Getting Members InvolvedWritten By: Les Bebchick
Article Date: 04-02-2007
Copyright(C) 2008 Associated Equipment Distributors. All Rights Reserved.
How much do we value the value proposition?
Membership involvement! I have and will continue to carry this theme throughout my year as Chairman. Our membership initiatives for recruitment and retention are coming along quite well. We are running at a record pace on recruitment and feel that we will more than exceed our goals for 2007, thus laying the groundwork for further growth in the years to come.
The Board's decision in 2006 to invest in membership development will make an indelible mark on the organization. The task, however, is harder than it looks. Selling a membership can be considered the easy part. Retention is the hard part and is far more difficult to get your arms around.
Retention, however, is the key factor to the growth and strength of any organization. The only way to strengthen retention is membership involvement and continuing reinforcement of the value of AED membership, which go hand in hand. They are also among the major ways to measure retention success, that is, by correlating membership numbers to increases in meeting participation and attendance; purchases of and participation in seminars; purchases of publications, goods and services of The AED Foundation; involvement of greater numbers on committees and task forces; inquiries at the headquarters, etc.
Appreciation of our value proposition drives this involvement and, therefore, our job is to strengthen and communicate as effectively as possible the value proposition to members. The more members who are convinced, the more they are involved. There obviously are several aspects of retention that are beyond our control, including consolidation, buy-outs, demise, etc., meaning that we will always lose some members no matter what we do, but we will not be successful if we lose members for any other reasons.
So the challenge is how to effectively communicate the value proposition and thereby get more members involved. That said, it is obvious that many members do presently value AED's value proposition or we wouldn't have such a great organization already.
However, my sense is that we're only scratching the surface of our membership and can drill down significantly into each member company, thereby developing more interest in AED by getting more people getting involved.
So the question is: "Is our value proposition as valuable as we think?" The Board of Directors, Officers, and Staff work on this question every day. We think it is, but do we really know?
We can compare data on participation, etc. from years past to the present and often the only thing we learn is that our success is as tied to the economy as anything. This may be true but I feel that a strong AED can be as important to a member in a poor economy as it is during good times.
That's why I feel so strongly about learning what our members value, what members see as good or bad, why members participate and why they don't, and if members really understand the AED value proposition.
Part of the evolution to greater membership involvement will be the stripping away of the perception that AED is an organization only for owners or principals of dealerships. Certainly, the principals of any membership must be committed to AED to join, but does the meat of the value proposition filter down to second level managers and beyond within each organization, or is the value lying on some owner's desk piling up because he has no time to act on it.
How many people in each dealership are reading their own copies of CED magazine each month and, thereby, learning more about AED and learning from the tremendous editorial content provided? How many service managers know about the Foundation's Workforce Development programs? How many parts and service reps take part in certification or annual training or even know it's available?
On a broader scope, how much do members value the money and effort we spend in Washington, on seminars and training, on Executive Forums, or on Annual Meetings?
These are all great questions and we need the answers from the membership. Please take a few moments and send me your opinions, comments, ideas, feelings on this subject, no matter how brief or long (firstname.lastname@example.org). If
you don't have time to write, call my cell during your next road trip. That number is 508-509-8412.
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