When your Association’s founders first convened, did they envision hiring staff that would sell products and services? No, they identified like minded companies who shared the same challenges understanding that they could achieve greater impact together that individually.
When is the timing right to embrace innovation and change at your Association? Some argue that with an improved economy its best to leave well enough alone. Maybe, no. The real question? How well are you positioned to help your member’s achieve their business outcomes in a time of dramatic innovation and change?
How does an Association grow membership and revenue in an Omni channel and hyper competitive environment? Your answers are more likely found in research and actionable data, strategic board conversations, and 3 year roadmaps. Today’s successful Associations see long term positioning as essential to their long term growth and durability.
In 2015, Association board rooms should be filled with expectations of membership growth, improving retention, and conference revenue growth. After a punishing downturn, the economy is growing and volunteer leaders seek stronger advocacy efforts or they want to restock Association reserves.
Recently reported economic expansion reflects only one part of an evolving and complex business environment. Cyber threats, disruptive technologies, innovations and social media, an aging workforce, and talent gaps weigh heavily on corporate bottom lines. According to a McKinsey December 2014 Global Survey, “geopolitical concerns remain paramount as a risk to growth for executives whose optimism for the global economy in early 2014 has faded over the course of the year.”
If you’re an Association CEO are you thinking about the next recession? Since 1947 historical data shows a recession, averaging every 6-7 years in the United States. With a U.S. recovery in 2009 might 2015 or 2016 be the time frame when the next recession occurs? Even though economic forecasting can be inconclusive, being ready for the next downturn might be a prudent move for Associations.
In a climate of disruptive innovation and tight operating margins where can companies look for education and training solutions? Quite simply it’s Associations, as they have the ability to facilitate new solutions to address evolving member business outcomes. While the traditional Association model “pushes” out training and education programs, innovative organizations structure these products to help members achieve their business outcomes.
In an increasingly competitive and low profit margin world companies only invest time, money, and staff resources where they can drive business outcomes. With fewer dollars to spend, today’s executives look past yesterday’s Association model and instead seek out strategic partners.
Engaging boards in strategy development is powerful; the strategic member engagement survey (see results http://bit.ly/1g8g1J2) reports that those Associations who have this capability more often report upward 3 Year business trends. However, when actionable member data (through impact surveys) is discussed with boards, it helps Association’s create great conversations on how to align with their member’s business outcomes.
Association Outcomes Trump Outputs. Emerging from the great recession and experiencing an almost 50% drop in conference attendance, the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing moved to realign its focus on member business outcomes. Like many Associations today, members are under pressure to produce results for their companies and their focus is about “outcomes” for themselves, their organizations, their constituencies, and customers. An association’s “outputs” (conferences, journals, etc.) are just mechanisms and tactics; members demand “outcomes.”
Members Demand Outcomes
When members don’t feel that they can impact something that they care about, they form their own coalitions, forums and on line communities outside of the association. Too often an association’s internal discussions are about tweaking “outputs,” not creatively driving the “outcomes” that members really care about. In a number of cases Associations shift their focus in order to satisfy member’s new expectations.
Zell Murphy, Senior Vice President, Finance & Administration at CTAM: Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing http://www.ctam.com says he and his colleagues needed to shift their focus in order to align with their members business objectives.
It’s essential to understand how an association is currently impacting member objectives. This requires securing actionable data about member perceptions of their environmental and operational challenges. Murphy agrees and emphasizes that CTAM utilizes survey data and ongoing member contact to define the level of impact they require to achieve their business outcomes. He notes that his members defined the level of strategic collaboration they expected.
Association Outcomes Trump Outputs
With a shared focus on outcomes, many members want to contribute and be connected if they believe that business objectives will be achieved. CTAM reports improvements in renewals and new member discussions much different from: “what do I get for my dues?” conversations before the changes. Although there is only modest operating growth, it reverses what might have been a downward spiral had they not shifted from an output to an outcome focus.