nonprofits about how they price webinars and the revenue they generate. The research sheds some light on what practices are working and where organizations might want to concentrate moving forward.

“A lot of organizations worry that you can’t charge for webinars at this point,” said Jeff Cobb, Tagoras managing director and cohost of the Leading Learning Podcast. “But it’s clear that organizations are able to charge at a pretty reasonable rate, and that they can both charge for webinars and get sponsorship for webinars.”

The survey data showed many organizations have hosted free webinars, while others charge regularly for them. The good news is that an association’s webinar pricing strategy doesn’t have to be either free or paid. They can do a mix.

“You’re able to do the combination of charging fees for some webinars, getting sponsorship for other webinars, and having a strong portfolio of some free, more content-marketing webinars,” he said. “The key there is managing those strategically, as differently positioned offerings. You don’t want there to be confusion between your free webinars and your paid webinars.”

So, how does an organization clearly distinguish between something members need to pay for versus something they should expect for free? Cobb says it comes down to two areas: content and branding.

“If it’s primarily informational, it may also be primarily a form of content marketing, or a touchpoint with your audience that you get a lot more mileage out of not charging for it,” Cobb said. “You’re putting it out there as a free resource from your organization.”

However, Cobb said when the content is something “more unique to your organization or to the subject matter experts that you have access to” or something “that really is going to give people very applicable knowledge or help them learn a new skill, that is when you start thinking, ‘Yes, we need to be charging for this.’”

In terms of branding, anything an organization is charging for shouldn’t be called a webinar.

“Webinar itself, at this point, is a highly generic term, and in people’s minds, they expect something called a webinar to be free,” he said. “Take those things that you might have called webinars—things that offer a higher value and you really have a strong case for charging for them—and consider calling them something else, even something as simple as an online workshop or training.”

Pricing and Group Sales

According to the study, webinar pricing varied based on length and type of organization offering it. When Tagoras averaged it out, a one-hour webinar fell in the $40-$75 price range for participants. On the sponsorship side, pricing ranged from $2,400 to $11,000. However, Cobb said associations shouldn’t use this data as starting point for their pricing.

“You have to consider: How does the webinar compare to other education content or events that you’re offering?” Cobb said. “Where do webinars fit into your overall portfolio? And you have to make sure that what you are charging for that webinar aligns with what you’re charging in other places for other ways that you’re delivering value to your members.”

In terms of sponsor benefits, most were allowed to include their logo and linked text, were given an opportunity to present, and provided with a list of registrants. Cobb added that with registration lists, organizations should consider how to manage the process so they feel comfortable and participants do as well.

One area that was surprising in the research was the practice of group registration—where businesses registered several employees for webinars. “If you don’t have a group registration strategy, I would definitely look at that,” Cobb said.

Organizations who are doing group registration often provide conversation guides for the participants to use after the webinar. “It doesn’t have to be complicated. It can just be: Here are three points to discuss after the webinar together,” Cobb said. “It helps people remember what happened in the webinar a lot better. It helps people get more value out of it, and it helps them bond with each other and bond more as an organization.”

How has your association changed its webinar strategy in recent months? Share in the comments.

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