A little background: we led a series of strategic working sessions with Associated General Contractors of Minnesota’s executive director, staff, and select board members to set the foundation for the rebrand work. Together, we took a comprehensive look into the association and uncovered the primary value they bring to its members – being a trusted resource.
The exploration also revealed the organization had been hosting several events that were no longer relevant, and it provided direction as to how to improve those that still were. These and other insights became the foundation that informed the reinvigoration of the AGC of Minnesota brand.
The 100-year anniversary presented an ideal context in which to implement our findings. AGC of Minnesota would be a refreshed, more relevant organization, with a renewed purpose and vitality that energized existing members and attracted new ones.
Hear first-hand from Tim, Merry, and Renee about how investing in a rebrand may benefit your organization too:
In the association universe, there is a key focal point, which is how do you remain and be relevant for your members? We knew we needed to either make this change and make a new connection, or we were soon to be irrelevant.
Justin and his team really helped us focus and narrow in on how we could bring that new relevance to that next generation. And then we stepped back and had to think about the silent majority of folks that you never hear from, and trying to think about and visualize what the value is for them. It was a very free-flowing, easy way that we ended up in our value proposition, trusted resource.
The process was a good process. It was not easy. You had a lot of interaction. You have to go through a lot of sorting, a lot of deep thinking, but we ended up where we needed to end up, and in the end, that's the value.
Mercury understood that they're working with a very old association, and we are, a hundred years old. That's an old association looking to look new without losing their old, how do we respect the legacy of this and yet turn around and go forward?
One of our big challenges was that we had a huge disconnect between the level of service that we provided to our members and how we looked. So we were providing these amazing services to members, but you would never know it to look at our website, to look at our communications. You would never know that we were doing amazing work.
So we needed a new look and feel. And we were looking for someone that could represent that, that had a vision for taking us into our next century existence. Our brand, our mishmash of looks was tired. It was old. What Justin presented from his background, really was visionary, really presented new energy for us, a new focus, a new brand identity that we think would have a reach and appeal to a different level of member, going forward.
It's incredibly helpful to have an outside voice come in and say, "Hey, here's what we need to do, we need to put together this roadmap." Could we have done that internally? Theoretically, yes. But practically, no. We never would've been able to accomplish that just internally.
When we were cementing our partnership, I expected a level of service, a level of professionalism, a level of responsiveness. I have a pretty high standard for those things, and the standard was there. It's not that there weren't disagreements or that there weren’t challenges along the way. There are those things in it. There are those things anywhere you want to look. But they get resolved. And it allowed us to really feel like if we have a challenge that comes to us as an association, we know we can go to our partner, and we know we're going to succeed.
From our board's perspective, it really took a vision to present to them. And Justin and his team came in from Mercury and helped us do that.
What we had to actually sell to our board and to the organization was that we needed a big investment in our infrastructure. We needed a new database that would communicate with our accounting system. We needed to ditch our AMS that really wasn't working for us, and get something much more custom built to our needs because we were working off of five disparate systems that were not talking to one another. And it was the amount of staff time that was wrapped up in cobbling these systems together was... I can't even quantify it. And it still wasn't even working very well. So having a new database, a new website that talked together, that work with the accounting system, that creates this seamless flow, and that was part of the Mercury overhaul for us.
That 360 view of the whole organization is what made it so impressive because we weren't just saying, "Let's throw a big party." We were saying, "Let's take this organization and make it more effective, and more appealing to its members, not just appealing, but honestly becoming the trusted resource."
We got the wow factor from people that I think our events previously hadn't really elicited.
I've had the opportunity to be one of the first chapters to go through a Centennial process. I've gotten follow-up from our events to get consistent member unsolicited emails or comments, when you see them, "Hey, that was a great event. We really enjoyed it so much." Once we've established this pattern of success, our challenge now is we've got to carry this forward. But we're confident that we can do that because we have in place, all of that underpinning that is necessary, that allowed us to be successful.
Our goal at events now is to have people find or leave with something that they didn't anticipate. I always liked that approach because it brings value, but it also creates a buzz that the next week or the next day, when people get together, they're saying, "Hey, I was at the AGC event, this was so fun. We did this." Or, "This was so valuable because I saw this, or I heard this, or I got to meet this person." That's what is happening now with our membership in much more connected ways than it had in the past.
The thing I was most impressed with was, that it was a comprehensive look at our organization. It wasn't just coming in and say, "Well, you got this big year coming up, let's do some cool events. We could do this, this, and this." It was a very comprehensive look.
When you peel back the layers, it's all of these things, whether it was the rebrand, the systems behind the scenes, the database, the AMS, the Centennial, all of those things in a short span of three years, our investments for our future, their capital investments is when I talk about them with our board, that puts us in a position to continue to be the leader.
The team I think has just got a great energy tool. It's always upbeat. It's always focused on the positive side of things, and where this can be, and how much better this could look. To have somebody that's really committed to a vision like that is something that that is very helpful.
Business-wise, I think Mercury runs a great ship. You feel like you're their best customer, and that's important. I mean, if you're going to invest in changing, and invest in your brand, invest in your members, invest in your association, you want a partner that's in it with you. The Mercury team, up and down, brings it.
Glad to see the Mercury team because we talked to Justin a lot, but Justin brought a lot of people to this project. It wasn't just Justin who came to the table, he brought people with him. The things that we got back were dynamite, and Renee still works with one or two of them to this day on the database and websites.
I was surprised by and appreciated having that outside resource. Justin really grabbed on and said, "Now we're going to get this right. You're not going to drag yourselves down."
That partner in Mercury's insistence that if we're going to do these kinds of things, and if they're going to be successful, you have to do these kinds of things. You cannot let this go out the door, looking like this, or you cannot miss this deadline. That was helpful, beyond helpful.
The thing that I would say to somebody considering working with Mercury is, "Don't do it until you're ready to commit to it because there's nothing worse than committing a lot of resources to something if you're not emotionally ready to actually commit to the change. But if you are ready to commit to it, go for it." And I would wholeheartedly endorse Mercury for coming in to really help with organizational change, which is usually what's needed for even making small adjustments for a big event, or whatever. If you're ready to commit to it, go for it. But you can't do it half-heartedly.
Leading these kinds of organizations is challenging and work, but it's not so difficult. And I've had several wise people tutor me with some wise advice, and the advice is, "Surround yourself with good people and surround yourself with good resources." And in this respect, these two and Mercury as our partner, fulfill that goal. If you have good quality people- trusted people, creative people, valuable people; that you work with, you're going to be successful.
I mean it's just fun to go out with your new life. It's just fun to do that.