The Future of Associations: The 5 Keys to Success in the New Economy

Introduction: The 5 Keys to Success

Digital Prism Advisors, a leading management consultancy specializing in working with association executives, has laid out the 5 keys to success for membership organizations in the new economy in a report titled “The Future of Associations: Strategies to empower trade and professional associations in the new economy”:

  1. Re-invent member value
  2. Discover growth opportunities - market and mission mapping
  3. Integrate new business models
  4. Build a “digital-first” culture
  5. Create a Modern Operating Model

TagFi’s all-in-one digital platform delivers on all of these points and more for organizations looking to get an edge in 2021 and beyond. You can find the full report at this link, and excerpts below.

Link to Full Report: The Future of Associations by Digital Prism Advisors

Challenges Associations Face

Trade and professional associations have a rich history in our social and economic lives and have advanced the way we organize, communicate, and work together for the betterment of society. By bringing together like-minded people to learn, achieve, and promote common values, standards and solutions, associations seek to further the interests of an industry, profession, or cause.

Traditional models that have sustained the growth of associations over the last century are being challenged by the unprecedented pace of technological, social, and generational disruption occurring today. Associations need to respond to these changes with proactive strategies to identify alternative business models, growth opportunities, and an operating culture that can sustain them.

In this report Digital Prism Advisors, a leading management consultancy specializing in working with association executives, examines some of the root causes of this disruption and offers prescriptive insights for association executives who seek to transform their organizations in ways that prepare them to meet the needs of emerging professionals and future generations, and thrive in our increasingly interconnected, digital economy.

We explore five keys to success

• Re-invent member value

• Discover growth opportunities - market and mission mapping

• Integrate new business models

• Build a “digital-first” culture

• Create a Modern Operating Model

Need for Software

For associations to remain vibrant and sustainable they must embrace these new forms of communication and self-organization and integrate them into their core services and platforms. In doing so, associations will find they can reach and deliver their core value proposition to a broader universe of potential members with new efficiency and impact.

As new technology platforms and software reduce barriers and increase collaboration between industry players and professions, many associations will discover new customers and new constituencies in adjacent industry segments not previously considered for membership. With the insights from market mapping, associations can begin to think about how new products and services will serve new classifications and tiers of membership to drive growth. 

Because we are always customer-driven, the motivation to put digital first begins externally with member and market expectations. Big data and social media giants, such as Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon have set a high bar for everyone – commercial enterprises and associations alike. There is now an expectation from users that if “they can do it, so can you.” This means associations need their market-facing digital presence to be more user friendly, intuitive, easy to navigate, and responsive than ever before.

Association executives should not underestimate the critical imperative to engage in a comprehensive, outside-in evaluation of all content delivery, content management, and content governance platforms. An association’s life-blood is its ability to connect and serve geographically dispersed members instantly, and digitally. Being digital and staying digital requires constant vigilance

Value of Data

But there is another benefit of being digital-first. Associations that can discover, extract, analyze, and integrate the trapped silos of data they already have, collect and own are finding new ways to leverage this data for the benefit of their members and markets. When you consider the multitude of engagement and touchpoints associations have with their members and other industry players – through member registration data, directories, certifications, continuing education, events, research papers, publications, websites, forums, chat and online groups, and awards programs – the potential to derive new value and new products is eye-opening. Associations need to consider how this data can be used by itself or combined with data from third-party partners or sources. Assessing the broader use-cases for integrated data can open customer opportunities in adjacent industries and markets.

Because of the direct relationship associations have with members, they are often in a unique and trusted position to collect data. Information exchange platforms and hubs managed by associations can be attractive and viable methods of developing value, so long as the data is repurposed with permission and some value accrues to or can be channeled back to members for their benefit. Data products and digital acuity are the new competitive differentiators in the association world and developing a culture around it will foster innovation and success.


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