Three Huge Reasons to Focus on Better Programs and Events

Three Huge Reasons to Focus on Better Programs and Events

Note: For the purposes of this blog, I’m not going to differentiate between programs, events, or conferences, even though there are many differences amongst these three concepts.

1) Professional Development Programs provide associations a powerful tool to retain members

Programs give you, as associations, the opportunity to give members what they want. This is your chance to give members what they have told you they want and need. Of course, this approach is built on the assumption that you are asking what your members want to learn, what speakers they want to hear from, and the ideas and concepts that capture their interests. If we can develop reliable means of listening to our members, and developing compelling program content based on this information, then our associations will be better positioned to keep the members we’ve worked so hard to attract and convert to members.

Programs give us another opportunity. They give associations the opportunity to deliver programs or events that member may need, but they haven’t told us they want or need. Many times, these same members aren’t even aware that they need or want the program or event you intend to deliver to them. Now you may say, how in the world do we, as associations, figure this out? How can we possibly give our members what they themselves don’t even know they want?

We can deliver powerful new programs, events, and conference topics by:
• Keeping abreast of new developments in our professional fields
• Observing other associations and the programs, events, and conference topics they offer
• Reading many and varied articles in association, trade, and related publications with our eyes open for new trends and topics that would make a good program or event
• Never failing to tap into idea factories. Idea factories are people, groups, companies, colleges, continuing education programs, authors, and many others who are in the business of generating and disseminating compelling ideas
• Experimenting with program ideas, program costs, delivery, how we package and market the programs
o Note: I will be address these last two topics (idea factories and methods for structured experimentation, sometimes referred to as validated learning), in two soon to be published blogs.

2) Professional Development Programs give associations a potent means to attract new members

Programs allow you to attract new members by piquing people’s curiosity with something new, unique, or valuable. If people genuinely believe you are offering something of value, or something that leads to learning, or a tool or technique that can be applied to their personal or business benefit, they will attend. After new participants attend or participate in an event, your association now owns a valuable commodity, warm leads. Warm leads are contact information for those individuals who have expressed some interest in your association, as opposed to cold leads or those individuals or groups you hope have an interest in your organization.

After non-members attend your programs, your association owns these warm leads. You now have a list of people who have expressed some interest in your programs, your association, your members, or perhaps they have an interest in all three. You can now reach out to these warm leads without purchasing a list or wondering how the participant will receive your outreach efforts. You know these individuals are qualified leads.

Now your only dilemma is how to best utilize these leads. You can give them to membership to incorporate into their attraction campaign(s). You can give these leads to your research guru or team, to figure out their unique demographics and whether they resemble your members and in what way(s). Of course you give them back to your programs, events, or conference staff so that new programs can be tailored to attract these warm leads again and again. And who wouldn’t want more people like them, people that are not members, but are only waiting for the right invitation to enter your growing pool of qualified leads.

And what if you never see these non-members again? At the very least they have contributed to Reason #3 (see below); these non-members helped you generate non-dues revenue.

3) Professional Development Programs generate non-dues revenue. Something every association loves!

Associations need non-dues revenue to remain fiscally sound. Programs or events that generate non-dues revenue allow you to generate the money that all associations must have to survive, experiment, and thrive. Non-dues revenue is the icing on the cake, the payoff that is delivered above and beyond the retention and attraction of members. There is one caveat about non-dues revenue that is often cited in our association literature. The caveat is to ensure that the program or product that generates non-dues revenue supports the mission and objectives of your association. Some association authorities refer to this as “fit” and suggest that non-dues generation always be judged as to “fit” with the association.

If you want to read more on “fit” or how to make sure you have a fit, I’d suggest chapter seven of “The Road to Relevance: 5 Strategies for Competitive Associations”. It is a great book in its own right, but in addition, chapter seven provides a clear and concise means for judging and dealing with the “fit” question. It not only suggests how to find a “fit” but also what to do in case you develop a program that makes money yet, but you come to realize it does not pass the ”fit” test.

$$$$ from Members and Non-Members
Members will pay for programs and events and be glad to do so, as long as events are reasonably priced, the programs deliver value, and these participating members get a noticeable and feel-good discount on the event by virtue of being a member.

Non-members will happily pay a higher price for this same value. If they attend enough events, the value of becoming a member will be obvious to them. Finally, in many instances non-members can even be converted to membership simply through offering of a special program that is priced such that becoming a member makes fiscal sense to them.

Summary: Targeted programs and events that deliver value will lead to increases in member retention, boosts in new member attraction, and generate something that every association wants, more non-dues revenue.

Programs Get Results
Bruce Winner

Bruce Winner

Bruce Winner, MBA, has been a trainer, program developer, business owner, training manager, and active participant and consultant in the association industry during his professional career.

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