Strategic thinking in the short term,

In February, we had conversations with two strategists in the association industry that really helped us think through how important taking time out to think strategically really is for real growth.  In our first conversation with David Carrithers of both the and Profitable Associations, we talked about the tough questions Carrithers finds himself asking of association executives to be sure he can keep them focused on where they are going and to evaluate if who they are today is who they were yesterday and who they need to be in the future.

In our second conversation, available to watch next week, we spoke with David Carnes of ArcStone and explored the topic of storytelling as part of a digital marketing strategy that includes website design.  Where do these two conversations intersect? Outlined below are some key take-aways that we came up with as a result of the two discussions.

Strategy, what it is and what it is not: Too many organizations stay in short term strategy land unknowingly.  They build a website, set up an annual event, create a few email drip campaigns, and then go about their set it and forget it way.  This isn’t wholistic strategy, it’s short-sighted planning.  To consistently be relevant in your industry, it’s important to see all your organization’s assets as constantly evolving and changing based on the needs of the industry it serves.  This is where mid-to-long term strategy comes in. It’s not just about setting higher revenue goals or membership objectives, it’s about rethinking what worked to get you here and strategizing on what new things will work to get you there.

Resources, time and talent must come from somewhere: I once heard a great quote, “hallucinations are visions without resources”. Every organization has a vision but if you are strapped for resources, be they financial resources, human capital, or specific skill sets, then your vision can quickly become a hallucination.  Fortunately for most organizations, scalable resources are not only in vogue, but they are also here to stay.  Everything-as-a-Service is a thing, take advantage of it.  Your vision can’t suffer the consequences of not being able to bring the right resources to bear based on what you need to accomplish.  If you are hitting a wall in growth, bring a strategist in that can help poke the bear and ask the tough questions.  If your website is still seen as a place for people to grab your contact information, pull in a digital marketing group that can help you turn your web presence into a storytelling, authentic, engagement tool that can drive revenue.

Daily driver, be with them every day: Your members are going to work every day, are you in it with them as they tackle their industry’s toughest problems every day too?  Going back to events and websites, if you are only planning to connect with your constituents once a year over three days, how can they see you as their reliable resource for help in the day to day?  What about the website, is it consistently delivering new and meaningful stories and content that can help them navigate what is happening today?  These are the questions you will need to ask of yourselves to be sure that you become that dependable daily driver of information, connection, and resources that your members are assuredly looking for, and betting on when they find it.

Being able to carve out time and space for strategy is difficult at best in a time of crisis, creating the space for it when things aren’t at their height can feel luxurious, we get it.  It’s simply not a matter of comfort or luxury, it’s the difference between being who you want to be to your members and losing out on real value creation in a time when everyone needs wells to draw strength from in order to grow.

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