Recent economic data suggests that the US economy will continue to recover in the year ahead. As a result, companies are increasing hiring and investing more in training. Combined, these trends point to an uptick in membership and event participation for meeting planners, professional organizations, and trade networks. But it’s important to remember that planning ahead is essential to capturing the economic impact of these changes over the next year. Here’s a closer look at steps membership organizations can take to profit in 2015.
Offer Training Components to Your Meetings
Businesses are looking for real, tangible benefits from employee travel. Training and exposure to best practices is an ongoing need in nearly every industry. Larger conferences can include dedicated training days or specialized workshops. Industry 101 workshops, training focused on new hires and people changing fields, and specialized training such as specific software packages or social media marketing continue to be popular. Companies will often send their teams to an entire conference, based on the power of these value-added training.
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Use Technology to Offer Webinars or Mixed Format Meetings
Travel budgets remain tight as companies get back on a solid economic footing. As a result, more successful membership organizations will have a technology strategy that enables them to expand their reach while minimizing participant travel. Webinars are a hot topic in the year ahead, and many organizations are finding them to be an unexpected revenue stream. Others are being creative and slashing the costs of big name speakers by interviewing them remotely; this combines the cache of a big name speaker while minimizing speaking fees and related travel expenses.
Revisit Your Member Acquisition Strategy
Planning for 2015 is an excellent time to evaluate whether or not you are on target with your member acquisition strategy. Common approaches include marketing, email blasts, social media outreach, and participation in trade events. Have you conducted the analysis to determine what’s working most effectively? Start any reboot by identifying what’s most effective and whether it’s possible to add additional resources to build on that success. Transition to looking at a wider range of acquisition strategies, and decide which ones you’ll implement in the year ahead. Experimenting with new ways to attract members and increase participation can open up whole new surprise channels of revenue and activity.
Launch a Market Research Initiative
How well do you understand the ever changing needs of your market? If it’s been a long time since you’ve initiated a meaningful conversation with your members, it may be time to do so. For example, have your demographics shifted? If so, it may be time to offer new programming and more innovative ways of connecting and communicating. What are the most pressing reasons that people join your organization? What are the top challenges facing your industry? The more clearly you can answer these questions, the more effectively you’ll serve your membership. Launching a survey or a series of conversations with members is a great strategy for planning 2015.
The year ahead promises to be a big success for trade organizations and professional membership groups. The keys are understanding your most members’ most urgent needs, exploring new marketing and technologies, and finding out what pragmatic offerings will resonate with employers in your space.