Thursday, January 28, 2010

Do you want your association to be Walmart?

Earlier this week, I had a small Twitter discussion with Kevin Holland (@associationinc) regarding aggregation as a value proposition.

@associationinc - Deciding your role is to aggregate other people's value is like George Costanza wearing sweatpants. "You're telling the world, 'I give up.'"

@cardcat - Interesting comment about aggregating. Don't you think it is a viable option for a small association who can't afford it?

@associationinc - Nothng wrong with aggregating content as long as you don't perceive it to be your value proposition. There's no real future in it.

@cardcat - Don't think it is THE value proposition, but I think it could be A value to members, a big value.

@associationinc - A big value is something you offer that nobody else can or that u can do better. Aggregating content is easy, there4 unsustainable.

@cardcat - True, it isn't sustainable. But I almost think if you don't act as an aggregator, you risk folks going somewhere else.

@associationinc - And if you don't do your members' taxes, you risk folks going to H&R Block. :) ... Like I said, nothing wrong with it.

@cardcat - Ok, ok. Now you are just getting carried away ;) Yes, nothing wrong with it, but not a long term value prop. Agreed.

That got me thinking more about value in general. Wikipedia talks about value proposition primarily in terms of Benefits and Costs. And many would define value strictly in terms of Benefits and Costs. However, I want to bring up one other word that is key: Expectations.

There is an expected value in a transaction. You expect that Benefits > Costs or you wouldn't do it in the first place. You expect certain benefits for your costs. Although anyone can aggregate data then distribute it, association members tend to expect their association to be the place to go for information (the bigger value proposition). Therefore, you may need to aggregate to meet those expectations. And if someone else aggregates the same info, chances are you are still going to be preferred because of the other things you are doing and your reputation as an industry representative.

If you don't do it, then you may not be filling members' biggest need and expectation, which risks them walking away from the other values that you offer, simply because of convenience. It is why a lot of people go to Walmart. I may have better selection and quality somewhere else, and maybe even price, but at least I can do it in one stop. The question you have to ask yourself is, do you want your association to be Walmart?

**For the record, I am not saying being Walmart is good or bad. It's just one of the many options out there.


Lindy Dreyer said...

I'm gonna go ahead and say that aggregating content is NOT always so easy, actually--especially as the velocity of publishing continues to accelerate. Can associations do it better? Maybe. Maybe they can do it in a more trusted/vetted environment, too.

Great post. And a great exchange between you and Kevin. I see where you're both coming from.

Kevin said...

I'm just embarrassed that I actually used the phrase "value proposition."

Teri said...

I agree on all parts. Do you choose to be the botique shop and provide trinkets of lovleiness that your members can't find anywhere else or do you try to become the one-stop-shop, Walmart? You have to know what your members want and expect and let that guide your short term strategy (change is inevitable), right? Imagine though your member saying to you, "I belong to your xyz association, but I don't go to you for my information." OUCH and for us right now... no thanks- we'll continue to aggregate and find relevancy in the scads of information for them. Of course we tend to handhold anyway... It's what they expect other than to get more and pay less!

Grogger said...


I think that you're right on about aggregation, though, if anything, don't go far enough about it.

Robert Niles makes a great argument that aggregation has always been the function of journalism or publishing. So when an association produced a magazine with "original" articles, it was always aggregating the knowledge of experts in its subject matter.

Social media has changed the dynamics of all of this, but providing valuable aggregation of content for a subject matter amounts to real value added. And this counts for associations.

The key to aggregation is 1) attracting content for a topic and then 2) effectively filtering it. Grogger is a great new tool for performing these functions (disclosure: my company) for all sort of publications, and for associations in particular.