Why do Association's Struggle with Sustainable Growth
The recent economic climate has cast a troubling light on today's association industry. Why can't we seem to develop sustainable growth?
In our study of associations, Association Laboratory Inc. has identified some of the following areas of concern that potentially limit an associations' ability to achieve sustainable growth.
- Many associations lack a basic profile of their key markets.
It is important to understand the unique demographic and organizational characteristics of your key markets. Only by understanding whom you are attempting to serve can you design programs and services that meet their needs.
- Many associations have a limited understanding of the differences between their membership and product markets.
During the course of our membership research with clients, we often discover that staff has little quantifiable data on how their markets are different in terms of their motivations, buyer behaviors and needs. You must understand the differences between markets to design strategies to target these markets.
- Many associations dilute their marketing efforts by attempting to serve too many markets.
When you attempt to target too many markets with divergent needs with a large array of products, you dilute the effectiveness of your promotional efforts.
- Many associations do not have a clearly defined marketing strategy.
Associations add programs based on targets of revenue opportunity or because of internal politics. This decreases the ability of the association to focus and sustain marketing efforts.
- Many associations create separate, mutually exclusive strategies for individual programs and products but do not integrate these strategies.
While an individual program may be successful for a time, synergies between programs and an overall leveraging of the association's brand do not take place.
- Many associations develop membership strategies focused almost exclusively on new member acquisition with limited focus on member retention.
Association marketers assume new member marketing and member retention strategies are identical and that you should target existing and potential members with the same message. This is a flawed assumption and leads to decreased membership retention and a misapplication of marketing resources.
- Many associations confuse membership strategies with bundled product strategies.
When an association offers discounts for the receipt of products and services in exchange for membership, the association is using a bundled product strategy under the guise of membership. Buyers do not participate to become members, they participate to save money.
- Associations focus too heavily on promotions instead of the underlying product quality or value.
These associations can be identified by continued attempts to change the promotional message with no change in the underlying program or service upon which the message is based or an understanding of the market to which the program or service has demonstrated an appeal.
Modern association executives are addressing their growth challenges by developing sophisticated business strategies. Staff bases their strategies on market research not opinion.
Volunteer leadership and senior staff achieve consensus on critical business strategy. Leaders agree on key measurements of success.
Only by looking at their growth problems in the context of organizational business strategy will associations be able to create sustainable growth.
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