Your association needs a statement, a declaration so succinct and so powerful that upon first glance your members know precisely what you’re all about. No pressure. Creating a standout value proposition is certainly daunting but it’s not impossible, writes Jess Abelsohn.

As the saying goes, you’ll never get a second chance to make a first impression. And in today’s knowledge age, first impressions count. Firstly, because people have access to so much information and so many different associations, you need to be seen as the leader in your field. Secondly, the attention span of your audience is ridiculously short. You have to grab them straight away.

Enter: value propositions.

So what’s a value proposition?

A value proposition, otherwise known as a mission statement, is a declaration that communicates an organisation’s purpose, its reason for being. It should guide the actions of the organisation and make clear the overall goal of the business, in doing so forging a path on which each and every employee can guide their decision-making processes. Put short, a value proposition reveals the heart of a business and presents precisely what that business wants to do for the world.

For associations, your audience are your members and your members are a community. When forming your value proposition, this is key.

What binds a diverse audience together? Common memes. What binds a community together? Common values and a common worldview. Your value proposition needs to be a combination of the common memes and the common worldview.

It’s the art of communicating who you are and why your members should invest their money and time in your services – it’s not about what you do, it’s about the value you offer to help a member achieve their goals, using your association’s facilities and connections.

What does an excellent value proposition look like?

A value proposition should address the who, what, why and the outcome. If we look at some strong examples, the importance of a value proposition will become clear.

Pinterest

Value proposition: Discover ideas for any project or interests, hand-picked by people like you.

In just a few words, Pinterest has managed to tell you exactly what it does, how it will help you and the fact that it’s a ‘sharing network’.

Spotify

Value proposition: Music for everyone. Free on mobile, tablet and computer. Listen to the right music, wherever you are.

Not only is the value proposition short, informative and tells the user what they’ll get out of it, the website evokes emotion through the images used. The bottom of the homepage is also lined with a number of albums, making it clear what it offers.

Inc.com

Value proposition: Welcome to Inc.com, the place where entrepreneurs and business owners can find useful information, advice, insights, resources and inspiration for running and growing their business.

This one highlights the core audience target, what will be provided to the audience and the outcome for the audience.

The key to all of these value propositions is the lack of the words ‘I’ or ‘we’. It’s not about you! It’s about your members.

Creating your value proposition

Starting your value proposition can be as simple as creating a list of the benefits you believe your services provide to members.

Do you lobby for your members? What about education and training? Networking opportunities? All of these are important to your members so make sure they know you offer these services.

Think about what is unique about your association and make sure your members know about it. If you need some inspiration, don’t be afraid to ask your existing member base what they appreciate most about you.

Remember to make it really obvious. Again, it goes back to the short attention span of your audience. Members don’t want to have to dig around to find what you’re about. Make it clear, straight away, what you can do for them.

Use language that your audience will understand. Find out what makes them tick and conduct surveys to see what language they use. Then mirror this in your value proposition.

Creating member personas can help when creating your value proposition. For example, how old is your typical member? Are they male or female? What do they do for a living? What do they stand for? What do they do in their spare time? Think about who your typical member is and write for them – what would they want in an association?

Your value proposition in action

Once you have established your value proposition, your communications strategy can be refined. You can more effectively choose what you communicate and how you communicate it to your members – after all, what good is a value proposition if it remains hidden from your existing and potential members?

Let’s look at the value proposition for the Ricegrowers’ Association of Australia Inc (RGA).

The Ricegrowers’ Association of Australia Inc. provides a strong, united voice for the rice industry. We represent the interests of rice growers, and provide services to members, to ensure they can provide a legacy for their children, create employment in their districts and grow quality rice.

Now, the RGA isn’t going to go around blogging about jewellery or archaeology, simply because that’s not what their member base is about. They’re going to talk to their members about climate, transport in the fields, sustainability and food, because that’s what they represent. That’s what is going to ensure they help provide a legacy for their members’ children.

The important thing to remember though is this: value propositions are not about what you sell; they’re about what you stand for. Without knowing what you stand for, can your communication strategy really be effective?

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