On October 4th, David LaFrance CEO from the American Water Works Association (AWWA) and Gaurav Sood from AWWA India shared their insights gained from the first year developing community in India.
AWWA developed a Strategic Framework with the objective of expanding into seven priority markets with a mission statement “Better World Through Better Water” and opened its first office outside of North America, in Mumbai India in 2015. This session aims to share insights into both the opportunities and challenges faced by a US association in penetrating the India market and lessons learned.
In this 30 minute webinar, you’ll understand:
AWWA’s overview and strategy for entering India
Getting traction in the Indian market – initial steps and financing the effort
Establishing the infrastructure – working with local volunteer leaders and governance
Being locally relevant – gathering market insights, establishing the brand, and building network
Daily operations – planning the action and acting the plan
MCI thanks David LaFrance for contributing his time and insight.
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 email@example.com.
For the first time ever, association executives will be able to better understand how relationship strength impacts the ability to improve engagement with members and customers through empirical data.
MCI along with its partner FairControl (a German-based global market research firm), launched the Global Engagement Index to measure the performance, relationship strength and outcome of engagement tactics as seen through the eyes of associations’ customers and members, allowing like-minded associations to benchmark their performance against that of 15 leading brandsacross multiple sectors.
MCI and FairControl were joined by: American Concrete Institute, American Institute of CPAs, APICS, American Society of Civil Engineers, American Society for Clinical Pathology, ASIS International, American Society for Quality, American College of Chest Physicians (CHEST), Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, International Facility Management Association, International Society of Automation, Information Systems Audit and Control Association, Material Research Society, NACE International, and the Society of Critical Care Medicine.
We sought to understand:
How strong is the relationship with members and customers outside of the US?
What is impacting for good or bad the quality of these relationships?
What resources deliver the most value and impact engagement the most?
How relevant is the value proposition to the needs of local members and customers?
What levels of engagement are there and how do members and customers fit into this model?
With GEI, we now have dedicated data and measures that can be utilized to answer these questions and help association executives adapt existing strategy and operational resources to be more effective at building and nurturing relationships that convert financially and sustainably.
The sample size of the GEI is substantial, more than 123,000 non-US contacts were invited to respond to the survey through contact lists, who were invited to respond to the survey in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, Arabic, and Simplified Chinese. Nearly 9,000 respondents from around the world ultimately completed the survey. Through an innovative crowd-funded model, the 15 participating associations will gain in-depth data and feedback as to how their global community perceives their value, relevance and engagement efforts and where they stand comparative to the Index.
The complete public findings and recommendations will be released next month during ASAE’s annual meeting. An overview article meanwhile can be found here: Global Engagement Index 2016.