From the perspective of the New Year, the next 12 months look perfect. No mistakes. No problems that could derail your strategic plans. This could be your best year ever.
For some associations, that means gaining more members, improving retention or increasing non-dues revenue. Or, all three!
As you look ahead, keep this one thing in mind: None of this will happen without your association’s brand. But we’re not talking about re-doing the logo or the letterhead.
Your brand is the sum total of your association’s interaction with all its stakeholders. It is the promises your association makes to its members, potential members, employees, vendors, and others that come into contact with it. And, it's the value you deliver to those stakeholders.
Here are some steps to reinforce and grow your association's identity and brand.
Reconfirm your value proposition. - This is both an internal and an external exercise. Make sure the staff from the CEO to the office assistant to field reps know your core mission and values. Write them down, debate them and AGREE upon them. Create a plan to accomplish these goals. Continually benchmark all new ideas and initiatives off this plan. Make sure these values drive all communications with your members.
Engage small groups of your members to make sure your value proposition fits with what they are expecting and receiving from your association. Call them, send them short surveys or ask them questions at events. Use your association management software to record these interactions, share them with staff and drive more value for your members.
Connect your identity and brand – Your logo and colors are just a representation of your association. What is your brand? Your brand is your voice, your message, your persona – it’s what your members and audience think about your association. Look for opportunities to reinforce your brand (value) in everything you do, from internal communications and your website to external communications, events and governmental affairs. Tie everything you do back to delivering benefits and value to your members and the community of businesses you serve.
Update your website and collateral - Your website is your single largest communication tool and it has a role in everything your association does. Make sure your website content and your other collateral delivers on your value proposition. Now is a good time to audit your marketing materials and create a plan for updated those that need a refresh. Learn more about creating content that your members value.
Develop a brand structure - No matter how small your organization, it's amazing how many products and services an association can have. Create a brand structure that places certain brands above, below or connected to others to help you determine where to make additional changes. Make the review more than a marketing exercise; include your whole team. Strategize how to market each brand, product or service effectively without having them compete for your members' attention.
Inject your personality – With rare exceptions – such as Apple and Starbucks – most people don’t fall in love with a brand. They connect with PEOPLE – your association’s staff. Because the brand starts with your people, your association should have room for a little personality. Ensure your interactions with members, employees, and others allow for some humanity and flexibility while being true to your mission and values. The personality can show different moods as long as the core values are honored.
Remember that you can conduct focus groups, do brand research and invest thousands of dollars in collateral and content. But, people make the difference. If your team doesn't have buy in on your association's brand and values, your members won't either.
Empower your staff to embrace and extend your brand and make 2014 your best year yet.