How can you grow your association’s membership base or generate additional income? What are the options for achieving this?
If you have studied business strategy then you might be familiar with the Ansoff Matrix.
This highlights four options for growing any organisation, which are:
Member penetration strategy: To focus on attracting more members like the ones that we already have with the same product and services that we currently offer. This is a low risk option and depends on the current level of penetration we have and a realistic view on the likelihood that we can attract additional members like the ones we already have. It is particularly popular for associations with members in growth markets or professions for example, day nurseries or personal development coaches.
Membership development strategy: Here the focus is on using our current range of products and services to attract different types of members. For example, we could develop new membership categories such as student, overseas, affiliates, career break, etc. This is a medium risk strategy. As diversity increases, you should find that there are more and more niches to target. The other option is to completely rethink how you categorise members to reflect different benefits and associated subscription rates. This has more risk attached, but may prove invaluable in terms of the future success of the association.
Product and service development strategy: If you think you could attract more members in your existing categories or more revenue from existing members by adding in new products and services, then this is the option for you. The key is to understand which products and services you need to introduce and a useful way to determine this is to undertake ‘fail-to-recruit’ and member satisfaction research. Again this is a medium risk strategy. In recent years many established associations have been faced with static or declining membership and have focused their attention on increasing non-dues revenue. The rise in importance of customer relationship management (CRM), or in the case of associations, membership relationship management (MRM) alerts us to the fact that a smart way to grow is to find more products for your members, not members for your product. What else are your members buying or spending their time doing that you are in a logical position to also provide for them?
Diversification strategy: This is when you decide to target new types of members with new products and services and is the most risky option. The key here is to consider the impact that it will have on your existing members if they perceive that you are heading in a new direction. Ideally you want them to view this as a positive move that they want to be part of, otherwise you might loose them. Occasionally diversification has been forced on associations when one of their key offerings has been taken over by a third party such as the government.
This article was published in Association Manager in June 2004