2024 Trade Association Strategic Planning Must Align Organizations With Members

President & CEO


Regardless of Company size, there are concerns around a possible economic downturn in 2024. Every Industry is increasing its scrutiny on how they spend time and money on outside resources. This is nothing new as Trade Associations continue to evolve their value imperative. From the Global Pandemic through today, CEO’s are reinventing themselves to look, think, and act more like the Industry they serve, and focused on delivering the greatest possible return on every dollar spent. In many cases, Boards see their Trade Associations as the Industry and they do because their organization is aligned with their “Awake at night” challenges and business outcomes.

For those Trade Associations contemplating Strategic Planning in 2024, there are opportunities to accelerate your organization’s focus, optimize your value imperative, and increase alignment with Members. Actionable research about how you can focus your Strategic Planning exercise is uncovered through a collaborative survey conducted by Arlington, Virginia based Potomac Core – Association Consulting, Edge Research, and Heidrick and Struggles (executive search firm), Washington, DC office. 93 C-level Executives leading Professional, Trade, and Industry Associations participated in the survey and 98% of respondents were CEOs. The Research surfaced three strategic alignment opportunities for Trade Association CEOs, and they are very similar to those referenced in the 2021 Trade Association CEO Survey:

  • Legislation at the Federal, State, and/or Local Level to position the Industry for growth.
  • Raising public awareness and improving public perceptions about the Industry.
  • Becoming a strategic partner with other organizations to advance the Industry.


The results reinforce the significant value that Industry Executives see as the primary reason they invest in Trade Associations. Moreover, each of these areas represent an opportunity to increase value and alignment though a three tiered Strategic Planning process:

  • Federal and State policy work is the foundational step in shaping the future business environment. Your Strategic Plan deliberations should emphasize positioning the Industry for growth through Advocacy.
  • Secondly, combining Industry Promotion with Growth through Advocacy in Strategic Planning helps your Trade Association elevate the value and importance of your Members to elected and appointed Officials. Many Trade Associations distinguished themselves during the Global Pandemic by promoting their Industry and helping Regulators and the Administration understand why they mattered to the U.S. Economy. Utilizing Industry Promotion along with your Advocacy work creates more opportunities for policy successes.
  • Third, In an era of political turmoil, Strategic Partnerships are more important than ever. Building Partnerships throughout the Industry Supply Chain and Value helps every Industry far extend its reach. Nowadays, Strategic Partnerships matter more than ever for all Industries and Trade Associations. In a polarized environment, Strategic Partnerships far extend the reach and leverage of your efforts and should be incorporated into Strategic Planning.

Despite economic challenges, the Trade Association CEOs also reported that they see more companies sending employees to Trade Shows and Meetings (+18% from 2021) and they are feeling more positive in 2023 than they were in 2022.


There are best practices that should be followed when implementing an effective Strategic Planning project. In all cases, the Strategic Planning exercise includes the following deliverables:

  • Industry Focused research to identify the pulse of Challenges and the Business Outcomes that Members seek to achieve. They deliver an “outside in” perspective that helps organizations better align themselves with all companies and members in a time of chronic uncertainty.
  • A Task Force of Board or Industry Leaders that helps maintain focus on the Industry. The Task Force collaborates closely with the CEO and Senior Staff Team.
  • Actionable Value Propositions, an Industry Objective, Initiatives, Key Performance Indicators, Roadmap, Funding Options, and in some cases, governance reviews.

In the movie Without Limits, runner Steve Prefontaine debates the importance of his strategy to win races with his coach, Bill Bowerman: “When you set the pace, you control the race.” Every Trade Association can utilize their 2024 Strategic Planning efforts to demonstrate that they are poised, willing, off to the races, and ready to utilize Strategic Partnerships and help their members Reimagine Industry Growth.

For more information on how Potomac Core can help your Trade Association build a high impact Strategic Plan for your Industry please contact Dan Varroney dan@potomaccore.com or team@potomaccore.com