The Strauss Blog

Value Added: The Benefits of Meeting Association Members on their Turf

Connecting with association members is one of my favourite activities as an association leader. Whether at an annual conference or committee meeting, or even by a visit to their office, I always learn a lot from these in-person discussions. While it is easy to connect with members through email or over the phone, I have found it is most valuable when I make the effort to meet with association members at their place of work, or one-on-one outside of other association meetings.

While not always practical, getting out to meet members face-to-face in their community or at their place of work is a great way to learn more about the work they do and the challenges that they are facing and to show them that as an association leader you are interested in their work. I have found that many people are more comfortable sharing their challenges and suggestions on their turf or on neutral ground.

The Logistics of In-Person Meetings

You don’t always need to spend a lot to make in-person meetings work for your association. I always make a point of trying to add on a member visit to my business travel whenever I can. This allows me to visit with association members at little cost to the association and it demonstrates to these members that the association wants to hear from them and keep two-way communication open. For more on this topic, visit my colleague’s article Adding Value to Association Membership: Creating Two-Way Communication Opportunities.

For leaders of national associations, tacking on member visits to other travel is a great way to do it. Often the cost of an extra Uber trip or a one-day car rental can mean a lot to the person you are visiting. I encourage both staff and volunteer leaders to do this as much as possible. Make sure you maximize time and money by utilizing your travel agent!

Benefits of In-Person Visits

There are many benefits to visiting members in-person. From meetings with association members at their locations I have been able to:

  • Help members save money: Link members with association affinity partners, perhaps a new insurance program, to help members save money while at the same time generate non-dues revenue for the association
  • Expand members’ influence: Connect members with new suppliers to assist both sides of the equation with growing their business and better serving their customers
  • Identify learning opportunities: Identify the need for new educational programs that the association can offer to its members in order to provide more value to members and to generate additional revenue for the association
  • Keep up with association membership trends: Learn trends that are impacting more than one member that aren’t on the association’s radar
  • Place the focus on hiring: Help an association member find its next great employee as association members often report hiring as their greatest barrier to growth

I have found that one the greatest benefits from visits to these members in their communities is the opportunity for them to show off their success. Members are always thrilled to demonstrate their newest product or their new way of doing something.

In addition, social media is a powerful tool you can use to showcase new talent or the latest trends in the association’s industry. Assuming they agree, share these visits on social media to help the member you have visited and to demonstrate to other members that the association is intentional about connecting with members.

While it takes time and sometimes added cost, meeting face-to-face with members is a valuable exercise. Just like a personal phone call can be so much more impactful than sending an email, a personal visit is even better. It is value added to your association.

The value in spending time developing relationships with association members may be hard to measure, but in my experience the results are both short and long term and help to build loyalty and a trusted advisor network.

I encourage all association leaders to challenge yourself, get out, and meet with more members!

 

For more on engaging with your association’s membership base, read What is the Best Way to Engage Association Members? and The Future of Association Membership – Bridging Generation Gaps.