Strong Infrastructure Helps Attract New MembersPosted 5/1/2008
By Daniel “Danny” Guido, AAM
One of my goals when I became chairman of the ASA-Arizona affiliate was to increase our membership.
I soon discovered that the first question prospective members ask is, “What’s in it for me and my employees?”
We studied our existing membership and realized that our members in the outlying areas have different needs than those in the inner city. Among differences between members in the city versus those in the outlying areas was training. Towns like Prescott, Payson, Yuma and Sedona were not getting their share of classes. ASA-Arizona was able to offer classes and times to fit the needs of these members and vendors.
Next, we evaluated the list of member benefits and realized that we needed to increase the number of choices to our members. We negotiated the best programs for our members that not only guaranteed savings, but good customer service, follow-up and local representation. We developed a partnership program with vendors such as credit card processors, uniform companies, insurance carriers and parts suppliers and used their marketing investment to promote the association.
The strategy that seemed to produce the most new members was personal visits by Luz Rubio, our executive director, and myself. During those visits, we talked briefly about benefits, but we were more interested in the state of their businesses and how we could make a difference. Many new members talked about their parts supplier support, or a problem with their uniform vendor. Several members wanted to talk politics. Within days, if not hours, we had that part company or under-performing vendor at their door solving the issue. The political items were addressed either by phone call from Bob Redding, ASA’s Washington, D.C., representative, or a member of the national operations committee.
We believe key to any expansion is a strong infrastructure. Our board worked diligently to shore up all the weaknesses we found by having strategic planning sessions with new and old members as well as long- and short-term vendors. Our annual Sunrise Convention was made more enjoyable and affordable. Quarterly meetings turned into social gatherings, where both members and vendors talked more freely. We found that making each vendor accountable to the board with monthly activity reports improved communication and response time.
New members do not want to join a struggling association with no income sources, no succession plan for leadership, no long-term planning and no media connections. With these changes in place, months of meetings and interest from groups like the Collision Crafters Association paid off. They couldn’t help but take notice when vendors, members and lobbyists inquired as to why they wanted to unite with ASA-Arizona. The expansion has been great. The key is to keep listening to new members’ concerns and address them proactively.
Our next goal is to retain our membership. All current members need to be involved. New members need to be mentored, and to feel part of something. We realize a new member will not survive that first year without some assistance and attention. This is a perfect opportunity to show how important they are to the association, and in return they will do the same when they recruit a new member to the association. All people learn by example and this, too, will be passed on from member to member.
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