Tag Archive for: return on investment

Member ROI

Build it and They will Come? (440 words)

Membership growth through value and return on investment (ROI)

Membership Growth

My work in non-profit membership growth since the late 1980’s has revealed to me that if the member perception of value is paramount. What members (or prospective members) believe is all that matters.

Associations frequently do a good job of creating member value, but not such a good job of communicating that value in a way that matters to members. It is a particular skill set to be able to write influencing (sales) copy. Most association marketers write about the features of membership but forget to tell the member or prospect how those features will make their life better. (It is all about me :>) Everyone wants an exceptional return on their investment (ROI) of time and money, but how many association marketing and/or communication pieces clearly demonstrate that. (Not many.)

What many association executives do not understand for sustained membership growth is the relationship bank issue. Making no, or few, deposits throughout the year equals bankruptcy–but at the end of the year association executives try to take a withdrawal (ask for renewal) when there’s nothing in the bank. Crazy, isn’t it? How can you expect to drink from an empty glass? Funny how some think they can.

Qualitative research, specifically the Member ROI Valuation Process reveals member perception of value…helping association staff and volunteer leaders to determine what products and services to sunset and what to keep. If something you do only benefits a very few, why are you spending resources in that area? Invest your organization’s resources (time and money) in things that benefit MOST of your members.

Build it and they will come is important for membership growth…but only if you build it correctly (member expectations) and do an excellent job of communicating why it is in their best interest to come (not the association’s best interest). In my book, Developing Strategic Alliances I when into great detail about relationship bank deposits. Key for this discussion is an understanding of what creates value for the other? If you develop something your members and/or prospects do not want–you get frustrated that they do not take advantage and they get frustrated because your are shouting from the rooftops about something in which they have no interest.

To earn my Certified Association Executive (CAE) credential, I had to understand the SPIE model: Scan, Plan, Implement, Evaluate and so do you. Scan what your market offers and what your customers (members) want. Then develop a plan to build it. Now build it. After you build it, review–did they really want it? Did you build it correctly? Did you market it correctly?

The key to safeguarding your organization’s future…is to research, embrace, and maximize…your member ROI.

Business Leaders

Real Leadership: New, Old, or Just What Works? (2048 words)

Real Leadership

Ultimately in real leadership, regardless of our situation as leader, manager, supervisor, or employee, we are all looking for a return on our investment (ROI). If you invest a few moments reading this article, I guarantee you a return. You will receive at least one idea that you can implement immediately.

Real Leadership Influencers

Like you, I have put in countless hours of windshield time listening to leadership and employee motivation gurus on cassette tape, then CD, and currently MP3. Unlike you perhaps; I personally know many of these influencers. Like you, I have attended numerous conferences, sat in on a myriad of keynotes, seminars, and workshops. Unlike you perhaps; I have also been the speaker at many of these, around the globe, meetings.

I believe there are a number of ageless truths that are applicable to anyone who attempts to successfully lead others. Good ideas are ageless, while continually emerging flavor-of-the-month leadership and management strategies fade without concern or impunity.

Have you ever wondered who influences the influencers? In my 30+ years of serving the world marketplace as an author, consultant, facilitator, keynoter, and seminar leader, there have been many that have left their indelible mark on me. I’ll talk about some of them as we progress. Before that I’d like to share with you some of the ideas that form the foundation of my work.

“Perception; the conversation I have with myself about you, is my reality.”

“Focus on getting things done rather than to obsess on being right.”

“Make your relationship bank deposits before you attempt to take withdrawals.”

At just about every public presentation I give, I make the above points. I believe these to be immutable truths for anyone that leads, manages, or follows.

“Perception; the conversation I have with myself about you, is my reality.”

Have you ever wished you could be a fly on the wall and listen to what your team, boss, or employees say about you? Be honest now—sure you have. Regardless of how you see yourself, it is how others see you determine how they feel about you. This can be a disastrous dynamic for any leader. This dynamic applies to partners, investors, suppliers, customers, and employees. In all situations a leader must know how he or she is perceived. This will frequently be either the deal maker or the deal breaker.

My good friend of over 20 years, Dr. Terry Paulson, is the author of several books on Real Leadership. One of his books, The Optimism Advantage, frequently shares the following idea with his audiences and is an idea for which I’ll always remember him. “If someone calls you a horse’s rear end (ass), ignore them. However, if several people call you a horse’s rear end (ass), perhaps it’s time for you to buy a saddle?” It is good to be honest with yourself.

For years I have used a quotation from Sun Tzu, author of, The Art of War; written about 2,500 years ago. I have found this quotation to be applicable in many situations and for many persons.

“If you know the enemy and you know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

For just about every real leadership or management situation, challenge, or conflict you can simply take out “enemy” and insert the person, group, or situation and the quotation makes perfect sense and is a sure strategy for your success. It’s old, and it just works.

I realize your next thought might be, “Thanks Ed, but how to I get to know my ‘enemy’ or insert here: person, group, or situation?” I have two ideas for you that have continually prove successful for my clients.

Real Leadership Relationship Value Updates

This is something that I synthesized from years of interviewing successful alliance leaders—the idea of extracting from others how they feel about a particular business relationship. This is real leadership. Many large companies go to extraordinary lengths to gain, process, and understand this relationship perception information; you can do it much more simply. Many organizations will do something similar with their customers or suppliers and the term that is generally used is scorecard or report card. You can use this both internally and externally.

For a simple Relationship Value Update there are three necessary elements:

  1. The value you/your company receive from this relationship.
  2. The value you believe I/my company receives from this relationship.
  3. Ideas for relationship improvement.

The method for use is: (a) put these three elements to paper, and the other person or organization to do the same. (b) Complete your update independent of the other. (c) Transmit or mail to the other, as the other also transmits theirs to you. (d) After each has reviewed, then have a face to face meeting to discuss differences and strategies for improvement. (e) Do this quarterly if possible. If you need even more help, you can find a long-form Relationship Value Update on page 72 of my book titled, Developing Strategic Alliances.

Real Leadership Using the 3 on 3

I learned this real leadership idea from Patricia Fripp back in the 1980s and have used it and taught it—and many have reported back their success in using it. To find out what another thinks, simply ask them. The process is as follows:

  1. Have this meeting in a neutral environment.
  2. Ask the person to share with you three things, which they do not care for about the way you (manage them, work for them, sell to them, buy from them, etc.)
  3. Your only comment to each thing they share with you is, “Thank you.” You do not justify or explain yourself. You may ask a question if you do not understand what they are saying or need additional information to better understand.  Remember, all you say is, “Thank you.”
  4. After they share the three negative, ask them to share three positive things—things they like about the way you (manage them, work for them, sell to them, buy from them, etc.) Again, all you say is, “Thank you.”
  5. At the end of your meeting tell the person that you’ll get back with them in a week or two, whatever works best, and you will have some ideas on how to use the information that they gave you.
  6. No matter what—have that second meeting in the prescribed passage of time, no longer. Tell them what you have put in place, changed, implemented, etc. Letting the other person know what you have done with their information goes a long way to improve the conversation they have with themselves about you, and your business relationship.

“Focus on getting things done rather than to obsess on being right.”

Would you like to better motivate the people around you? Great; real leadership means giving up the idea that you always have to me right. For years, in just about all my public presentations, I have been conducting a simple exercise. If you are willing, let’s do it:

  1. Understand this, in human conflict, humans operate from one of two emotional places; dug in on their position or trying to understand the other.
  2. Think about a recent argument that you had; at home, at work, wherever.
  3. See the other person in that argument, were they being difficult and unreasonable?
  4. See yourself, were you operating from a place of being right…or from trying to understand the other?
  5. If you said you were being right, I believe you. If you said that you were tiring to understand the other, I have one question. How could you of been trying to understand if you were arguing?

Real Leadership in Generational and Cultural Issues

We are living in an interesting time; an uncertain economy, low unemployment, and huge generational differences among workers. Sounds like a perfect storm. Really, it is a perfect opportunity—an opportunity to move forward by getting off the idea of being right and embracing the idea of understanding the generational and cultural issues of the persons with which you work, lead or follow. If you are a baby boomer, as are many of today’s business leaders, the GenX and the GenY most likely do drive you a bit crazy.

The GenX folks saw their parents get shafted during the “rightsizing” movement of the 90s. It is difficult for them to believe you when you tell them to keep their nose to the grindstone and they will have a bright future with your company. The GenY folks grew up with technology in such a way that it is ingrained into their personality DNA. You cannot BS them, they have the technological capability to effectively “check” whatever you say.

Now throw into the mix, the ever-increasing number of Hispanic immigrants in America and Islamic immigrants worldwide and you are dealing with a huge paradigm shift. The real leadership reality is simple; you do not know people like you think you know people. For the traditional white, black, and Asian Americans dealing with Hispanic employees I highly suggest my good friend, Carlos Conejo’s book titled, Motivating Hispanic Employees. This is the best, bar none, book available today on motivating Hispanic employees.

“Make your relationship bank deposits before you attempt to take withdrawals.”

Our world has givers and takers. Giving and taking needs a balance; to take someone has to give and to give, someone has to receive. While there is really nothing wrong with taking, in a business environment you will build quality relationships faster if you give before you try to take. Real leadership is understanding that giving is a relationship bank deposit and taking is a withdrawal.

My long-time friend, Robert B. Tucker, is the author of several books on innovation. In many of his keynotes and seminars he explains that real leadership is about how to take an idea to the point of implementation or production. He uses the analogy of a conveyer belt carrying your idea but continually on the left and right of the belt are influences trying to knock your idea off the belt. You cannot just place it on the belt and expect it to get where it needs to go. He says that you have to be diligent in protecting your idea to get it to that point of implementation or production. I call this, making your relationship bank deposits. Withdrawals come later—not the other way around.

For years I have used a Ziggy cartoon in my seminars to make the point of relationship bank deposits first. Visualize Ziggy with a dejected look on his face, standing next to the bank teller. She has just handed him back his withdrawal slip with a “REJECT” stamped on it. The caption states, “…Try not to think of it as overdrawn…we prefer to think of it as underdeposited…”

If you want to receive, and who in business doesn’t want a return on their investment, probably the best book available to help you make the smart and most effective “deposits” is Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini, Ph.D. In his book he covers: weapons of influence; reciprocation; commitment and consistency; social proof; liking; authority; and scarcity—detailing for you how to use each tool to influence others, or as I would put it, making relationship bank deposits.

Don’t Eat the Marshmallow…Yet! This book written by my friend of many years, Dr. Joachim de Posada, is awesome. The book about the benefit of delayed gratification, what I would also call; relationship bank deposits first. While the book has sold millions of copies internationally, Joachim has also traveled the world giving lectures based on the ideas. The concept of delayed gratification is one that is embraced throughout the world. I highly suggest you too consider delaying the gratification of relationship bank withdrawals until after you make your deposits.

I could write volumes about the people, books, and ideas that have influenced me but what I believe might be important to you are the ideas I gleaned and have influenced me to attempt to influence you about real leadership. Before you jump to the newest flavor-of-the-month leadership strategy, first take stock of what you already know but might not have used lately. Look at what used to work and ask why you no longer use it. New ideas are just fine, yet be mindful of what has proven to be successful in the past. Wishing you the best of success…

Ed Rigsbee, top speaker on Membership Growth

Rigsbee’s Member ROI Valuation Process (1075 words)

Discovering the Real-Dollar Value of Your Association Membership


Grow your organization by proving membership is a good business, financial, and career decision. Gone are the days where professionals and business owners would simply belong to their association because their should or for “networking” opportunities; that was a Baby Boomer paradigm. Today, more than ever before and forced by younger generations, it is crucial that trade and professional associations deliver high-level and usable value to their entire membership. I’m talking about the real-dollar value that individual members now demand rather than the value that the leadership thinks they need.

Frequently, when I’ve asked association members about the value they receive from their membership they stumble. How would you, as an executive director or volunteer leader, feel if all the members of your association said, “I’d be foolish NOT to belong to my industry’s association and attend its annual meeting?” You would feel fabulous!

Unfortunately, that’s infrequently the case. In an issue of Association Management magazine, there was an article about why membersdo not renew. The article stated that American Society of Association Executives’ research revealed the following reasons for association members not renewing:

  • Business closed/merged–12%
  • Change of profession-15%
  • Cannot determine-16%
  • Dues too high-17%
  • Not enough time to use member benefits-7%
  • Services no longer relevant-17%
  • Other-16%

In my opinion, the only “non-value” issue is the business closing or change of profession. All the remaining reasons loudly say, “Not enough perceived value!” Over 73% of the non-renewing members said, “Not enough perceived value.”

Two Categories of Association Members

Today, there are basically two categories of association members: The first is the most desirable by many leaders. They will belong to their industry’s association and support it with attendance—no matter what. These “jewels” are dying off. The second is a more challenging type. They say, “I’ll come and play in your sandbox if you can show me that I will get more out of it through synergies and economies of scale than by not participating.” The latter, generally are younger and many times have taken over the business from a parent. Their life is busy and they do not want to waste their time just “networking”.

Why are association executive directors and volunteer leadership not listening? Perhaps, it is because it’s generally easier to blame the member reduction problem on industry consolidation, an area of no control, rather than on lack of member perceived value, an area over which leadership does have control. Even with consolidations, if the involved parties really believed in the value of membership in their industry’s association, they would find the time and dollars for multiple executives, and or subsidiaries to hold membership.

Now that an enormous problem has been unearthed, let’s look at one possible solution: A process for helping members to determine the real dollar value of their association membership. This will help your members in having an emotional ownership in their membership. Additionally, this process will empower and encourage members to talk to non-members about membership in your association.

Association Member ROI

I discovered this process due to association member request. It is truly fulfilling to see people make a shift when they understand and work collectively to discover answers. I believe if you look at this with an open mind, you too, will absolutely want to take your association membership through this valuation process. While I have helped a number of associations with this process, I will detail my work with one such association.

  • Initially, ask the members what they get out of belonging to their association. Every item they mention, list on a flip chart or enter into PowerPoint with the image projected on a screen.
  • Next, after each item is listed, conduct a discussion on the real, honest and yearly sustainable dollar value they received through their association membership and attending their conference. This can be difficult, as people will argue incessantly about the numbers. Hang in there and gently force them to come to some kind of agreement on the value of each item listed.
  • When the group seems to have exhausted the line items, push them to explore further, many times more valuable items will be discovered. Below is an example of the association membership value that one group determined:
    1. $1,000 for industry specific technical training offered twice a year.
    2. $1,000 for business, management and marketing training twice a year.
    3. $300 for monthly legislative updates.
    4. $1,000 for coupons for goods and services offered by the national organization with national and regional membership.
    5. $600 for legal seminars offered twice a year.
    6. $200 networking value at semi-annual meetings.
    7. $300 tax savings on income spent attending vacations (meetings).
    8. $500 for mentoring opportunities available through meeting attendance.
    9. $200 for product knowledge gained at meetings.
    10. $200 for company credibility and image associated with membership.
    11. $300 for education in accessing local publicity.
    12. $200 for publicity and exposure through association membership.
  • Now ask the group how much it costs them to both belong to the association and attend the association’s annual or semi-annual meetings. Put that number on the flip chart.
  • Next, add up the dollar amount of all the line items on the board and show the two numbers to the group. For the above-mentioned association, the cost of membership and attendance at the two semi-annual meetings was pegged at approximately $1,600. After less than an hour (session time expired), the group came up with membership value in real dollars at $5,800.
  • With numbers like the ones above, it is easy for one to justify the time and dollars necessary to take advantage of membership in their industry’s association. It is possible for your members to say, “I’d be foolish NOT to belong to my industry’s association and attend its annual meeting?”
  • The last thing is for the association leadership to produce a Member Value brochure; in which are listed the actual services and yearly sustainable real dollar values offered by the organization.

I believe one of the best ways for any association to grow its membership is through a membership participation process like the one I’ve outlined for you. This will help your current members to truly become active advocates for the association rather than just passive members. Realistically, not all members will do this, but many will. Give them the right tools, and people will amaze you with their results.