Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Road to Relevance Provides valued insight for Association Execs

Next month, ASAE will release Road to Relevance: 5 Strategies for Competitive Associations. It is a follow-up to the best selling book Race for Relevance.

Earlier this week, I visited with authors Harrison Coerver (HC) and Mary Byers (MB), CAE about the book and what they are sharing

SCDdaily: Race for Relevance: 5 Radical Changes opened up lots of questions and dialogue … why come back with a sequel?

MB: The first book was really about making sure your structure and systems are right. This is about making sure your strategies (assuming you have them!) are well thought out.

HC: We’ve had conversations with hundreds of execs and leaders since the first book. Associations face unprecedented competition from members, publishers, companies and the internet. Most associations don’t seem to recognize this competition or, if they do, are not able to act on it. Associations need to create strategies to compete in this environment.

SCDdaily: What’s the “big picture” behind R2R: 5 Strategies for Competitive Associations?

MB: Be intentional and deliberate. Know what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Don’t be afraid to stop doing some things. We think a “To Don’t” list is as important as a “To Do” list.

HC: Tradition—not strategy – is the master of most associations. In today’s competitive environment, many associations are trying to do too much while facing single-minded competitors. And on top of that, a lot of resources are wasted and under-utilized in associations, making them overweight and out of shape while vying with lean competitors. In Road to Relevance, we outline five strategies that lead a relevant association to successfully compete in the new normal. 

SCDdaily: What are the 3 main points a reader will uncover in the new R2R?

HC: #1: Wake up and smell the competition! #2: Apply the tools – which are not new – to meet your competitors. #3: Reduce waste and redundance in your systems and processes. Most associations seem to suffer from ADD. They can’t stick with something for more than five minutes before wondering off to a “new and improved” program or service.

SCDdaily: Tell me about the 5 main strategies … what are they? Why are they important to associations today?

HC: The five strategies are: #1: Build on Strength; #2: Concentrate Resources; #3: Fit: Integrate Programs and Services; #4: The Lean Association: Aligning People & Processes; and #5: Purposeful abandonment. The extreme competitive environment associations face today make these important for the future of associations. We just can’t keep raising dues to cover bloated costs. 

SCDdaily: If a current CEO could do only one thing in the next 12 months, what should she/he do?

MB: Find a way to narrow the focus/activity level of the association. There’s a lot of mediocrity in associations because we’re trying to do too many things with limited financial and human resources. Closely related to that is making sure you have the proper expertise on board. I’ve seen many cases where associations could be much stronger with specialized expertise on board such as marketing or communications. 

HC: First, start by getting your association to conduct a thorough competitive analysis of everyone who is competing for the time and money of your members or potential members. Second, restructure your boards by finding board members who are able to help the association deal with today’s competitive environment.

Like Race for Relevance, Road to Relevance offers association executives and association leaders insights guiding us in a competitive world. 

As an association exec guilty of rushing from one new idea to the next, I am looking forward to reading this book!

Note: Road to Relevance: 5 Strategies for Competitive Associations will be published in March. To take advantage of the ASAE pre-publishing discount, go to When you check out, enter the promotion code R2RPREPUB to get your discount. The 10% is on top of your member and quantity discounts.

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