New Product Development and Pivoting for Association Success

New Product Development and Pivoting for Association Success
Cartoon image of a laptop and a construction site showing product development.

The past six months have forced association leaders to rapidly adapt and reprioritize their strategic plans. The economic and societal shifts in industries and professions have caused most associations to rethink their value-add to their members and customers and the structure of their organizations. After interviewing several leaders, there seem to be three questions they are all seeking the answers to:

  • What are the best ways to generate more revenue?
  • How should we diversify our revenue?
  • Which offerings do we develop and invest in to engage and retain our membership?

While the questions are easy, the answers are more difficult. Many organizations are evaluating their products and services for opportunities to make up for the loss in revenue and position themselves for developing and growing their value in this critical moment. However, many associations do not have the funding, staff resources and time to invest in developing or refining products without guaranteeing some return on investment. For other associations, it’s hard to know where to begin.

To help you with product development and management, here are a few steps to help you start thinking and get started …

When to pivot or develop a new product

Look at your products and services. How much revenue have they generated each year? Is it steady, growing or is it in decline?

The first step is to look at your products and objectively decide where your product falls in the product lifecycle. It’s important to use internal sales and engagement data or research to remain objective and truly see where customer interests are. This is a general curve that displays the stages of product sale development, growth, maturity and decline.

The Product Maturity Model

A graph showin the product lifecycle with the curve increasing in the growth stage and slowly declining in the maturity phase.

If your current product sales are increasing, congrats! Your product might still be in a developing or growth stage.

If your product sales have been steady year-over-year or declining, you might have reached product maturity or even decline stages. Reaching these stages is not necessarily a bad thing. It means there is an opportunity to refine and pivot your products into a new growth stage. This includes taking the same product and adding new features, new value offerings or positioning it to a new audience.

Pivoting a product is similar to developing a new product except you already have the model and features. However, not all existing products can be pivoted to meet the needs of the market. Any association with mature products will require a set of products and services at various lifecycle stages. To accomplish this, it starts with the basics.

How to start developing new products and services

“Without data, you’re just a person with an opinion.”

W. Edwards Deming

This quote directly applies to product development where qualitative data points might be just as important as quantitative data points. Developing and pivoting new products is all about validating your assumptions to reduce your risk and increase your chances for success.

It all starts with a simple question: what are your customer’s challenges? You may think this is easy to answer but what evidence do you have to prove this?

What is a day in their life like? Are there others that share the same challenges? Do your products and services help address their needs?

It’s important to remember that developing a new product or service starts with identifying and addressing the needs of your target customer. Whether you’re looking to grow your membership or you’re looking to develop a new product for your members, what need or challenge do they have and why do they need your product or service to solve it?

Reaching out and interviewing your current and prospective customers offer a way to collect and identify their needs and start to generate ideas on how to solve them.

Getting started

Pivoting or developing new products for your association doesn’t have to be complicated and should be an objective exercise. McKinley has developed a new set of consulting and research services to partner with organizations to help identify opportunities and develop a plan to address these needs.

To help you and your organization get started, download our worksheet and answer the following questions:

  • What is your concept for a new product or product pivot?
  • Who is your target customer?
  • What problem or challenge are you solving for them?
  • How will you address this problem with this new product?
  • What are your assumptions about your customers?
  • What data will support (or refute) your assumptions?
  • Where can you find this data?
  • What additional support do you require?

The answers to these questions will help your association get started in identifying the product concept you want to test and validate. Remember, product development is NOT about launching a new product as quickly as possible. It’s about validating as many assumptions as possible to ensure success.

Download the Association Product Planning Tool to get started:



Learn more about our product development and management services.