The largest commercial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is on companies that rely upon face-to-face activities for their revenue. Professional membership organisations fall squarely into this group and right now are unable to derive any income their usual high-value events, conferences, workshops or paper-based examinations.Negotiating this challenge requires a fundamental change in approach. Organisations in this sector need to find different ways to diversify and deliver their services to make them attractive and accessible to members. They also need to quickly develop strategies to recoup the revenue currently in danger of being lost from cancelled events.
Protech has specialised in the membership sector for more than 25 years and have gathered eight ideas to help professional membership organisations navigate this crisis.
- Deliver virtual events: The first and perhaps most obvious is to shift to online or “virtual” workshops, training courses and seminars. There are many video conferencing software platforms that can be used for this including Zoom, WebEx, GoToMeeting, Microsoft Teams and Zoho. Running virtual workshops and seminars could both reduce the delivery cost and minimise the number of refund requests. But to succeed, it’s important that these online events provide a similar amount of value for members and attendees as their physical versions. If you were due to hold a large conference, don’t just replace it with one catch-all seminar. Try to pick out the key themes and split them up into a broad series of webinars. Promote these webinars through social media and use an email marketing campaign to target both current and perspective members. To optimise the delivery of virtual events, always aim to integrate your preferred webinar provider with your CRM to automate back office processing. This is something at which our ProConnect platform excels.
- Incentivise your CPD activities: Create compelling campaigns that incentivise people to sign up for membership. If your target audience is likely to be working from home, they may have spare time that would usually be taken up with commuting and wish to use it profitably. Incentivise them to complete CPD activities that improve their knowledge and career prospects. Provide a good mix of paid and free learning materials. Structure your approach around helping them through this crisis.
- Clarify your value to members and identify key revenue generators: You won’t be the only membership organisation considering this virtual shift, so be sure that you’re providing benefits that are of real value to your members. Also be sure that you fully understand what they value most and use this to inform your decision making. Focus on the key revenue generators which in most cases will be membership and CPD. Heavily promote these to current and prospective members based upon the value proposition developed above.
- Use event materials to protect revenues: You may have previously created materials specifically to add value to your conferences. This same principal can apply to virtual events. Content such as statistical industry trends and guides can be offered in a number of ways to incentivise delegates to download for a small fee
- Deliver paper-based qualifications online: Consider whether you have the capability to easily move paper-based exams online. If you already have assessment management software readily available for some exams, you can deliver these assessments virtually so that the qualification revenue can still be redeemed. Speaking with your CRM provider about the integrations already in place with assessment providers is the first step. The process of moving to online assessments may be easier than you think.
- Provide an option to donate: Often, a professional membership organisation’s main source of income will be its annual conference. The risk of losing this revenue can be compounded by the obligation to honour contracts with venues and event contractors, even following a cancellation. When reaching out to members to notify them of any event cancellation, you should provide an opportunity for them to voluntarily support you if they feel so inclined. An online donation mechanism can help you to recoup some of this lost revenue.
- Use text messaging: Targeted messaging that goes directly to your members’ mobile devices will play an important role in interacting more purposely. Understand what matters to members based on their historical preferences and point them in the direction of the targeted message.
- Ensure payments can still be taken: Keeping cash flowing is vital to your organisation’s ability to survive this pandemic. But many payments can often be reliant on bank transfers and PDQ machines; methods that are both currently under considerable extra pressure and risk. You can help your members simplify their payment by making use of BACs contingency services although these can often be costly.
This article is part of our 25 page free e-book, how professional membership organisations can drive member value through the pandemic and beyond.
Learn how to:
- Adapt your value proposition to resonate with member needs
- Practically enhance your member retention
- Diversify your qualification approach to protect revenue
- Minimise the impact of event cancellation
- Ensure that your productivity levels remain high whilst working remotely
Download this free e-book now to discover actionable strategies and practical advice.