Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Is Your Association Behaving Like an Airline?

How do you feel about how airlines do business? Today, you have to buy your ticket, then pay again for selecting your seat, and another charge for checking your luggage. One airline even wants to charge you for printing out your boarding pass. This is like buying a ticket to the movies and then having to pay an additional fee to get the actual paper ticket you need to gain admission to the theater. Once on board, you are charged again for a snack or even the use of a blanket. Want to watch the "free" movie? You have to buy the headphones in order to hear it. The flying experience is really the constant feeling of the airline with its hand in your pocket charging for what used to be included in the price of the ticket. As consumers, wouldn't we be happier if the airlines didn't do this? Tell me what the ticket costs to go from point A to point B, and in that price include all of the services that make the flying experience easy and pleasant.

In some ways, associations do the same thing as the airlines. They price their products and services individually. There is a fee to purchase exhibit space. Want to advertise in the conference program? That is an additional charge. Want to be a sponsor? An even higher additional charge. There is one fee to buy an ad in a magazine and an additional charge if you also want to buy an ad on an organization's website. Is it getting to the point that your customers are feeling about your organization they way you are feeling about the airlines? And, how many people from within your organization are your customers dealing with each time they make a purchasing decision? It's confusing and inefficient, but worse than that, are your customers feeling about your association they way they may be feeling about the airlines?

The solution may be to create a single point of entry through which your customers can purchase all of your offerings at a single package price. You can create a number of different packaging options by combining, for example, print and web advertising, exhibits and sponsorships, or advertising across multiple products such as your magazine, conference program, and website. Price these packages so that they deliver fair value to your customers while providing your organization with a fair return in its investments in the products and events being offered. In today's value-driven economy, your customers may greatly appreciate this approach for its simplicity, flexibility, and ease of access. This will result an increase in overall revenue coming into your organization. This is a win-win solution that, perhaps, the airlines should adopt as well.