Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Declining Legacy Products Show Potential Impact on Associations

Travelers Checks (left); telegram (center); bank (right)
A couple of things “popped up” in the last month that make me realize how quickly “legacy products” can go. And, that associations need to be mindful to keep evolving or risk the same fate.While searching for something in our “long-trip luggage,” I discovered several unused $100 traveler’s checks. Talk about “found gold!” 

  • But, when we took them to the bank, the teller had never seen a traveler’s check and didn’t know what to do with it! So, she had to get her supervisor to show her how to cash them! Now I know I’m getting really old!
In looking for some old wedding photos, I came across a Western Union telegram I had sent my wife to let her know I was headed home from Army duty. Have you ever sent a telegram?  

Later when I went inside our bank (I know, who goes to a bank anymore?!), I saw a Western Union sign and thought “are they still in business?!” So, I went to their website and found that, while Western Union doesn’t seem to send telegrams anymore, they do “specialize” in transferring money.

So why should a blog about associations share these two stories

Think about what products or services your association offers its members. Will they still be round in five years? 10 years? 

And, if not, will your association still be in business? (Which implies “will your profession or industry still be around?”) What products or services will you be offering? To whom will you be offering it?

Start 2013 pondering these questions. Among your staff and with your leadership.

It didn’t take long for Kodak film, travelers checks or telegrams to be relegated to “old time movies.”

Be constantly evolving. Better to have evolution than revolution.


  1. Steve,
    Excellent advice! I can attest from first hand experience how rapidly affinity programs can evaporate. Your comments also imply that associations might pay closer attention to how much they rely on affinity programs versus dues. My suggestion is to err on the side of dues being the major revenue source. The other consideration related to affinity programs in today's environment is competition. Yes, associations often face a great deal of competition when offering affinity programs to members. Translation - associations must be faster, cheaper and better than the competition. If not the life expectency of an affinity program may be even shorter than anticipated. Your advice emploring associations to continuously monitor the performance of their affinity programs, even those with a "legacy", is very sound. Scan the landscape and watch for new opportunities that could potentially replace those programs that have outlived their useful life! Excellent article! Paul K

  2. Thanks for the comments Paul! You've added to the discussion.