Disruptive Associations

Disruptive Associations


Disruptive Associations

A snapshot by the Conference Board of both the U.S. and Global Economy doesn’t necessarily paint the rosiest of pictures  GDP growth is projected at 2.9% in the United States while economic performance in the rest of the world will be shaped by “volatility.” In what appears to be a low growth scenario, how and to what extent can Associations be transformed into market disruptors that support market growth?


Be assured that the current slow growth environment or an economic downturn will inflict significant pain on your revenues and membership at some point. Organizational Association balance sheets took significant hits in 2008 and 2009, and there little reason to think otherwise in the current environment. Knowing this should CEO’s maintain traditional Association product and service offerings or should they analyze strategic alternatives?

Market Disruption

New products and services penetrating the marketplace have disrupted the U.S. economy from the start of the Republic. At each turn throughout our history, new entrants reshaped a dynamic marketplace. With big data, predictive analytics, and emerging technologies new companies are in several instances upending the marketplace and driving innovation and boosting higher levels of productivity.

Tough Questions?

Can an Association go beyond traditional roles and provide nontraditional solutions to industries in a slow growth environment? Are boards and volunteers ready for their Association to position and help drive their industry positioning and growth in domestic and international markets?

Competitive Threats

Since the great recession for profit firms are aggressively developing innovative solutions and products to more immediately help companies address business challenges and grow revenue. Why can’t your association play the same role?

Disruptive Associations

Disruptive AssociationsAt a time of unprecedented change your Association can become a Market Disruptor and position your members for success in a slow growth world.

Free eBook “Accelerating Strategic Member Engagement” is available for all Association Executives at www.potomaccore.com.

2017 Member Engagement Strategy

Should Your Association Sell Louder?

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.

Is Your Association Losing Conference Market Share?

associationIs Your Association Losing Conference Market Share? In several cases, Associations cite lower attendance, drop in sponsorship and lower net performance. A market trend revealing the rise of for profit competitors is making the conference landscape even more challenging. For profit companies have considerable marketing prowess and are a force to be reckoned with. However, Associations conceivably have even greater competitive advantages than they might have thought.

Impediment or Opportunity

For profit competitors exist only on the periphery of member company business concerns. Could the motivation be perceived as transactional and purely profit driven? Quite possibly yes. On the other hand, Associations have mission focus and longer term relationships. Members view their Associations as their partners and maintain a connection point beyond profit motive.

Associations can leverage their competitive mastery by playing to their strength. Their long term connectivity means greater understanding. Associations reinforce their member bonds when they provide conference solutions that address member pain points. The Association’s  mission focus, content platform and long term relationships place for profit competitors at a significant competitive disadvantage.

Keep in mind that where for profit companies have marketing capacity, Associations have content, member pain point connections and relationships that run deep in their culture.

Associations can surpass for profit competitors in the conference space by leveraging inherent and powerful advantages.

6 Ways Associations Win the Conference Competition

 1. Data driven strategies connect Association to members. Use member survey data to quantify and member pain point needs. The data is the foundation for conference agendas, planning and execution.

2. Lead with your strength. Utilize members throughout conferences to lead and serve as panel experts and present at plenary sessions.

3. Outperform the competition. Consistently conduct best in class content conferences. Provide memorable take away solutions for attendees.

4. Go beyond traditional marketing and promotion. Invest in multi channel high impact marketing promotion and public relations strategy.

5. Pick cherries where cherries grow. Pinpoint traditional and social media outlets where prospective attendees consume information. Flood these markets with specific pain point promotion.

6. Nothing sells better than committed members.Utilize Volunteer Leaders to articulate value, and encourage traditional constituencies to attend conferences. E mails from them will much more likely be opened and read anyway!

The Networking Advantage

Associations by their nature are communities of people who share policy, professional and or business interests.  Members value and in some cases treasure these relationships. All Associations possess this advantage and should think of new and creative approaches to help their members network.

Many conference attendees measure the success of their conference experience by the number of new relationships they minted. On boarding networking appointment software in conference registration platforms is a certain winner. Associations should make the investment (if they have not already done so), this is one expense that ROI stamped all over it.

Is Your Association Losing Conference Market Share?

Associations like everyone else must live, function, and thrive in challenging times. When it comes to competing with for profit conference providers, Associations have considerable competitive advantages. Despite heavy investment by for profit competitors, Associations have  strong foundations where members rely upon them to deliver solutions year after year.

AssociationFor Tino Mantella, President & CEO, Technology Association of Georgia (http://www.tagonline.org/), the focus is on member pain points and meetings that address and satisfy those needs. In a seven year window, the Association experienced 600% membership growth, solid conference attendance and strong sponsor revenue performance. Leveraging their existing Association assets while addressing member pain points keeps them relevant and ahead of competitors.

For a free copy of the “Accelerating Strategic Member Engagement” eBook, request your copy at www.potomaccore.com.

Is Your Association a Market Leader?

associationIs Your Association a Market Leader? Legendary business leader and former GE Chairman and CEO Jack Welch said ” if you don’t have a competitive advantage, don’t compete.”  Rightly so, Market Leaders consistently leverage their marketing prowess to dominate the sectors in which they serve. Failure to lead and compete effectively will result in a market share loss for Associations.

Market Leader Versus Market Participant

It’s risky for any Association to stay back with the pack. New coalitions, Association’s and Law Firms actively seek corporate funding tailored to meet short and long term policy or regulatory objectives. Competitive pressure builds constantly, Associations can ill afford to be passive.

Market Leaders that are astute: measure their impact in real time, execute multi channel marketing and communications strategies and continuously engage stakeholders and elected officials. They also build upon market strength, maintain their uniqueness, drive powerful value propositions while they meet and exceed their revenue objectives.

3 Strategies To Become a Market Leader

1. Build A Brand Fortress. Create and execute an ongoing marketing and communications program that emphasizes Association’s value proposition: providing insights, connections and advocacy for the industry. Be viewed as the premier Association leader in a sector. Issue experts visible in: social and traditional media, among elected officials and regulators.

2. Help Member’s Overcome Obstacles. The Association’s policy and regulatory agenda, grass roots programs, are harmonized to help members overcome legislative and regulatory hurdles.

3. Engage Members. Members view the Association as their strategic ally and their dues payments are perceived as an investment instead of an expense. The culture is seen as a community, members are invited to participate and share their perspectives. Staff, Members and Board Members see their roles as interconnected, everyone is working to achieve the same outcomes.

Market Leaders Consistently Execute and Deliver

Since they have a strong foundation, the Market Leader has clear cut objectives: Achieve policy and regulatory objectives, drive new membership growth, sponsor renewal and growth, sponsor sales, conference attendance growth.

Execution is a key aspect of a Market Leading Association, so much so that “getting it done” is ingrained in their DNA. Firing on all cylinders, they have regular team meetings to celebrate success and/or determine corrective steps to stay on target, performance rewards successful member engagement, advocacy and revenue growth throughout the year.

Is Your Association a Market Leader?

For several Associations, success and excellent performance are deliberate. These groups successfully transitioned from Market Participant to Market Leader. One Association became a market leader, built a brand fortress connected to member objectives and engaging members. By doing so they almost tripled revenues in just over two years. Another Association restructured an underperforming Division and achieved their first net gain performance in five years.

According to a recent Survey by the Business Roundtable, the “uncertain political environment” and unresolved U.S. Debt Crisis were identified as reasons for the economy showing only slight improvement. Achieving Market Leader status is as necessary as it is essential for Associations. As Companies evaluate their Associations, you can bet the Market Leaders will appear on the list of memberships to renew.  (http://bit.ly/1PACOCc)

For a free copy of the “Accelerating Strategic Member Engagement” eBook, request your copy at www.potomaccore.com.


6 Ways to Boost Conference Attendance

boost conference attendance

In the aftermath of the great recession, growing conference attendance has become a herculean task. Tighter travel budgets, greater demand on executives’ time and more competitors are forcing Associations and Societies to modify the way they market conferences. What’s clear is organizations that use a multi-faceted marketing approach are meeting and in some cases exceeding forecasts.

Tougher Competition for Conference Dollars

 In today’s world, a well-funded marketing strategy is a must for Association and Society conferences. Why? Sharper marketing by competitors will stifle attendance growth and limit an organization’s profitability and net operating revenue. Reflecting upon recent conference performance one Association Executive said, “It’s time to raise our game on the marketing front, we rely on conferences to fund new programs and initiatives.”

With higher stakes on conference attendance and profitability, it only makes sense to recruit outside expertise.  In years past securing an outside public relations/marketing firm was viewed as a luxury, but not any longer, it’s becoming more of a necessity. Since outside public relations/marketing firms also compete for clients, they can be flexible in pricing. Associations and Societies can leverage negotiations and structure contracts in a win/win manner.  Asking a firm to be a partner, and work for an agreed upon fee for service up front with generous incentives if attendance meets or exceeds budget could be attractive.

6 Ways To Boost Conference Attendance

A fully integrated marketing approach will set the stage for strong conference attendance. What matters most is that Associations and Societies utilize multiple platforms to proactively and aggressively reach target markets and achieve or exceed attendance targets:

1. Conference promotion.  Provide: Conference Video, Save the Date Postcards, Sponsorship prospectus, brochures, advertisements. Update Website weekly with all materials.

2. Media engagement. Pitch reporters to attend and conduct interviews. Also, ask media to serve as panel moderators.

3. Extend reach. Implement a barter ad program, reach out to key publications and arrange advertising agreements for the media outlets to publicize conferences in exchange for attendance, booth and selective moderating roles at programs.

4. Ad placement.  Secure print (local and national business journals) and online ads.

5. Affiliate marketing agreements. Send promotional emails to sponsor’s membership base, conference listing on affiliate sites, and exposure in their newsletters.

6. Target E Mail. Segmented direct mail, email. Purchase additional email addresses.

Added Sweetener

Conference registrants appreciate the ability to confirm networking meetings when they register. If your Association or Society offers this service, communicate it across all platforms. This capability is a “must have” and organizations that don’t have this capability should make the investment as soon as possible. In many cases, networking is a key reason why executives attend events. Adding this dimension to conferences will encourage more attendance.

6 Ways to Boost Conference Attendance

BackBay Communications was tasked with elevating awareness, attracting attendance and sponsorship for a financial conference in the height of the recession. Bill Haynes, the firm’s President, and his team developed and executed an integrated marketing campaign that covered the waterfront for their client. By driving powerful messaging through print and online advertising, direct mail, email, event marketing, affiliate marketing, website content, video and media relations, the conference attendance exceeded expectations and broke records.

Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg once noted “The biggest risk is not taking any risk…In a world that is changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.”  Making the investment in an outside Public Relations/ Marketing Firm might look risky but it’s an investment worth making for Associations and Societies.

boost conference attendanceFor a free copy of the “Accelerating Strategic Member Engagement” eBook, request your copy at www.potomaccore.com.




Communication Strategies Drive Growth

communication strategies drive growth

Communication Strategies Drive Growth

 As Associations evaluate new paths to member engagement, conference attendance and revenue growth, Communication Strategies must be on the table. Many agree that driving association messaging is especially challenging. After all, the complexities of today’s news cycle clogs Social and Traditional Media lanes like a Long Island Expressway rush hour. While no one admits to beating the rush hour, some Practitioners have a path to incorporate Communication strategies into an overall Association member engagement and growth strategy.

At a time when Association dollars require ROI, having the right Comms Strategies can improve competitive position, strengthen market positioning and drive revenue growth.

Navigating the complex nature of the media landscape is both art and science for Associations. For Bill Haynes, Founder and President of Boston based BackBay Communications,  a focused and well thought out communication strategies approach is a game changer for Associations.

As a two decade plus veteran of numerous media campaigns, Haynes decided to put a flag in the marketplace, starting his firm in June of 2005, a strategic branding, marketing and public relations firm focused on the financial services sector. Haynes saw a future defining companies and Associations as practical solutions to achieve business growth. A track record defined by client satisfaction and business growth expanded BackBay from Boston to New York and London.

3 Step Content Foundation

Associations can move the needle forward, engage their members, grow conference attendance and increase membership using BackBay’s content driven formula.

Is there a starting point? “Yes,” says Haynes, “Associations have a great opportunity to develop original content that leverages and broadcasts the association’s expertise in the marketplace, offering actionable insights to members, prospects and partners.”

3 Communication Strategies Drive Member Engagement and Growth

  1. Identify unique differentiators. An association’s brand identity, marketing collateral and website should reflect the uniqueness for the association’s brand and underscore the expertise and resources it provides its members.
  2. Develop proprietary branded data. Membership surveys focused on marketplace trends and issues and offering predictions for the near future are very attractive to the media and to the membership base. These survey can be co-branded with media partners or universities, or even member organizations as part of a sponsorship package. Insightful data can be utilized in multiple ways, such as media interviews, bylined articles, white papers, webinars, conferences, newsletters and videos. All of these activities reinforce brand value with current and potential members, board members and sponsors. They also help elected officials recognize the industry’s value in the marketplace.
  3. Build strategic alliances. Associations can magnify their insights and clout through strategic communications alliances with other organizations with strong brands, such as universities, companies, stock exchanges, media outlets and data providers. These alliances add credibility and can significantly boost distribution of your news, insights, brand name and value proposition.

These 3 steps “should be reinforced year-around with timely topical content,” says Haynes, with media pitches to key publications and submission of Association authored articles on relevant topics.

Put to the Test

Hired by a finance Association to boost annual conference attendance in the height of the Great Recession, BackBay Communications was tasked with elevating awareness, attracting attendance and sponsorship. Haynes and his team developed and executed an integrated marketing campaign including print and online advertising, direct mail, email, event marketing, affiliate marketing, website content, video and media relations.

The Conference regardless of the tough economic times, achieved the second highest attendance ever. In reflection, Haynes sees inclusion of his Firm’s 3 Communication Strategies are integral to success.

Communication Strategies Drive Growth

Developing unique differentiators, creating proprietary branded data to share with the media, and building strategic alliances are three strategies that move the member engagement and growth needle for associations. 

While Haynes doesn’t see his firm’s strategies as the solution to traffic congestion on New York’s legendary Long Island Expressway, he does agree that the right Communication Strategies drive membership, sponsorship and conference growth.

For a free copy of the “Accelerating Strategic Member Engagement” eBook, request your copy at www.potomaccore.com.

communication strategies drive growth