We all have the primal needs of food, shelter, safety, love and esteem. And it’s these needs that drive all our motivations.
We had a brilliant time talking with representatives from 15 fantastic membership organisations at the inaugural Fish Roundtable last week at The Ivy Soho Brasserie. The idea behind the events is to create an informal occasion for ourselves and membership organisations to share and discuss the common issues.
There are no presentations, nor formalities – just a chance for some quality conversation.
It is incredible how the issues are pretty common to all with a lot of discussion on the ‘softer’ added value benefits to a member and scaling the business to be relevant. Change management was a big issue as was the need to grow non-professional members and the next generation. The current climate is certainly having an effect on everyone – I think the key thoughts were that membership is Oscillating – great word that – and time for change.
Thanks to everyone who attended for the lively debate and for the lovely feedback. We do it all again on March 22.
I keep getting into a loop on a particular debate. Membership organisations with static income and rising prices need new revenue streams. Fact. Not all the traditional income streams of awards, events, conferences and annual fees are rosy.
But when is commercial a dirty word in an organisation that promotes value, service, tradition and ‘non-commercial’ practices? The fine line between offering members something new at a price or attaching third parties to your brand for hard cash and still looking independent.
It is truism that members will spot blatant selling of access to them and not necessarily see the wider need for funds to re-invest. Most members just see the outputs and not the angst that the internal management have in actually running a profitable business. And it is a business.
All parts of any organisation, whether internal, operational or improving services offered need to be re-invented at some cost at some point. And so back to the issue of what is acceptable to all the many stakeholders.
Assuming your organisation has the time and creative commercial debates, it can be quite lucrative to leverage what you actually have in a sensitive way. To do that you need deep understanding of them and a clear knowledge of the value you have locked up. What exactly would your members pay for now? Do you know what they are accessing elsewhere? Paying for content is not a new idea, but one gathering momentum as everything moves digitally and we start to have relationships and conversations, on multiple levels, rather than rely on internal channels that just push stuff out.
I think the key is to get someone to own it internally. Put it in the strategy well before you may think you need it. Scope every idea and sense check it with members and have a long look at what other commercial organisations are doing. No Man is an Island, so get some outside help as the usual dynamic is that they may well listen to somebody outside of the organisation, who has the same idea as you have.
If you do stimulate new revenues and smash the predictions, what a great problem to have. Long live the Surplus.
We are all very busy folks with little time to stop and reflect. It is also sometimes quite hard for membership professionals to justify the cost of attending seminars and conferences on the generic subjects on offer. Needs can be very specific and particular and change regularly. We sometimes need to be granular.
There are various agencies that provide annual research and that is OK. It does a job and it gives you an indication of what others are doing and benchmarks your own activity. But it does not solve an issue you have or even let you have a discussion on options.
Human nature is about communication and sharing common problems with like-minded people and nothing is new in the World. Someone else has the same issue somewhere.
We recognise this and our mission is to get membership professionals meeting in a relaxed environment to do exactly that. No pitching, no sales speak, no presentations and no cost to you. This is an investment not a revenue stream.
The first two are at the Ivy in London in March with a three hour lunch after a glass of champagne or two. Pure networking and sharing of thoughts. These we will try and capture and share with everyone.
If you are interested in the first ones, drop me an email to email@example.com and I will keep you informed of availability and of all the other activity we have planned in 2019.
At the last count there were, if you include the unions, more than 500 professional membership organisations in the UK with around 20 million members. So the chances are that you or someone else reading this article is more than familiar with acronyms such as CIM, RCN, CIMA, HRLA, TUC, ICE and WARB. Spoiler: one of these is made up.