Association Business Models Have Changed, Forever – Association Field Report (November 13, 2020)



This is not going to be a surprise because you’ve seen it already: your association’s business model has changed. Not for next year but forever. Your business model has been disrupted forever. Membership, non-dues revenue, meetings and events, publications, and more are going to change. You knew it was going to happen one day and you’re seeing it right now play itself out in real time.
So, let’s get ready for it.
One thing that I think we can do to improve our situation is to pay attention to our members. I know you think that you are member centric, however, what I mean by that is that a lot of us are having discussions asking the following questions, “Hey, when can we have our in-person meeting? When can we do this? When are we going to be able to get things back to normal?”
Whatever you decide won’t have nothing to do with anything. The answer to those questions will fully rely on what your members are doing. Are you paying attention to them? They’re going to be the ones deciding the viability of your virtual meeting or your in-person meeting or if your association continues to grow its membership. This all relies on you paying attention to their operations.
It’s less about you and more about them. Are you paying attention to what your members are doing?
Dig deeper.
Are you watching your members to see how they’re working with their customers? My good friend, Dan Varroney of Potomac Core Consulting, and I were talking about this very thing today. Are we taking the time to research, follow trends, interview our members to see how they’re doing business with their customers right now? Are we watching what they’re doing? Are they doing face-to-face meetings? Are they out on the road? Do they have their business operations in-person and in their offices? What are they doing and how are they engaging their customers? The answers to those questions will show us opportunities for serving them better.
If we’re not aligned with what our members are doing, not only is our business model going to be disrupted we may go out of business. I’m hopeful that we’re doing those things. I think the opportunities are there to serve the members and industry even better.
Let me share one final example. We’ve been talking for years about how to engage different groups, including members who are younger. My bet is, because we have been able to deliver content and engage them recently more than ever, we’re already engaging them. They weren’t going to our in-person meetings but they’re joining our webinars now. Can you convert that engagement into something that’s tangible and sustainable?
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