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Strengthening the relationship with associate members. (ASAE Up Front).

It's no secret that ASAE has strong members in its ranks, members who contribute solid leadership ideas and offer solutions based on a wealth of experience. What may be less well known are the increasing contributions of another important membership segment of ASAE: the associate members, who provide a range of invaluable products and services benefiting the overall membership.

As with our executive members, associates contribute to our organization by sharing management solutions, tricks of the trade, and business advice that can cut across industries. But they have long been strong economic partners as well. The coffers of most any association would be substantially reduced were it not for the important nondues revenue that flows from the ranks of associate members. They spend mightily in their various roles as convention exhibitors, sponsors, advertisers, program providers, and contributors to foundations and special funds.

Unified marketing opportunities

When I talk to ASAE members across the country, I am regularly asked for advice on how to establish and maintain mutually beneficial relationships with such members. Association executives recognize the importance of the relationship with this critical group, but they're not always sure how to harness the power that relationship can bring.

In discussing the issue with members, I inevitably talk about coordinating all sales efforts. This has been our strategy during the past couple of years at ASAE: to centralize associate members' marketing opportunities by building more integrated market-access plans. Member feedback has shown us that in some cases it was as simple as designating a single key contact for suppliers. Associate members now can go to one centralized resource to design the optimum marketing campaign through a variety of publications, events, and meetings.

ASAE also has moved the exposition team to the same work group (the newly formed Membership and Business Development work group) as the sales team. To underscore our unification theme, we even physically relocated exposition staff members alongside the sales team. Now our marketing messages can be consolidated, our credit and collections systems merged, and our internal communication simplified. Even more exciting to me is the chance to build special packages for combined exhibit and advertising opportunities. It is customer-focused sales and management synergy in action--and so far it seems to be working.

The other bright light in our centralization efforts is the consolidation of sponsorship sales through our Corporate Leadership Program. In the past, sponsorship sales were spread across numerous departments, involving more than 10 staff members; now we have transferred to the sales team sole responsibility for those sales. This shift results in a more effective marketing approach designed to create beneficial matches among associate members, regular advertisers, and our key executive members. With our sales team already in touch with advertising decision makers, broadening our discussions to include other areas of mutual benefit was the logical next step.

The payoff

Not only does such centralization make it easier to work with ASAE, it allows associate members to better develop a comprehensive marketing plan. Herein lies a lesson for any association looking to strengthen relationships with suppliers. These members are looking for long-term planning. They no longer rely exclusively on magazine page-buying; rather, they are looking for multiple points of access and promotional opportunities that translate into success for all. Above all, it is important to make it easy for suppliers--your customers--to do business with you.

ASAE associate members are increasingly focused on their return on investment, and well they should be. In a volatile market, we must listen to those members and focus on matching marketing opportunities to our members' needs. To the extent that we can work together to build a better marketplace, we will be successful in turning the economic tables in everyone's favor. The goal is for the organization and its members--both executives and suppliers--to be loyal, lifetime supporters for mutual success and prosperity.

At ASAE we have re-emphasized associate member relationships, with all its intricacies and mutual benefits. And that is a secret worth sharing.
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Article Details
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Author:Ely, Karl
Publication:Association Management
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2002
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