Members Hire Bold Strategies

Members Hire Bold Strategies

Members Hire Bold Strategies. Part of that boldness is how much their Industry Trade Association Strategic Plan reflects the challenges and business outcomes that members care most about. As busy executives are under constant pressure to meet and exceed profit targets, they expect the organizations they are part of to deliver bold strategies and results.  If not, Members will vote with their feet and go somewhere else.

New Mantra:  Members Hire Bold Strategies

Make no mistake about it, busy executives have choices about where to participate. If there is not a connection between what your Association does and what a member needs to achieve, they are gone, and possibly forever. For your organization to remain relevant, strategies and planning must be based on what bold actions your Association can take to influence the external environment where members conduct business. It’s no longer about what your Association needs to achieve, instead it’s about understanding what blocks your member’s progress and what clears a pathway for future success. Another reminder that Members  Hire Bold Strategies.

Every Industry Faces Tough Challenges

The nature of a global and dynamic marketplace means that every Industry faces more than its fair share of challenges and growth opportunities. What’s different today is how the business environment is increasingly more complicated. Economic uncertainty, disruptive innovation, & political gridlock can sometimes be the strategic equivalent to a toxic “triple cocktail.” Today’s Association Boards are seizing a new moment and utilizing their Strategic Planning process to position the Industry Trade Association to help their Industry do blocking and tackling in a very meaningful way.

One recent example is the Washington, DC based American Bakers Association (ABA). Following the great recession of 2008, the Wholesale Baking Industry faced an onslaught of regulation, increasing costs, worker shortages, changing consumer tastes, and online competition. In March of 2017, a Task Force comprised of the Board of Directors and Staff Leadership launched a Strategic Planning process. From the start, the process focused on how to best align ABA with the Baking Industry to support its ongoing growth and success.

Industry Engagement and Survey Research

Since Members Hire Bold Strategies, ABA took a different pathway to update its Strategic Plan. Instead of utilizing an Association focused Strategic Planning process and member satisfaction focused research, ABA leveraged in-depth survey research and interviews of the baking Industry. Their focus was to get a clear picture on the challenges facing their members and align the organization with the business success that the Industry wants to achieve.

Members Hire Bold Strategies

 

The process was driven through a collaborative effort of a Board Task Force and a Staff Leadership Team. Throughout, Industry leaders thoughtfully and strategically guided the process to the clear outcomes they want ABA to address:

  • Industry growth and promotion to protect it from government overreach
  • Advancement of careers to improve worker retention
  • Attraction of skilled talent to contribute to Industry growth

Members Hire Bold StrategiesWhat do these clear outcomes really help drive?  For an Industry facing tough challenges they have an ally to help them create a more receptive environment to grow the Baking Industry. Robb MacKie, President & CEO and his Team are energized with the new Strategic Plan and the Industry’s support to execute their new plan.  “Thanks to the strong plan the members have created, ABA will be better aligned with the business success of the Baking Industry. ABA is the voice for the Industry and that voice will now be even more effective.”

Association Mission and Vision in the Rear View Mirror

Association relevance isn’t about the organization any longer. It’s about the Industry or the Profession that is represented by the Association. Instead of an Association Mission & Vision Statement, it’s a Strategic Objective. A Strategic Objective is all about what the Industry will have achieved because of the Association’s Strategic Plan. Yes, it must be a bold statement because Members Hire Bold Strategies. For ABA, it’s means highlighting the far-reaching and positive impact the Baking Industry has in the United States:

Members Hire Bold Strategies

Actionable and Industry Focused Strategic Initiatives

Utilizing Survey Research and Strategic guidance from a Board Task Force, ABA’s Staff Leadership Team formulated initiatives and activities that pinpoint what the Baking Industry seeks to achieve.

Members Hire Bold Strategies Members Hire Bold Strategies

As part of its due diligence, ABA also conducted an evaluation and assessment planning process to ensure that the organization is best positioned to address & solve Industry problems for the members:

  • Sunsetting process to identify their non core products
  • Readiness Assessment on existing & new core products

The initial phase of the Strategic Plan was approved by the Board of Directors on April 15, 2018 and presented by the Board Task Force to an all Membership Meeting at the Annual Convention in Scottsdale, Arizona. The Staff Leadership team will finalize Metrics to measure new product & service impact on Industry Business & Growth Challenges and report the plan’s progress on an annual basis to the Board Strategic Planning Task Force. Reflecting on a year long Industry Focused Strategic Planning Process, ABA Immediate Past Chair Fred Penny said “This plan is a product of the ABA membership. We could not have done this without the candid feedback and guidance of our member leaders.”

Members Hire Bold Strategies

Members Hire Bold Strategies

No one knows when the next economic recession will occur. Yet what remains clear is that economic uncertainty, disruptive innovation, & political gridlock will continue to force Industry and Professional Associations to demonstrate relevance. Understanding why Members Hire Associations, & why they Fire Associations are the threshold questions that every Association CEO must answer. Once they’ve done that, they will understand that from now on Members Hire Only Bold Strategies.

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Members Hire Associations, Members Fire Associations

Members hire associations

Members hire Associations, Members fire Associations is what the new mantra will be for Association Executives in 2018. The evolving external environment is continually redefining how member executives assess the impact of their memberships. At year end 2017, Association Executives would find it useful to see the world as their members do and understand what help they need to make progress in their Industry or Profession. While economists forecast a brighter global growth picture, your members still face a myriad of uncertainty. Cyber & nuclear threats, disruptive innovation, and increasing competition for market share will continue to reshape how members view their memberships. This means organizations will require new and different external research to understand what tools they must provide in order to help their members make progress.

Members Hire Associations, Members Fire Associations

Since the end of the great recession, Boards are helping their Associations see the world as they see it. Pushing an all you can eat buffet as your value proposition is now the dark ages. Even connectivity to business and professional challenges and providing immediate solutions represent a smaller fraction of evolving member expectations. In other words, if your Association is not perceived as a vehicle to help drive progress for your members and prospective members then your organization:

  1. Will likely be fired by your members.
  2. Will not be hired by your prospective members.

In 2018 the new mantra will be: Members hire Associations, Members fire Associations.

Research Keeps Associations Connected to Member Problems that Need to Be Solved

For organizational CEO’s embracing the new marketplace that Members hire Associations, Members fire Associations you’ve taken an important first step. As Boards insist upon more operational rigor at their Associations, they are turning to externally focused and segmented research. This data is playing an increasingly important role in strategic planning and product development. In several cases, Association CEO’s are assessing strategies, products, & services as for profit executives do at global enterprises.

The National Association of Independent Schools

NAIS is a nonprofit membership association that provides services to more than 1,800 schools and associations of schools in the United States and abroad, including more than 1,500 independent private K-12 schools in the U.S.


Members hire associationsAs the new NAIS President, Donna Orem, her Board, and her team set out to build a segmented research study to profile the market of Private Schools. Their research identified four segments in their marketplace. What they learned was how each segment differs in terms of goals they hope to achieve, professional needs, and demographic characteristics. While each segment presented different implications, NAIS leveraged Board guidance and took to address the differences in each member segment. This work only took them so far, however. After learning from a board member about the Jobs To Be Done framework, the board and leadership team agreed that this approach, which explores what causes someone to hire or fire a product or service, could provide even more actionable insights.

“Jobs to Be Done” Approach

Harvard Professor Clayton M. Christiansen has researched what makes businesses successful in his over twenty years of teaching at Harvard Business School.  He is most well known for creating the theory of Disruptive Innovation. He put forth the “Jobs To Be Done” Approach in his recent book Competing Against Luck.  The underlying premise is that in today’s marketplace “people no longer buy products or services. Instead they hire them to make progress.” The NAIS team utilized this approach to develop value propositions that addressed the struggles that heads of schools and administrators face and to understand how those struggles change as they progress through their careers.

The process changed the way the organization and the Board develops and delivers value to their members, and redefined how the Association thinks from strategy through implementation.

NAIS is already utilizing their newly minted strategies to retain and acquire new members and accordingly Donna Orem notes, “We found the JTBD work to be transformational.”

Club Managers Association of America

The Club Managers Association of America (CMAA) is the professional Association for managers of membership clubs. CMAA has close to 6,700 members across all classifications.


Members hire associationsFor Jeff Morgan & his team, it’s imperative to have a business minded research systematic approach in product management and strategy. They utilize approaches developed management consulting firms including the Boston Consulting Group, McKinsey, Ansoff, and Blue Ocean Strategy. Their assessment process helps the CMAA team reach a “problems to be solved” determination on each of their products:

 

  • Ensure the Association is serving its members (Mission)
  • Make better (supportable) strategic decisions
  • Help to prune portfolio of products to make room for new ones
  • Improve internal resource allocation
  • Product-lifecycle focus
  • Strategy alignment (internally/externally)

These steps have helped CMAA deliver increased strategic and operational rigor to their product management approaches. The process has been “an integral part of how the organization delivers increasing value to Club Management Professionals at each stage of their careers.”

American Bakers Association

The American Bakers Association (ABA) is the Washington D.C. based voice of the wholesale baking industry. ABA represents the interests of bakers before the U.S. Congress, federal agencies, and international regulatory authorities. ABA advocates on behalf of more than 1,000 baking facilities and baking company suppliers.


energizing member engagementRobb MacKie, President & CEO sees the Baking Industry experiencing unprecedented disruption and evolving consumer attitudes. Determined to identify a “problems to be solved approach,” they launched a research based strategic planning process. What’s different about it is how the process is geared toward an external perspective of business challenges and how ABA could accelerate its impact on all segments of the Baking Industry. The Association also seeks to determine how they can continually increase their alignment with the Industry they serve.

Similar to NAIS and CMAA, ABA’s business focus is drawn partially from leading business authors including Chris Zook, “Profit From The Core. Growth Strategy In An Era of Turbulence.”  Through this process Robb Mackie, the Board, and the Senior Team have surfaced & identified the core challenges and problems to be solved for the Industry today. Their focus is to build a new and more nimble strategy that continually aligns ABA with the Baking Industry.

Part of ABA’s Operational Rigor includes an evaluation and assessment planning process to ensure that the organization is best positioned to address & solve Industry problems for the members:

  • Sunsetting process to identify their noncore products
  • Operational Readiness Assessment on existing & New Core Products
  • Developing Metrics to measure new product & service impact on Industry Business & Growth Challenges

Because of externally focused and segmented research, NAIS, CMAA, and ABA have greater understanding into what’s next for Associations,  Members Hire Associations, Members Fire Associations.

Ongoing Alignment Test: Members Hire Associations, Members Fire Associations 

Part of the next evolution of Association strategic planning and product development is how externally focused and segmented research is driving strategy and implementation to help members solve their problems.

Members hire associationsEarlier this year, NPES launched an ambitious strategic plan to align and grow the global printing and imaging Industry. As part of its strategic overhaul Thayer Long, President, is focusing the organization to more quickly and readily adapt to emerging Industry challenges. He sees ongoing research as necessary to maintain ongoing alignment with the members. Through ongoing research NPES is increasing its understanding of why members hire/fire Associations. For example, the Association now:

  • Maintains an Alignment dashboard focused on Industry performance.
  • Conducts an annual Industry Alignment survey research to measure its impact on the problems that need to be solved.

Having this additional research will help NPES and other organizations who are embracing the new reality: Members hire Associations, Members fire Associations.

Members Hire Associations, Members Fire Associations

Strategic planning and product development are rapidly changing. These are not just one time exercises. Instead, its ongoing research that will continually help to identify member problems that need to be solved. It’s more comprehensive and it requires drilling down through segmented qualitative and quantitative research to surface the member problems that need to be solved.  This is a four step process that will position Associations to drive ongoing progress for its members:

Members hire associations

As the curtain rises in 2018 the new reality is Members hire Associations, Members fire Associations.  Adjusting to the new reality requires externally focused and segmented research that helps your organization understand what help members need in order to make progress. Welcome to 2018: Members hire Associations, Members fire Associations.

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Energizing Member Engagement

energize member engagement

Driving Sustainable Industry Growth Helps Trade Associations Energize Member Engagement 

With global economic uncertainty dominating most conversations, we’re learning that Trade Associations who drive sustainable industry growth are helping their organizations by energizing member engagement. Forward thinking CEO’s are utilizing Strategic Planning or Business and Engagement Planning to research Industry challenges and Business outcomes and then identify their Associations as extensions of Industries. By following this approach these Association Executives are now energizing member engagement.

Global Uncertainty is Not Going Away  

energizing member engagement

Despite eight plus years of growth in the United States and improving economic performance in Europe, challenges remain. A second quarter survey conducted by the Association of Finance Professionals reflects some of these concerns. According to the recently released results, “treasury & finance professionals remained apprehensive about the economy, and similar to last quarter, their organizations accumulated cash and short‐term investment holdings in response.”

Mixed Bag for Global Manufacturers

Although global manufacturers are experiencing improving conditions, there are reasons to maintain caution according to Chad Moutray, Energizing member engagementChief Economist for the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM). “It is clear that the global manufacturing sector has turned a corner, with improvements in demand and production seen in many key markets. As a result, the manufacturer outlook remains quite elevated and exports have increased this year – a nice turnaround after numerous challenges cited in the past two years. Yet, even with progress, business leaders are anxious for pro-growth policy changes, and geopolitical worries are also a constant source of uncertainty.”

Energizing Member Engagement is a Must for Trade Associations 

Regardless of global uncertainty, company executives face increasing pressure to deliver top line growth and earnings performance. How do Trade Associations utilize these factors to energize member engagement? By building Trade Associations that Drive Sustained Industry Growth.  Energizing member engagement in today’s world is so much more a journey than a destination. Why? Based on the current trajectory the complexity of Industry Growth Challenges will only increase. This means that Trade Association CEO’s who perceive these growth challenges as opportunistic for their organizations are on target to align themselves with the Industry challenges and Business outcomes that their members care the most about. In doing so, energizing member engagement becomes more about Industry Growth than it does about Trade Association performance.

Energizing Member Engagement Means You Are an Industry Growth Advocate

If members perceive your Trade Association as focused on what it must achieve instead of what the Industry must achieve, they are heading for the exit ramp. Organizations who want to energize member engagement must reposition the organization as an Industry growth advocate. This shifts the conversation, and demonstrates the return on member engagement that your members insist upon in an uncertain global environment.

Geopolitical uncertainty and technological disruption are dramatically changing Traditional Trade Association Strategic Planning processes. Static three year Strategic Plans are being replaced with a nimbler Business or Engagement Planning regimen.  It’s now about becoming an Industry Growth Advocate through a 3 step process involving direct engagement of your board, your members, Industry Suppliers, and Industry Customers that requires:

  1. Industry Survey Research – Comprehensive and segmented understanding of the challenges and growth opportunities in the Industry.
  2. Industry Brainstorming – Collaboration among your Board of Directors with your staff team to generate new ideas and approaches to address challenges and move the needle for the Industry.
  3. Industry Business & Engagement Planning – More Board collaboration to construct a nimble Business and engagement plan to address challenges and grow the Industry.

Once all the steps are completed, your organization is positioned as a flexible and thoughtful “Industry Growth” advocate.

Energizing Member Engagement

Why Your Trade Association Should Consider This Approach and Energize Member Engagement

It provides 3 reasons why your organizations should utilize this approach to Building Trade Associations that Drive Sustained Industry Growth:

  1. An actionable and data driven business plan reflecting the Industry’s challenges and desired Business outcomes.
  2. A more closely aligned organization connected with the Industry’s challenges and business outcomes.
  3. It delivers an environment where energizing member engagement becomes more likely.

CEO’s Who are Building Trade Associations that Drive Sustained Industry Growth & They Are Energizing Member Engagement

energizing member engagement

 

 

 

energizing member engagementCorey Rosenbusch, President & CEO, Global Cold Chain Alliance (GCCA) notes, “the impact beyond driving revenue was shifting our mindset and Strategic Plan from an inward focus to an outward focus, with an intended impact on member’s Business outcomes.” The organization’s mission now is to “grow the Industry and lead the cold chain.”

GCCA reinforces their plan to “Grow The Industry, Lead The Cold Chain, Develop Talent and Drive Supply Chain Profitability” with Key Performance Indicators. The Association is continually reinforcing its commitment to growth of the Industry. Two years ago, GCCA and United Fresh launched a Global Cold Chain Expo bringing customers together with Industries that are engaged in temperature controlled logistics. The organization is also launching an Industry customer survey to inform their members on current and emerging trends in food storage and logistics.

One of GCCA’s goals is to “Drive Supply chain profitability and do so by mitigating the cost of regulatory compliance.” The chart below will show how their Industry focus helped to achieve a decrease in the number of violations and OSHA fines per inspection.

energizing member engagement

 

Two years after their plan was approved, the Trade Association reports a 25% increase in revenue.

energizing member engagement

 

 

 

energizing member engagementThayer Long, President, NPES, The Association for Suppliers of Printing, Publishing and Converting Technologies, sought a data driven approach in order to energize member engagement by connecting his organization with Industry Challenges and outcomes. Reflecting upon the process, he notes “Our team is aligning itself with Industry and the entire value chain. Through this process we are well situated to have a major impact on Industry outcomes and results. We now can become the leader which our members and the industry need.”

NPES and its Board developed a Business plan geared toward moving the needle for the Industry. Leveraging Industry and Customer Survey Research the Staff Team and Board of Directors established 2 top priorities to help the industry improve its operating excellence and grow its top line revenue.

energizing member engagement

Along with his Senior Team, Thayer Long is also building a dashboard to serve as an Industry Alignment Index.  NPES will utilize these metrics and annual survey research to ensure that it remains laser focused on helping and supporting Industry growth.

energizing member engagement

 

 

energizing member engagement

 

energizing member engagement

In one of the oldest and most vital industrial segments, Bakers, Suppliers, and Retailers are seeking ways to achieve growth in a changing environment. The Baking Industry is an important driver of economic activity. Currently, it generates over $153 billion in economic activity annually with an employment base of 799,000 skilled people. In a period of disruption and evolving customer attitudes, the Association sought a data driven planning process to help them uncover future opportunities for the Baking Industry. From market disruption to evolving consumer attitudes, Robb MacKie, President & CEO of ABA sees a data driven planning and engagement process as essential for the Trade Association and for the Baking Industry.

Recently an ABA Task Force reviewed Industry Survey Data and Robb Mackie indicated that in an uncertain Business environment, “We needed to uncover critical challenges and new opportunities to support our Industry. Our Board Task Force is very impressed by the candor of our discussions and appreciates having an opportunity to identify new and different ways to help them achieve success.”

Energizing Member Engagement

For the Global Cold Chain Alliance, NPES, and the American Bakers Association energizing member engagement is connected to building Trade Associations that Drive Sustained Industry Growth. Utilizing Industry Survey Research, Industry Brainstorming, and an Industry Business and Engagement Planning approach, these Trade Associations are aligned with Industry Business Challenges and Growth Outcomes. In doing so, energizing member engagement and increasing Executive participation is much more likely.

This article reflects key insights shared by the participants (referenced in the article) and moderator (the author) at the “Building Trade Associations that Drive Sustained Industry Growth” Panel at the Council of Manufacturing Associations Summer Conference in Boston, Massachusetts, August 4, 2017. #NAMCMA. Left to right: Panel Moderator, Daniel A. Varroney, President & CEO, Potomac Core – Association Consulting, Panelists & CMA Members, Corey Rosenbusch, President & CEO, Global Cold Chain Alliance, Thayer Long, President, NPES, and Robb MacKie, President & CEO, American Bakers Association. 

 

energizing member engagement

 

 

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Compelling Member Engagement

Compelling Member Engagement

Polarization in Washington, DC, and market disruption are opening doors for Associations to create more compelling member engagement experiences for their members. Associations can be more proactive and less reactive by providing more opportunities for their members to share knowledge and build new solutions that drive business and professional outcomes.

Compelling Member Engagement Using “Pull” and “Push” 

The customary approach for associations is to seek out knowledge experts and then “push” that person’s knowledge out to the masses via educational programs, newsletters, and journals. Today’s associations who view their role as the integrator, aggregator, curator and enabler are creating more compelling member engagement experiences. This is accomplished by “pulling” members together and facilitating the sharing of knowledge so that innovative solutions are created to address shared challenges and opportunities. The “push” and “pull” doctrine means that your association:

  • Captures the insights of many members and stakeholders.
  • Provides the tools that enable members to tap into the collective knowledge of the critical insights as soon as they need them.

Surface Critical Challenges That Must Be Addressed

Your organizations can utilize focus groups and survey research to pinpoint industry and professional challenges that must be addressed. This means utilizing survey instruments that identify member “up at night” issues and then engaging your board and key volunteer leaders to understand the full impact of what is learned and how it can be applied successfully to impact professions and drive business outcomes. Having research based conclusions is an essential part of creating a more compelling member engagement.

Identify Who Most Wants to Contribute and Collaborate  

Being able to pinpoint those members who want to most contribute and collaborate will help your association build the more compelling member engagement experiences. In the strategic member engagement survey released in 2014, those associations and professional societies who report that they can identify member segments that want to contribute and collaborate more often:

  • Have a board that understands and strategizes about core member needs to a “very high” degree.
  • Report an upward trend in 3-year annual revenue.

Applying the Pull and Push Doctrine at Your Association

Since association boards and CEO’s want their organization to be more pro-active and less reactive, the push and pull doctrine is increasingly important. What’s more important is how your association transforms from a reactive to a proactive posture in relatively short period of time. Utilizing this box, you can reposition products or services to become more timely and impactful to member’s professional challenges and business growth outcomes. 

Compelling Member Engagement

Case Study – Creating More Compelling Member Engagement

compelling member engagementThe American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy based in Alexandria, Virginia has 25,000 members that fall into three core groups: Academics, Agency, and Private Practice. The Profession utilizes the organization as its platform to advance the Profession and practice of marriage and family therapy. According to Tracy Todd, Chief Executive Officer of AAMFT, the starting point for critical therapy topics (“push”) for their members include that the Association and its online community:

  • A primary source of information for consumers.
  • Therapists utilize the site to market their practice.
  • Support the reputation of marriage and family therapists through AAMFT.

In today’s dynamic environment topical, needs evolved much more quickly and the online community fell out of date, driving member resentment and caused the organization to lose revenue.

AAMFT – “Pull” and “Push” to Energize Member Engagement

“Pull” 

Crowdsourced topics and sought input on topics from Members and:

  • Sought editors and contributors, and facilitated knowledge sharing conversations per subject matter area

“Push”

Used subject matter experts in groups to develop thought leadership pushed out to members on-demand including:

  • Fact sheets/brochures and current information

Outcomes

Created more compelling member engagement experiences:

  • Accelerated credibility of the Profession among members and consumers
  • Member feedback included “Nice to see AAMFT using member expertise” and “Thank you for helping AAMFT to open itself up for input.”

Identifying and Responding to Industry Disruptors

Compelling Member EngagementThe “push” and “pull” doctrine can also be utilized as a strategy to help identify and respond to industry disruptors. Associations can utilize industry market research to surface new trends to surface potential disruptors. For example, NPES, through its PRIMR product is effectively engaging the industry’s value chain to uncover challenges and potential opportunities by:

  • Expanding involvement of Printers and Advertising Agencies
  • Involving Brand Owners in the research program
  • Including research with case studies on the effectiveness of print
  • Create and formatting research for “action”

Compelling Member Engagement

While advocacy, education, and information are staple association offerings, it’s not enough to drive more compelling member engagement experiences in today’s complex environment. Research shows that organizations who utilize the doctrine of “pull” and “push” can accelerate member engagement and improve their operating performance. The national associations in the Strategic Member Engagement Survey most often reported an upward 3-year trend in: Member Retention, Annual Operating Revenue Registrations to the Primary Annual Meeting, Annual Revenue from Fee-for-Service Offerings, and Timely Membership Renewals.

compelling member engagement

 

 

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Just Another Association

just another association

Strive to Be More Than Just Another Association 

Associations who seek to grow or expand revenues need to be more than just another association. In today’s uncertain global business environment, associations must be perceived as extensions of company and industry business strategies and not be just another association. Those who are aligned with business challenges and outcomes are relevant because they relate to what really matters. Having this connectivity is the critical ingredient to making your association durable and more able to grow revenue.

Inside Out Means Your Just Another Association

Despite more robust economic growth forecasts, companies still face regulatory hurdles, changing consumer sentiments, and disruptive market forces. The “internet of everything” is lowering the barrier of entry for all products and services and reshaping how consumers make their purchasing decisions. Traditional food retailers are addressing loss in foot traffic as health focused consumers seek out online “farm to fork” retailers. The insurance industry sees its consumers seeking out lower cost options for life, property, and casualty insurance coverage.

Being just another association means that members perceive your organization as focused on what it needs instead of helping the members and their companies, professions or industries achieve their outcomes. Since your members have more options than ever to consume new solutions, it’s a matter of time before they vote with their feet and go somewhere else. If your association wants to grow revenues then it must shift its focus to an industry or profession perspective. Organizations who transform and become strategic allies are better positioned to address member challenges and therefore be more likely to grow revenue.

Strategic Growth and Development

Hiring marketing or sales firms at the onset isn’t the right approach. After all, selling louder and selling more is a risky short term approach. While you may see revenue growth in the short term, the next economic downturn could deliver a volcano sized wallop to your operating performance.

Just another associationIf an organization wishes to grow then its strategies, products, and services must be formulated around industry or profession challenges and outcomes. This is an outside in approach that will better position your association. Strategic growth and development is a longer term approach that connects your organization with the things that your members care about.

3 Steps Driving Strategic Growth and Development

Building new strategies is all about what we do together. Engaging your board and letting them know the process is about their industry challenges and outcomes is the right first step. Today’s board members are different. They are busier and more likely to give precious time to those efforts that help drive industry or profession success. Utilizing your senior staff team and your board your association is ready to begin its strategic growth and development journey.

  1. Identify Actionable Needs

Avoid the pitfalls of satisfaction surveys. Organizations utilizing satisfaction surveys are more likely perceived by their members as just another association. Members don’t care about your association’s “outputs”. They only care about “outcomes” that address their business/ professional challenges and opportunities. Everything else is just noise. Going back to your board with high satisfaction scores while they face increasingly more challenges will send them to the exits. Develop an externally focused industry or profession survey helps to understand the challenges they face and the solutions they require.

Case Study:

Just Another AssociationIn December 2016, the Society for Vascular Ultrasound, in Lanham, Maryland utilized a Member Impact Survey to help its board and staff team identify the profession’s up at night challenges and opportunities. While survey participation is usually in the 2% to 4% range, 15% of the Society’s members participated. The results provided actionable data on the critical concerns that matter most to those involved in the Vascular Technology Profession. SVU Executive Director James Wilkinson notes “this data-driven process helped us determine how to move the needle for our professionals. It also helped us arrive at a strategic roadmap that will increase the relevance of our niche field and allow our professionals to take their careers to the next level. “

  1. Develop Unique Products: Address Industry & Profession Challenges with Real Solutions

Members will contribute time, knowledge and ideas when they perceive an opportunity to impact the outcomes they seek. Making this happens means that you must change the conversation from association “outputs” to business or profession “outcomes”.

Focusing on member outcomes will drive development of the best outputs, not the other way around.

Case Study:

Just Another AssociationAs part of its strategic plan work Reston, Virginia based NPES affirmed the need to deliver actionable Industry Research for Global Print Manufacturers, Printers, and the Brand Owners. The Industry needs research that provides actionable data for immediate implementation for the Industry’s value chain. In formulating this strategy, the board and the members also expressed interest in the following activities that would drive their global business outcomes:

  • Expand involvement of Printers and Advertising Agencies
  • Engage Brand Owners in research program
  • Include research with case studies on the effectiveness of print
  • Create and format research for “action”
  • Develop new partners with providers of groundbreaking Industry Research and Market Data
  • Create high level of engagement End-Users, Advertising Agencies
    and OEM’s to knowledge share

“We are aligning ourselves with industry and the entire value chain. As a result, we are well situated now to have a major impact on industry outcomes and results. We now can become the leader which our members and the industry need” says Thayer Long, NPES President.

  1. Apply the Doctrine of the Differentiated Experience

The real power of associations is about facilitating the creation of new solutions to address evolving member challenges and objectives. Created a differentiated experience means engaging your members in ways that facilitate knowledge-sharing and collaboration with other members. This means your members are more connected. If they are you can track how your member’s knowledge contributions to collaboration with the industry or the profession and helps them feel more connected to your association.

Case Study:

Just Another AssociationThe Alexandria, Virginia based American Staffing Association continually accelerates its relevance and the unique experiences for its member professionals. As reported in the November – December 2016 edition of Staffing Success, ASA is creating opportunities for their members to learn about technology solutions and participate in knowledge sharing. The Association uncovered the opportunity through an up-at-night issue survey where members and managers expressed interest in this this type of engagement. The organization is establishing task forces to keep the industry connected to new technology trends to support its ongoing efforts to formulate new levels of thought leadership and industry peer to peer knowledge exchange. In doing so, ASA is increasing its member’s level of connectedness with the organization.

Just Another Association

Increasing top line revenue is not a function of selling more or selling louder it’s all about how your association is at the heart of the of the industry or profession that you serve.  Identifying actionable needs, developing unique products: Addressing Industry & Profession Challenges with Real Solutions, & applying the Doctrine of the Differentiated Experience helps you to create a roadmap that leads to Strategic Growth & Development. How will you and your team know that you are ready to drive revenue growth? Your board and your members will view your association as an extension of their business strategies. This also means that you are not just another association.

just another association

 

 

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

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.

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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.

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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?