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Six Steps to Help Associations Generate More Revenue

Six Steps to Help Associations Generate More Revenue
April 20, 2023

For many associations, sales is an area that gets outsourced or treated as something altogether different from the core work and mission. Yet sales are integral to every association’s success.

At Astriata, we help associations of all sizes build better user experiences that ultimately influence the sales pipeline. Recently, our CEO and creative director, Aline Lin, sat down with Carrie McIntyre, the principal of Navigate, an organization that helps associations increase non-dues revenue and foster better relationships with industry suppliers. Here, we share key takeaways from McIntyre’s advice on what associations can do to bolster sales, without losing sight of your ethics and values.

1. Take time to analyze why a target organization isn’t becoming a member.

Most associations have organizations or companies that seem like a perfect fit yet fail to sign up for a membership. Why is that the case? Often, the answer lies in an organization not seeing the value, McIntyre shares.

Make sure you look closely at what you can do to attract more of your target customers, and then use what you learn to tailor and create a more personalized approach.

2. Know and communicate with your various audience segments.

One of the biggest mistakes associations make is not communicating in a meaningful way with your existing and potential audience groups, McIntyre says. The tendency is to treat audience members as one and the same, but that method can overlook a critical fact: that your audiences come to you with unique interests and needs.

Do your best to get to know each market segment, she says, and in all of your communications—from your website and landing pages to your email campaigns, advertisements, and print mailings—address how and why your association can help them overcome their individual pain-points.

3. Go beyond products and costs.

Often, McIntyre sees associations who do little more, on their websites, than list how much a membership costs and what items come with the membership.

But “this approach doesn’t convince a company that a membership is worth their money,” she says. “Ultimately, it’s like putting the cart before the horse, or like getting married before even going on a date together.”

Instead, make an effort to build relationships with existing and potential members by doing a better job of convincing them of the value you bring to their organization. Again, it comes down to communicating more often and in a more personalized manner.

4. Use jargon-free language.

Jargon and acronyms abound in the world of associations, with some organizations deciding, even, to use only the acronym of their organization’s name, rather than spelling out their full name. This is a mistake, McIntyre advises. “Don’t ever assume that people know who you are,” she says. Always operate under the assumption that you are an unknown, and in the first reference of each communication, write out your full name and provide a quick overview of what you do. Also avoid jargon words all too common in associations. If and when you use jargon, make sure you explain the meaning.

“Associations have a nomenclature problem,” McIntyre says. That’s why she works with her clients to come up with alternatives to common titles like “vendor” and “sponsor.” These titles undermine the real value of these partnerships, positioning partners as outsiders who play a sub-par role in the association—which leads McIntyre to her next point:

5. Embrace and take advantage of your relationship with vendors.

Given the high volume of outsourcing taking part in associations, it’s easy to think of outsourced programs and sources as something outside of your organization. But this is another error, McIntyre says. She urges associations to build bridges between their internal teams and external partners, who handle critical projects like newsletters and events.

“Don’t just look at external partners as suppliers of a check or revenue that you need,” McIntyre says. “This creates a fragmented or siloed experience.” To create a revenue engine, associations need to work closely with partners and realize the value they bring to the table.

6. Optimize your website and existing offerings.

Many associations who go to McIntyre for help have their sights set on the next best thing, often asking, “‘What new thing can we add to generate more revenue?’” she says. The answer often lies in their website and existing offerings.

In many instances, information is too hard to find or unavailable on an association’s website, which is the first place potential members tend to look. “They can’t find critical information, such as how many people (and who) are attending a conference or event,” or they can’t find answers to other pressing questions, McIntyre explains. This can lead to frustration–and the loss of a potential user or member. But usability testing can help, she says.

Start by evaluating where you stand on the path to UX maturity, and consider working with a UX (user experience) specialist. Only then can you optimize your website, which is critical in optimizing your existing offerings—and generating the revenue stream you need.

If you’re looking for a partner who can help you create a UX web presence that attracts and engages your audiences, know that Astriata is here for you and offers a proprietary usability testing application, UserHappy. Find out about our specific solutions for associations.

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