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Category: Channel Mgmt: Partners – Sponsors – Sales

Jun 16 2014

What Do Successful Associations Do Differently to Grow Globally?

Growers survey

On June 3rd, MCI and the ASAE Foundation released the results of the first year of a multi-year series looking at how successful US associations are growing their business globally. Over 300 associations took part in the first year research effort that uncovered several major trends and common practices among associations who reported growth in membership and product sales in the last three years.

International Member and Product Growth Increasingly Essential to Financial Health

Sixty two percent of associations who indicated that membership and product sales grew in the last three years believe that global growth is either very important or important to their long term financial health.

Growers survey5

Growers Introduce Products into International Markets Much More Frequently

Growers are much more proactive in their activities outside North America, because they:

  • Offer more networking opportunities: 72% versus 46%
  • Host more meetings: 71% versus 45%
  • Run more live professional development: 69% versus 47%
  • Organize more online professional development: 62% versus 55%
  • Offers digital library services: 46% versus 37%
  • Maintain and grow a network of components or chapters: 44% versus 29%
  • Conduct government relations/public affairs activities: 36% versus 16%
  • Enforce industry standards: 32% versus 13%

Growers Conduct International Meetings, Conferences, and face-to-face Training at Significantly Higher Rates than Non-Growers

Seventy one percent of growers reported holding a meeting or convention in one or more markets, and 69 percent reported they are running face-to-face professional development programs. Furthermore, growers are twice as likely as non-growers to hold every type of meeting outside of North America

More Proactive Global Outreach Activities and Practices Lead to Better Financial Growth

Eighty six percent of respondents who have offices outside the United States are growing their membership and products; 2/3’s of respondents have at least one FTE responsible for international business development; and 64% of growers have at least one Board members from outside North America which is almost twice as much as associations who indicated they weren’t growing membership or product sales. Results suggest that those associations who restrict board membership within North America are more likely to report flat membership patterns in the last few years.

Growers survey2

Strategic Partnerships are Vital for Global Expansion and Sustaining Growth

It seems growers and nongrowers all partner with their sister society, but growers in significantly larger numbers expand their partner network to include the local national governments as well as in market commercial partners.

Growers survey3

Future Growth Anticipated from Emerging Markets

Respondents were asked to indicate where they anticipated the greatest growth over the next 3 years. The views among growers and non-growers offer similar yet divergent expectations. Among growers, priority markets are primarily located in the emerging market (China, Brazil and India) while among non-growers, agreement exists about China but they concentrate more focus on countries that represent English-speaking, advanced economies.

Shared Practices among Growers

Finally, our data also uncovered five shared practices among associations who indicated they were growing membership and product sales outside North America.

  1. Growers dedicate greater commitment and effort to global growth.
  2. Growers introduce relevant products and services to international audiences with far greater variety and rates.
  3. Growers work to more tightly integrate global and local operations with the rest of their business.
  4. Growers secure partnerships that open market access and improve local capacity to deliver locally relevant services.
  5. Growers target emerging markets for their future growth.

To receive a copy of the results and report along with info graphics, visit the ASAE Foundation website at this address.


Growers survey4

Jul 26 2013

Recent Changes in UAE Laws Expand Association Business Opportunity

Dubai Assn Centre.All comes together

“Non Profit” Status Now Recognized Eases Rules to Open Independently

Until recently, if you wanted to open your own commercial operation as an association in the Middle East you were treated like any for-profit corporation. You either had to let locals own 51% of your activities and they got a permanent seat on your Board (among other things) or operate through a free zone, which would give you 100% ownership but categorized as a for profit corporation.

For several years, various government organizations including Dubai Chamber of Commerce & Industry, the Dubai World Trade Centre, Dubai Tourism & Commerce Marketing, and MCI Middle East (the MENA region’s leading global association management & consulting company) have been working to gain more favorable recognition of associations by reclassifying their business as “nonprofit” as well as remove the requirement of local ownership in their organizations. The rationale for this treatment presented to local officials were fivefold:

  1. Associations were established in their home markets as nonprofits meaning that any net revenues are reinvested in new programs and services that benefit the members who join their organization;
  2. Associations exist to promote and grow an industry or a profession and offer programs and services that uniquely benefit not only the industry or profession it serves but also society as a whole;
  3. Associations as nonprofit entities do not have owners nor do they offer/sell shares;
  4. Associations have elected volunteer leadership at the global, regional and local levels of management who are not compensated for their efforts to develop new knowledge, programs or services;
  5. Associations are often mission-driven in their desire to serve the public beyond the members.

Local UAE officials began to see they could achieve a stronger position among the world’s association community by lowering barriers to establishing regional HQ nonprofit operations in Dubai to serve the UAE, GCC and MENA.  Such a strategy could position the UAE as a leading business destination for foreign associations in the GCC and MENA.

Toward an Exciting New Reality

Thanks to these efforts the Dubai government has approved laws that would confer nonprofit status for foreign associations as well as remove local ownership requirements so long as they establish their nonprofit business presence in a new facility called the Dubai Association Centre (DAC) located in the heart of Dubai at the Dubai World Trade Centre.

US associations will be able to open their own independent office featuring:

  • A business license operating from the Dubai Association Centre as well as office space
  • Visas for staff
  • Ability to open a bank account
  • A legal framework to offer products and services in the local market
  • An opportunity to be part of the Dubai association and corporate community
  • A gateway to key Dubai Government Stakeholders
  • Usage of World Trade Club facilities – Dubai’s oldest Private Club
  • Monthly Association Networking Events
  • Easy access to the market development business services of MCI if required

Dubai as a Business Hub

A leading global and regional business centre, Dubai has over 140,000 companies located in the local market.  Businesses enjoy

  • Tax free business environment
  • A thriving cosmopolitan centre for business, trade, industry and tourism
  • The commercial capital of the UAE
  • One of the world’s most popular destinations for both business and leisure
  • Modern and growing infrastructure
  • A relaxed and pleasant lifestyle
  • Wide choices of spacious, modern accommodation
  • Low crime, multicultural city where freedom of movement is safe and easy for everyone
  • Unique accessibility with direct flights to over 140 destinations
  • Excellent public transport system


Attending ASAE in Atlanta?  Stop by MCI’s booth 1216 to Learn More

Register to Attend A Fall Business Tour to Dubai

Interested association executives will have the chance to travel to Dubai this Fall courtesy of the Dubai Association Centre partners.  Complimentary hotel accommodation and airfare provided by Emirates Airlines will provide executives with an opportunity to experience how the Dubai Association Centre can improve market access for you.

This tour will include:

  1. Meetings with government officials
  2. Private business meetings
  3. Tour of the Dubai Association Centre
  4. Detailed briefing on legislation and regulations governing associations

To learn more about DAC

Contact:  Peter Turner 571.275.1516 or peter.turner@mci-group.com


Oct 14 2012

How An Integrated, Locally Relevant Marketing, Sales, and Member Service Strategy Drove Massive Growth



In 2008, MCI completed a research project for the government of Abu Dhabi.  A critical outcome from this effort was capturing how US-based and EU-based associations reflected on the challenges and opportunities to enter and grow a specific regional market.  Most notably, we found that both cohorts found the following to be significant barriers to international growth:


  1. Lack of experience and knowledge of a region
  2. Lack of a commercial business license and bank account to collect revenues in local currency
  3. Weak local volunteer leadership support to develop local activities, products, or promotions
  4. Inability to gain local government endorsements and promotion support through sustained contact
  5. Distribution of marketing, communication, social media and business development tactics that are not adapted to local customs

This data  simply confirmed what we knew previously through our client work over 25 years.  Associations are under resourcing their business activities at the point of sale in the regions they target for growth.

How an Association Overcame Challenges to Expand in MENA

Here is an excellent illustration of how a US-based professional society serving mid to senior level business professionals reassessed their approach and ultimately deployed a new “integrated and locally relevant” marketing, business development, and member/customer care strategy that optimized resources for dramatically improving market penetration.

The results they achieved in their Middle East region showed significant improvement within 12 months of implementing their new strategy in 2011:

  • Growth in certification candidates of over 90%
  • 40% increase in membership over the 3 year period and addition of almost 2,000 members through promotions
  • Nearly doubling the number of training provider partners for expanding access to test preparation courses
  • Added corporate partners in the region as well as cooperative relationships with local associations in the region
  • Significant increase in programs from four local chapters while adding two new chapters and another 4 under development
  • Handling over 300 member and customer requests per month while building a new prospect database of 1500

Critical to the success of this association’s success was :  building a more robust membership engagement model and internal system that could address the needs of local members and customers, fundamentally rethinking their approach to serving members and developing local offerings, and using customer intelligence to design successful membership recruitment, retention and engagement campaigns.

Challenges to Growth

A few years earlier the association embarked on a strategic plan to establish its certification as the global standard for its profession and determined that the Middle East could be a significant growth market. Success in this market helped make it the #1 region outside the US, but many challenges similar to those expressed by the associations in the survey above helped to slow this growth:

  • Sizable number of members were not completing test preparation courses or were not passing the exam (lowest pass rate in world).
  • Organizing chapter activities were problematic and chapter attendance was low.
  • Volunteer leadership system was not strong enough to support good programs, promotion, and chapter administration
  • Member retention was higher than desired as many were losing interest.
  • Language barriers reduced the ability to drive home the association’s value proposition in a locally relevant manner.
  • A lack of local business development placed too much responsibility on weak volunteer system.
  • Need for more government contact and partnerships with 3rd parties were not being driven.

Part of the problem was at the time there wasn’t sufficient resources to address these challenges inside the region.  The situation called for stronger local support but besides some training provider partners who didnt have the capacity or inclination to address these issues, the association had only one staff member on the ground.  So they chose to consider bring in a new partner with a better aligned set of core competencies and who could work seamlessly with their existing training partners.

Rethinking How to Serve Members & Customers

MCI Middle East  worked very closely with this association to develop an integrated solution to address the needs in the region:

  • Provide a dedicated member service team with local language speakers to proactively answer member and customer queries as well as exam related questions to speed their completion of the exam process
  • Provide a toll free number to encourage customers and members to reach out
  • Execute targeted new member campaigns to call members one month and six months after they joined to ensure that they were maximizing their member benefits and to offer them support.
  • Target a member retention campaign for members to reach every member in the region to reduce overall attrition
  • Conduct on-going calling campaigns to update contact details of the members and customers to ensure integrity of the Middle East database
  • Maintain regular reports to HQ capturing the frequently asked question as well as identifying any challenges within specific areas
  • Developed a robust social media engagement plan to engage members and attract non members

In addition, the association also needed to tap the huge potential of customers in the Middle East that they knew existed but didn’t have the resources to develop the kind of local customer engagement necessary to turn this supply of prospects into paying customers and members.

So a multichannel marketing approach was developed that included:

  • Measuring the growth of social media and website
  • Creating lead nurturing programs based on prospect profiling
  • Conducting statistical analysis of marketing interactions
  • Conducting market research to develop messaging

The Middle East customer support team worked closely with the HQ Marketing team to identify members and credential holders who were passionate and would be interested in being interviewed or would provide testimonials for the regional websites and social media communications channels.

MCI Middle East  conducted search engine optimization (SEO) to optimize the locally hosted website around high-value search terms and worked to expand the number of inbound links to improve search rankings.   Virtual online job fairs were used to drive traffic to the regional association website from UAE, KSA, Egypt, Kuwait, and Qatar where visitors could be registered and offered of some study material to help prepare for the association’s certification program.  Visitors who filled in the registration form were considered a potential lead for follow up directly by local business developers.

Leads received special communications introducing the benefits of membership.  They are also included in all future outbound promotions for such things as free webinars, etc.  Benefits communication were sent to almost 1,000 leads and nearly 50% opened the communication.

The integration of the regional website and the social media helped to create an additional channel of contact with prospects and members to be managed actively.

Face to face opportunities were also pursued.  Promotion of the association’s global brand via customer engagement at strategically important conferences were identified and attended.

Working with the association’s course providers, joint branding and awareness initiatives were also pursued.

Over 1300 new leads were realized in just two months. Website traffic increased over 60%. Outbound marketing will become even more effective as marketing will be working off a qualified list of prospects.

Local Relevance & Muscle Prevails

In 2011, through the partnership between the association and MCI Middle East :

  1. Over 6,500 customers are served via calls and email inquiries.
  2. Over 3,000 new members were acquired.
  3. Membership retention rate increased by 53%.