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FLEXO Magazine : November 2008
FTA TODAY Association Value in an Uncertain Economy M arket demands that built most associations have changed forever: To thrive, associations must embrace innovation, competition and change. Faced with the realities of declining revenues, decreased conference attendance, budget deficits, non-renewing members and other ongoing challenges; associations can ei- ther sit still, cut costs and hope that the storm passes over—or they can look for inven- tive, aggressive and unfamiliar ways of generating growth. For obvious reasons, the latter is recommended, since associations’ traditional busi- nesses have become highly coveted by other organizations. To maintain and increase revenue, associations must understand the greater mem- ber needs from which their present revenue streams flow—needs that increasingly can be better solved through new technologies and new, sometimes radical, ways of conducting business. Associations must also realize they have real competition for that business, requiring them to wrestle for talent, launch new ventures, court key custom- ers and otherwise act like the successful member companies that they serve. To remain viable, associations must adopt growth strategies categorized in five ways: base retention (holding onto present customers), share gain (taking customers away from competitors), market position (identifying and pursuing fast-growing sec- tors of the market), adjacent markets (moving into markets close to present markets when there are practical advantages to exploit) and new lines of business (pursuing new business relationships unrelated to the core business). Many associations currently are organized by the way money flows to them today: membership dues, conferences, publications, sponsorships and so on. That view— along with a belief that they don’t have competition—blinds associations to much larger opportunities. Associations that furnish industry-mandated certifications have been able to carve out a substantial share of the competency development market. Without such certifi- cation, associations struggle to compete effectively in this arena. FIRST-based certifica- tion—both among the community of printing companies in the marketplace as well as in the training and education of the workforce incorporating the elements contained in TEST—will be a core value provided by FTA/FFTA as these programs are formal- ized. Though meetings and conferences remain core components of FTA/FFTA’s over- all value proposition, long-term trends suggest new approaches. The association has to become entrepreneurial and aggressively exploit new business sources in order to remain financially stable. Convincing association management and the leadership to feel comfortable with moving from safer to riskier sources of generating new business is a major hurdle. Relying on dues increases for revenue growth can be viewed as the safe approach. But the safety of dues revenues is an illusion in environments in which association mem- berships are increasingly considered superfluous. One of the things to consider during tough economic times is to use them to cut the dead wood of unnecessary programs. This can be a program that’s perceived as important to only a small segment of members or something that’s been around for years, but is a resource drain. There’s no telling how deep the economy will sink, but there is no doubt that or- ganizations need to make the tough decisions. While there is the immediate need to decide if aggressive action is the answer or if prudent cuts are the right choice, it is certainly a wakeup call that once this downturn subsides and the business climate stabilizes, it’s already time to prepare for the next bubble burst, whether it’s two, five, or eight years down the road! 76 F LEXO NOVEMB E R 20 0 8 www. f l e x o g r a p h y. o r g Calendar NOV. 2008 12 Doubletree Club Atlanta Airport North Atlanta, GA 12 Chicago, IL DEC. 2008 7-9 Phoenix, AZ JAN. 2009 25-27 Islandia, NY FEB. 2009 26-27 California Polytechnic State University San Louis Obispo, CA MAR. 2009 16-18 Indianapolis, IN MAY 2009 3-6 Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort Orlando, FL 4-5 Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort Orlando, FL FFTA Annual Forum NEHS Conference FIRST 4.0: Walking the Process FTA Excellence Awards Judging PIA/GATF Color Management Conference FFTA Regional Workshop: FIRST 4.0 on the Go Conference at Pack Expo INFO*FLEX 2009 Exhibition ENGAGING IDEAS