By Association Adviser staff
Many associations like to talk about the deep level of trust they have with members, but when you're the go-to source of information about quarter-million-dollar equipment purchases, complex regulations, volatile currency and weather fluctuations, trust takes on a whole new meaning.
AMC, (formerly PIMA, The Prairie Implement Manufacturing Association) has long been the voice of the Canadian agricultural manufacturing industry and is first and foremost a lobby association. AMC goes to bat on behalf of its industry on both a provincial and national level, and its members represent three-fourths of the $5.6 billion Canadian agricultural manufacturing market. Members of the 41-year-old association include nearly 200 Canadian-based manufacturers of heavy equipment and more than 250 associate members who supply services to the industry.
For most of AMC's existence, member communication was print-based, consisting of the semi-annual magazine Implement Success and the annual AMC member directory. When the Saskatchewan-based association teamed up with Naylor eight years ago, its publications received a design overhaul, and a new editorial team was brought with deeper knowledge of the agri-business sector. “Our members noticed the difference immediately,” said AMC President Jerry Engel. “We didn't have to promote it that much. It was more a matter of showing members, ‘We're listening to you.'”
As a result, more members were asking to be featured in the magazine's What's New section that allows them to advertise their businesses free of charge. “Our members are a humble group, but this was a member benefit they really wanted to take advantage of,” said Engel.
With the advent of the Internet, AMC was increasingly being asked to provide members with digital versions of its member communication vehicles. With Naylor's help, AMC introduced an online buyers' guide to supplement its print directory and a digital version of Implement Success magazine. Both vehicles use a dynamic page-turner technology that makes searching and navigating them easy, and brings ads and articles to life with direct links to websites referenced within those pages. The online buyers' guide is not so much a directory as a tool that allows members to research and locate products and services they use every day, year-round.
And when you factor in the cost and usage of the machinery members use, the importance of being a trusted reference tool cannot be understated. An air seeder is a pretty typical purchase for AMC members, said Engel. “We're talking about $200,000 and something that's got to last five to seven years.”
So, is digital media replacing print as a new generation takes over many of the family-run agribusinesses that comprise the core of AMC's membership base? Actually, most members like both, said Engel. They like the real-time convenience of digital when they're on their computers, but they also like to have the hard copy on hand for easy reference on their coffee tables or while at their facilities.
That said, AMC will be doing more educational webinars for members and will be introducing AMC Connections in January, a monthly e-newsletter addressing member requests for more breaking news and legislative updates. “They don't just want the updates; they want our take on how these developments will affect them and the way they do business,” said Engel. Each Canadian province has unique regulations pertaining to the Farm Implement Act that govern the way dealers and manufacturers conduct business. Members also need guidance with respect to such issues as succession planning, steel prices, protectionism and equipment financing.
Despite members' average age of 55, the aging Boomer population has not had the same impact on AMC as it has on many other North American trade associations. The biggest difference Engel has noticed among younger members is their advanced level of education. The younger agribusiness owners are more likely to have university degrees with a heavy concentration in engineering, business administration and agriculture.
“Times change. We'll adapt with them,” promised Engel. “And our evolving communications offering are part of that commitment.”
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