2016 was a year to focus on segmentation and strategy, at least according to McKinley’s business development data from our client work last year. Just as data from our Economic Impact on Associations study has highlighted a growing focus on regular strategic planning among organizations, analysis of the work we did with clients last year shows a definite trend toward data sophistication. While the member needs assessment remains an important research tool, many associations are looking to move beyond simply collecting survey responses. As a next step, organizations are beginning to seek answers to what members think and how they behave at a more granular level.
Sophisticated questions like these call for advanced analytic techniques that McKinley provided to clients in several different ways in 2016. In some cases, our research team conducted a detailed cross-tab analysis to identify trends among membership segments and even create personas to help our clients better market to and communicate with professionals who fit a similar profile. In other cases, our data analytics team combed through client database entries to help identify behavioral trends and develop an “engagement ladder” for members. In a handful of cases, we even combined research and data analysis to first develop member profiles through research and then assign members to those profile categories through our data analysis.
Beyond segmentation, other common areas of interest among McKinley clients last year included:
- Strategic Planning and Facilitation: McKinley consultants worked with nearly 40 clients in a strategic planning or facilitation capacity in 2016, as we assumed the role of convener, conversation starter and subject matter expert with a wide range of professional membership and trade associations. Despite the wide range, our feedback from clients is typically the same: they appreciate how we listen and how we facilitate, as opposed to trying to drive a predetermined agenda or hold clients to a formulaic process.
- Outsourced Marketing: Work led by McKinley’s Solutions team continues to grow, with more than 20 projects ranging from holistic, enterprise-wide marketing efforts to more targeted campaigns to promote a single event or program. Just as our client base has grown, our skills have expanded as well; we added experts in social media and marketing automation in 2016, leading to immediate positive results for our clients.
- Product/Program Development: Using research to identify and market test new opportunities helped clients bolster their benefit portfolios or their non-dues income in 2016; examples of successful projects included business planning, sales strategy research, certification planning and a gap analysis/road map for education programs.
- Dues/Membership Modeling: Whether it was a full-scale model revamp or a pricing/benefits review, 13 professional membership societies and trade associations looked to McKinley last year to help envision the right model for their future. From creating a hybrid membership to refining a value-based tiered structure, we were once again on the cutting edge with our clients in the membership model conversation.
- Branding: Top-of-mind awareness remains a key challenge for associations. Being able to better understand your brand essence, the qualities and traits that members associate with your organization, and communicate your brand promise, how you follow on what you stand for and what you offer, are key questions for which associations are always seeking feedback. We helped ten organizations revise their narrative and improve their brand positioning as a result in 2016.
What new interests and priorities will 2017 bring? Only our clients can determine that answer. Please reach out to either Mike Norbut ([email protected]) or Jodie Slaughter ([email protected]) and let us know what’s on your mind for this year.