As someone who’s worked around technology associations for a long time, I often get asked: “So what are the secret traits of the groups that are the most successful?” Quite honestly, these secrets traits aren’t really so secret. In fact, I like to call them the three “I”s. All of the better-performing organizations I have worked with have had at least one of these traits; some of the great ones have had all three.
- IP – For a group developing standards or specifications, IP licensing is often the single greatest benefit offered by an association. For license recipients, favorable IP terms through a tech consortium can save a member company significant expense. For licensors, getting one’s IP written into a standard can provide a solid, long-term revenue boost. If IP is part of your association, and you have a standard that means something in its industry, you have instant — and possibly significant — member value proposition.
- Influence – This trait often goes hand-in-hand with IP, but there are subtle differences. Even if there is not a lot to gain on the IP front in a particular association, companies will still participate actively in an association if it allows them a chance to influence the overall direction of the industry being served. For instance, member companies find great value in having the chance to ensure that a set of standards or specifications align with its own products and services. Similarly, companies can leverage draft or early release standards or specifications to influence the direction of their own products and services.
- Intelligence – Borrowing from military vernacular, intelligence is actionable information gleaned from analysis and observation. Successful tech associations provide their members with ample opportunities to gather valuable intelligence from the membership community (if not the industry at large) that ultimately aids their bottom line. Through associations, members can get a closer view of what other members (even competitors) are doing or planning; they can monitor trends and hot topics; and they can leverage additional expertise and technical know-how. It is important to note, though, that intelligence is very different from information. Information is data that is readily accessible to anyone, and on its own accord does not add much value. Intelligence, on the other hand, is an asset that members are willing to pay for — or at least join an organization to get.
The next time your association is planning for the future, or wrestling with growth issues, be sure to bring some or all of the three “I”s into your group.