For associations, balancing the needs of members who are entrepreneurs with those of full-time employees has always been challenging.
Some members who are entrepreneurs pull out of associations when active participation does not generate much business. On the flip side, some members who are full-time employees feel bombarded with sales pitches.
As a result, some associations struggle to retain and grow their member base. This topic recently came up again on LinkedIn.
Targeted content through workshops throughout the year and multi-track conference breakouts can cater to the needs of diverse audiences. Here are 3 strategies that carve out safe spaces for suppliers and the members who want to connect with them to engage.
1. Quarterly Networking Events
Perhaps a quarterly event in which suppliers and prospective clients can connect would add value and take the pressure off for all parties. Here is an example of a suggested annual cycle:
- Q1 Local hosted buyer event at a great new venue. This should take place when new budgets are out and clients are sourcing.
- Schedule it late afternoon to early evening.
- Pre-qualify buyers to attend at a significantly reduced rate.
- Have a great draw in terms of a speaker or artist.
- Get some fabulous prizes donated.
- Give each supplier a display table & a "dinner table" nearby.
- Arrange for suppliers to dine initially with individuals with whom they have scheduled appointments.
- Have 1-1/2 hours of scheduled appointments. During the rest of the time, attendees can mix, mingle and check out the display tables.
- Q2 Speed Networking. Some PCMA chapters have successfully used this format.
- Q3 Facilitated, structured networking event. An outdoor setting would be fabulous and it must have a facilitated networking component. Just mixing and mingling over cocktails and hors d'oeuvres tends to become social with little exchanged in terms of business.
- Q4 Cards & collection.
The Cvent Event Blog post 5 Proven Networking Formats describes how the Q2 - Q4 suggestions work and provides ideas for 2 other formats.
2. Lead Clubs
Lead clubs can add tremendous value for members who are entrepreneurs. Using formats made famous by well-known lead clubs BNI and LeTip, the structured format provides a safe place for entrepreneurs to share leads and ideas for addressing business challenges. Set the lead club up so that full-time employees can attend as guests when they are looking for resources for events.
3. Leverage Existing Online Resources
Interactive events to familiarize members with online resources can deliver value.
The LinkedIn Event Planning and Management Group has a member moderated subgroup that has been set up strictly for members to post their needs and suppliers to respond.
Entrepreneurs and event planning businesses are more likely to invest their at times hard to come by dollars in memberships if associations are perceived as adding value in terms of lead generation. Clearly, adding value for independents should never come at the expense of the needs of members who are full-time employees.
For more help with online planning of your events, check out Cvent's event management for associations and find out how to make the process of planning events online simple, fast and affordable.