Association Product Life Cycle

Association Product Life Cycle

All good things – including association products
– must come to an end.

Anyone who has been in the market for a smart phone in the last few years knows that the life of such a product can be measured in months, if not weeks. Rarely does a phone stay on the market for the length of a purchaser’s contract. As technology improves, new versions take the place of older phones, rendering the old device virtually obsolete.

By comparison, how many products or services does your association offer that are more than 10 years old? How many are more than 20 years old?

The cell phone universe is an extreme example of the product life cycle, but it’s clear that for-profit companies judge their products based on what they offer to the customer, what competitors are offering and whether the product is meeting revenue targets. If it’s no longer accomplishing clearly set goals, a product is pulled from the shelves in favor of a faster or better replacement.

McKinley recently hosted a breakfast with association executives, and we had a chance to explore this topic in more depth. The common feeling among those in attendance was that associations trail the for-profit world not in terms of product development, but in terms of product retirement. For whatever reason – be it the demands of a vocal subset of members, the emotional attachment of a Board member or a perceived market monopoly – an association product or service can often remain available well past its useful life.

The result can be a drain on association resources. Instead of spending time and money innovating and developing a new product that meets the evolving needs of members, an organization could spin its wheels offering a product that has lost its primary value.

So how can an association break this cycle? By collecting and using data. Emotional attachment can be a dangerous thing when it comes to product evaluation, and absent hard facts about a product’s performance, it can be an organization’s only fallback option. Sales data, member and customer usage information and knowledge of customer demand and satisfaction all can help an organization to make informed choices about its product portfolio. By sunsetting products that are no longer sought after by a majority of members and customers, an association can free up resources to develop new offerings that appeal to a wider audience and make the organization even more valuable.