WHAT BUSINESS ARE YOU REALLY IN? A LIME PAPER™
BY DON NEAL, FOUNDER & CEO OF 360 LIVE MEDIA
This article was originally published on http://360livemedia.com/whatsnext/
To sustain success in business and in life, you must constantly consider new perspectives. If you look at your association’s business model through a new lens, you may discover opportunities that transform how you think about what you do.
A DIFFERENT LENS
Contrary to popular belief, Tesla is not a car company…they are an energy company. Amazon was never in the book business…they are in the business of trust, data and convenience. And despite being the world’s largest taxi company, Uber says they’re in the technology business.
So what is the business model of the 21st century trade association, professional society, institute and academy? Of course, your association is in the business of advocacy, education, membership, thought leadership and research. But when you look through a different lens, you will find that associations can deliver so much more value. In fact, the current value proposition for associations most resembles the structure and business model of a media organization.
WHY A MEDIA ORGANIZATION?
Media is defined as a medium of conveyance. Media organizations aggregate audiences around a common interest and purpose (in an effort to sell and influence). They provide value by conveying ideas and useful content (think Huffington Post and Fox), and they deliver it across multiple platforms (think TV, magazines and online learning).
When you think about it, your organization operates in the exact same way:
- Take your annual conference for example—isn’t it really a live branded media platform designed to educate, connect and do business?
- Advocacy is a concerted and integrated media effort to advance the interests of your members.
- Education, training and professional development are designed, customized and delivered through a media platform—online, live, broadcast and print.
- You already use all four of the traditional media platforms—paid (advertising), earned (public/media relations), shared (social media) and owned (websites/magazines).
Your association operates as a media business because you bring like-minded people together by delivering relevant value. To succeed in a media-saturated world, you must always be top of mind and running in the background of your members’ lives. If you begin to view your association through the lens of a media enterprise, you have an opportunity to accelerate the success of your organization.
EMBRACING A NEW PERSPECTIVE
Organizational change is inevitable in the Digital Age. However, the motivation for that change can come in one of two ways: inspiration or desperation. You’re either inspired by disruptions in the market (and behave proactively), or you react out of desperation (often too late). Look at Blockbuster and Kodak, for example.
IF ONLY THEY COULD REWIND TIME
Blockbuster believed they were in the real estate and physical delivery of entertainment business (VHS and DVD). Fast forward and the digital revolution quickly forced Blockbuster into irrelevancy by streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu. How did these other companies succeed? Unlike Blockbuster, they were able to see that they were in the entertainment experience business.
A KODAK MOMENT (TO REMEMBER)
Did you know that Kodak invented digital photography? Yet, because the company so deeply feared their traditional film business would suffer at the hands of digital photography, Kodak didn’t embrace the new technology until it was too late. Other companies saw the potential and leapt ahead of the original photography king. Unfortunately for Kodak, they believed they were in the film and print photography business, when they were actually in the business of capturing memories—regardless of the technology
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR MY ASSOCIATION?
Blockbuster and Kodak made two epic blunders. First, they did not truly understand the businesses they were in. Second, they ignored or refused to respond to disruptions in the market caused by technology. As a result, their well-established business models suffered immensely.
WHERE TO BEGIN
Having a new perspective on your business is really just the tip of the iceberg. Once you look at your organization through the lens of a media enterprise, you can:
- View your audience differently. Media companies keep their customers engaged by delivering valuable content. Therefore, think of your members as an audience that expects useful information and resources from your association. Find new ways to unify and keep the attention of your audience by providing the content that they demand.
- Monetize your events differently. Are you taking advantage of the most influential platform in your arsenal? Transform your meetings and conferences into live branded experiences. You’ll need to capture your audience’s attention to compete on the level of SXSW, TED and commercial media events.
- Integrate your event differently. What about the other 99% of the year when your annual event isn’t happening? When you look at your event as a media platform, you begin to better align your other media—magazines, websites and social—into a cohesive “surround sound” system that creates more stickiness and engagement. What’s the best way to increase member retention? Use your annual event as a cornerstone of your year-round member dialogue.
Never has the association business model been under more pressure than it is today. Attracting Millennials, competing in the crowded media landscape, generating more non-dues revenue…the list goes on. The good news is that by looking at your association through the lens of a media business, you have an opportunity to deliver more value to your members.
NOW is a great time to unlock new sources of non-dues revenue, new levels of member engagement and new levels of operational performance.
Don Neal is the Founder & CEO of 360 Live Media, a marketing and experience design agency based in Washington DC. If you would like to hear more ideas to help your association achieve success, firstname.lastname@example.org or visit 360livemedia.com/WhatsNext