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One of the most significant trends that I’ve seen in the association market over the past two years is a dramatic increase on the value and offerings of education. Association members are demanding more and better educational opportunities. And of course, these offerings have to be at a relatively low price point, and have to be easily accessible, which in the most generic form means webinars and/or other forms of online learning.

As a result, I’m seeing more of my clients, of all sizes, looking at implementing some form of learning management system. And this has a variety of implications for associations:

  1. Choosing an appropriate LMS. The interesting thing about the LMS market is that it’s WAY bigger than the AMS market, because LMSes serve far more than the association market. LMSes are used across all industries, including higher ed, manufacturing, banking, and so on. So there are LOTS of options, which is both good and bad.
  2. In most cases, if an association implements a new LMS, they’re going to need some type of integration between the LMS and the AMS. Whether that’s just single-sign-on or something more in-depth, some integration is going to be required.
  3. Like all programs and technologies, this one won’t take care of itself. Just like an AMS, associations are going to need proper strategy for managing online learning and taking care of the LMS. This isn’t a technology that you plug in and it takes care of itself! (What technology really does?!?)

I’ve helped many associations work through these issues, so if your association is considering moving to online learning and/or implementing a new LMS, let’s talk.

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I’m conducting a brief survey on association’s opinions of their current AMS. I’ve already got over 100 participants and I’d love to have your opinion, too. Click here to take the survey, which should only take you three minutes to complete.

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When I’m working with a new client on a project, for example, selection of a new AMS, they’ll often ask me “Who should be involved in this project? Which staff should I include?”

Along with including all the people who are the subject matter experts that need to be included, and the senior staff who need to be involved to make decisions and set priorities, I also always recommend the following:

“Include anyone you think will actively work against the success of this project.”

That usually makes my clients stop and think. Many will ask “Why would we include those who don’t want this project to succeed?”

My response is that it’s always better to have your detractors “inside” where you can keep them up to date than “outside” where they can wreak large amounts of havoc. This may seem counter-intuitive, but having your detractors close by will allow you to keep an eye on them and may even help you to persuade them to support the project!

So if you’re working on a project and know of active detractors, invite them in to work on the project.

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I’ve written about this twice in the past year (here and here) so obviously some companies are not reading my blog!

Once again, in the past week, I’ve contacted two different software companies, using either their online “contact us” form or their “sales@” email address. And once again, nearly a week later, no response.

So ask yourself: is someone on staff responsible for monitoring these email addresses and forms at your organization? And are they responding in a timely manner?

In my case, I always explains that I’ve got a client interested in their product. That is a HOT lead! I should be getting a response the same day!

Don’t let this happen at your organization. There’s no excuse for it.

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Ever wonder how effectively you’re managing your database? This quiz I created, posted on the WildApricot blog, can help you figure that out.

Click here to see the questions, take the quiz, and see how you rate against other organizations.


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To have the courage of your convictions means to do or say what you think is right no matter who disagrees with you.

What I often see from my clients is a very strong conviction about the value of their products and services, but very low willingness to price these products and services according to their value. I commonly hear it stated this way:

Client: Our members LOVE our products and services and tell us they couldn’t live without them.

Me: Then why don’t you raise your prices, since you’re losing money on this program?

Client: Oh, they would never pay higher prices!

Do you see the disconnect? Either the members really do love the products and services and would pay higher prices for them, or what they really like is getting good value for below-market rates!

In either case, I always encourage my clients to have the courage of their convictions. If the products and services really are worth more, then charge more! One thing is for sure, the only way to find out is to try different pricing and see what happens.

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I’ve written a LOT about business rules over the years. The reason I do is because business rules are generally one of the few things we actually have some control over. Generally speaking, outside of rules mandated by bylaws, staff has full control over business rules within the organization. We get to set pricing, how we process data, how we manage data, and so on.

So it’s critically important to be sure our business rules make sense, are clear to the customer, and don’t impede or inhibit sales.

For example, I’ve worked with associations that have such convoluted rules about who can be a member and how one becomes a member that it typically takes a lengthy phone call to explain to the customer how to become a member. I can just about guarantee that this association is losing members (or more correctly, missing out on new members) because they make joining the association so difficult.

This is what I mean by business rules hurting your business.

So look at all of the different ways your association takes in money (I call these “revenue channels”). Is every one of your revenue channels easy for the customer to access? Is it easy to register for your events? Is it easy to donate? Is it easy to buy publications or services? If the answer is not an emphatic “YES!” to each of these questions, then you probably need to revisit your business rules.

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Over the years, and even recently, I’ve had clients tell me they want to discourage their members and customers from paying with a credit card, because of the transaction fees (typically between 3% and 5%). While I understand the desire, I think this is short-sighted, because many consumers (and companies!) WANT to pay with credit cards (because of the points they earn, easier bookkeeping, or other reasons). Discouraging one form of payment is akin to discouraging the sale itself.

The simple fact is, credit card fees are a cost of doing business. So either you can raise your prices by 3% to 5% to cover the costs, or you can just “eat” the expense as one more bit of overhead.

But the last thing you want to do is to tell a customer “I can’t let you buy that unless you send me a check.”

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