A new five-year survey of almost 700 trade and professional associations from more than 20 countries finds that associations looking to grow globally find conferences to be one of their top strategies for breaking into new international markets. In fact, for trade associations, membership just barely beat conferences as the top product to export, while the difference was a bit more pronounced for professional associations.
The study was conducted by international association firm Globalstrat LLC to gauge how associations have been approaching global membership, programs, and engagement from 2013 to the present. It found that both professional associations and trade groups put in-person training and education and online training and webinars as their third and fourth most-preferred products to lead with when entering a new market. Trade associations reported holding more in-person networking events, while professional associations were more likely to provide journals or other publications to lure new international members into the fold.
The study also explored what the biggest barriers are for associations looking to expand internationally. Being able to define an appropriate business model came out on top, with a full half of respondents naming that as a major roadblock to expansion. Difficulty in finding qualified vendors and other local partners also was high on the list, as were being able to accurately estimate an international market’s potential, and legal and registration issues.
Those who were able to overcome the business model hurdle to develop and implement a dedicated international growth strategy were already reaping the results—88 percent of the fastest growing associations surveyed were either already putting their model into action or in the midst of putting one together.
“In fact, having a strategy was the single most important factor for successful associations, or for meeting attendance at events that are held internationally,” according to the executive summary. The survey also found that the more global an association already was, the faster its growth rate was overall.