How Technology and Agility Will Help Associations Remain Competitive

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that change can happen quickly, and it’s crucial to be prepared. For associations, using digital tools to better connect with members is a winning business strategy moving forward.

When it comes to being ready for the future, the key for associations will be having a strategy that lets them take advantage of technology to help better serve members, said experts at a recent webinar.

Wendy Sahli, director of technology at the Regulatory Affairs Professionals Society, realized that the organization’s strategy of using landing pages to collect information and guide members to content wasn’t working.

“We discovered through usability studies that our users were primarily getting to all of our content via Google or search,” Sahli said during the webinar, “To Future Proof Your Association, Become a Digital Leader.” “So, all those pretty landing pages—they just ignored them and went right to exactly what they want.”

Once discovering this, RAPS decided it wasn’t ideal for members to get disparate information due to which page turned up on their search, so they looked for a way to fix it.

“Our next step is to attach related content together so that if we have a news article on a particular topic, we can also give them webcasts on that particular topic,” Sahli said. “Everything comes up right in a handy little package for them.”

This is a strategy that the technology can help support, but having that strategy in place before implementing the technology is critical, said Patrick Dorsey, senior vice president of marketing at Impexium, who also spoke at the webinar.

“If the current organizational practices are flawed, then that digital transformation will simply magnify those flaws,” he said. “You have to figure out your business strategy before you invest in anything.”

For RAPS, the strategy centered on figuring out what experiences they wanted members to have when they interacted with the site—a key touchpoint for most members because they go there for everything from renewals to training. To figure out what was needed, they asked staff to think through the issues.

“That was one way of really getting [staff] involved in thinking as a customer and saying, ‘OK, you want to solve this problem as a customer, how would I want that to look? What do you want that experience to be?’” Sahli said. “We should be giving that to our users. So those conversations are critical.”

Determining what that endgame should look like is crucial to figuring out how to implement it.

“They looked at the processes before they decided on the tools to use and how to use them,” Dorsey said. “So, when they envision what is going to be the future of this organization, that drove the technology, not the other way around.”

Bring a Silicon Valley Mindset

In the new world of change, it’s important to be willing to try new things.

“You almost have to bring this Silicon Valley startup culture inside your organization,” Dorsey said. “By that I mean, Silicon Valley startups are known to be agile. They’re rapid at prototyping. When we look at our organizations, we have to recognize this digital transformation is going to be inherently uncertain. Changes are going to be made on the fly.”

That mindset also means a different mindset for staff.

“You’re going to constantly have to analyze what’s working and what’s not,” Dorsey said. “So, you have to find the right people who can adjust to that—people who are willing to be flexible and agile in a culture that almost encourages you to fail fast. To be fair, some people aren’t wired for that.”

While some people aren’t wired for that, many can learn. Sahli notes that pre-pandemic, people often were reluctant to try new things or took the attitude that it wasn’t worth it.

“I can say COVID has changed that a lot,” Sahli said. “I think people learned that they had to very quickly get up to speed. And that they can. They’ve surprised themselves of what they’re capable of.”

Encouraging that attitude moving forward will help associations succeed as they navigate new challenges. What are some strategies your organization is focusing on as it plans for the future? Share in the comments.

(jamesteohart/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Rasheeda Childress

By Rasheeda Childress

Rasheeda Childress is a former editor at Associations Now. MORE

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