by: James Young

Product communities are a powerful way to drive new business to your association. 

New product development is a common need for associations who generally describe their operations as resource constrained, siloed, rushed, or lacking in a product roadmap. 

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The result?  Flat revenue, predictable offerings, a disengaged community, and a struggle to bring new ideas to market in tangible and meaningful ways. 

Moreover, most associations lack the capability to sufficiently understand their market’s needs, no less envision, create, and get to market new products, programs, or services that resonate and succeed with their customer-base while unlocking growth and building and diversifying much needed revenue.  

In contrast, the ideal state of new product development can be described as responsive, interdependent, market-centric, and strategically-focused. In this way, association products and programs are more timely, engaging, and organized for a seamless customer experience. 

These outcomes are driven by a transparent product roadmap that is funded, agile, and in-tune with customer expectations. This, in turn, pushes the association toward agile relevance in which understanding and meeting the community’s needs comes to the forefront and becomes not just another operational tactic, but a meaningful and durable way of re-engaging and re-energizing your community.

The days of over-relying on your association’s cash cows — membership, annual conference, etc. — are over. How does your association build a culture of innovation in a constrained environment? 

It starts with what associations do best: build communities around ideas that robustly engage and further the interest of the community, but also by enhancing connection and creating and sustaining new revenue opportunities. 

This is the main reason people love and find consistent and timeless value in associations: they are the ultimate connector organization. 

However, despite this clear value driver, it is not enough to sufficiently engage and robustly respond to the future. What’s needed is to build off this core value and work toward re-skilling the association by embracing the concept of a product community.

About the Author

James Young is founder and chief learning officer of the Product Community®. Jim is an engaging trainer and leading thinker in the worlds of associations, learning communities, and product development. Prior to starting the Product Community®, Jim served as Chief Learning Officer at both the American College of Chest Physicians and the Society of College and University Planning.