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Maximize Your Association’s Revenue: Essential Strategies for Business Development Professionals

In this article, we’ll dive into best practices and ways to leverage and LinkedIn Sales Navigator, including building a strategic network and the role of relationship development as part of a successful association business development and sales strategy. 

“Association executives were asked which areas of their business development practices needed the most improvement. Historically, associations have prioritized the performance and effectiveness of membership, education, events and industry research programs. 

However, business development competencies have largely been overlooked as an opportunity to improve the association enterprise. Shifting workforce planning to support the business development function as a career path or as an area of continuing education offers new opportunities.”

Association Business Development Landscape | PAR – Professionals for Association Revenue

Throughout the Association Business Development Landscape report produced by PAR – Professionals for Association Revenue the resounding themes centered around three core areas: 

  • Association Revenue Performance Requires Leadership
  • Business Development Strategy is Critical for Association Revenue
  • The Future of Association Revenue Includes a Skilled Business Workforce, Tools and New Programs

A comprehensive and intentional program that combines data, technology, learning, and community building makes a difference and has measurable outcomes. It takes time and effort; however, it is attainable and needs to remain a priority, not a shifting activity based on ambiguous standards and whimsical focus. 

In today’s landscape, associations need innovative strategies to generate non-dues revenue. This blog post explores key Professionals for Association Revenue research findings, emphasizing the importance of a well-defined business development strategy for association revenue growth. 

We’ll dive into best practices and ways to leverage and LinkedIn Sales Navigator, including building a strategic network and the role of relationship development as part of a successful sales strategy. 

Consider how these elements can drive revenue and enhance your association’s bottom line.

Association Revenue Performance Requires Leadership.

Any strategy not endorsed and reinforced by leadership never gains traction and fails quickly. 

When leaders lack in-depth knowledge and experience with digital platforms like, generative AI, and others, they dismiss their power, relevance, and impact and delegate their value to the nice-to-have rather than the must-have skill sets and initiatives. 

Business Development Strategy is Critical for Association Revenue. 

Research shows that associations tend to prioritize traditional revenue streams like membership and events but struggle to meet budget forecasts. To address this challenge, association leaders must recognize the significance of improved business development practices. 

Developing a comprehensive strategy aligned with the organization’s mission is crucial. By adopting a unified approach, associations can break down silos within teams and improve revenue targets across the entire association. Implementing CRM is one aspect of a unified approach and ensures information is captured for new opportunities and continued communication. 

This strategy includes improving team competencies, streamlining operations, and embracing innovative approaches to revenue generation. 

Prioritizing business development and embracing change ensures long-term sustainability and financial stability through diversified revenue streams.

The Future of Association Revenue Includes a Skilled Workforce, Tools, and New Programs: 

As associations adapt to evolving needs of their members, sponsors, advertisers, board, and partners, they must develop new competencies in traditional business development activities. Investing in workforce and professional development through targeted training programs empowers their teams with the necessary tools and knowledge to improve performance and meet modern stakeholders’ expectations.

When tools like, generative AI, CRMs, continually change, professionals need ongoing training and coaching. Assuming they will even recognize the changes or take the time to test their application is a bold assumption. 

Ongoing learning is essential. In 1:1 strategy + activation sessions, individuals go deeper at their own pace and proficiency, leading to greater comprehension, application, and confidence. 

While group training is essential to introduce and level up a team, 1:1 strategy + activation sessions drive the most significant change and results. 

Leveraging and LinkedIn Sales Navigator.

Associations that harness the power of and LinkedIn Sales Navigator to drive revenue growth increase their ability to connect and engage with the people, companies, and organizations interested in their members and mission. 

Buyer insights within LinkedIn Sales Navigator surface indicators that show interest, connectivity, and potential next steps, including introductions.

With more than 12 billion+ first-party, user-generated data points, LinkedIn is unsurpassed in providing association business development professionals and leaders with a pathway to uncover the people, companies, Groups, sales insight, content, jobs, and learning platform to increase multiple areas of dues and non-dues revenue strategy.

LinkedIn provides valuable opportunities for prospecting, networking, and lead generation through awareness, consideration, and, ultimately – long-term conversion.

Optimizing association profiles and utilizing advanced search filters helps identify and connect with potential clients, members, and event attendees. 

Personalized outreach messages highlighting the association’s value proposition and establishing meaningful connections are vital and table stakes for business development professionals. 

A non-personalized, tailored approach, or spray ‘n pray, is far less effective than ever and creates more noise than value. A question to always ask yourself is, “Would you answer that message?”

No, really, would you?

The Value of Building a Strategic Network and Relationship Building.

Global and national associations need a digital-first plan. Few sales professionals, especially those new to the association, will have a deep network. 

Building a strategic network is crucial for association business development, especially in a digital-first world. 

Side note: An essential question for a sales/business development professional is, “How have you built your LinkedIn network? Are you comfortable and will you commit to connecting with others in the industry and for the purposes of generating revenue?”

Bringing that network into LinkedIn helps connect with industry influencers, prospects, and existing members. Engaging in discussions, sharing valuable content, and demonstrating expertise help establish credibility, nurture relationships, and unlock new opportunities.

People expect to engage on LinkedIn. In a recent association workshop for global cybersecurity professionals, more than 70% said they went to LinkedIn to read and learn from their peers and the industry.

As a sales professional, do you build that value for your network, including members, sponsors, and advertisers?

Why do Sales Professionals Neglect Business Development and Network Nurturing? 

Sales professionals may need to pay more attention to business development and network nurturing and often don’t due to various distractions – albeit legitimate. 

They need more time management skills, a better understanding of their business development role and its impact, more training and support, fear of rejection, and focus on transactional sales. 

Organizations should provide training, emphasize the value of relationship building, set clear goals and metrics, and foster a culture that rewards proactive business development efforts. 

“Most people never reach bigger goals because they forget to set mini goals.” – says Ryan Dorhn, Global Sales Coach and uber-encourager.

Five Key Steps to Develop a Sales-First Mindset and Implementation Plan.

  1. Goal Setting and Prioritization: Set clear, measurable sales goals aligned with organizational objectives and prioritize essential activities contributing to sales success.
  1. Time Blocking and Management: Allocate dedicated time blocks in the schedule for sales activities to avoid distractions.
  1. Prospect and Pipeline Management: Regularly review and update the sales pipeline and dedicate time daily to prospecting and qualifying leads. Every day is a day devoted to prospecting and building relationships.
  1. Continuous Learning and Skill Development: Embrace a mindset of constant learning, attend sales training programs, and stay updated on industry trends.
  1. Mindfulness and Self-Motivation: Cultivate mindfulness, practice self-awareness, and adopt positive affirmations and visualization techniques to stay motivated and focused on sales targets.

By implementing these strategies, leadership will understand the value and long-term benefits gained by a digital-first business development strategy. Business development and sales professionals cultivate a sales-first mindset and schedule, drive revenue growth, and achieve revenue generation to support their association’s continued growth and relevance. 

Need help crafting and implementing a LinkedIn strategy for your association? We can help.

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IA generation – parts of this blog post were enhanced using ChatGPT, and Grammarly. The image was generated through