Online Directories Idea Swap Report

So there were about 10 people who attended the Idea Swap last night. Roughly equal mix of association staff and vendor/consultant types. I didn’t hear any revolutionary ideas but I did hear something interesting about what associations think about as they consider an online directory.

The biggest factors for associations creating online directories seemed to fall into one of two areas: preserving print-based advertising revenue or cutting costs by ceasing printing of the dead tree directory. What was missing from the conversation was discussion about creating value for members via an online directory. Revenue and cost are valid concerns but shouldn’t they really be secondary to what will create the most value for the association’s members?

Creating crippled online directories just to preserve some existing revenue streams doesn’t tell your members that you are keeping their interest front and center. Once they get that perception, you renewals will drop and then those other revenue streams will go away too. Then what?

I think associations are really going to have to get back to basics as the web continues to disrupt existing revenue models. It won’t be easy but they have to address value for members if they want to remain healthy organizations.

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3 thoughts on “Online Directories Idea Swap Report

  1. David, you’re absolutely correct that while many associations pay lip service to value creation, too often their strategic choices are made on the basis of insular thinking: what creates our revenues or what reduces our costs? There is a frustrating opposition to the pursuit of innovation, even in areas such as member directories, which is screaming out for new ideas. So I actually think that associations don’t need to “get back to basics” as much as they need to move toward fresh thinking if they are going to remain healthy.

  2. I agree with you Jeff. I think what I was trying to get at with ‘back to basics’ was more getting back to our roots as organizations formed to serve the direct needs of members rather than sustaining tangential revenue streams. Part of those roots or basics would be innovating new services for purposes of creating member value.

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