Associations entering new international market and wanting to achieve success have a lot to think about. Here are six key considerations recently validated by a global growth study conducted by the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) and the MCI Group.
- Craft a vision for target markets. Think about the financial and staff investment as well as determining whether the investment will be more altruistic in nature – bringing awareness or stature to the profession or making a profit.
- Ensure you have stakeholder and staff buy-in. Part of that buy-in can come in the form of showing growth potential in a particular country or demonstrating the financial return the international activities have already contributed, whether it’s from membership dues, sales of publications, training programs, and meeting registrations, for example. Also, keep your Board and stakeholders updated on the progress of your strategy and its challenges.
- Root the development of your global strategy in research, and not just on demographics, but on the real needs of local members. Some associations have developed criteria for evaluating international markets such as size of market, the level of sophistication and differences in how the profession or industry is practiced, partnership potential, and how easy it is to gain access to the market. Also, should you lead with membership or product? In some countries, like China, associations have found that it’s easier to gain entry by leading with publications, training programs or certification than with membership. It’s vital to talk and listen to local members to discern what association initiatives are going to provide the most value.
- Have an investment plan that encompasses at least 3-5 years, and that the plan doesn’t change unless there are significant changes to the environment. Remember that earning ROI takes time, and sometimes several years, and that there is a difference between Return on Investment (ROI) and Return on Expectations (ROE).
- Safeguard your brand. This can include intellectual property such as logos, trademarks, copyrights, credentialing exams, marketing materials and other association products. Your brand communicates what others can expect from your products and services, and differentiates your offerings from your competitors. Brands helps to maintain your credibility and your reputation.
- Integrate risk management into your strategy. It’s important to determine a clear time frame for a global initiative, limits on the amount of the financial investment and specific milestones you adhere to throughout the investment. If you are working with partners, make sure you have agreements in writing that clearly articulate expectations and responsibilities.
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