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With COVID-19 impacting the economy so intensely, many associations are trying to find the balance between upholding their value proposition and making enough money to stay afloat. Many organizations were forced to furlough employees, make budget cuts to upcoming projects and halt innovations left and right. 

That’s why Don Dea, Pamela Kaul, Mark Dorsey, Larry Robertson, Joel Albizo, Paul Pomerantz, Michelle Mason and Gary LaBranche joined together for “Who Stole My Playbook: 2021 Perspectives from Association Leaders,” a podcast discussion led by Association Strategies and produced by Fusion Productions/digitalNow, during which this group of association industry leaders discussed  what’s changed since the pandemic and how associations can spring forward into 2021 — and beyond.

“We’ve been talking about value proposition for years in the association space and sometimes those are very shallow and hollow words, and with so much focus on monetization over the years I wonder if we’ve lost where the true value is,” said Pamela Kaul, the President of Association Strategies, Inc. “How do you balance the need to make money with this whole notion of value?”

What is a value proposition? 

“A value proposition refers to the value a company promises to deliver to customers should they choose to buy their product,” wrote Alexandra Twin. “The value proposition provides a declaration of intent or a statement that introduces a company's brand to consumers by telling them what the company stands for, how it operates, and why it deserves their business.”

For example, an organization can promise its members convenience, personalization, innovation, further education and much more. These offers are what sets one organization apart from its competitors.

It can be too easy to automatically dismiss an organization’s value proposition when money gets tight. Why would you spend money you don’t have without the promise of financial gain?

“Your value proposition is your unique identifier,” writes Lindsay Kolowich Cox. “Without it, people don't have a reason to work with you over somebody else.”

When an organization begins to break down its value proposition in favor of budgets or self-preservation, the relationship between it and their customers weakens. The value your organization offers members, customers and employees is what makes an organization stand out above the others. Remove that, and they’re just another organization yelling into the void. 

“You don’t chase money,” said Joel Albizo, the CEO of the American Planning Association. “You chase value by solving problems nobody else has solved and doing it efficiently and effectively. The money follows that.”

But this is not just a today issue. Many organizations are facing long-term economic impacts on their organizations, and fulfilling these promises may be harder than anticipated.

“I think that the challenge right now as we’ve gotten our feet under us and are more stabilized, is that we’re starting to understand that the pandemic has structurally changed our economy, and so the ‘next normal’ that we’re all looking forward to very well could be something that we are not well prepared for and that we are not equipped to thrive in,” said Albizo.

Even with economic issues forecasted to be a large factor in the foreseeable future, by continuing to provide your value proposition as promised, an organization can protect itself against an unknowable future. As we’ve seen throughout the pandemic, organizations who have doubled down on their purpose and values have been the ones to thrive. 

What if my organization doesn’t have a value proposition?

If your organization doesn’t have a value proposition, it’s pretty simple to create one. As the foundation for member or customer benefits, a value proposition will be based on what you provide. 

Take a look at what types of perks your organization is currently offering its members. Once you have those offers in mind, check out what the competition is offering too. Not only do you want to see what others are providing, an organization who can stand out above the rest is going to be the one to succeed.

“A key role for the value proposition is to set you apart from the competition,” shared Peep Laja. 

While this may seem a bit much, your value proposition does not have to be extravagant to be relevant. Even perks as simple as free or fast shipping, customer support services, installation and troubleshooting assistance, convenience or customization are ways an organization can stand out.

Once you have found what exactly you are planning on offering, write up a short statement saying so. Laja specified that “Your value proposition has to be the first thing visitors see on your homepage.”

Keeping your value proposition at the top of your priority list will lead your organization to surviving through the economic crisis, and whatever may come next.

Want to learn more about the impacts of COVID-19 on associations? We’ll present future chapters of “Who Stole My Playbook: 2021 Perspectives from Association Leaders” on our blog, but parts two and three are available right now for Sidecar members in our Video Archive.

Not a Sidecar member? That’s okay — you can join today!

Ashley Neal
Post by Ashley Neal
March 29, 2021
Ashley is a marketing and communications professional with expertise in sales conversion, copywriting, and social media.