Coronavirus is not the only thing that has recently disrupted the association world. Large corporations consolidating their memberships and mergers and acquisitions are also causing major disruptions. Listen to this episode to learn about the three strategies that your association can implement today to adapt, change, and pivot to overcome today’s challenges.
Hello and welcome to JP Moery’s Association Hustle Podcast. President of The Moery Company, JP’s mission is to arm today’s associations with insight and strategy to thrive and a progressively complex and competitive business landscape. 21st century associations must move forward with a little bit of hustle and revenue development at their core.
Hi, it’s JP Moery with The Moery Company.
Adapt, pivot, change, adjust. That is the theme for today.
Associations, over the last almost hundred years, have had the ability to rely on industry continuity. For a lot of their history they’ve been renewing members at, let’s say, 90%. They have a defined audience. People continue to show up for their meetings and events. You’ve got a certain amount of inertia that enables the business model to continue and sustain itself. We have well-known brands. We’re trusted in our industry. We have structural advantages that, frankly, can make us feel safe.
Today I’m not trying to scare you, but my belief is that it’s time to adapt, change, adjust and pivot.
There are things that are happening as I’m recording this podcast that give us all the indications that we need to be able to adjust and do it right away.
Here’s what is happening.
One. The coronavirus has disrupted meetings and events. According to ASAE the industry average for meeting and event revenue is somewhere north of 30%. When we have that kind of disruption to 30% of our revenue, it’s something we should take notice of. Some organizations were lucky because their event was earlier in the year. I was in a meeting with a client the other day and while we were sitting in this one-hour meeting, two industry events were postponed.
Here’s the strategy: evaluate your ability to deliver programming in different formats such as podcasts, videos, and webinars. For your suppliers and your sponsors, put an emphasis on the development of promotion of non-event inventory: magazines, newsletters, advertising, advertorials in the newsletter, podcast, and video streams. Things we’ve been discussing around diversification is now suddenly very important. The value of developing yearlong partnerships with diversified inventory and sponsorship offerings is really important so you’re not tied to a meeting to optimize the yearlong program.
Two. Mergers and acquisitions are causing consolidation. Here’s the story, and you probably know it well, businesses are continuing to merge and acquire each other. What I don’t want to happen is for you to be caught off guard when two members merge and hit a dues cap causing you to lose a member in the dues equation. You will also lose the possible engagement of the individuals within the two companies now that they are in one in your committees, programs, and other services that you have. Not only do you take a dues hit you also take an organization wide hit with your programs, your volunteerism, and your participation.
Here’s the strategy: modernize the dues structure for today’s business realities and the size of your industry. Eliminate these caps, if possible. You also need to make sure your industry members find your organization valuable so you can do this type of modernization. I’ve seen associations do the math and do the quantitative aspect of it but they don’t get a sense of where their industry is to be able to adopt a new structure. Also, consider new membership categories. More than likely you have disruptive companies, or organizations, that are coming in that were not a part of your industry before. Get proactive about recruiting new members. You thought I was going to say that, didn’t you? Because I’m right about it. We’ve got to get out there recruiting and bringing people in because merger and acquisition activity will continue to happen. It’s going to continue to happen within our associations, too. The healthiest associations are those that are going to be dictating, and leading, these mergers and acquisitions in the association space. I want you to be that type of an association.
Three. Large companies with multiple memberships are reevaluating membership with all of their associations. They are often the largest dues payer in all of their associations that they are active in. BP, the energy company, just issued a public report on association membership evaluating their alignment with 22 associations across the world. Three were dropped and they were all US based. Five were put on notice, I believe they were all North American based as well. This is going to continue.
Here’s what I think large companies with multiple associations are starting to figure out.
Which association is most valuable for us?
Which ones are we really aligned with us terms of policy priorities?
Where are we going to participate?
Here’s the strategy: establish a healthy and viable dialogue with small and medium sized businesses. Don’t forget the large folks and try to stay aligned with them, however, I think the game is going to be won with small and medium sized businesses. The way these groups use your programs, services, and information is also very telling. My guess is the value proposition is a little bit different. It needs some adjustment. It needs a different story around it. The delivery of the programs and services to small and medium sized businesses may need to be adjusted a little bit. They may engage with information in a different way than the larger companies do. You will likely need to recruit them a little bit differently. You’re going to have a lot of dependence on testimonials and stories from other small businesses. If that small or medium sized business does not believe that there’s going to be a fairly immediate return on investment, or value, they’re likely not going to join.
My friends, change is happening everyday and fast. You can see it happening right now. It’s the time to become nimbler, be quick, and adapt. When we establish and we improve these fast twitch muscles, if you will, these will help us survive the long-term game.
Thanks for listening.
Talk to you soon.
We hope you enjoyed this edition of JP Moery’s Association Hustle Podcast. We’d love to connect with you. Check out our blog at moerycompany.com and subscribe to our weekly newsletter. You can also connect with JP on LinkedIn and Twitter at @JPMoery, as well as The Moery’s Company’s Instagram and Facebook page. To purchase a copy of JP’s book, Association Hustle: Top Strategies for Association Growth, go to JPMoery.com.