Some strategic partnerships were created to help industries weather tough times; sometimes those tough times are due to internal issues, sometimes external issues, sometimes uncontrollable circumstances, sometimes extraordinary opportunities, and occasionally in preparation to achieve the next breakthrough. Successful strategic partnerships come in all shapes, sizes, textures, colors and flavors. Nowadays, industry CEOs are using a new application of strategic partnerships that are more inclusive, impactful and ambitious—the sort that moves the needle for entire industries.
The good news for business leaders is that strategic partnerships between industries and their trade associations already exist. They lead and convene industries to deliver unified advocacy strategies and convey business outcome-focused messages to government officials. These relationships translate into vital assets to help industries face challenges and position them for growth. For example, recreational boating built its own strategic partnership through its trade association, NMMA, (National Marine Manufacturers Association) and its been highly successful.
Nowadays, there’s a lot of conversation of what cannot be done. Many say we are in uncharted waters, and that is true because uncertainty keeps reaching new orders of magnitude. The Federal Reserve continues to raise interest rates to tame inflation, job openings break new ground surging past 10 million, military conflict persists in Ukraine, gasoline prices are heading higher again. Some say that a longer-term cohesive industry growth strategy is not feasible.
The global economy is making a pivot from just in time to just in case and there are opportunities to unleash supply chain innovation. As noted in a USA WIRE article, supply chain innovation is underway. From the private sector all the way to strategic partnerships between Industries and Trade Associations, collaboration and outside the box thinking is happening in real time.
American Eagle’s Chief Supply Chain Executive Shekar Natarajan is working to unclog retail supply chains and modernize them. The company created a supply chain that can be shared among different companies with an end goal of squeezing out inefficiencies and satisfying customers. It’s a strategic partnership strategy, and it’s a frenemy network too where retail companies share resources to drive down costs and increase efficiencies.
Some great strategic partnerships were created to weather tough times. COVID-19 was an especially difficult time, impacting profits, workers, families, and the U.S. economy. Most writing on strategic partnerships focuses on how companies have combined their strengths and mitigated their weaknesses to expand customer bases and achieve far more together than they could separately. However, there are more prodigious, inclusive, and ambitious types of strategic partnerships—the sort that change the game for entire industries. These take shape between industries and their trade associations.
Forty year high inflation, persistent supply chain challenges, a tight employment market, and the threat of increasing global conflict require far different thinking than at any other time in history. Just as necessity is the mother of invention, these hard times break open the door to strategic partnerships between industries and their trade associations. This is an opportunity and a clarion call for industries and executives.
ROI TO R.O.M.E. (Return on Member Engagement)
At the majority of associations, member engagement takes a back seat to fighting fires and meeting budget expectations. Over time, member dissatisfaction, poor retention, or weak membership growth can prompt boards to ask the tough questions.
In several instances executives are demonstrating the direct linkages between their efforts, member outcomes, and their association’s business model. They understand that corporate and individual members view their participation with associations through a very different lens than when they had relatively few go to sources for information and knowledge sharing.
Change The Conversation
People value and make contributions to the activities that help them achieve something they (or their company) value. Continually generating more activities is unsustainable; it also creates an unfocused “all you can eat buffet.”
Member Contract: Focus On Member Outcomes
Corey Rosenbusch, President & CEO, and his team at GCCA (the Global Cold Chain Alliance), www.gcca.org worked closely with their largest member to craft a 3 year member contract linking the member relationship to their strategic business outcomes. In doing so, they moved the conversation away 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”.
ROI TO R.O.M.E.
Only when board/staff engagement and member engagement are high do innovative solutions surface through a “we” collaboration. Moving to a “we” focused community is about inclusiveness and being open to the possibilities that might surface. Increasingly, associations, including the Global Cold Chain Alliance, recognize the significance of “we” collaboration and strategic member engagement (see 2/24/2014 post http://bit.ly/1g8g1J2).
Selling or Engagement? Engagement drives the association’s business model, while enhancing the association’s influence, prestige, and competitive positioning. Discussions like these can completely change the conversations away from: “what do I get for my dues?” Associations looking to grow revenues and membership and improve engaging instead of selling could better position their organizations for longer term success using this approach.
“Impact ” VS. “Satisfaction”
Quite often, associations are tracking member “satisfaction” with their offerings. “Satisfaction” surveys have the explicit connotation of “we want to know if you as a member appreciate all that we are doing for you”. Often disappointed with satisfaction survey results, associations add more and more services.
Alternatively, impact and outcome survey data allows you to set priorities and minimize the activities that no longer provide sufficient relative value. This is also an opportunity to find out how various segments of members and non members prefer to be engaged, and which other organizations are trying to meet their needs.
Member Impact Strategies
Evidence that the member impact survey and corresponding strategies are taking shape and impacting operating results and performance at different organizations. In addition, Corey Rosenbusch, President & CEO, GCCA, (the Global Cold Chain Alliance) says that his organization is shifting away from a “member satisfaction” focus to a “member impact” focus.
Selling or Engagement?
Is there any correlation between the frequency of impact surveys and 3 year business model trends? The Strategic Member Engagement survey shows that those who conduct member impact surveys annually were far more likely to report an upward 3 year trend in their operating results.
Free eBook “Accelerating Strategic Member Engagement” available at www.potomaccore.com
Game Changing Accelerator. How do you build a connected community that positions both your organization and your constituencies for long term success? Having a strategic board to help Associations connect and maintain the member outcome focus can be a game changing accelerator.
Thom Dammrich, President & CEO of Chicago, Illinois based NMMA (National Marine Manufacturers Association), utilizes his board to position the Association as a strategic partner driving industry results in the advocacy and business expansion arena. Industry Leaders and NMMA continue to collaborate to drive both industry and member success.
Like other successful Associations, NMMA also engaged a highly strategic board to effectively position itself as a “we focused solution community.” However, having the right skills sets and focus on your Association Board is essential, notes NMMA CEO Dammrich.
Strategic Boards with busy CEO’s insist upon the right focus and at times insist upon course corrections.
Focused On Industry Success
Strategic Board guidance and the organization’s focus on member success is proving to be a game changing accelerator of member engagement at NMMA.
Game Changing Accelerator
Very highly engaged boards who are strategic in focus and have a very high degree of understanding and strategizing about average member needs reflect two of six key capabilities that help drive Association Business Models. These Organizations report upward trending 3 year operating results, are far more likely to better understand member up-at-night issues, and engage members in acting upon those needs.
Free eBook “Accelerating Strategic Member Engagement” for Association Executives available upon request at www.potomaccore.com
Competitive Positioning and Engagement. As domestic and international for profit competitors attempt to eat into services and product offerings once only delivered by Associations, Competitive Positioning (http://bit.ly/1g8g1J2) is a must. However, a key first step forward is knowing and understanding member “up at night” issues.
Up at Night Issues
Whether obtained in surveys, focus groups, interviews, roundtables, online community dialogue, social media tracking or other mechanisms, it’s essential to understand how the association is currently impacting member objectives. This requires securing actionable data about member perceptions of their environmental and operational challenges. Associations must structure their organizations to fluidly address rapidly changing member needs.
Rapidly Changing Priorities
Actionable data and fluidity opens doors to help Associations shift gears and respond quickly. Working together, staff and connected members provide both fluidity and responsiveness to address rapidly changing member business priorities. These shifts increase relevance and help make the case for increased engagement.
For profit competitors are real and Associations should take their threat seriously. For example, ACCA, the Air Conditioning Contractors of America,www.acca.org, is increasing its capacity to quickly learn and adjust. Paul Stalknecht, President and CEO, and his senior team are leveraging what they’ve learned about member “up at night” issues to adapt and magnify the Association’s impact with more online educational programming. Competitive Positioning is Key Member Perspective Identifying “Up At Night” Issues Shift to Online Educational Programming.
Competitive Positioning And Engagement
Knowing Member “Up at Night” Issues Accelerates Association Growth & Positioning (http://bit.ly/ThjGjy). Having a firm grip on Member “Up at Night” Issues has game change potential for Associations. Aligning organizations with the things that their members really care about enhances their competitive position, accelerates engagement, and favorably impacts operating results.