What Do You Do When A Strategic Partner Changes The Game? Two Options

Situation: A membership association’s revenue is largely tied to its annual conference. The primary sponsor of the conference has decided to host their own annual conference. This will disrupt the association’s access to both conference attendees and vendors. The sponsor has offered terms of collaboration; however, the conditions are unfavorable to the association. What are the best alternatives available to the association and how should they pursue them?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Are the association’s mission and vision are tied to or independent of the sponsor? If there is an ongoing reason for the association to continue without the sponsor then it is reasonable to pursue alternatives.
  • There are at least two options available to the association:
    • Accept the partner’s offer of collaboration, provided that this can be done under conditions that will allow the association to survive short-term. If the partner stumbles hosting its own conference this may allow the association to recover ownership of the annual conference. The danger is that this may lead to a slow death if the sponsor further cuts revenue to the association or a fast death if the sponsor decides to abandon the association.
    • Shift the focus of the conference and ancillary services under a new branding scheme. A survey of the membership indicates that the majority favor a mixed-platform solution, and may welcome a mixed-platform approach. You may need to rethink and rework your model but this may offer the best chance for ongoing survival.
  • What steps should be taken to pursue the second option?
    • Conduct a second survey of the membership to evaluate their preferences on platform focus, what they want to see in a multi-platform conference, and what platforms should be included.
    • Shift focus of the association to multi-platform as a response to members’ priorities and desires. Court the majority of the membership that favor a mixed-platform focus and de-emphasize those who favor the single platform solution.
    • Develop an alternate roster of sponsors including all competitive platforms. If this model succeeds, your current primary sponsor may find participation imperative.

Key Words: Association, Conference, Sponsor, Conflict, Conditions, Collaborate, Vision, Mission, Participation, Competitor, Single, Mixed, Platform, Survey, Focus

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