Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Associations Unplugged: Four Questions for Association Executives

Back in the early 2000s, some of our members complained about the download time of materials our associations provided. I couldn’t grasp the problem until one day I was in a member’s office and realized his dial-up connections couldn’t handle our materials which were designed for “higher speed” connections.

As I listen to association executives today, I sometimes think about that experience and wonder if many associations are still in the dial-up mode focused on desk top computers, fax machines, static websites and quarterly printed publications.

It’s a bit like RIM which failed to keep reinventing the Blackberry, lost market share and perhaps the company itself.

Two recent articles in the USA Today Money section hit me as a great illustration of the technology challenges facing today’s associations.

Is “the PC is deader than the phone booth?” 

A piece by Scott Martin and John Swartz was headlined The Newest Dinosaur: The PC-osaurus focused on the consumption stats. 

Here are a couple of key points from it:

  • People want mobility, so Microsoft-powered PC products are competing against enormously popular smartphones and tablets for consumer dollars. Once leading the way, Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft now face a new world order led by Apple, Google, Samsung and even Amazon.
  • Consumers aren't replacing those old home PCs with the same. The traditional PC business is grasping for reinvention, slow to emerge from Microsoft, Intel or household PC brands.
  • "We don't think consumers are going to have a PC per person. That's an old idea. Instead, we think that if you have three people per family, then you will have one PC that is shared, and each one of them will have one kind of device like a tablet or a smartphone," said Gartner analyst Mikako Kitagawa.

Unplugged: Got social? To succeed, companies better  

This Mark Veverka column focused more on the mental state of technology changes.

Key points included:

  • If your company or business doesn't have a social-media strategy, it better get one. Pronto. Social media is more than Harlem Shakes going viral, but the flash mob video of the moment certainly illustrates the power of the Web as an important marketing channel that can't be ignore. Peer effects aren't just a byproduct of the Internet, but social media can exploit their power as in its advertising, marketing and selling channels. The re-sharing of information on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and myriad other social-media platforms can and will profoundly affect how we buy and sell stuff according to Dean Eckles, Facebook's director of data science. 
  • John Wagnon, head of brand marketing at Vail's Heavenly Mountain Resort at Lake Tahoe, says the snow sport community was already online and the conversation among its members was going to happen with or without Vail's participation. So it just made sense to engage early and often, prompting Vail to devote a slice of its marketing budget to social media as early as 2008.
  • Social media cuts out the middleman, allowing companies to establish direct relationships with their customers — for better or worse. It allows companies to deliver information directly to consumers — whether the introduction of new products or a temporary price reduction — reaching the people who are likely to respond the most, says David Armano, a managing director for Edelman Digital.
  • Social media simply can make a company or business more visible and transparent. It brings together customers, employees and partners and makes them more connected. Call it "social business," says Chris Heuer, director of social media for consulting giant Deloitte.

What does this mean to you and other association executives?

  1. Are you continuing to operate under old assumptions? 
    • Are you continuing to focus on printed publications to hold on to a shrinking number of print-dependent members?
  2. How are you using social media to engage your members and prospects?
  3. Are you using social media as a tool to become more visible?
  4. What strategies are you using to ensure you association is keeping ahead of the curve as your members and prospects continue to adopt new technologies?

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