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Will Associations Go the Way of Print Media?

SCIP just announced that its formal merger was consummated with Frost & Sullivan’s Institute. This merger is a sign of the times: it’s hard for associations to survive in this tough economic climate. But I think it’s more than that: the association model is changing not just due to competition from other associations, but for people’s time and easy access to connections formerly made through associations via social media.

Historically associations mailed trade journals and relevant news to the membership; and conducted in-person events such as conferences, educational programs and city chapter meetings. Member volunteer time was crucial to keeping costs down and content up, and still is. The association staff needed to be sensitive to the association’s industry, but association management was the key skill required.

Today the transaction cost of in-person meetings has escalated as people are stretched to do more with less, and can’t get away from work as easily. They can also find relevant information and connections especially through social networks liked LinkedIn, Twitter and industry formed Nings. These changes are sorely felt by associations in reduced attendance at annual conferences and chapter meetings. Annual conference revenues are the bread and butter of most associations. Like other associations, most SCIP chapters record poor attendance. The more progressive include complementary associations such as Robert Bugai, SCIP’s NJ Chapter Chair who hosts semi-annual networking meetings with 10 other organizations. The Denver chapter of the Association of Corporate Growth attracts strong attendance. It has local association support, an excellent PR machine and strong word of mouth fuelling intense interest. It is known to offer some of the best networking connections in the Denver metro.

SCIP has responded by offering fee-based Webinars and an on-line news bulletin, which contains a “New & Notable” section by Bonnie Hohhof, worth the price of membership for those who take the time to read it!  However, all major educational programs are in-person.

I belong to AIIP (Association of Independent Information Professionals) which hosts a listserv (AIIP-L Discussion List), alone worth the price of membership. Individual members ask questions of each other, share information and words of encouragement—an excellent, ongoing form of connection. AIIP’s member directory is public and searchable. The publicity is fuelled by strong word of mouth and through such journals as FUMSI, a portion of which is edited by Marcy Phelps, current President of AIIP. AIIP actively exhibits at complementary association’s conferences such as SLA and SCIP. The booth is staffed by volunteers and paid for through reciprocal exhibition at AIIP’s annual conference. Webinars, free to members, are given by members. AIIP volunteers often ask other members how the association can serve them better. I predict this model will survive these tough times since it is evolving according to the needs of its members through good two-way communication.

Associations need to adapt their model to their membership in these changing times since the old value proposition won’t work. Here are a few ideas to consider:

1. Multiple, affordable means to connect members electronically
2. Free services that are interactive, like Webinars
3. Continuous PR blasts about the profession’s benefits to both users and providers of that association’s constituency
4. Strong industry knowledge by association staff (like Bonnie Hohhof at SCIP)
5. Steady corporate and service provider sponsorship (financial and time)
6. Cooperative affiliation with complementary associations or industry associations which value your association’s skill

As a long-time SCIP member, I hope that the Frost & Sullivan Institute’s marketing machine and reach extends SCIP and the competitive intelligence discipline to be more recognized and valued by those who use competitive intelligence in its many forms.


Looking at Security Issues in Social Media: What Doors Are You Leaving Open? (Webinar)

In the spirit of cooperative intelligence, here is a free webinar that takes place tomorrow night, Aug. 25 on Second Life. While social networks can be a great way to gain competitive intelligence, your company is increasingly vulnerable to losing information through social networks that you would rather keep in-house.  This session is a lot like counterintelligence in competitive intelligence terms, which forces people to have those difficult discussions about what information must be kept secret and how to accomplish this!

If you’re not into Second Life, you’ll need to join the community.

What Doors Did You Leave Open? A look at security issues in social media

Speaker: Marcia (Marcy) Rodney, Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp.
When: August 25, 2009 – 6 pm US Pacific Time/Second Life Time
Where: Info Island Auditorium, register at: Second Life URL Cost: Free

Social networking tools like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn are fabulous! However, be aware of what additional information may be leaking out about your organization through these same social networks! In this session, you’ll see real examples. Marcia will lead discussion on issues and best practices around security and privacy as well as how to find information when using these social network tools.

MarcyRodneyStraightHairAug09Marcia Rodney has been with Ball Aerospace & Technologies for more than six years, initially as senior analyst in library services reporting to strategic intelligence, and also supporting the scientific and engineering staff. She now works as an operations analyst, reporting to the Albuquerque office of Ball’s Systems Engineering Solutions business unit. Marcia both tracks and teaches social networking for her team. Prior to her work with Ball, Marcia worked in competitive intelligence at Qwest; supported technical research at Maxtor (now Seagate); worked at the Earth Sciences and Maps Libraries at CU-Boulder; and was a librarian for Communication Arts and a researcher at CBS News. As principal analyst for her own firm, RSL Research Group, she works on survey design and analysis, primarily in the library field, as well as supporting small business clients. Marcia is looking forward to more time on her bike and a different kind of searching.

Marcia Rodney is a long time friend whose is extremely knowledgeable and thorough. She absorbs information like a sponge, so I look forward to her wisdom as well as interacting in the Second Life virtual space!

Contrasting the Traits of Good Product Managers & Competitive Intelligence Managers

Yesterday I listened to Barbara Tallent of LiveBinders deliver “Why are there so few good product managers: a CEO’s Perspective.” She has been both a CEO and product manager and had interviewed 6 CEOs to prepare for this webinar. As I listened, I couldn’t help but put on my competitive intelligence hat, as many of the traits that make a good product manager also make a good competitive intelligence manager. Yet the jobs are so different!

Product managers have all the responsibility for the product, yet none of the authority. The best product managers need to understand the customer’s world. Don’t filter customer’s input based on what you believe. A common question product managers ask executives is “what keeping you up at night?” to get focused on what the executive needs immediately. That is the same question I ask executives during the competitive intelligence needs analysis process, and for the same reasons.

Another big one was LISTEN. While you need to be an excellent communicator and deliver insightful and engaging presentations, you need to know when to stand back and listen.  That is a key competitive intelligence skill as well, and one of my key cooperative intelligence practices, since in any profession our communication too often is expressing our opinions without carefully listening to the other person.

Don’t let the appearance of process become more important than the outcome! Your career will advance once you prove yourself, just not today! Put the success of your product first and your career will follow!

Desirable traits for product managers include good communication, smart, articulate and dogged. I would add “curious” for a competitive intelligence professional since we do a lot of digging!

Here is what was different. While CEOs may be critical of product managers, they expect future leaders to have product management experience. Product management is more a career advancing position.  Product managers typically look to round out their background, so after a few years in the job are more apt to take jobs in marketing or development–somewhere new that moves them up the organization. Few competitive intelligence professionals have a progressive career path. And CEOs don’t look for leadership to have competitive intelligence experience!

Like product managers, competitive intelligence professionals rely on others in their company for support who do not report to them. Both jobs require that delicate balance of gaining cooperation from others by pushing the organization where it needs to go while being constructive and NOT creating an adversarial role with other people. Product managers focus on a product or service. Competitive intelligence professionals often do damage control and prevent companies from making the wrong moves and present opportunities for growth.

Competitive intelligence is a behind the scenes profession whereas product management is a visible position. Every company has product managers, and everyone knows what product management is. Many don’t know what competitive intelligence is, or who is spearheading the company’s initiative. In this weak economy many companies have laid off their competitive intelligence managers, so various employees in sales, marketing, product management, strategic planning, R&D and engineering are doing competitive intelligence as part of their job, and more companies are outsourcing competitive intelligence: they are not outsourcing product management!

Ryma provides free weekly webinars on topics of interest to product managers, open to anyone. If you miss a webinar, you can listen to it later as the sessions are taped and slides are included.

Collective Intelligence: Approaches to Find Stolen Art, “Urban Sunset”

My husband, Rodgers is an oil painter of urban landscapes, countryside landscapesFrench countryside, and coastal water scenes. He makes his living totally by selling original art work that he creates—no prints.

Over the last couple of weekends, we were in Chicago selling his artwork at outdoor art shows. The first show was a great success in downtown Chicago pretty close to the tall buildings. It took place in a city neighborhood where there are a good number of homeless people, and many people begging for money in these hard times.

Last weekend, we were at an outdoor art show in a prosperous Chicago suburb. It was beastly hot, and the crowds were thin and did not engage with my husband’s art. The show took place in a nice outdoor shopping mall. The art booths were set up in two long rows on either side of the road where cars would normally be parked for shoppers.  Customers could enter the booths either from the shop side or the road which separated the two rows of artist tents.

UrbanSunsetRodgyOn Saturday night we enjoyed a nice dinner with friends. The next morning, we noticed that our tent flap was open. It was a sick feeling and my husband’s painting, Urban Landscape, had been stolen. We were flabbergasted since this was a safe, upscale neighborhood, and the show promoter had hired security to patrol the show. How could such a large painting, 24” by 30” plus the frame be stolen and not detected! This painting does not roll up: it’s on a canvas!

So we learned that “safe” suburbs aren’t. It was ironic that we had no theft experience in the tougher Chicago city neighborhood, where there are people who have nothing, so might steal in desperation.

AIIP logoSo in a cooperative mode, I will share some of the sources that my AIIP family has provided. If you’re an information professional running your own business, this is a group you want to join. I immediately posted this theft on our group listserv, and the advice has flooded in. One member, an ex-police officer warned us that the local police might not be so responsive as this is a small crime compared to what officers deal with, so set the stage…as we still haven’t heard back from the police and need a case number to really pursue our case. However, we can check out Craig’s list and e-bay in case this piece is being sold. We can also post on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn…and find groups within who are art related.

People asked lots of good questions like: were other people’s art work stolen? Does the mall have security cameras? Has your husband posted this theft on his website? Did the art promoter or you have theft insurance?

Here are 3 good sources for finding lost art:

Art loss registry, Tineye a reverse image search engine, FBI’s National Stolen Art File

Mary Collette Wallace shared a post on “Who’s Copying Your Online Images” which was insightful.

Other sources are more city specific and include connecting with art dealers, pawn shops, art auction houses, art coops, and thinking about who would be likely to lay their hands on stolen art, even inadvertently.

We would love to recover this painting, but it’s probably not that likely, so I thought I would share this story with you to remind you to be careful, and to share some sources of intelligence for finding stolen art!

How a Good Relationship between Marketing & R&D Improves Product Development

When Marketing and R&D are truly focused on understanding and acting on customer needs, it makes both of their jobs easier and their results more productive! This is a powerful competitive weapon since this is not the case at many companies.

R&D employees complain that Marketers provide weak data, that they’re most useful in developing launch plans rather than in developing new products. Meanwhile Marketing employees perceive that R&D doesn’t involve marketing early enough in the product development process. R&D will take credit for successful products while blaming marketing when a product doesn’t sell.  Does this sound familiar?

But the point is that neither function will reach its full potential without the cooperation of the other! So here are some tippers to encourage cooperative behavior:

R&D and Marketing need to work together.  Perhaps R&D can be masters of the art of Possibility while Marketing can master the art of the Possible–that is what customers need and are willing to pay for.  It helps to boost awareness of each other’s functions and their value within the company.  Another idea is to get R&D to quantify the value of their work by how it will help the customer. Encourage Marketing to be more technically aware so as to appreciate R&D’s value to the company.

When Marketing has too much power, it stifles the creativity of engineers, so product advances may only be incremental  On the other hand when R&D has too much clout, Marketing is only called in at the end of the product development process, when it’s time to develop a launch plan.  Products might get developed that the customer will never buy!

Other ways to get Marketing and R&D to cooperate is to create cross-functional teams to discover unmet customer needs.  This forces people to experience each others’ contributions and to forge connections and communication.

A major oil company forces R&D to prepare its reports for Marketing and Sales based on how the new technologies will help customers.  Thus R&D has to explain all the critical benefits in layman’s terms.

Focus on the customer. Get both sides to ask good questions to customers. Observe and engage with customers to generate reliable, robust marketing insight. Let engineers spend time with current and potential customers.

Companies that bring R&D and Marketing together around what really matters to their customers will build a strong competitive company!

Check out an earlier blog on how teaching Sales elicitation skills–that is knowledge acquisition through conversation, rather than direct questions–will improve a company’s competitive intelligence, product development, and customer intelligence. This is also a good way to get Marketing, Sales, Product Developers and R&D to connect. They have to so that Sales knows and understands the key questions they need to get answered by their customers.

What behaviors have helped your company get marketing, R&D and product developers to communicate constructively?

This blog contains excerpts from “Playing Well with Others,” a Wall Street Journal article by Phil KotlerRobert C.Wolcott and Suj Chandrasekhar.

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