Thursday, October 25, 2012

Attention Associations: Your Competition May Not Be Who You Think

I’ve written several blogs about what our members experience as consumers impacts their expectations of their associations. And, I’ve posted before that associations – which need time and money from members – are in competition with anyone else seeking time and money.

The other day, I saw an awesome blog from Scott McKain, a friend, Twitter buddy and professional speaker. Scott gave me permission to plagiarize from his post on competition for businesses.

Take just a moment … right now … and write down the names of your two biggest competitors.

What did you put down?

Another association? An association in a competing industry or profession? A for-profit company that offers competing services to your members/prospects?
If you answered this way, you’ve just proven that we stereotypically define our competitors — and that holds the potential of causing us great harm in the future.

As Scott was researching for one of his earlier books, he found that what customers really wanted didn’t vary much from industry to industry. The reason is because customers blend ALL of their experiences — both personal and professional — as their criteria for evaluating YOUR level of performance.

This means that your competition in regards to how customers view the level of service and engagement you’ve created with them is NOT limited to your specific industry.

Your “competitors” service your members, donors and prospects too. This includes their experience when staying at a Four Seasons property … the ease of buying a book (or anything else) on Amazon ... the shopping experience they have at Nordstrom … the quality of the BMW they test drive ... the knowledge they received free from the Content Marketing Institute ... the online experience they had at the Southwest Airlines mobile website.

Not understanding your competition can be horrifically damaging. Folger’s thought its competition was Chase & Sanborn and missed out on what Starbucks created. Nokia thought its competition was Motorola and missed out on how Apple changed the industry.

As I look ahead, members and potential members will be experiencing:
• mobile access to websites and communications
• mobile payment systems
• online knowledge
• digital media
• mobile networking and interactions
As you look at your experience as a consumer, what trends to you feel will impact your association?
Are you using best practices (which look at the past) or next practices to help your association can avoid being Kodak, Folger’s or Nokia?

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