Tracy Talbot is an independent consultant in North Potomac, Maryland.
The pandemic sowed chaos among the traditional association money makers. But that doesn’t mean revenue isn’t still out there. In this current and post-pandemic economy, associations seeking revenue need to expand their reach, price differently, and be agile.
While the pandemic has disrupted business models, it presents association leaders with the chance to explore market needs, evaluate new segments, and continue the collaborative practices many implemented to strengthen their programs. More than ever, associations can make a difference for the members they serve by leveraging the valuable content they curate.
Association meetings, education, webinars, websites, and publications are populated with rich content. Some of the most valuable information is typically secured behind a member paywall. For many, COVID-19 altered traditional content formats and pricing structures with transitions to virtual meetings, open-access webinars, communities, and education.
A new white paper, The Content Roadmap to Recovery: Eight Ways to Recharge Your Revenue, suggests ways in which associations can re-establish content protocols that were disrupted as a result of the pandemic’s effects and address revenue shortfalls. Here are four recommendations to help maintain and drive revenue:
With the rollout of virtual conferences, associations quickly discovered increased international registrations. Now with free or reduced fees, ease of accessibility, and time limitations relaxed, participation from new audiences is leading to increases in web traffic and the possibility of boosting recruitment.
Create new programs, newsletters, and webinars, and much like for-profit competitors, associations should set expectations for fast time-to-market.
While it’s tempting to presume all new participants are prospective customers, associations should use their mission as a guidepost when adapting content to expanded audiences. Evaluate the cost of expanded reach against the real impact to the new audiences. Ensure that new audiences offer meaningful potential and substantial numbers. Anticipate that new audiences will soon require unique content rather than existing content that is simply translated, edited, or repurposed—and evaluate the pros and cons of investing in each audience.
The white paper also offered a key point for associations when it comes to pricing: “Virtual events are no longer a digital replication of association annual meetings. To engage members and attract new audiences in 2021, associations will need to create events driven by market need, and price them accordingly.” Research and understand the pandemic’s economic impact on your audience segments. Consider the use of targeted discounts for affected audiences rather than across-the-board price cuts. Create financial models using different pricing scenarios before making final decisions. For example, identify key constituents—including member attendees, nonmember attendees, sponsors, exhibitors, and advertisers—and determine your primary and secondary audiences. Prioritize who you want to serve and how. With that understanding, you can then evaluate who pays for what, how much they pay and the value for each.
Not ordinarily known as rapid innovators, associations were nimble and delivered new services as the crisis unfolded. Associations should continue with that same energy. Create new programs, newsletters, and webinars, and much like for-profit competitors, associations should set expectations for fast time-to-market. The cross-departmental collaboration that emerged early in the pandemic leads to better product outcomes for members and customers.
Balancing mission goals and revenue generation, associations must determine which products and services have the greatest potential to engage members long term. Using a data-driven approach, marketing analytics can provide key insights on customer behavior to inform leadership discussions. Track issues, topics, and programs that are resulting in downloads, views, shares, purchases, and registrations and determine which programs are driving engagement. If your reporting is not robust, then now is the time to assess and redesign.