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One of the biggest challenges associations face when implementing a new association management system is staff buy-in. How do you get the staff to adopt the new system and make it their own?

In a phrase: rational self-interest.

In order to get any staff person to use the system, you have to determine how using that system will serve their rational self-interest. That is, you have to answer the question from the staff’s perspective: “How will using this system make my life better?”

For some, just telling them “You have to use this system because your job requires you to” is enough. Their greatest self-interest is remaining employed.

But for many, that’s not good enough. You have to help them understand how adopting the system will make their life better, or easier, or yes, even more fun!

For each user, the answer is going to be different. It will take some work to identify why each staff person would benefit from using the new system. But once you do that, you’ll greatly improve your odds of more staff buying-in.

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I’ve written several times about transparency among the AMS vendors, and I received another great example last week from MemberSuite’s CEO, Andrew Ryan.

Andrew sent out a long “state of the company” letter to his customers, and while the information is limited to customers (and consultants serving those customers), I can share with you that he did the following:

  1. Provided an update on what went right for MemberSuite over the past year.
  2. Acknowledged the issues that were not addressed well.
  3. Outlined his vision for the near-future of the product, including significant changes in functionality.

Ideally this letter would be available to the broader market, not just MemberSuite customers. But kudos to Andrew for sharing this information with his clients.

I continue to watch my email for similar updates from other AMS vendors!

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Hi Tony. Great blog post on member retention rates. I have been director of membership for a farm organization for two years after a mid-career transition with a background in communications, so I am always looking for tips. Thanks!
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A client of mine, National PTA in Alexandria, VA, has created a new position within the organization called “Data Records Manager.” This is a great opportunity for someone who really digs data management and wants to put their mark on how the organization manages data.

You can read the entire job description and apply online here: Data Records Manager

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Quick clicks: Snowy day edition…

This is a bit of a catch-up edition of Quick Clicks, so it’s a little longer than usual. But if you’re in the DC area (or elsewhere) and snowed in, what better time to catch up on your reading? First,……

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Free for a day…

Some of you may have seen that access to the Wall Street Journal online—which normally requires a paid subscription—was free yesterday. At right, see a screenshot I grabbed yesterday. The free day was subsidized by a sponsorship from Acura, which……

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Great post and comments! I’ve been watching various discussions of what’s happening in the newspaper business for quite awhile.

I cut my professional writing teeth on the local weekly back (waaayyyyy back!) in high school. The local paper was just that: local. It left national reporting to the big-city papers and regional reporting to the mid-size market papers. Now even the local papers think they need to cover national events.

But every newspaper is local, isn’t it? Even the big-city rags?

Now that we’re travelling full-time, moving from state to state and region to region, I’ve discovered what I believe to be missing from newspapers, and why they likely fail: they forget they’re local.

I want to know what’s going on — beforehand, so I can plan, and afterwards, so I can see if I missed something. I want to know about the upcoming festival, the latest on the local political scene. I want to know about the area I’m in. So I buy the local newspaper. And so far, of the places we’ve been, I’ve found more helpful information there than I ever could on the town’s Web site or via the CVB site or other online feeds.

Where newspapers go wrong is when they shift their focus from what they do best — which is focus on their immediate territory (whether that territory is the city of Temecula, CA, or inside the beltway) — and start to spend newspaper space on stuff others do better.

And that’s the lesson I think associations need to take from what’s happening with newspapers: know your territory. Cover it better than anybody else. Think of the long-term residents who want to see their name in the paper, and give new residents and visitors the information they want.

And as for micro-pricing? Absolutely a good idea. Just as I can buy one day’s newspaper without subscribing for a full year, I should be able to just purchase some of an association’s offerings. I’ve become a virtual member for every association in which I’m a member. Some of these memberships will fall away as I’m finding the dues just to receive their magazines (about the only benefit a remote member gets) just isn’t worth it. Offer me a special rate for that magazine alone and I’ll subscribe. But don’t force me into a membership I don’t want and won’t get anything more out of.

Micro-pricing isn’t about the pricing — it’s about the flexibility someone gets from it. It’s about some revenue versus zero revenue. It’s about keeping people connected in some way to your organization, rather than letting them disconnect and disappear.

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I heard a quote years ago (sorry can’t remember who said it!) that an association is not a single business; it is a collection of small businesses operating under one roof.

The unique spin associations put on it is having a consensus-based governance model slapped on top of a small conglomerate with a highly focused market. That brings lots of challenges but also offers tremendous opportunity, as you rightly point out.

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I suppose it’s my turn to respond here, as I think I’m partly responsible (at fault?) for getting this micropricing conversation going.

I appreciate Mark’s response here, too, as makes some great points about the newspaper equation vs. that of associations. To be completely honest, I’m pretty skeptical about micropricing or pay walls working for newspapers, at least as designed right now.

And I don’t disagree about charging premium prices for highly valuable association products – an in-depth research report, for example. I think that model works if you want to rely less on the membership model, and you’d need highly priced products to generate sustainable revenue in that case, anyway.

But micropricing, for associations at least, wouldn’t be a replacement for any current model. It would be supplemental. It’d be a way to add some extra revenue to your coffers, reach out to some of your long tail, and possibly bring them closer to your core niche. I only see it working for certain types of products, mainly in the “unbundling” sense that Maddie mentions, the ones that you otherwise reserve, as a whole, for members only.

Let it be said that I’m a journalist by training, not a business expert, so there’s probably a lot I’m missing in my thoughts about this, and I appreciate the challenge, Kevin. It’s helped me toss the idea around in my mind some more. I still think micropricing is worth experimenting with in some cases, though.

Reply at Association Inc

@Mark – Excellent comment, thanks for leaving it. Great point that one of the primary differences between newspapers and assns is that newspapers don’t really have an audience — what I mean is, the audience is so broad and non-specific that it may as well as not be an audience. It’s “whoever lives in this city.”

Similarly …

@Maddie: The thing about the “long tail” is that it’s only a “long tail” if it’s actually, well, a “long tail” attached to something else. Associations are “crazily niche” as you say; our audience might be described as part of a “long tail” for something else — say, you represent widget manufacturers, which in Amazon’s universe is a tiny segment of a longer tail of sales. But for the widget association, their audience is not a tiny segment, it’s the entire universe.

Personally, I *love* niche; I even love creating and exploiting even further niches in the little universe I work in. But the notion expressed in some of these posts, that assns are somehow missing the boat by not taking what they’re currently doing and “micropricing” it, is ludicrous to me. It’s missing the whole point of the niche! Which is that niches enable you to dive down deep, create valuable things that Amazon (for example) can’t offer, and charge what those things are really worth, which ain’t “micro.”

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