Disruption in Business
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of disruption is:
Disruption, the act or process of disrupting something : a break or interruption in the normal course or continuation of some activity, process, etc.
Well, I think it’s safe to say we are experiencing an extreme interruption in the normal course of business during the COVID-19 pandemic. And for many associations, this disruption is detrimental to the health of the organization. As we enter the fall, a time when many associations typically hold their annual conferences and launch membership renewal campaigns that bring in the majority of their revenue, COVID-19 is putting the brakes on these efforts and leaving many scrambling to find new revenue streams. Now more than ever, it is time for organizations to get creative and start distributing their eggs into different baskets.
Time to Diversify.
Merriman-Webster defines diversify as follows:
1: to make diverse or composed of unlike elements : give variety to
2: to balance (an investment portfolio) defensively by dividing funds among securities of different industries or of different classes
3: to increase the variety of the products
Unfortunately, for many of us, we’ve relied almost solely on membership dues and event profits to sustain, and grow, our organizations. And this worked…until now. Events are cancelled/postponed and many members are experiencing financial hardships that may cause them to delay their membership renewals. These disruptions in our tried-and-true revenue streams is forcing us to examine our business models and look for new ways to bring in money. But where do we start?
The first thing to do is to look at your current products and services and identify any that may have untapped potential for revenue such as website advertising and sponsored member communications. These are easy ways to easily connect sponsors with your members, especially if they’ve lost face-to-face time as a result of cancelled events. Look at all your technology platforms, and partners, and explore what is available to offer. What other features are available to sell to members/customers? If you offer a webinar series to your members, are you recording it and offering it to non-members for a fee? Can you sell the series as an educational product for sale to other organizations or individuals? It is likely you have products and services that you aren’t capitalizing on as a revenue stream that may offer a quick option for sales. Here are some examples of other areas to explore as potential new products to sell, or opportunities to be sponsored:
- Virtual events and webinars
- Membership mobile app
- Job board
- Career center
- White papers
- Publication supplements/inserts (digital or print)
- Mentorship programs
- Member discussion boards
- Scholarship programs
- Fundraising campaigns
- Training/educational content
- Coaching services
The possibilities are endless and while some idea may take longer to explore and develop, you may find some easy opportunities to start selling almost immediately.
Call on Everyone to Help
As you begin to brainstorm new revenue streams, involve your staff, partners, and members in the brainstorming efforts. Ask your closest partners what they would value in terms of sponsorship opportunities to get in front of your audience. Ask them what their current priorities are and where they are spending marketing dollars. Engage multiple staff members from all areas of the organization in order to gain a cross-functional perspective that may turn up new ideas. Bring in a professional facilitator to help create a dynamic brainstorming session. You may be surprised where the ideas come from when you call on different people to participate. Plus, you will gain more buy-in, and support, from staff and partners simply by involving them in the process.
While this may be an uncomfortable time, a shift in mindset allows us to see the opportunity that comes with disruption. It is likely that the COVID disruption will change the way we do business forever, but this doesn’t mean our businesses can’t thrive and grow. It’s all about spreading the eggs out into different baskets in case one basket shrinks – or diminishes all together. This is our time to shift focus and ultimately find new ways to deliver products and services to our members and be the resource they rely on…and then the revenue will follow.