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Convey Value: How Associations Deliver the Value Message to Members

July 29, 2013

It’s not enough to be valuable. Associations must convince others of their value, and that happens through clear, consistent, and pervasive communications.

Last year, the Pennsylvania Association of REALTORS® created a member value campaign for the state’s 50 local REALTOR® associations that highlighted 12 values of membership, from political advocacy to education. Local associations customized campaign materials, including print and electronic postcards, with their own logos to use in their areas.

“The idea of creating something for the local associations came out of our strategic plan, which set our primary customer as the local association,” says Kim Shindle, the PAR’s media relations manager. “We held a focus group with AEs to get their input on the values, and then created different talking points for them to choose from.”

From e-mail and social media to video and even print, the channels and opportunities to market your value are vast.

The Virginia Association of REALTORS® created a series of value ads for its core services—from the legal resources center to home-sales reports—conceived by staff and produced by an outside advertising firm. “We believe that the consistent placement of the ads across multiple channels serves as a general awareness campaign; a member might see one in our Commonwealth magazine, then see a similar one in the online newsletter or cross-promoted in a targeted e-mail,” says Amanda Arwood, vice president of marketing and communications. “Over time, recognition of the service begins to sink in and reinforce the overall value of the association.”

The Illinois Association of REALTORS® uses the theme “Fighting for You” in its advertisements across all communications to show in pictures and words that IAR’s value is that it fights for members’ real estate business and clients’ homeownership rights, says Ann Londrigan, the association’s director of member and association engagement.

Word-of-mouth value marketing

Word of mouth today is no longer just face-to-face meetings; it’s also social networking. What members say about the value of membership on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn has an important effect on what others think.

Members explaining the value of their membership is your most powerful marketing tool. For this reason, it’s essential to have value proposition buy-in from elected leadership and key members, since they will be your association’s most effective champions. The Houston Association of REALTORS® uses member quotes in a section online that highlights the value that they receive from particular products and services. Similarly, the North Shore-Barrington Association of REALTORS® in Illinois includes a testimonials page on its Web site that features unsolicited member feedback on classes and services. One member even detailed why she chose NSBA over another association.

Member testimony via video is even more effective in swaying opinions because it better conveys emotion and authenticity.

The Southeast Minnesota Association of REALTORS® filmed a commercial, featuring members, at the Minnesota Capitol, city halls, county commissioner meetings, and other locations fighting for homeowners’ rights. The television ad campaign with the tagline “Whether or not you ever buy another home, REALTORS® have your back—Southeast Minnesota Association of REALTORS®, making Minnesota home,” will air this summer on two television stations that cover all 11 counties of the state.

The commercial’s goals are not only to help the consumer understand the value of a REALTOR® beyond the purchase and sale of their home, says Karen Becker, CEO of the Southeast Minnesota association, but also to show members how the association fights for their visibility in the community and protects property owners’ rights, which are the foundation of the local market.

Don’t scrap the benefits brochure

Although communicating value is more powerful than listing programs and services, that doesn’t mean that you should throw out your benefits brochure. Your association’s tools and services are examples of how you deliver on your value proposition, so it’s still essential to keep them front and center in members’ minds.

The Portland Metropolitan Association of REALTORS® in Oregon distributes its four-page member benefits and value brochure with dues mailings and posts it online, where it has gotten more than 1,500 views, says Elizabeth Coffey, director of communications.

Value calculators

Another effective way to communicate value is to lay it out in dollars and cents. Assign dollar values to your products and services (in addition to those your members receive from their state and national association) and contrast the total dollar value to the dues members pay. The Massachusetts Association of REALTORS® and the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® offer online calculators that enable members to check off the programs they use and add up their dollar value. For example, a nonmember subscription to REALTOR® Magazine costs $56 but is free for members.

The Charleston Trident Association of REALTORS® in South Carolina tells members visiting its Web site: “The cost of your membership is about $1 per day, but the benefits are priceless. It’s estimated your REALTOR® membership is worth upwards of $15,000 per year—if you take advantage of it!”