Revamping Vs. Sunsetting: How to Decide?

Take a cue from General Motors, which introduced a revamped Corvette when many thought the gas-guzzler was ready to be permanently garaged.

The unveiling of the brand new 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray at the 2013 North American Auto Show in Detroit on Sunday made a splash for several reasons. This was the first redesign for the classic American muscle car in nearly a decade—and it came at a time when General Motors easily could have decided the model had reached the end of the road.

The Corvette is an American staple, and it would be an extremely difficult decision to stop production. It’s almost never a clear-cut yes or no decision to kill or revamp a product.

“GM sold 14,132 [Corvettes] last year, well off the 30,000 a year it sustained for much of the past decade,” Yahoo! News reported. “New U.S. fuel economy rules hit sports cars head-on, demanding the same measure of efficiency improvements in hot rods as in compact family sedans.”

GM’s decision to revamp the vehicle rather than kill it delighted members of the National Corvette Owners Association. And it’s an example of the kind of decision that associations need to make with their own product portfolios.

“So many associations have a ton of products and services, and the question is whether to maintain them or potentially get rid of them,” said Jason Thiessen, president of Thiessen Consulting. “In my opinion, organizations, regardless of industry, should be doing this type of assessment at least on an annual basis, considering the amount of money tied up in marketing and supporting a given product or service.”

This assessment, which Thiessen calls a “shelf review process,” consists of three steps: strategizing how your organization would go about reviewing products, looking at the tactics you would use to move forward with the process, and what criteria you would use to determine if a product or service requires action.

“An association might look at their shelf of products and ask objective questions like ‘How much money are we generating? How profitable is it? How many people are actually using the product or service?’” said Thiessen. “Once those questions are answered, regardless of what the product is, who’s in charge of it, or how old the product or service is, subjective questions must be taken into consideration.”

Like what? Associations should think through how a decision to continue or discontinue a product will affect the organization internally and externally, he said. For example: “Will that action align with the organization’s strategy? What type of human resource impact would it have? How will this impact our customers or members? How would it affect the brand or the organization’s partners?”

Intangible factors play a role, too. “The Corvette is an American staple, and it would be an extremely difficult decision to stop production,” Thiessen said. “It’s almost never a clear-cut yes or no decision to kill or revamp a product.”

Does your organization have a process for reviewing the products or services you offer? Tell us about it in the comments.

(General Motors)

Rob Stott

By Rob Stott

Rob Stott is a contributing editor for Associations Now. MORE

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