Jack McGrath: Hi and welcome to another in our series Ask the Experts. My name is Jack McGrath. Today I’m going to be talking to Steve Drake who’s president of SCD Group. Welcome Steve.
Steve Drake: Hi, how’re you doing? It’s great to be with you.
McGrath: Good. Couple of questions for you: Your blog, you talk about saving time by curating and sharing important information. Often your research for great content extends beyond traditional association news sources to trends from business and consumer marketing. What is the biggest business or consumer marketing trend that you see that association professionals need to know about this year do you think?
Drake: I think the biggest thing right now is sort of the combination of the generational change and the digital revolution. That’s really turned marketing upside down. I mean, web sites can’t just be an electronic brochure. They’ve got to be the source and the hub. So, dealing with those two issues is really big.
McGrath: Right. In terms of the recent- you recently wrote a blog that highlighted a growing trend in association boards, the rapid turnover due to boomers retiring. You talk about the hesitation from Gen Xers and Millennials to take over and fill those positions. What’s the biggest concern do you think they have and what can associations do to encourage these generations to serve in leadership positions within these organizations?
Drake: Well, I’ll start with a fact, in the U.S. today every eight seconds somebody turns sixty-five. So, in the next eight hours there will be three thousand six hundred and ninety sixty-five year olds. Sooner or later they’re going to retire. Okay? And there are two issues there. One is who’s going to take their places in leadership roles as board members. The other one is who’s going to replace the staff that’re retiring? So leaders have got to be aware that they’re going to be losing staff that retire and staff have got to understand they’re going to have to figure out where the leaders are coming from. So, that’s a big generational issue. The other thing is the younger generation, especially the Ys, aren’t going to put up with the BS of associations. I don’t know how else to say it but, you know, lots of committees and lots of time, two-year board terms. They’re just not going to do it. And so, we can say, “Yeah, but that’s how we do it” or we can adjust to be able to attract the right talent and leaders that’ve got a lot to commit. So, you’ve got to be mission focused. You’ve got to have shorter time commitments. They’re not going to go with weekend meetings. Boomers like us created a sixty hour week. They ain’t going to do it.
McGrath: Yeah, that’s a great point. You know another alarming trend we’re seeing is the growth in online communities that pose a threat to associations. So for instance, I think you mentioned there’s an online community for health care professionals who have more members than the American Medical Association. So, how can associations compete for their members’ time and money when they’re faced with competition from these types of startups?
Drake: First I think you’re absolutely right. It’s about time and money. Everybody’s got only so much time and so much money, so we in the association world are in competition with everything from sporting events, to gaming, to online interaction, and so when a group like that forms it says there’s a need. There was not the opportunity to have a dialogue and an interchange in an engaging way with “that association.” And by the way it’s not just medical, it’s also veterinary medicine. And so as an association professional we’ve got to be looking for that saying, “What do we need to change?” They’re looking for ways to- well as an association they need to listen and monitor.
Drake: And then you’ve got to engage. And so, I’d want that on my community to be in house.
Drake: By the way, if you haven’t done it yet go to LinkedIn and search groups under their topic. They may already have groups and they’ve got to be a part of that and be engaging with that. They can’t, in my mind, be separate from it. And part of the other thing is, you know, I’ve heard some in the profession say, “Well, that’s not really a membership organization.” What’s a membership organization today? And as you said, its competition with the time and money. So, if I’m engaged in a dialogue with people in an online community that takes away time that I could be engaged in my professional association.
McGrath: Right, and we talked about the fact that maybe the members who are in those other associations, or those other groups, they don’t know that this is not an association. They’re just, like you said, it’s filling a need that they have.
McGrath: So you might want to be aware of what that need is that they’re filling.
Drake: Yeah, and you can’t just say, “Well, that’s not a real membership organization.” It is.
Drake: Maybe the whole definition of membership’s changing. I mean the whole freemium movement where you have a certain number of people that “join and free” and then another group that upgrade to premium price. Maybe that’s a strategy some organizations might find a value.
McGrath: Yeah, so it sounds like the take away is there’s a lot of generational change going on, not just with the demographic but also with how associations see themselves. So Steve, thank you so much for your time.
Drake: Thank you.
McGrath: And thank you for watching and look for others in the series Ask the Experts.