Take a Two-Sided Approach to Partnerships

New Money Partnerships Associations Now November/December 2017 Issue By: Emily Bratcher

Is your strategic partnership too one-sided? Here’s how associations can bring in some extra revenue while ensuring a successful relationship.

Associations often bring in extra revenue through partnerships, but sometimes those relationships aren’t as successful as they could be.

Often, that’s because associations take a one-sided approach. They tend to look at their array of programs and products and then try to look for vendors that can fund those activities, according to Sheri Jacobs, FASAE, CAE, president of Avenue M Group.

Rather than doing that, Jacobs suggests that associations seek to understand their partners’ challenges with an eye toward customizing opportunities for them.

"They should think about what additional services they can offer to meet those challenges. If they start understanding what those vendors’ challenges are in trying to be successful within the community ... then associations can start building sponsorship opportunities or opportunities for them to connect with potential customers, and they’re going to be willing to pay a lot more for those opportunities,” she says.

Another way to open other revenue streams through strategic partnerships is by nurturing the next generation of association vendors, suppliers, and sponsors. Recently, Jacobs was talking to the CEO of one newer company, who told her how challenging it was to break into the association community.

While it may seem risky to get involved with one of these newer or smaller companies, she says associations should give them a chance because it could pay dividends down the road. “If you start building relationships with them early on—for instance, you provide them the ability to connect with your members, even in smaller ways—when they start becoming bigger, you’ll have already established those relationships,” Jacobs says.

Make sure that you’re that thought leader...so [potential partners] turn to you and you have a natural pipeline for building more revenue opportunities.”—Sheri Jacobs, FASAE, CAE

As these companies grow, she says, the money they have to offer to their partners will also grow. So, while they may have started off backing smaller programs, they may be able to up their sponsorship dollars and become supporters of an association’s largest and most lucrative products and services.

Of course, associations also have a role to play in securing, building, and maintaining successful strategic partnerships. They need to know their industries inside and out and position themselves as thought leaders.

“Make sure that you’re that thought leader—that you publish those whitepapers and those reports—so [potential partners] turn to you and you have a natural pipeline for building more revenue opportunities,” Jacobs says.

[This article was originally published in the Associations Now print edition, titled “New Money: Perfect Partnerships."] 

Emily Bratcher

Emily Bratcher is a contributing editor at Associations Now.