Industry Association Success: 5 Steps to a Winning Value Proposition

This week’s Persuasive Marketing Blog Post features marketing veteran, Susan Lowe, who has a rich background in helping start-ups and big-league companies, like Microsoft, HP, Toshiba, Juniper Networks and Logitech, establish and maintain effective industry alliances and associations.  In this article, Susan shares great tips that will help alliances develop a meaningful value proposition — which is a key foundation for marketing success.

There are few things more critical to the success of an association (profit or non-profit) than a well-defined value proposition.  Before any messaging or marketing communications plans are created, the value proposition must be developed and tested.  While there is much written about the importance of value propositions, defining one is not always an easy exercise — and for that reason this step in the strategic marketing processes is typically poorly executed or worse skipped completely. Don’t shy away from the task.  Your ability to articulate a clear and resonating value proposition will ultimately define your level of success (or failure).

The importance of a well-defined industry association value proposition

Whether the association is in the planning stages, growth phase or is an on going organization, it is important to define the value proposition for both the retention and recruitment of members.  Remember that the cost of membership is not only annual dues it also includes commitment of company resources (may be business, engineering or marketing), investment of time and potentially the company’s brand image.  For such investment, the value proposition must convey to a potential member that by joining they are ensured greater success and will be a part of something material then if they had not joined at all.

5 Steps to defining your association’s value proposition

A good value proposition can be articulated in a sentence or two, no more than ten words.  Most important, it should be specific, clear and concise. 

  1. Form a Committee.  The committee should include key board members, advisory council members, and functional VPs.  Don’t make it too large, 5-8 is a good number.  Have someone from marketing participate on the committee which should help with writing the value proposition.
  2. Schedule Committee Meetings.   These meetings should focus only on defining the Value Proposition.  Don’t try to cover other business at the same meeting.  Limit distractions.Plan that the entire process will most likely take several meetings and set aside 3 hours for the first meeting.  After the first meeting, you will have a good idea of the time needed for subsequent meetings.
  3. Prepare in Advance.  Before the first meeting, have committee members do some up front work and prepare responses to the following questions.  It will help make your meeting more productive and make better use of the time.
    • What is your association good at doing?  What is your specialty?
    • Clearly define the target membership and their needs and wants.  You may have different targets that should align with different membership levels.  Each target should be defined and may have unique value propositions.
    • What need is the organization filling in the industry?  What problem is it trying to solve?
    • Are there other organizations that are in the same space?  Who are the competitors and what are they good at?  What sets your association apart from them and what is distinctive about what you offer members and the industry?
    • If you have a Value Proposition, does it still hold true?  And is there a perceived value at each membership level?
    • Will a member or potential member company be at a disadvantage if they do not join your association?  Will they be able to influence more and succeed quicker if a member?
  4. Test.  This is a key step. On-line questionnaires, surveys and interviews and are good ways to see if the value proposition resonates with your members.
  5. Communicate.  Once the Value Proposition is defined and tested, marketing can create launch plans, develop messages, key benefits statements, communications and member retention and recruitment programs.
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