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How Well Are You Allocating Your Resources?

By Dana Plotke • November 5, 2012

Learning is in even when school is out.

By Dana Plotke

Another school year has gone by as children set off on summer vacations and young adults ask the question: “What am I going to do with my life?” I often feel like my role is that of a student, learning what our association clients need and want or learning about the latest theories and strategies for becoming a better marketing professional.

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to address a group of not-for-profit communications professionals at the Association Media & Publishing conference in Washington, D.C. Despite the Friday 2:15 p.m. time slot, we had a great turnout for our session, entitled “Mastering Your Communications Chaos.” The catchy title didn’t hurt and based on the questions and post-show feedback, it seems we delivered on our promise to share insights about how integration can help associations reduce their members’ communications clutter.

 

  • Be committed to learning from your members and applying that knowledge to future programs.
  • Allocation of resources should not be based on what you want to provide (push), but on what your members and prospective members want to receive (pull).
  • You will be met with limited success if you do not allow adequate resources for telling members (and prospective members) about new programs. Make sure they know what you are doing right.

 

How well are you investing your resources?

One of the discussion points that seemed to resonate with audience members related to the misallocation of resources (see table below). The data, which came from our 2011 Association Communications Benchmarking Report, is something that you may want to think about as you build your 2012 budget. If nothing else, it raises a couple of questions:

  1. Is your organization committed to learning from its members, and then taking that knowledge and applying it to future investments from a human resource and financial perspective? 
  2. Is your organization spending too much time focused on the things it wants to do

    perhaps things that make them look cool

    regardless of how much your members value them?

The table below illustrates important areas in which we found associations are either over- or under-investing their resources into online communications and social media. The results may surprise many of you, and the same analysis should be done with respect to other areas such as education, events and membership.

 

When I spoke to the incoming president for a city chapter of Meeting Professionals International (MPI) the other day, she mentioned that MPI National has placed a renewed focus this year on education at the chapter level – nothing too controversial or surprising here. After all, education is usually a core member benefit and it’s best to make sure you are covering the basics when budget dollars are at a premium. Because MPI is a top-rate organization, I imagine that this new focus was a strategic decision based on some level of member research and feedback.

Of course, I wondered how MPI planned to promote the enhanced program. Unfortunately, this was not figured into the equation. MPI is not alone. From the communications benchmarking survey, we learned that barely one-third (35.3 percent) of respondents plan to allocate more resources to their live events (including education) over the next 12 months, even though nearly seven out of 10 (69.7 percent) respondents think their members find their live events “very/extremely valuable.” That’s a significant under-investment by the nearly 700 associations that took part in our survey.

If you go to the trouble of creating better programs designed to enhance the member experience and to arm members with better tools and techniques for performing in their jobs but do not allow adequate resources for telling members (and prospective members) about them, you will be met with limited success. It’s not enough to build “it,” you have to tell your members you built “it” and why “it” is something they will value.

So, as you embark on the coming months, think about sharpening those pencils, taking notes and learning a few lessons from your members. Then commit to applying that knowledge to ensure you receive an “A” on next year’s report card.

Dana Plotke has worked in B2B marketing and communications for more than 15 years, with a focus on association media and events since 2002. She leads the marketing efforts of Naylor, LLC.

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