March 2007 - ERA Strategic Planning

Re-discovering ERA’s Roots-The Annual Strategic Planning Meeting

By Sieglinde Friedman

As is done each year, the ERA Board of Directors was joined by ERA Program Committee chairs and the Association’s Platinum members for a day of strategic dialogue at the Mid-Winter Leadership Conference to set the course for the year ahead. This year’s meeting was held on January 27, 2007. Two-thirds of the participants consisted of suppliers to the industry and one-third were those who sell or have products (which, interestingly, reflects the present ERA membership).

ERA Chair-Elect and Strategic Planning Committee Chair Ed Garrubbo, in concert with ERA staff, developed a highly stimulating agenda, the main focus of which revolved around how ERA can best attract and retain “core” members who have or sell products or services. The resulting objectives will not only steer ERA, but also will serve as the foundation for next year’s budget.

The participants first defined the target group-core members who have or sell products or services-and recognized that currently, ERA has a flat membership and indeed, a membership that is top-heavy with suppliers. It was agreed that without attracting members with products and services, even the supplier base will lapse. The discussants concurred that in order to augment recruiting this core, it is essential not only to saturate the DRTV mainstay, but to ensure that all those who sell direct to consumer via any electronic medium are targeted.

In order to frame the issues, ERA’s branding company, Creative Strategy Inc., presented findings derived from initial telephone interviews with current, lapsed and prospective members. These conversations indicated the need to offer a more concrete value proposition for membership. While ERA’s government affairs work, member networking and research are considered to be benefit cornerstones; the significance of these benefits has not been accurately communicated and hence remains, to many, unknown or immaterial.

In addition, ERA General Council Paula Goedert gave a brief overview of what a healthy association should look like and what its governance model should be based upon. It was pointed out that while ERA is financially solid, its membership growth is flat, its member retention rate is low in comparison with other associations, its market share of potential industry members is declining and, ultimately, regardless of channel, ERA must increase its core membership in order to maintain its viability.

As a result of these synopses, Garrubbo asked the participants to work within four breakout groups to dig deeper and delve into what it would take to attract the core members that have or sell products or services. The breakout groups focused on the following topics:

  • Tradeshows
  • Research, Education and Information Services
  • Services and Benefits
  • Brand and Reputation
  • Governance

The upshot of the breakout groups’ recommendations produced the four objectives for the 2007-’08 year:

  • Enhancing Association services and benefits that offer a strong value proposition for the core prospects;
  • Fostering greater ERA brand recognition and, simultaneously, improving ERA’s reputation and credibility;
  • Developing relevant and compelling research, education and information services; and
  • Ensuring ERA’s governance not only reflects the core members but also primarily serves them.

With these strategic objectives, ERA staff will: craft a value proposition to attract core members that have or sell products or services and thereby enhance the Association’s benefits and services; in concert with the rebranding effort, improve the ERA brand and industry credibility; by listening to the core membership, develop pertinent research, compelling educational sessions and timely information sharing; and, in conjunction with Board committees, create a roadmap for defining governance models that reflect the core members. Thanks to all ERA members, the path to a more vibrant, strong and healthy organization has been identified.

Sieglinde Friedman is ERA’s vice president of board and strategy. She can be reached at (703) 908-1021, or via e-mail at [email protected].


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