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February 6, 2018

What’s Industry Research Really Worth?


Between marketing efforts, member surveys and research done in the name of progress, associations are in a constant state of digging deep and taking a closer look at what’s really happening beneath the surface. However, unlike most organizations, associations hold a unique position in an industry’s ecosystem as a trusted, unbiased institution dedicated to the field. Because of that, we have an opportunity that few organizations do—the ability to perform meaningful and effective industry research.

Because we work in the service of dozens of organizations and hundreds (sometimes thousands) of members in our field, we have access to a nearly limitless amount of information. And with that information—whether it’s industry trends, organizational norms, comparative benchmarking or something else entirely—we have the power to truly serve our members and the industry at large.

The Value of Industry Research

You might wonder, “What is it that makes industry research so valuable?” The answer is that it depends on where you look and what your goals are.

For your association, conducting industry research can:

  • Generate revenue through new research products, industry conferences and more
  • Build your brand through thought leadership and the ability to offer information that no one else in the field can capture
  • Create influence at the political level, allowing your advocacy efforts to better succeed
  • Drive recruitment by showing your organization is innovative and forward thinking
  • Contribute to and accomplish your organization’s mission

Beyond the organization-level benefits, industry research can drive real value for the field at large by providing key data in many areas.

Benchmarking data serves as a reference point that urges organizations to both adapt to and excel at existing operational models.

Trend-related data keeps organizations competitive and relevant by allowing them to stay on top of upcoming advancements and protocols in their industry.

Career data benefits professionals in the field by giving them the information they need to make important decisions that will guide and improve their careers.

Organizational data pinpoints problems in the field, including under and over-staffing, resource utilization and more. The awareness and conclusions of each type of data can lead to vital changes within the field that trickles down through the industry as a whole.

So, whether your goals this year involve impacting the field, helping your members thrive, growing your organization’s influence, or all of the above, industry research can offer an undeniable outlet to do so.

Types of Industry Research

The kind of research you choose to do, however, must be rooted in the needs of the industry. By considering what your audience wants, what your industry needs and what best aligns with your goals and mission, you ensure that what you’re doing is worth the effort.

Typically, industry research falls into one of three categories broken down from the data areas described above: Industry trends, organizational analyses, or career data.

Each category involves identifying statistically significant datasets, building accurate research instrumentation, surveying members across your industry, working with several stakeholders at various levels to identify trends and patterns and finding the best outlet to showcase your findings.

But how do you generate research and make an impact on your profession, the organizations in your field, and each individual? How can you turn the results into conversations and action? Here are a few organizations that have effectively moved the needle in their industry thanks to research.

Case Studies

Society of Tribologists and Lubrication Engineers (STLE): As an association committed to stewardship and leadership, STLE identified an opportunity to become true thought leaders, generating information that was valuable to both their members and nonmembers. By studying industry trends and their significance in the larger automotive ecosystem, STLE was able to generate interest and an understanding of cutting-edge issues and concerns by publishing a detailed report. As a result, they created the Tribology Frontiers Conference, an annual event that brings together researchers from more than 25 countries to discuss the latest developing technologies and their potential impacts from a global, environmental standpoint.

National Business Officers Association (NBOA): To help their schools perform better, NBOA worked to identify key operational metrics that allow independent schools to set benchmarks. This led to the development of a live software platform that offers member organizations real-time metrics, allowing them to continue to make agile decisions regarding resourcing, human resources management, staff development, scope of responsibility and more.

American Organization of Nurse Executives (AONE): To help leaders in the nurse community advance in their careers, AONE studied comprehensive survey data from both AONE members and nonmembers. AONE has since published several detailed salary reports that continue to promote initiatives put in place to ensure nurses reach their desired level of job satisfaction.

Where to begin?

Research doesn’t have to just be a series of interesting data points. Your association can use research to build strong connections and inspire greater impact in your industry. Because of its far-reaching benefits to your members, the industry and, of course, to your association, research can drive real revenue while elevating your association’s perception within the industry and beyond.

By ensuring that your research is aligned with your audience’s wants, your industry’s needs and your association’s mission, you’ll discover the potential to do more than support your industry. You’ll lead it.

Want to learn more about where your organization can make an impact with industry research? Contact McKinley Advisors.


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