When I was a sophomore in college, I was recruited by a little known agency to work full-time. To this day, I give that agency credit for giving me the best sales training I could ever have in my life.

My job involved doing thorough research. I learned to really look at so many different, unique and innovative ways to research people and organizations. What do they value? What motivates them? These were the questions I had to answer, and they’re still the questions I ask myself today. People spend money on things they value, so if you don’t prove that value, you won’t see any investment.

Identifying motivation to prove value

My favorite example comes from when I was selling premium tickets for a losing football team. I worked in the NFL, and the team I sold tickets for is not doing well now, but was even worse back then. I discovered that to sell, you have to sell fantasy. Otherwise, how could I sell very expensive, long-term contracts to watch a team lose?

It came down to what motivates people. It’s less about the reality of what I was selling and more about looking to expand your client base, showing you have influence and access, and making your clients feel special. How would having a suite make them feel? How does that represent their business and your brand? What’s it like to have parking passes? They all give clients a sense of value. It was more the attitudes and feelings around having suite seats that motivated the buyer — not necessarily the product.

Tying money to strategy

Everyone always wants more revenue, but we need to ask ourselves: what is sustainable?

Money and mission are intimately tied, but they’re not at odds. Actually, they’re intimate friends. You need to key into a person’s needs or the value area they’re unable to express. Do that, and you’ll find not only a dedicated buyer, but a dedicated partner in such a way that the renewal process, and the partner, customer or member acquisition becomes solid.

In some associations I’ve worked with, I’ve noticed them not having a member retention process. This is one of my tricks; it’s a way to buy yourself time, particularly if you’re in a new membership role or marketing role. Look into it, because the organization may not spend a whole lot of time focusing on membership retention.

Here are a few tips:

  1. Start fixing what you can in the process, even if you hit bumps. You will get to see what’s not being addressed, and it’ll buy you time to look deeply into what value non-dues revenue will bring. 
  2. The member retention process should start the day after a member joins. If you’re really good, it should start three months before they even sign up.
  3. Look closely at the member onboarding process. You want new members to have that wonderful feeling inside and they feel connected to the community.
  4. Create a rockstar experience, because they will remember how it made them feel. There are so many ways you can create that, and it will be a solid revenue generator for you. This works particularly well for members whose professions aren’t generally seen as the rockstars in their field. I’m talking about nurses and physical therapists, for example, who do not get the spotlight with surgeons around.

Once you get the ball rolling, you’ll identify areas to focus on to build strong revenue generators.

Client Director at Interel

Tamela Blalock is a Client Director at the association management company Interel; in that role she also serves as the executive director of the Section on Women's Health (SOWH) a federated independent association affiliated with the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA). SoWH is a 3,450+-member professional association for physical therapists, physical therapist assistants, and DPT students working within and advocating for vital areas of women’s and men’s health, including pelvic floor health, sport injury recovery, and continence.

During the past 20 years, Tamela has worked for several Washington area institutions including the Central Intelligence Agency, Washington D.C. NFL Football Team, The Washington Post, and George Washington University. Prior to joining SoWH, Tamela served as the senior director, membership services for the National Association of Wholesalers-Distributors (NAW), where she had a solid track record of increasing non-dues revenue margins for the Billion Dollar and Large Company C-Suite categories, and increasing NAW member engagement through the Roundtable events. She is also a very active member of the American Society of Association Executives  (ASAE), the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA), and the Association for Women in Events (AWE). Tamela has served on the PCMA Global Board of Directors, and is an alumnus of the ASAE 2016-2018 class of DELP (Diversity Executive Leadership Program) Scholars.

Tamela has a Bachelors of Science in Marketing from Georgetown University and a Masters in Business in Tourism Administration from The George Washington University.

Tamela Blalock is a Client Director at the association management company Interel; in that role she also serves as the executive director of the Section on Women's Health (SOWH) a federated independent association affiliated with the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA). SoWH is a 3,450+-member professional association for physical therapists, physical therapist assistants, and DPT students working within and advocating for vital areas of women’s and men’s health, including pelvic floor health, sport injury recovery, and continence. During the past 20 years, Tamela has worked for several Washington area institutions including the Central Intelligence Agency, Washington D.C. NFL Football Team, The Washington Post, and George Washington University. Prior to joining SoWH, Tamela served as the senior director, membership services for the National Association of Wholesalers-Distributors (NAW), where she had a solid track record of increasing non-dues revenue margins for the Billion Dollar and Large Company C-Suite categories, and increasing NAW member engagement through the Roundtable events. She is also a very active member of the American Society of Association Executives  (ASAE), the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA), and the Association for Women in Events (AWE). Tamela has served on the PCMA Global Board of Directors, and is an alumnus of the ASAE 2016-2018 class of DELP (Diversity Executive Leadership Program) Scholars. Tamela has a Bachelors of Science in Marketing from Georgetown University and a Masters in Business in Tourism Administration from The George Washington University.

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