CMDi’s audit of built environment sector trade associations in 2017 reveals a sharp divide between organisations struggling to retain members, and those seeing a reversal in membership decline and a return to growth.

The reason for this divide? Surviving organisations are doing the same old thing they’ve always done, expecting a different result; thriving organisations have responded to their members’ changing needs, adjusting their focus to be more relevant and valuable to them.

The truth is, people no longer join associations to fit in.
They want to stand out.

Those who are thriving are united by a common action: they have faced up to the difficult truth of needing to transform themselves into an organisation that is relevant for its members today. And because change doesn’t happen overnight, they knew this required a planned programme of transformation.

In short, the thrivers share an understanding of the need for ‘strategic’ marketing and have been prepared to put their money where their mouth is and invest in it.

“Marketing” is still a dirty word for many membership organisations. But ‘strategic’ marketing isn’t about a new website, or yet another recruitment campaign. Strategic marketing is about building customer value by addressing a relevant need. It’s about creating a clear vision for a better future for both the organisation and its members. It’s about creating a unique set of values that people inside and outside the organisation believe in. And it’s about creating absolute clarity about what the organisation stands for, and delivers, ensuring this is fully focused on what its members need.

Only once this vision is established is it time to think about which communication elements are required, ensuring they are delivered from one unifying and integrated creative platform.

For those organisations still struggling, the message is clear: before you rush into a new website, update your logo, or create a new flyer, ensure you get your strategy right first.

At CMDi, we’ve refined an effective and proven approach specifically for membership organisations. It’s designed to get the board and leadership team aligned through a series of strategic workshops to help shape the vision and direction, and a streamlined creative positioning process to bring clarity to the articulation of an organisation’s reason for being.

Because we understand membership organisations, we also know this has to be delivered in a highly cost-effective way, because no organisation goes from zero or low investment in marketing, to a large budget overnight.

Here are CDMi’s three steps to building membership value through a strategic marketing programme:

Step 1. Start by asking the right questions

Members need to be asked powerful questions that unlock key insights into their daily issues and how the organisation can better support them. How would members describe the one thing the organisation does that makes it invaluable to them? It’s also vital to talk to non-members, to discover the key to unlocking their reason to join. The most important question here is, what is the value of the membership badge to their customers? CMDi’s strategy team work with you to help ask the right questions and develop an appropriate research programme on which to build the foundations for an effective strategy.

Step 2. Develop a vision and strategic roadmap

Organisations built on a clear vision stand out in their marketplace and thrive. Developing a vision requires a carefully structured strategic approach. One that fosters shared understanding and mutual commitment, ensuring the board and leadership team are on the same page and aligned on the right path forward. CMDi facilitates a series of workshop sessions and uses our expertise to work with your team to develop a vision that is both inspiring and achievable.

Step 3. Create a relevant proposition

Effective propositions are focused on the most important and relevant customer need. For a membership organisation this means that its offer must convey why membership is essential, not just preferential. Only once this is defined and articulated should you start to review which of your communication channels will make the biggest difference to your organisation’s growth. Then prioritise a programme of investment in the actions that will yield the greatest impact. CMDi’s strategy and creative team work with you to develop and articulate your proposition, ensuring it’s integrated across audiences and channels.

Our experience in the sector has enabled us to recognise that the very first challenge an organisation will face if they want to embark on a programme of transformation is: How do we get the board on board with our need to invest in “marketing”?

Contact me to discuss how together we can tackle this first challenge and then activate a programme of change to ensure your organisation evolves from survivor to thriver.

Dianne Lucas
Managing Director