Listening to your members will help you drive revenue and better serve your partners

By Elaina Hundley

We often talk about selling the audience of your event, publication or organization as a whole—but in order to have a strong audience that advertisers will want to connect with, you have to offer services, content and events that are relevant to the membership. Although COVID-19 has totally altered how many associations are functioning these days, organizations that have risen to the challenge are developing new services that prove the enduring value of professional communities associations create for members, making them even more valuable to potential sponsors as well.

In a recent article from ASAE, the author urges association leaders to give members power.” For example, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) responded to COVID-19 by implementing a collaborative resource with clinical guidelines. Instead of sticking to the status quo—pushing out content that can be read and links for members to click, creating a transactional conversation—AAMC focused on putting powerful information that could be immediately implemented in the hands of its members. Information that members from around the country could update and contribute to.

When it came to transitioning its conference to a virtual event, AAMC also took the time to re-evaluate the needs of its members to gain buy-in and encourage more participation. In listening, the organization realized that its members wanted content that addressed current and pressing issues: racial injustice in healthcare and public health needs. It was then able to re-tool its offerings and tackle these important topics, the ones its members were most eager to engage with.

AAMC isnt the only organization that has switched gears in such a way that addresses its members’ needs and wants during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Food Marketing Institute opened its meeting with members telling stories of the importance of grocery stores and communities amidst the pandemic. By flipping the script,” the organization gave its members a voice and created a moving moment of solidarity for virtual attendees.

Finally, the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) did its own listening to get a better sense for the needs of its members in prep for its meeting. In doing so, the organization ended up changing the tagline from Beyond” to Nothing Stops Innovation.” To emphasize this encouraging point, BIO sent all its speakers mugs with the tagline so that during the Zoom conference there was a consistent reminder that nothing can stop the innovation of its members.

Put Members First—It Will Positively Impact All Aspects Of Your Organization

What these stories really show is how crucial it is to put members first. When you really take the time to understand what is most relevant to them—ultimately everything else will follow.

Advertising and sponsorship revenue generation is inextricably linked with membership. Advertisers and sponsors want to speak with members who are engaged and benefitting from your organization. Having a strong rapport with your members will also give you access to more nuanced insights about your industry—details that are valuable to sponsors as they look for guidance when planning their marketing and event strategy. This knowledge can also help you weed out prospects that might not be a good fit for your organization or offer a sponsor an opportunity that will be most successful for them. Arming yourself with an up-to-date awareness of what your members and industry really need allows you to be a trusted advisor to your sponsors.

If youre not listening to your members and adapting, you dont have that knowledge to share— and are likely losing your audience to other industry resources and networks. Professionals on both the membership and sponsorship sides are looking for guidance and support from organizations like yours (especially now). But you have to keep evolving and addressing the real needs of your industry to not only strengthen the engagement of your existing audience, but get the attention of new members and new partners. The best value you can offer your organizations supporters is the insight that engaged members share with you.

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