Insights to shape your tomorrow


Remain Relevant and Authentic

with Nikki Walker

Global Vice President, Association Management & Consulting, MCI Group

Becoming global isn’t just a trend. Today’s competitive environment and 365 days/year virtual connectivity is forcing organizations to rethink their value proposition. Moreover, industry and businesses are pushing their representative organization (particularly trade associations) to help them succeed in the global marketplace.

As associations continue to expand into new markets to increase their reach and influence, and service their global members and customers, they often are challenged in getting the right strategy. Many organizations have used globalization to their advantage and experience continued success with international growth. But how do associations know if they are truly relevant globally? How do associations avoid common mistakes when reaching out to new (emerging) markets? How do they retain a consistent and authentic global brand identity and remain relevant to local audiences?

In this issue learn about international growth strategies, from theory to practice, from challenge to solutions, from trial to success.


What it Takes to be Globally Relevant

Engagement… the most direct and powerful influence on customer satisfaction

Global growth has become essential to the business health of associations as new business becomes harder to find domestically, while the global need for products based on standards, codes and generally accepted practices increases exponentially. But how to manage globalization, avoiding mistakes, whilst reaching out to emerging markets? How to ensure global member and customer needs are aligned with product offerings? How to measure engagement in ways that can accurately analyze member or customer ROI?

In 2016, MCI, in collaboration with FairControl, a German global market research firm, launched the Engagement Index (EI) to collect statistically significant data on the key issues, motivations and drivers ofengagement that can transform our knowledge about what members and customers value and what thatmeans for strategy and operational planning. Three years later, we’ve asked one of the 23 associations, which has participated in all three previous editions, how the Engagement Index has helped their business. Michael Gips, CAE, Chief Global Knowledge Officer at ASIS International, shares his insights.

How has the importance of your global business changed in the past five years?

In 2016, ASIS hired a new CEO who has worked with the Board to make global engagement a strategic priority. We created regional boards that will feed into our global board. Emerging markets such as Latin America, Africa, Eastern Europe, and India are opportunities for growth, but with challenges. On the one hand, there is a great need for our products and there often isn’t much local competition, particularly certification, training, and standards and guidelines. ASIS has very high engagement, according to our EI results, in such places. But we charge ‘mature economy’ prices, which only the more highly compensated professionals can afford. So far, we have adjusted dues (but not prices yet) to reflect purchasing power in different countries.

Why has it been important to participate in the Engagement Index since 2016?

ASIS had previously been using less sophisticated member-engagement measures, and the Engagement Index gave us the chance to validate that data but also to get into much more granular detail about specific regions, products, and services. It showed very precisely countries that can afford our services but have low engagement due to competitive options. The EI has enabled us to start benchmarking our engagement with our members over time and gauge any effects on programmatic or tactical changes.

What were the fundamental lessons you learned from studying the effectiveness of your member and non-member customer engagement?

Even more than most survey participants, in our case high product or service use translates to high engagement—for member and non-member alike. The EI results also reinforced how important local events and activity are. Many of our members derive value from their local communities/chapters and are far removed from HQ strategy and initiatives. Engagement is the most direct and powerful influence on customer satisfaction.

How did these insights impact the relevance of your association’s products and membership offerings?

We have to meet our members where they are. For example, for decades we have offered three advanced certifications but no early career certification. At the same time, we were having member-retention issues between about years 2 and 7 of membership. That’s the period of time when new members don’t have a foothold in the profession and are too new to qualify for our certifications. We just created a new certification for young careerists to bridge that gap and hopefully increase engagement and member retention, and well as meet a market need. Also, we were lacking on the virtual front. We are making up for lost time by creating online certification review courses and developing a “career pathing” initiative by which professionals can chart designated courses to specific careers through a sequence of courses, certifications, certificates, etc.

What advice would you give other association executives who are seeking to expand their own share of global growth?

Every association has its unique concerns and constituencies, but that doesn’t mean benchmarking with other  organizations isn’t very worthwhile. And survey your members–including visiting them where they are and having face-to-face conversations.

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India - The Meaning of Value

When the Customer is Right

If you think the Indian customer is only looking for low price, you are wrong. The Indian customer is a value-seeker. He is looking for good value with some emotional engagement along with rational benefits. Though India’s overall growth will average between 7.4%-7.6% over the next three years, it remains an enigmatic market for foreign companies and associations. To succeed in India, one must understand the country’s fragmented and heterogeneous market.

Creating Exclusive Value

The Society for Clinical Data Management (SCDM) India Conference is the second-largest conference for Clinical Data Management (CDM) and the biggest in Asia. For its 4th edition, SCDM wanted to enhance that status and create an inclusive platform across the entire spectrum of CDM practice for knowledge sharing and growth of the community. To support the organization in this effort, SCDM India developed a strategy whereby the event would become the most recognized opportunity for the CDM community to engage in peer-to-peer com-munication, as well as learn and advance CDM practice in India. As a result, and in just 4 years, the conference scored an impressive 395 delegates, which represents 43% of the US attendance.

Recommendations from the Ground

One of the major downfalls of some associations in their global explorations is to dictate a copy-paste model. Mapping the value of associations’ products across different segments of the target market and packaging the value proposition in go-to-market strategies is something that MCI India has done for several organizations with significant results. Here are some top recommendations:

Listen, Learn and Adapt – Consider the specificities of the market and adapt marketing/communications to tell stories that speak to Indian bosses, and in Indian English.

Do Not Lead with Membership – Employers are very unlikely to pay for annual professional membership, but they will support staff with training, credentials and on-going professional development – as long as it will bring something to the bottom line of their company.

Content-first Strategy – Certifications/credentials/certificate programs all have their worth. Success will only come if these programs are put onto the market at the market price.

WIIFM – (what’s in it for me?) matters hugely in India. It is crucial that products, services programs or brand bring personal or enterprise advancement or competitive advantage.

Coupon Culture – Don’t fight it! Bargaining for the best price is part of doing business in India.

SCDM India in Numbers
increase in attendance at the annual India conference
attendees from pharma
new web visitors
page views


Successful Journey to Growth

Whilst still a prime choice for many organizations, a “copy/paste” approach hardly drives success when exporting a leading event to a new part of the world. More strategic options exist, although they require a bit more patience.

SLAS, the Society for Laboratory Automation and Screening, is a US-based global scientific organization. Its flagship annual event dominates the US domestic market but also attracts 20% of international visitors. Organically growing, SLAS saw a raising demand to develop an event in Europe.

In 2013, as a very first step, SLAS appointed a European volunteer leadership responsible for the strategic development of the region and opened its European office managed by MCI. With the support of MCI, SLAS developed a 5-year strategy focused on better understanding the European market and expanding local net – work and awareness before considering launching a large event.

In the following years, SLAS focused on building partnerships with existing local groups, developing single-topics events to grow traction and engagement, and using volunteer expertise to analyze needs and gaps.

Eventually, late 2015, strong of its gained knowledge and community, SLAS felt ready to launch a second annual conference and exhibition in Europe. The first edition in 2018 rewarded the organization for its patient craft, as objectives were surpassed in attendance (over 1000 delegates), exhibition (94 companies) and
generated a substantial profit.

If you are attending the ASAE annual meeting in Columbus, OH, don’t miss out on the session ‘Success is a Process: A Journey to Global Growth’ on Sunday August 11th from 4-5 PM.

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Top Tips to Overcome Language Barriers at International Events

Going global often starts with an event, but the barriers that language poses in different regions of the world can be intimidating. Associations should start with an open approach of assessing the pros and cons of maintaining everything in English or adapting a part to the local language. Knowing what to do from the start will help you to be more successful. Here are a few key points to consider:

  1. Translate What and Why
    Translation can be expensive. Only translate content and materials that are the most locally relevant.
  2. Do you speak English?
    How proficient in English is your target audience? Ask how much more relevant your offering will be if translated or not?
  3. Localized Marketing Messages
    Make sure to use the appropriate tone and correct style and language in all communications.
  4. Make registration easy
    Assess if translation will help the process and ensure questions and requests are answered in local language.
  5. (Do not get) Lost in Translation
    Make sure the LOC reviews every translated document before sharing to avoid isinterpretations

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Local WeChat Campaigns Generate Big Awareness

According to an ASAE Foundation/MCI study, more than two-thirds of associations surveyed had never conducted marketing inside China, while China is using very unique social media and marketing tools, different from other regions of the world.

A global trade association that provides education, resources, and support to practitioners of Agile IT programming teams was considering China as a key priority market to grow the organization. To achieve this, the organization needed to understand their competitors’ landscape in China, increase brand awareness, and engage customers through China’s unique social media platforms.

MCI China developed and implemented a series of solutions to support the organization in their effort, including a competitor analysis, the launch of a Chinese WeChat platform, a social media marketing strategy and a plan to build a community of Chinese customers, while collecting feedback, and promoting the organization’s products and services. At the same time, MCI China was working on growing the online community through leveraging existing customer resources and engaging followers in various campaigns, e.g. surveys, and communicating with local partners to strengthen relationships.

In just three months the number of WeChat followers grew from 0 to over 1,200 with more than 3,000 WeChat page views, and 700+ click-throughs to the channel introducing the product.

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The Volunteer Culture in Brazil: Current and Future

With a population of over 200 million, Brazil is the fifth largest country in the world and one of the most dynamic economies of the LatAm region, representing countless opportunities for associations. But many organizations are still reluctant to explore this market based on anecdotal information.

MCI Brazil has collected data from dozens of association executives in the South American giant. Here are some key factors to succeed in the region:

For more economic insights and to learn about opportunities in Brazil, listen to the webinar recording ‘Demystifying Business opportunities in Brazil’.


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Interview: Katie Barnett, CLSI

Locally Relevant Marketing That Generates Results

The Clinical and Laboratory Standards Institute (CLSI), is a non-profit organization that develops and publishes standards serving the healthcare industry. Headquartered in the USA, CLSI standards, through the over 2,000 organizations and 2,000 individuals in the CLSI membership base, have greatly influenced the current state of its field on an international level. In just one year of operations in the Middle East, CLSI has successfully grown its membership and increased brand awareness in the MENA region, generating new revenues for the organization. Katie Barnett, Membership Director, shares how.

Can you describe CLSI objectives in the MENA region?
Katie Barnett: In our quest for expansion, we wanted to position CLSI in the MENA region as a recognized leader in business excellence and innovation. We had four key objectives: 1. understand relevant areas of professional development needs in the region; 2. promote CLSI standards; 3. promote membership and the value and benefits of membership; and, finally, connect with key opinion leaders in the region such as government and private laboratories. To achieve this, we were looking for a partner on the ground who could understand and help channel our community vision of bringing quality champions together.

What were the important criteria you considered in that process?
Barnett: With over 200 nationalities and many diverse cultures and communication styles, maturity, time zones or even days of the week, the MENA region is a complex market. When we understand the importance of local relevance, we also wanted our approach to be consistent with our brand. The perception of our membership differs from one country to another, so we needed to make sure the value is properly articulated to each local audience using the right vehicles.

How do you measure success?
Barnett: Memberships have increased overall – both in terms of new members as well as renewals. This can be attributed to continuous upselling and improving member retention. Lab professionals also understand the value and importance of CLSI standards when it comes to the accreditation of their lab. Our standards are purchased on a regular basis.

Any recommendation you can share with other organizations?
Barnett: One size doesn’t fit all. Consider all possibilities and understand the data you have. Look at all the categories of membership you have and choose which one will work best in the region you are targeting. Then you will want to redefine the value and benefits to meet local needs and expectations. The key to success is to understand your audience, and why you work with that audience; and eventually get ground support. That can make marketing so much more effective.

CLSI MENA in Numbers
membership revenue growth (2017-2018)
individual membership revenue
new contacts/clients added to the database
Inside View
Kavitha Prabhu
Director, Association Management & Consulting MCI Middle East

What was your strategy to support CLSI’s growth in the MENA region?
Kavitha Prabhu: MCI Middle East developed a strategy to address CLSI’s needs by building stronger relationships with lab professionals through regular face-to-face meetings, virtual calls and quarterly feedback meetings, market monitoring, participation in the MedLab event via a booth and other relevant conferences, and finally by reinforcing its brand authority through a regional website and creating advocacy with localized social media platforms. Customer advocacy can skyrocket marketing ROI.

Can you share some of the tactics you have implemented and tips?
Prabhu: The regional website helps drive foot traffic and awareness with specific content of local relevance such as local events, training programs, conference and case studies. Visitors are able to register themselves in local currency transactions and at the same time we are able to capture data for future lead-generation campaigns.

We established fully fleshed-out profiles on the major social networks and developed informative social media content that speaks to the MENA audience to create as many opportunities as possible to engage people. We also prepared a good supply of ‘snackable’ content including ready-to-go case studies and videos for social profiles.

Is there a magic formula for location-based marketing?
Prabhu: The magic formula is to observe, listen and refine. It is about creating talking points and engaging in discussions rather than just disseminating information, and redefining and delivering value to local stakeholders.

To learn more, listen to webinar recording ‘Developing Locally Relevant Marketing that Generates Results’.


Next Opportunities for Associations

Building Sustainable Strategies that Address Value, Relevance and Growth

In a world where digital innovation is brandished as the next big opportunity, the question of growth, value and relevance are arguably the top three concerns that associations are challenged with.

With the digital economy, there is an opportunity for associations to strategically innovate, cleverly maneuver themselves, accelerate growth and provide immeasurable value to their audiences around the world. The natural approach for most associations when expanding into new markets is to sell all their products and services and hope they work! Based on market dynamics, the results can be varied and, in some cases, counterproductive as the investment in growth may not yield the desired results. Identified below are four axioms to consider.

Thought Leadership and Subject Matter Experts

In an age of ‘hyper-information’, credibility and reliability become critical. Delivering industry-ratified, peer-reviewed and certified content is paramount. Associations need to use this key strength to their advantage and develop and deploy SME’s who will strengthen their position and in turn help industries develop standards and grow economies.

Registered Service Providers

There are many roads and vehicles that associations can choose from to sell their content. One of the options is to appoint RSPs to represent the association’s product and become a generator of value and opportunity. The RSP not only carries the brand but also assists with the growth of the association by attracting new and renewing old members.

Growth Through Academia

Associations have a natural affinity with Academia and partnering with such institutions adds credence to the body of knowledge. Opportunities include collocating certifications with university certificates, adding industry knowledge and standards to the learning curriculum and directing future generations in building their careers
around the industry driven by the association.

Build Local/Regional Products

Most associations will deploy products and awards establishing the association as a standards’ adjudicator and curator of the industry. Such a position helps attract various stakeholders who would want to be part of these peer-affiliated Awards. In addition, the Awards act as an opportunity to bring together the industry to celebrate and as an aspiration for future generations.

While there are a number of digital opportunities that are brandished as innovation, they are all just vehicles of communication; the reality is that “Content is King”. To be relevant, valuable and to grow, starts and ends with the body of knowledge. So, while there are a lot of fads from digital, the fundamentals are simple, age-old truisms that transcend time and generations!

Four strategic directions with clear goals
Define audiences
Add value by differentiating
Communicate to the right audiences
Identify fundings: where and how

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