Where Do You Lie on the Global Growth Chart?

A new study from the ASAE Foundation and MCI takes a look at some of the latest strategies associations are using to grow globally. Here’s a look at some of the key findings and a few real-world examples.

Is your association a global grower or a nongrower? If you had to pause and think, a new study from ASAE Foundation and MCI might help you with the answer.

According to “Achieving Global Growth: Establishing & Maintaining Global Markets,” released last week, growers are those associations that increased product sales and membership outside of North America over the last three years, while nongrowers experienced flat or declining membership and product sales. Among the survey’s respondents, 64 percent were classified as growers and 36 percent as nongrowers.

Grower organizations frequently express a deliberate commitment to global growth.

So, what differentiates the two in their approaches to international growth?

According to the study, growers adhere to several common strategies: “Grower organizations frequently express a deliberate commitment to global growth,” the report noted. “They offer a variety of relevant products and services to improve local member and customer engagement, invest in local operations and leadership, and secure certain kinds of international partners to assist their efforts. Finally, they operate in locations with a need for U.S. standards, codes, and generally accepted practices. Those who report stagnation or decline in their business were more likely not to have deployed these strategies effectively and consistently.”

Here’s a look at those five successful global growth practices in more detail:

1. A dedicated commitment. Sixty-two percent of growers reported that international business was important or very important, compared to 31 percent of nongrowers. Also important to note: Growers reported 10 times the median total revenue stemming from non-North American countries than reported by nongrowers.

The Risk Management Society realized the benefits of an organized and dedicated approach to international efforts not too long ago. After a sort of ad-hoc global expansion, RIMS began to strategize its global activities in 2009. A task force eventually led to an international committee, which in turn developed a strategy document along with members of RIMS’ executive team. Thanks to that document, RIMS was better able to focus its energy on specific projects, Darlene Lebron Lopez, manager, international initiatives, at RIMS, told Associations Now.

“Recently, a member needed a list of risk-management-related conferences in China,” Lopez said. “A year ago, we wouldn’t have had that. Now we do, because we’re tracking that kind of information.”

2. Introducing products and services. Grower organizations are introducing more products and services to global audiences than nongrowers. They’re offering more networking and professional development opportunities, more digital library services, and they are two times as likely to hold board meeting, conferences, and special events outside of North America.

To further develop its global business strategy, the International Carwash Association recently announced it will sponsor a new international tradeshow in October 2015. ICA CEO Eric Wulf said the association focused its global business strategy on introducing a tradeshow because it was an easier first step than trying to introduce a membership model.

“A membership model can be much more complex in terms of dealing with culture and language, recruitment, and any incumbents that you might be competing against,” Wulf told Associations Now.

3. Integrate international and local operations. According to the report, 64 percent of growers reported having board members from outside of North America. Two-thirds of growers also have at least one full-time employee dedicated to international activities.

4. Seek out partnerships. Half of growers are seeking in-market supplier partnerships, compared to 36 percent of nongrowers. Growers are also more than two times as likely to develop a partnership with an international government, according to the study.

At a recent Association Business in South Korea panel, co-sponsored by the Korea Tourism Organization and ASAE, Tara Wisniewski, director of corporate development at IEEE, emphasized the importance of establishing relationships when setting up a presence in other countries.

“Don’t underestimate the value of building relationships and investing in relationships and not expecting things too quickly out of relationships,” Wisniewski said. “It really is important to build trust and really leverage those relationships at the appropriate time. … Because that will go much farther than the sort of immediate, short-term win.”

5. Consider emerging markets. Growers are considering emerging markets, such as China, Brazil, and India. These are three of the six countries whose economies the World Bank predicts will account for more than half of all global growth by 2025, the study noted. The other three countries include Indonesia, South Korea, and Russia.

Are you a global grower? Let us know how your association approaches international growth in the comments.


Katie Bascuas

By Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. MORE

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