Forget Loyalty, Relevance is the New Reality

Forget Loyalty, Relevance is the New Reality

Author: Gary Grimmer

Perhaps one of the most fundamental recent shifts in the association world is the decline of loyalty.

In days gone by, members were loyal and felt a deep sense of belonging. Today things are more about relevance and ROI. Before people felt a need to be part of the community, while today the communities are battling to maintain audience. Think about it. That’s a 180 degree wind change.

That’s why the smart money today is moving away from communities defined by membership and moving toward “audiences” and “relevance.”

How is this all playing out and what does it mean for associations?

Going Global

Indications are that more and more associations are going global. Why? A global audience is bigger for one thing. Also, their current audiences are looking for global engagement. If the association doesn’t provide a global network, then it risks becoming increasingly parochial and irrelevant.

Changing Audience

Stated simply, most active Baby Boomers are either slowing down or moving toward retirement. The current reality and near term future for associations is all about addressing the wants and needs of a new generation. As the audience changes, the definition of relevance becomes totally different.


When it comes to branding an association and gaining audience, associations need to think a lot more about creating, empowering and value-adding to networks than trying to organize or control them. Think “meeting facilitation” instead of “meeting planning.”


Is the association delivering actionable training, intelligence and business opportunities? The drive for ROI means pressure for higher delivery at lower costs. Associations that put their faith in subvention to underpin the required economies may get caught short. The pressure is on for subvention to become a lot more market rational.


When it comes to associations, technology is about communities, communication and the stuff that happens at meetings. Destinations that help meeting facilitators become technologically enabled will be offering a real advantage.


For a single trend that validates these five key drivers think of “hybrid meetings.” New technology extends high value meeting content to a broader audience, organically and on a global scale.

All five of these drivers of the new reality will play out in lots of ways. Those associations that address them creatively will more likely remain relevant, or for that matter even just remain.

This article was written for Association Events Magazine published on 11 May 2012.

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