Global Growth: It’s a Chicken-and-Egg Question
A new study by GlobalStrat puts hard data behind the idea that associations with the fastest international growth are also the ones with the greatest international presence. So which comes first?
Associations with at least 15 percent international members are far more likely to experience faster international growth, according to the survey “Global Association Trends 2013.”
Conducted by consulting firm GlobalStrat, the survey of 340 U.S. and international associations also found that associations with a strategic international plan in place were 50 percent more likely to experience faster overseas growth than associations without a plan.
These findings may seem obvious, but what’s harder to explain is why the more-international organizations experience faster growth.
“That’s difficult to answer,” said Terrance Barkan, CAE, GlobalStrat chief strategist, “but what I’ve observed is as organizations become more international, they tend to be more sensitive to international needs, they tend to communicate more effectively, they also tend to have more word-of-mouth [advertising]—that’s how many associations get new members, by word of mouth.”
It’s also easier today for members all over the world to find an association without the organization going out and recruiting them, Barkan added. This can create an ad hoc system of growth, where an association accumulates members until it reaches a tipping point, usually when 10 to 15 percent of their members are international.
“One day they wake up and say, ‘Well, now what are we going to do with them?’” said Barkan, who recommended having an international strategy in place from the beginning to prevent reaching that point.
“People will say, ‘Well, we’ve been successful without a strategy so far, why do we need one?’” Barkan added. “You look at the results between people who have a plan and those who don’t and it’s clear having a strategy makes a difference.”
Survey respondents also listed some of the challenges they are facing while trying to globalize. The two biggest hurdles: accurately assessing foreign market opportunities and determining an appropriate business model.
Associations with chapter structures in the U.S., for example, cannot expect to simply duplicate them in other countries, Barkan said. “The needs outside the States are different, and the resources they have available to them are different, so [associations] have to figure out different business models.”