Many association leaders are eager to reap the potential benefits of expanding into global markets. ASAE Foundation research indicates that those who succeed plan ahead and do their homework.
As globalization and technology increase access to new markets, more companies and professionals are making connections across national borders. For many associations, following their members and customers outside the U.S. is both a natural next step and important to their long-term sustainability.
To effectively expand into international markets, associations need a deliberate, multi-year strategy for global growth. The ASAE Foundation report Association Global Maturity: Critical Actions for Successful International Growth identifies common characteristics of associations that have achieved success in global growth to identify key elements of a successful strategy.
Know Where You Are
Association leaders first need to evaluate their organization’s level of global maturity—its state of readiness to expand internationally. Association Global Maturity identifies seven specific areas that define global maturity:
- strategic and business planning
- management and organizational culture
- leadership engagement
- market insight
- value proposition and engagement model
- local operations and service delivery capacity
- global organization, roles, and support
Research shows that higher levels of global maturity correspond with higher international member and customer satisfaction, faster growth, and fewer hurdles. Globally mature associations have certain practices in common, including self-assessment, a strategic focus, and a willingness to work toward long-term goals. An evaluation tool such as the Global Maturity Assessment helps leaders pinpoint their organizational strengths and weaknesses, providing information they need to build their capacity to work internationally.
Research shows that higher levels of global maturity correspond with higher international member and customer satisfaction, faster growth, and fewer hurdles.
A realistic assessment gives organizations a foundation to inform their planning process. Successful associations have a strategic plan for global expansion that is clear and understandable and allows them to measure progress. Of globally mature associations, 96 percent said they completely or mostly had such a strategy, compared to only 37 percent of associations overall.
Know Where You’re Going
Associations need thorough intelligence on new markets to understand the needs of local communities and to build relationships with the people who will represent the association locally. Market research helps leaders determine which products and services to deliver and how to execute operations in conjunction with a local team. While conducting research abroad is costly and establishing trusting working relationships with local leaders takes time, these activities are essential to global success.
A local team offers additional market insight and operational support. Nearly every globally mature association said that the capabilities of their local volunteers, partners, and paid staff complemented the capabilities of their headquarters without overlap or conflict. Taking the time to define the roles and responsibilities of the local team ensures smoother collaboration from the initial rollout to day-to-day operations.
Effective organizations lay the groundwork for international expansion long before opening shop abroad. Understanding where your organization is and where it wants to be and employing a detailed plan to get there are essential. It’s a long road, but one that can payoff in greater success and fewer setbacks.