Quick question: What’s the first thing that goes through your mind when your membership or sponsorship renewal from your business association lands on your desk?
We hope that it’s, “Let’s get this paid right away. We get so many leads and new business out of this that re-upping is a no-brainer!”
Sadly, though, that’s probably not your reaction.
Still, business organizations continue to be sustainable, so people are still sending their checks. But how many business decisions do you make on a daily basis that are based on keeping another organization sustainable? Probably not a lot.
There’s definitely a disconnect between business associations
and the members they serve.
The relationship between a company and their business association should be one of mutual benefit, where the company’s contribution helps to keep the organization well-staffed and on-mission, and in return the business association provides unique and individualized value to the business that they can’t get anywhere else.
Does this sound like your relationships with your business associations?
It’s no wonder we are consistently perplexed by the number of CEOs who can’t answer these questions:
- What organizations do we belong to?
- What sponsorships do we have out there?
- What events are our people attending?
- What events should they be attending?
- What are we getting back for our $$?
At Momentum – The Business Growth Agency,
our job is to bridge that divide.
See, we love business associations – we even run a couple of them, and have been in not-for-profit management for the past fifteen years. So, we know the importance of every dollar you contribute to the causes of your choice.
But, we’re also a small business. And we evaluate every single penny that goes out the door, making sure that we get a return on the investment.
Business association memberships and sponsorships should be no different than any other investments you make. They should be done with a strategy, and they should be done with ROI in mind.
But they’re largely not. Here’s why:
- You’re busy – Forget the CEO knowing where all the money is going and what it’s accomplishing… We’ve met enough companies where the marketing people, themselves, had too much on their plates to keep an eye on it (thank you, social media, you evil time suck!).
- You’re caught in the traditional “chamber” membership model – Not too long ago (we’d say, up until the Great Recession in 2008-10), companies belonged to the chamber of commerce because they were supposed to. It wasn’t about ROI. It was about being a part of the community discussion. Which is still an important part of business orgs’ roles, but definitely a tougher sell since the business community really started focusing on KPIs. “Being part of the conversation” doesn’t fit nicely into your financial spreadsheets.
- You don’t know any other way – When you sign your membership or sponsorship form, they clearly state that you will get “X, Y and Z” in return for your investment. So, that’s what I should expect out of these organizations, right?
Now, as a small business, too, we get it. We’re all very busy, and as the to-do list piles up, one day leads to another, which leads to another and another. Especially if you’re well-diversified in your memberships (and we believe you should be), it’s not easy to stay on top of everything.
In addition, business organizations realistically cannot give personalized attention to every single one of their members. There’s simply not enough time in the day, and few organizations have the staffing levels to even think about it.
So, they deliver value to the group, in the form of events, advocacy, programs, and a host of other options. And they do a good job.
But we’re not here to talk about what business organizations can do for everyone else. We’re here to talk about what they can do for you!
Let’s look at value for a moment…
There are many reasons why companies join business associations, so when we talk about ROI, we don’t always mean new business.
Your needs may be very different from ours.
Larger companies often join to have a leadership role in the bigger community conversation. Billion dollar companies aren’t members of the chamber to pick up leads at “After 5” mixers – they’re there to help steer the organization’s direction.
Sometimes, a fast-rising CEO joins business organizations for a resume builder – which is a great reason to join, as long as you’re going to put the work in to make it a mutually-beneficial relationship. “Being seen” is an important benefit that business orgs can offer.
Many times, the company decision-makers just have a soft-spot for the organization, and the contribution is truly altruistic. Their ROI is to see that their investment is well-spent.
For most companies, of course, the real purpose is new business: leads, new contacts and introductions.
Even so, regardless of what you’re hoping to accomplish by writing that check, like any other dollar that goes out the door, there should be a strategy, follow-up and KPIs.
So, why does this hole exist?
We’d argue that if you look hard enough, any company can find some kind of value out of their association memberships to justify another year.
Either the organization is providing valuable content or you met a good contact at an event… Something positive will happen across a twelve-month membership that gets you to sign the check again.
We just think you could get more. A lot more.
Momentum clients think about memberships and sponsorships differently, because we believe that you should be getting better ROI for the money you spend.
Believe me, not-for-profit organizations are constantly fighting for sustainability – and there are so many of them out there right now with their hands out for your money.
If you choose to give it to certain ones, you are literally keeping people employed, and their mission on-track. There is nothing wrong with expecting a little more back.
Or, more precisely, getting back exactly what you expect to get back from your investment.
The secret is that these organizations have lots of additional value to offer you. After all, what are they really selling?
They’re selling inclusion, assistance, a voice… All intangible things. And there are always – ALWAYS – more intangible things to offer.
But here’s the catch: You have to ask.
Business associations will go out of their way to help you get what you need – believe me, they all understand the value of your dollar.
But they’re not going to go out of their way to find out what it is that you need.
If they hand you a piece of paper that says that for your event sponsorship, you’ll get your name on the scrolling Powerpoint presentation, you’ll be included in three blast e-mails, and you’ll be recognized in the opening remarks… And you sign it… They’ve been given the all-clear that those benefits are sufficient for you.
But if you have a strategy, and you’re able to enunciate that strategy to them when turning over your check, that’s a different story.
You’re seen it a hundred times…
The poster child example to us are these social media sessions that business associations love to put on.
Or, throw in there whatever topic you specialize in.
How many times have you been sitting in a chamber presentation or webinar listening to one of your competitors deliver a presentation that you could be up there doing?
There are only so many opportunities to go around, and they generally go to the bigger companies that pay for them.
So, think about it, you’re actually paying an organization to put your competition in front of its members.
Why? Either because you’re not spending enough with them and are getting pushed out… Or, you haven’t asked.
If your strategy for your membership and sponsorship spend is to get in front of people to deliver your value proposition, then you should be spending that money with organizations that will give you that opportunity.
Whatever is driving you to write that check, you should not be writing another one to that same organization until you get it.
If it means pushing them, you push them.
If it means finding another organization that will provide clearer waters (we’re big Blue Ocean Strategy believers), then find another organization.
If it means upping your spend as a means of elbowing out competition, then give that some consideration.
Of course, that means you have to have a strategy going in.
Where do we come in?
Let’s go back to the beginning.
Probably, in your heart, you don’t need us to tell you all of this.
You obviously would prefer to get more back from your memberships and sponsorships. But it’s just one of those things that keeps ticking down the to-do list.
Momentum – The Business Growth Agency is your agent that will find that ROI for you.
Everything I’ve listed above… We do it for you. And we’ve been doing it for clients for some time.
We help you build your strategy.
We engage your organizations (and new ones) to communicate that strategy.
We advise on the best places to invest, that will provide the highest ROI – based on what you want to get out of the investment.
And we chase down that ROI for you twelve months out of the year.
So that when that renewal notice comes in, you’re much more interested in getting it paid.
Which is a critical point here…
Are we getting you better attention at the expense of the organizations you support?
Not at all!
The beautiful thing here is that you getting more out of your business association memberships and sponsorships actually creates a mutually-beneficial relationship.
The better your organizations do for you, the more money you’ll be willing to spend in support of their activities.
Because, think about it, in less-friendly times – say, an economic downturn or a change in ownership – what are the first costs to be cut? Yep, your business memberships.
But, if you know that when your company is going through a lean period, that your business associations know exactly what you need from them and are acting as an extension of your own operations, you’re going to think twice before cutting that investment. Because why would you?
That helps keep them afloat during their lean times.
Getting You Started
So, there are two paths to take from here, that get you to the same place.
First, if you’re wondering if everything I’ve said applies to you, we’ve created the Momentum Membership and Sponsorship Self-Evaluation, which will show you at-a-glance where you stand.
• Do you know where your money’s being spent?
• Do you know what you’re getting back for it?
• Did you have a strategy for it in the first place?
This Self-Evaluation should take you five minutes, and will give you a pretty clear picture of how your business associations are showing you value.
Second, if you’re already seeing yourself in all of this, you don’t need the Self-Evaluation.
In that case, I’d enjoy the opportunity to talk with you personally – just a 15-minute intro Zoom conversation, which you can schedule here.
I’d like to learn about your company, and what you’re looking to accomplish. I can also share an anecdote or two with you, such how we’ve effectively used these tools for new market entry for one of our clients, Welke Customs Brokers USA.
One final thought…
Our program is highly customized.
When we go to business associations on your behalf to negotiate your benefits, we’ve already discussed and understood your strategy – and we ask for exactly what you want to accomplish with them.
We’ve seen everything from:
Needing a stream of new contacts to needing to be connected with a specific business leader;
Wanting to land a speaking role to wanting to be in a specific room when someone else was speaking; and
Looking to be seen as a power player in the region to looking to be seen as helping smaller companies succeed and grow.
We cover it all, and we not only ask the organizations you participate in to fulfill it, but we help you find additional organizations that will get you where you need to be.
Because we believe the fastest way to build momentum is to be in the right place at the right time.
Let us put you there.