Despite political dysfunction, pressure is increasing for Trade Associations to notch policy wins. Industry Executives are feeling the pinch of higher regulatory costs, and they want their Trade Associations to deliver results regardless of dysfunction. Whether it be in State Capitols or in Washington, DC the challenges are the same. While Trade Associations effectively utilize coalitions to build a bigger base of support there are other options to put on the table. In several instances, Trade Associations are utilizing ecosystems consisting of Industry Supply Chains and Value Chains to far extend their reach. In doing so, they are better positioned to notch more wins over the long term.
Trade Associations that utilize uncertainty to evolve their value propositions will be in a much better position to engage their members, grow their membership, and more effectively shape the business environment for the Industry they serve. Based on rapid moving competitive issues, cost pressures and the risk of increased military conflict, Trade Associations have an unprecedented opportunity to be the solution that Industries and Members are seeking. For Trade Association CEO’s thinking through their 2024 strategic moves, it’s a time for reimagination.
Advocacy is at the core of every Trade Association Business model. However, Advocacy and how Trade Associations execute their policy and regulatory efforts is rapidly evolving. At a time when Industries most need help, the polarized political environment is stalling forward movement on key policy initiatives. In response, Trade Associations are reimagining their approaches to policy and regulatory challenges, and they are delivering new approaches to achieve Advocacy results that their Boards and members expect.
As Trade Associations think through how to best address the unknown unknowns, they are using actionable market research. CEOs and staff recognize how busy their members are, and that the key to success is delivering a value imperative that demonstrates how an organization is moving the needle for both their Industry and their company.
As corporate budgets tighten, Trade Associations are leaning in and building strategic partnerships with Industries, and they are providing increased member value through their Strategic Plans. In many cases, Strategic Plans serve as a roadmap for how Industry challenges can be overcome and how Trade Associations and Members work together to achieve a more favorable business environment. This approach yields higher levels of Board and Member engagement because it demonstrates a direct return on investment for companies. More important, it also makes a strong case as to why companies should join or renew their Trade Association membership.
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.
Board Members need to see the business reason to continue or increase their engagement on a Trade Association Board of Directors. They want their time and money invested in solutions that shape a more favorable business environment. Sometimes complex or even routine Governance gets in the way, and some Board leaders will pull back or leave. If this is the case and the timing is right, it could make sense to invest time and resources into streamlining Governance.
CEOs aren’t just focused on the current disruptions anymore, they are leaning in and identifying the unimaginable (unknown unknowns). For company Executives and Trade Association CEOs, it’s imperative to account for the unimaginable, and this happens by incorporating Scenario Planning into Strategic Planning efforts. Scenario Planning broadens Strategic Planning deliberations, and it forces consideration of most eventualities. In a marketplace defined by disruption and chronic uncertainty, the unimaginable must be addressed in every Strategic Planning process.
Strategic Partnerships work and they really matter. In a time of constant change and uncertainty, Industry Executives seek new ways to create a better business environment and drive top line growth. Industries ranging from the Vertical Aviation Industry (Helicopter Association International) to the Frozen Food Industry (American Frozen Food Institute) are building Strategic Partnerships with their Trade Associations. They are utilizing research, convening Industry leaders and transforming Trade Associations into Strategic Business Units of the Industry. While the outcomes vary from one Industry to the next, its clear that these partnerships are making a difference. The latest success story comes from the EIFS (Exterior Insulation and Finish Systems) Industry. Executives convened at EIMA, the Industry Trade Association, to identify common challenges and business outcomes in a Strategic Industry Planning Process.
What’s clear is that Association Members don’t hesitate to vote with their feet and go somewhere else. Business challenges and an uncertain economy are causing professionals to evaluate how they invest time and money. Recognizing this trend, Boards seize upon the opportunity to reimagine their Association through their Strategic Planning Process. Reimagination occurs through the eyes of the Member in what is identified as “outside in” strategic planning. A highly successful example of this type of approach was utilized by the United States Naval Academy Alumni Association.