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February 25, 2021

Why It’s Time to Invest in Product Development

Over the past year, your audiences’ needs have dramatically changed. In our last blog on product development, we covered that association leaders are looking for ways to generate revenue and engage their audiences. During these ongoing economic and societal shifts, how do you stay relevant, engage your audiences, and attract new ones? The answer: by developing new products and pivoting your existing ones.

Why Product Development?

People’s needs and challenges are never static but always changing.

Associations must pivot their offerings or develop new services to meet the new needs of their audiences and members, while also addressing their future challenges. Providing these new and refined products can result in increased engagement and, in some cases, revenue too. But you might be asking, how long will it take? What are the steps? What is the financial commitment?

While new products require investment, any association can do this without a lot of money. In fact, investing in product development helps save you money and increase the chance of success. Here are the three ways product development and management can help your association.

Improve chances of success.

To serve an audience, start with confirming their challenges.

All successful new product concepts or pivots start with some audience research. This can be as little as five interviews with the target audience or some secondary research. There is a tendency to skip this step, in favor of developing the new product or service and testing the concept “in the market.”

The truth is, the more assumptions that go unconfirmed, the more money it might cost you in the long run.

For example, let’s say you’re launching an online platform for your members. It could be an educational platform or a new service to help them in their professional lives. You decide not to conduct any research and assume you know enough about the audience’s challenge. You spend time and money building the product and preparing it for launch. After launching it, you see less than stellar results, and based on some user feedback, realize there are several critical missing features. Also, your audience indicates some major user-experience issues. You end up having to go back and redesign the platform and develop new content to ensure better audience adoption and engagement.

Conduct research to identify and meet the needs of your audiences. It is an investment in reducing your risk and increasing the likelihood of success.

Save time and money.

New products or pivots don’t always require expensive or fancy solutions.

A formal product development and management approach saves associations money and time while achieving better results. How many products has your association developed over the years? What is the cost of developing, maintaining and marketing those products? More importantly, what opportunities are you and your team not pursuing because of the time it takes to promote a meeting, develop content or process member renewals?

For example, let’s say your association has committed to launching a learning management system. Leadership assumes the target audience needs formal virtual learning and education. Therefore, the association is ready to invest in a third-party technology platform. Before it does, your team conducts research to identify the audience’s current challenges and needs. It turns out the prospective users do not have a need for additional virtual learning and education. What they do need is more regular and frequent check-ins and connections with peers. So instead of investing in a learning management system, your association designs a solution offering networking and socializing events throughout the year.

Increase engagement (and revenue).

Design for the person most likely to use the service to increase the chance of engagement.

There is a great saying that goes along with product development: measure twice, cut once. It is crucial to validate your assumptions before acting on them. The further you go down a path with unvalidated assumptions, the more costly it might be later. The fewer assumptions you have, the less time, money, and resources spent.

Here are some questions you may want to consider:

  • What is a day in the life of your audience?
  • What are their challenges and why do they exist?
  • How do they overcome them today?
  • What are their personal and professional goals?
  • What would help them achieve these goals?

To improve the chances of adoption and engagement, develop products and services based on your audiences’ current and near-future needs. This can ensure more engagement and revenue for your organization.

Getting started

If you would like to get started, download our product planning worksheet below to outline your initial hypothesis and share with your team. If you have any questions or would like to learn more, please contact us.

Download the Association Product Planning Tool to get started:

Learn more about our product development and management services.


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