Stop Selling Stuff

stop selling stuff

At the start of your board meetings do board members ask themselves “I hope they try selling stuff today?” Of course not. If anything, they want your organization to stop selling stuff. In today’s disruptive environment they are preoccupied with their business challenges and global uncertainty. Hearing endless staff reports and selling stuff is not where they are at anymore.  Today’s board members want strategic meetings focused on their external challenges and they want their Associations to help them address these challenges.

Please Stop Selling Stuff

When your Trade Association was launched, your founders were focused on how an organization could address business challenges and achieve specific outcomes.  They believed a combined effort would accomplish more as an industry or a profession that they could on their own. It’s a safe bet that your founders never imagined that they should hire staff to “sell us stuff” at board meetings. 

Board Members Tuning Out

stop selling stuffEveryone listens to their favorite radio stationWIIFM,” What’s in It for Me. If you observe several board members staring at their mobile devices or texting during your meetings, they’ve already switched channels. Keeping them tuned in to your channel means you must address what they hope to hear.

Highly Engaged and Strategic Boards

How do we make your Association remain number one on their listening dial? First, elevate your board meetings to strategic conversations about board member business challenges. Secondly, minimize the staff “report out” practice as much as possible.  Instead, discuss how these business challenges could be addressed through your association. This makes your meeting relevant and helps to justify a board member’s time away from their business.

What do our board members really tune in for at Board Meetings?

  • Discussions addressing critical business challenges and opportunities and how their Association could help address these challenges.
  • How the Association is continually building more allies to help leverage the industry’s position to reduce regulatory compliance costs.
  • The organization is investing its revenues to produce market research or technologies that provides meaningful insights to reduce costs or grow top line revenue.

These approaches accelerate board engagement and make your board deliberations more strategic. Boards who are highly engaged and strategic in focus outperform those organizations who are not.

Understanding Board and Industry Perceptions

Every board member has different expectations, business challenges, and business opportunities. Knowing and understanding these issues help to align your board meetings with the strategic outcomes that your board members care most about. You can surface these perceptions through your strategic business planning process through:

  • Industry or Profession Focused Board interviews.
  • An industry wide business impact survey (instead of an association focused product and service satisfaction survey).

This detailed and actionable research helps you identify and prioritize the issues that move the needle for your board and the membership.  In doing so, your organization can reposition itself as a solution partner and in doing so become more relevant.

“WISP” A Station Your Board Wants to Hear

Increasingly Trade Associations are positioning their organizations to that of a Worldwide Industry Solution Partner (WISP). For example, NPES, the Aluminum Association, the American Staffing Association, the Society for Vascular Ultrasound, and the Jewelers of America have transformed themselves into WISP’s. Each of these organizations are finding new and innovative ways to serve their members, promote their industry, or help to accelerate the relevance of an important field inside the medical profession.

Worldwide Industry Solution Partners

WISP’s align with and drive business outcomes for industries. For GCCA, the Global Cold Chain Alliance, it’s about helping the industry manage and rein in their regulatory costs:

  • In 2009, the industry’s fines and inspections increased by more than 300%.
  • GCCA signed the first OSHA Alliance with the new administration in mid-2010.
  • The Association collaborated with OSHA on safety initiatives, and inspector training.
stop selling stuff

 

stop selling stuffGCCA’s actions on behalf of the Cold Chain helped reduce compliance costs considerably. By understanding member expectations, member business challenges and top line growth opportunities, the association is much more relevant. What’s more, associations like GCCA are increasingly listener favorites. Its strategic plan is a chart topper, it reflects the industry’s challenges while it helps drive business growth through the Association. GCCA is not selling stuff, it is driving industry business outcomes.

Stop Selling Stuff

stop selling stuffAlthough there are visible signs of economic growth, global terrorism threats and weak consumption are holding back more robust growth. If we want board members to stay tuned to our channel we must play what they want to hear or they will tune us out. So if your board members are sarcastically saying “I hope they try selling stuff today?” It’s out of frustration and only a matter of time before they vote with their feet and their checkbook and tune in to an entirely different channel. What they really mean is stop selling stuff and instead help their industry address its challenges and drive its business outcomes.

stop selling stuff

 

 

Free eBook “Accelerating Strategic Member Engagement” is available upon request for all Association Executives at Potomac Core – Association Consulting

3 Association Radical Transformation Strategies

Association Radical Transformation Strategies

Are persistent growth challenges and global uncertainty opening different pathways for Trade Associations? In several instances, several Association CEO’s are utilizing radical transformation strategies to increase their relevance to the members and the industries they serve. Do Association’s need Radical Transformation Strategies to remain relevant enough to keep their members engaged over the longer term?

Association Radical Transformation Strategies

In 1982, as the global competition and market disruption accelerated, Tom Peters introduced a new way of thinking in his book “In Search of Excellence.” Instead of “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it,” he said “If it ain’t broke, you just haven’t looked hard enough.” As market conditions drive tighter margins and uncertainty limits opportunities for industry growth, Tom Peters bias for action is a clarion call for Associations. The following 3 Association Radical Transformation Strategies will help to radically transform your Association and better position your organization to more impactfully engage your members:

  1. Dispense with traditional Association Strategies, Connect the Value Chain

Engage the entire value chain (suppliers, original equipment manufacturers, producers, customers, and customer’s customer) through qualitative and quantitative research. Identify similarities among business challenges and growth opportunities. In doing so, your organization is positioning itself as the place to address solutions and drive growth from one end of the marketplace to the other.

  1. Forget Competitive Boundaries, Lead and Convene the Value Chain

Forget competitive association boundaries. Convene the industry or profession value chain through your association, collaborate with other associations to address industry business challenges and identify new pathways to top line growth. For example, leverage advocacy resources of the entire value chain to reduce compliance costs. Your bias for action is no longer about your products or services, it’s about industry business outcomes. Driving these outcomes throughout the entire value chain provides the results they must have to succeed. If they succeed, then they remember who helped drive their success and reward you with a renewal or a new membership.

  1. Association Promotion becomes secondary, Promote and Grow the Industry or Profession throughout the Value Chain

In a hyper competitive world, relevance is the key that can unlock the business and professional outcomes that your members need. This is the bias for action that matters, promote the industry through actionable research. Utilize it to demonstrate the industry’s impact to advocate with elected officials, regulators, and industry customers. Also, develop actionable research to identify opportunities to increase efficiency or unlock growth opportunities throughout the value chain. Having the value chain at the table creates allies to drive business outcomes.  Anything less and your Association’s membership is at risk.

Transformation and Action

Trade Associations who demonstrate a bias for action and transformation are increasing. As global market complexities increase, several CEO’s are embracing transformation as the better pathway to keep their Association’s relevant. What’s more, each of these Associations is finding it easier to engage their members because of the relevance to their business challenges and outcomes.

Association Radical Transformation Strategies

Thayer Long, NPES President since May of 2016, sees his organization’s strategic planning process as an ongoing act of invention. Although the plan was approved by the organization’s Board of Directors in December 2016, this is a larger effort to support global growth for the print and imaging industry. An NPES Core Team is convening representatives of the value chain (original equipment manufacturers, printers, and brand owners) to ensure that new products and services provide real time solutions to drive business outcomes. Actionable data and acting on what they know versus what they think is now a part of the NPES DNA. The association wants to remain nimble to take full advantage of any new opportunities help reduce costs or to support top line growth for the industry they serve.

Association Radical Transformation StrategiesCorey Rosenbusch, Global Cold Chain Alliance President & CEO maintains a relentless focus on a strategic plan reflecting the business outcomes of refrigerated food and logistics industry around the world. GCCA developed disruptive advocacy strategies to lower the costs of regulatory compliance for their members. What’s different today? The association leads and convenes an ongoing broader industry effort focusing on cost reduction.

Since adoption of its new strategic plan GCCA has experienced 25% growth in annual revenue.

Association Radical Transformation StrategiesHeidi Brock, President & CEO, the Aluminum Association and her team have transformed the way they serve their members. Tightly aligning advocacy strategies with member business outcomes and continually providing actionable research to share with elected officials and prospective customers of the industry keeps the Association relevant. Moreover Brock, her team, and the Association’s Executive Committee work towards quantifiable outcomes for the Aluminum Industry.

The Aluminum Association is experiencing 11% membership growth, retention improved 3%, and their core revenue is 6% higher than the prior year.

3 Association Radical Transformation Strategies

Should your Association adjust its bias for action? Start by asking these four questions of your Board and your members:

  1. As you think about the Association over the last 3-5 years what has the organization achieved in terms of direct impact on your costs of doing business and your opportunities to grow your topline revenue?
  2. Over the next 3-5 years what are the industry’s most significant challenges, threats and business growth opportunities?
  3. How aligned is the Association with these challenges and opportunities?
  4. Would you like the value chain at the table with us to help build solutions and drive future topline growth?

The answers to these questions will provide the basis you need to launch your 3 Association Radical Transformation Strategies.

Association Radical Transformation Strategies

 

 

Free eBook “Accelerating Strategic Member Engagement” is available upon request for all Association Executives at Potomac Core – Association Consulting

4 Association Disruption Strategies

4 Association Disruption Strategies

The 2017 PWC 20th annual CEO Survey, fourth quarter domestic GDP numbers and the 2017 Conference Board Global forecast of 2.3% economic growth show just how challenging business conditions are for today’s business decision makers. Organizations can help their members convert these challenges into growth opportunities by utilizing 4 Association Disruption Strategies. In doing so you, can position your organization as disruptive growth agents for the Industry or the Profession you serve.

Disrupt Ourselves

Embracing the hyper competitive environment is essential in a time of global uncertainty and disruption for all Association and Professional Society Leaders. “We have to disrupt ourselves every day,” notes Thayer Long, President of Reston, Virginia based NPES.  He points to how his Association is answering the call and positioning itself to be a growth agent for the printing and imaging industry.  In a recently completed Strategic Plan update, he reflects on how NPES with Board and Market guidance is addressing  challenges and competitive threats for the Industry and the Association.

Transforming into agents of change and growth helps keep your organization more relevant. In today’s environment, members demand real time solutions that advance their concerns and achieve results. By adding these 4 Association Disruption Strategies into your planning process, your organization becomes an important part of everyday conversations.

4 Association Disruption Strategies

  1. Obtain Actionable Data – Understanding challenges and opportunities for the Profession or Industry you represent is a must. Utilizing an impact and member engagement focused survey can help you obtain more realistic assessments of how relevant and connected your organization is to the outcomes that members seek to achieve. Taking your members pulse annually through impact and memebr engagement surveys will especially help keep your organization aligned with your members and their customers.

2.  Position the Association as an Outcome Driver Changing the conversation from “here’s what you get for your money” to “here’s the power of engaging with others in your Industry/Profession to create new, innovative solutions” positions your organization as a thought leader and a solution provider.

3. Deliver Products to Drive Impact  Avoiding the “all you can eat buffet” environment that adds more products dilutes value and dampens staff enthusiasm over time. This posture also causes your members to perceive your Association or Professional Society as less relevant. For example, a data based approach that utilizes survey results from members and their customers can validate what your members need to achieve their business outcomes.  Using this approach NPES was able to affirm the need to deliver actionable Industry Research for Global Print Manufacturers, Printers, and the Big Brand Companies.

4. Keep Strategic Plans NimbleAs business cycles shift, your organization must be able to adapt and remain relevant. For instance, it’s not yet clear on what the Post Brexit environment will look like nor is it clear how health care policy will evolve. Collaborating with your board to build and adjust an organization Business Plan instead of the traditional Strategic Plan helps you respond instantaneously to market changes.

Applying these 4 Association Disruption Strategies to develop your new Business Plan can help your Association or Professional Society accelerate its relevance and motivate higher levels of Member and Industry engagement. By doing so, your organization becomes the focal point for the Profession or Industry you represent. For NPES, extensive survey research and strategic deliberations with their board positions the organization as the focal point for the global imaging and printing industry growth.

4 Association Disruption Strategies

4 Association Disruption Strategies

The Merriam Webster definition of disrupt helps to frame the decision point for you as an Association Executive or an Executive Director:

  • “to cause (something) to be unable to continue in the normal way: to interrupt the normal progress or activity of (something)”

In today’s uncertain and anemic growth environment, should Associations and Professional Societies utilize their Business Planning (formerly known as Strategic Planning) process to “disrupt themselves?” Is there any other choice?

4 Association Disruption Strategies

 

 

 

Free eBook “Accelerating Strategic Member Engagement” is available upon request for all Association Executives at Potomac Core – Association Consulting

Breakthrough Associations

breakthrough-associations

The flow of economic forecasts and performance, global crisis, disruptive innovation, and the real time updates on the U.S. elections are mind numbing. The constant stream of information reminds association executives just how complex the world has become for your members. How can your organization utilize its strategic planning process to help your members in new and different ways that increase your association’s relevance? The 5 step Breakthrough Associations process starts by expanding your association’s traditional boundaries and uniting the industry’s “value chain” within the ranks of your association.

I. Go Beyond Traditional Boundaries

What if your association was the uniting force, the link that brought the key players to work together?  With technology capabilities you can link buyers, sellers, and suppliers throughout the world, so why not capture the entire industry? Breakthrough associations provides a seat at the table for the entire “value chain” of an industry.

Think of your association in a different way, having one stop shopping capability where your members network, build alliances, and develop creative solutions and identify growth opportunities for the industry. The association becomes the leader, convener, and facilitator, and it helps member executives make effective use of limited time. Its boundaries go beyond traditional membership definitions, and links the industry “value chain” to become the global strategic partner.

II. Take the Temperature of the Entire Value Chain 

The 2014 the Strategic Member Engagement Survey noted that organizations with upward trending 3 year operating results were far more likely to better understand memberup at night issues and to engage members in acting upon those needs. Expanding the scope of the research to include the entire “value chain” could provide even more compelling data.

Breakthrough associations who conduct qualitative and quantitative research on the entire “value chain” deliver powerful data because it:

  • Surfaces external challenges and business growth opportunities among a group of companies who are interconnected and need each other to successfully bring products to the marketplace.
  • Segments stakeholders to highlight important differences, as well as similarities, and opportunities for all stakeholders throughout the “value chain.”

III. Utilize Industry Strategic Planning Instead of Association Strategic Planning

When it comes to breakthrough associations, Board leaders view the association’s strategic planning retreat as an essential activity. They see the Association’s Strategic Planning as an extension of their own company’s long term planning efforts. Throughout the meeting, the focus of the discussion is the future of the industry and not the future of the association. Most of the board’s deliberation and brainstorming centers around the actionable data. Similar to internal company meetings, association board members prioritize the most impactful strategies. These strategic priorities are vetted by Association CEOs and their staff team. Final determinations on which activities to move forward are made based on the industry impact. Cost and revenue considerations also play important roles in the assessment process.

Throughout the process Board Members assess the viability of potential new strategies and insure these approaches align with the desired industry growth outcomes. The updated Vision and Mission statements forgo the utilization of the traditional vision, and mission statements highlighting the association and instead define how the new plan will position and strengthen the industry and the value chain.

IV. Build a “Value Chain” Focused Roadmap

Board members collaborate with association staff to make sure that the key performance indicators indeed reflect the industry growth outcomes that align with the “value chain” Impact Survey. The Roadmap identifies the timing and phasing of new “value chain” initiatives. The roadmap process also determines what activities remain and which activities are discontinued. Breakthrough associations only invest resources in strategic activities that help the industry achieve its business outcomes.

Since the “value chain” experiences frequent and sudden changes in market conditions, the association is prepared to shift priorities with a more flexible approach to strategic planning.

V. Implement a “What We Do Together” Culture 

Board Leadership and the CEO share the new plan, mission, and vision with the “value chain” to emphasize how value will be delivered through the association to help suppliers, manufacturers, end users, and their customers achieve their business outcomes through the Association.

Breakthrough Associations

Breakthrough Associations can be at the cutting edge of transformation. By expanding your strategic planning process from a singular focus to a “value chain” focus, your association will build solutions that help address industry challenges while you support industry growth.

breakthrough associations

 

 

 

Free eBook “Accelerating Strategic Member Engagement” is available upon request for all Association Executives at Potomac Core – Association Consulting

 

post brexit associations

Post Brexit Associations

The Brexit vote in the United Kingdom along with modest and subdued global economic growth will continue to affect corporate decisions on external costs not related to top line growth and operating performance. Associations in a number of instances are increasingly more relevant, and have strategic objectives closely aligned with the industries they serve. These organizations also have the characteristics that define Post Brexit Associations.  However, in a rapidly evolving global market, how aligned is your association in order to help your members and their industries meet new challenges?

recession ready association

The Recession Ready Association

It’s been seven years since the end of the great recession and one economist thinks there is a 60% chance of a recession next year. As global uncertainty and slow U.S. economic growth dominate the landscape, CEO’s should assess whether or not they are leading a recession ready association. While the next recession may not be as severe as the last one, be rest assured that business leaders are continually increasing scrutiny over expenditures not related to corporate performance.

Regulatory Activity Reshaping Associations

Regulatory Activity Reshaping Associations

Where are CEO’s planning to spend their time in 2016? According to a KPMG study of 400 Chief Executives, “34% spend more time with regulators or are considering doing so.” The same report notes the regulatory environment as the number one issue that can “impact a company”, and adapting to government regulation is ranked as CEO’s second most critical challenge. For companies, the spike in regulatory activity is real. In 2015, Thomson Reuters published its sixth annual Cost of Compliance Survey noting among other challenges “regulatory fatigue.” Is the increase in regulatory activity reshaping associations?

Positive Association Disruption

Positive Association Disruption

Can positive association disruption reverse the fortunes for industry professionals and an organization? In a weak economic growth environment, it’s a daunting task. According to the 2016 PWC U.S. CEO Survey concerns “over volatility and over-regulation are rising.” What’s more, Reuters reported that retail sales slipped in a recent report and fourth quarter U.S. economic growth was only 1%.  How can an Association overtake an economic cycle and put its members and itself in the driver’s seat? The answer is its possible and for one Association it yielded a $1 million turnaround in operating performance.

Disruptive Advocacy Strategies

Disruptive Advocacy Strategies

Can Disruptive Advocacy Strategies unlock industry growth and cost saving opportunities for your members in a slow growth economy?  While the possibility of a recession seems unlikely this year, growth remains a challenge for many industries. According to the Conference Board, U.S. growth in 2016 is forecast at 2.0% while Global growth is forecast slightly higher at 2.5%. As increasing regulatory oversight dominates the federal and global landscape, building an agency focused strategy on behalf of your members can pay dividends for the industry and for your association.

disruptive innovation

Disruptive Innovation Creates Association Opportunities

Disruptive Innovation “describes a process whereby a smaller company with fewer resources is able to successfully challenge established incumbent businesses.” In a slowing and uneven global economy, are your members looking somewhere else for lower cost and innovative solutions? Are your members less confident about their growth opportunities than they were a year or two ago? Does your membership perceive your association as being aligned with their business and professional goals? Having actionable data that answers these questions is more important than ever for associations in a world of disruptive innovation.