With 28 countries, the European Union is one of the largest and most profitable markets in the world. While Europe is not new to US associations, the business results generated by many could be significantly improved.
Is there a one size fit all to best approach the European audience? How effective are associations at adapting to European sensitivities, cultures, and needs?
US associations often under-estimate the importance of a having a local value proposition. The lack of validation of benefits, products and services before going to market can lead to poorer performance and even failure.
Join Florian Cartoux, Director for Europe for IHRSA, the world’s leading fitness association, for a fascinating discussion. Bring your questions and gain important insights to help you in Europe.
This LIVE webinar on June 8th from 12Noon-1245pm will share insights to help you develop better ways to grow in Europe:
How to position ones offerings when Europe is not a single country but 28+ countries that often require a different “go to market” plan
Understanding the latest trends that most effect the region in order to adjust to “the age of the customer”
Appreciating the importance of market segmentation and tying this to a unique customer experience.
Knowing the importance of clarifying ones value proposition for the European markets.
How to adapt marketing channel strategy.
The main challenges to strategy in Europe
The importance of market segmentation and providing a tailored customer experience
Recommendations to best approach the European market
In this recorded podcast from December 7th, Renata Lerch, Deputy Managing Director of the American Society for Quality and Elisa Pratt, Chief Global Member Engagement Officer of ASIS International, offered their insights on their own benchmark data from the Global Engagement Index (GEI 2016) and how it is impacting current thinking on strategy and operational planning in their associations.
What is GEI?
The GEI 2016 was a first of its kind global index developed from a recent survey of 15 global associations [PDF]. Respondents were 8500+ members and customers from all over the world. GEI found that non US member and customer relationships with their associations collectively was average at best. Although the Global Engagement Index focused on international members, its conclusion that an association’s relationship strength, not membership status, is often the biggest factor for increased engagement rings true for domestic organizations as well.
The report measured engagement scores for 15 associations from a pool of 122,000 members and customers in markets around the world. Next year, MCI will commission a similar Index to study association relationships with U.S.-based members and customers.
The Index showed that people in global markets, particularly those in emerging and developing markets, are hungry for practical information. The data shows that those with the strongest relationship and recall of an association were most often nonmember customers, followed by members who have experience using a product or service in the last 18 months.
The study found that people who join an association but do not purchase products are significantly more likely to drop their membership, whereas customers who buy at least one product have a stronger relationship. They are more likely to become members and more likely to renew.
In other words, some of your strongest relationships may not be with your members; instead they may be with customers attending an event or seeking an accreditation.
The whole notion of a membership-first strategy could be dangerous, because members who are only interested in becoming a member often times have weaker engagement and relationship scores.
Power of Relationships
GEI introduced five member/customer segments based on relationship strength. The most desirous segment was labeled “multipliers,” because this segment is not only loyal and highly likely to renew membership or purchase products but also they are highly motivated to support the mission of the association. If you knew who these people were, you could begin to accelerate the growth of your organization.
Organizations experiencing global growth tend to think about membership engagement as a one-on-one relationship. Put the right opportunity in front of the right individual. Be relevant in-terms of your product perspective, as well as your marketing and communications.
It’s also important to think of engagement as a spectrum or scale. A passive member can grow into an active member, and a loyal member can become a multiplier who connects you to new members or new opportunities.
It’s an indicator of where they stand in the global association community in terms of connecting with members and customers.
It’s a signal of where to fine-tune their value propositions in the countries where they work.
And it’s an important benchmark that will help them measure the impact of their global efforts for years to come, both in terms of their own associations and in the context of the larger global association community.
We spoke with representatives from five associations that participated in the GEI—and in the Global Engagement Summit held in Washington, D.C., in June—to hear their responses to the index in general, their own findings, and how they plan to respond to lessons from the Index.
Certification and accreditation programs are consistently strong-performing products according to the GEI, and some participants found validation of their own efforts through the index. “Certification has been a very valuable part of our operating to an international audience,” says Sue Reimbold, Senior VP, Marketing and Communications, at the American College of Chest Physicians. “Being able to listen in [at the Summit] and hear that that’s what we’re doing well was good to hear, in our individual report. But it was also good to hear what level of importance there was, specifically for global members across all the associations.”
However, participants also found opportunities to better present and market those certifications. Jennifer R. Young, Director, International Operations at the American Society for Clinical Pathology, says the GEI recommended a more individualized focus on marketing its certification based on where it was presenting it. “We have sort of a template advertisement,” she says. “I think in the future, we will be pushing more of a communications campaign now, especially in target markets. It was good timing.” Young points out that ASCP is currently working on a pre-certification curriculum that will be delivered locally, and that the GEI served as a prompt to think about localizing the delivery—an essential step in building loyalty among members and customers.
Strategies and Squeaky Wheels
For Nate Lavigne, Senior Manager, Information Technology at NACE International, the GEI provided an opportunity to steer its global efforts more strategically, rather than responding to member concerns on a case-by-case basis.
“We had had a squeaky wheel scenario,” he says. “We had a lot of our members say, ‘We need things translated, we want things in our local language, we want this, we want this.’ And the survey was actually able to disprove [the necessity of translations in every situation]. That lets us allocate resources accordingly because translations are very costly. There are still some key things we want to translate, but it shifts that focus away and we have the data to back it up now.”
For Renata L. Lerch, Deputy Managing Director of ASQ Global, the GEI was a reminder that engagement is a critical part of a product. Though ASQ performed very well in the Index, with a Relationship Index of 93, she still sees an opportunity to deepen relationships.
“I see with ASQ we are still lacking so much with delivering engagement to the global audience,” she says. “It’s in marketing, it’s in sales, it’s in strategic thinking, it’s in integration of all pieces. We work with B2B, with B2C, with pretty much all segments that you can imagine. There is really so much that we can do in terms of strategizing, having more focused interactions and more focus on the user experience, rather than so much on the product than we do right now. I think there’s really a lot to do.”
The Power of the Customer
One key lesson from the GEI is that customers typically have a deeper engagement with an association than members do. Sometimes this is a function of the relative disinterest in (if not aversion to) the membership model in some countries. But higher engagement can also be product-specific—customers feel loyal and willing to support an association for the products and tools that are useful to them, not the suite of additional services that aren’t. Ken Klarich, Hospital Relations Manager at the Society of Critical Care Medicine, for instance, points to the eagerness of some customers for tools that assist in career advancement. “It might be a younger physician that’s looking to take his boards or get through medical school,” he says. “They’re really motivated that way, and those materials will help them.”
Participants in the GEI are now looking at ways to intensify that deep customer focus. CHEST’s Reimbold, for instance, says the society is considering international gatherings that are more intimate 200-300-person events, rather than larger, 2,000-person ones. “We think there’s an opportunity to show greater member/customer through a more intimate regional approach to those conferences and have them travel so we can do several in a given year, versus putting all our effort into one big thing in one location,” Reimbold says.
Similarly, ASCP’s Young saw that the GEI findings revealed a strong interest among customers in journals and newsletters rather than in education, which has prompted rethinking how those products are highlighted. “I think our conversations to date have been really, ‘We need to be making sure we’re pushing our online content, because that’s already there and available,’” she says “We might have done better seeing what we could do, getting our journals in their hands instead.”
That distinction between remote delivering and intimate relationships matters because, as the GEI shows, more successful associations focus on in-person and customized experiences. NACE International is looking at ways to improve its customer service, for instance. “We need to work on stronger customer service in those regions, more local [presence] in the time zone, things like that,” Lavigne says. “Most of our call centers are based out of the US, but we want to make sure that we address that and make sure that as we grow those customers there we can meet their needs and serve them accordingly.”
The Case for Local Leaders
SCCM’s Klarich points out that his association provides training for critical-care practitioners in numerous emerging markets, and makes a point of finding local partners wherever it goes. Unlike other organizations that might arrive with their own meetings, “we still have the mentality, whether right or wrong, that we partner with other societies and collaborate with those folks,” he says.
Strengthening those bonds is a priority for Young. “We really need to do a better job of teaching our volunteers how to communicate our value proposition, and, of course, localizing our value proposition in turn, which is something we really haven’t done,” she says. “I think that the data from the survey is going to help us do that a little bit better in terms of our messaging.”
Local presence may mean different things for different associations, of course. That’s an issue that NACE’s Lavigne is contemplating. “For us, it is about understanding what our local presence should look like. Is it an office? Is it contracting with an organization to serve as an office for us? Local presence is important, but local relevance of our content products and services is probably paramount. The problems facing a corrosion engineer in China—I can almost guarantee you they’re very different than those facing a corrosion engineer in the U.S. We’re going to really take a step back and look and say ‘What can our products, how can we make our products more locally relevant?’ Our members can derive a higher value because it’s meeting their needs, solving their problems in their own country.”
For associations seeking to obtain the two part public report and recommendations on the GEI2016 findings, follow this link.
For questions or if you would like to learn about future Engagement Index studies, contact Peter Turner at firstname.lastname@example.org.