Monday, September 12, 2011

Should Vendors be Industry-Specific?

Even though it's been over a month since ASAE's Annual Meeting, I continue to get occasional emails and regular mail from vendors who exhibited at the expo. Did I mention that I had a blast in St. Louis? ;)

Something I've been thinking about since then is whether businesses that cater to associations need to be focused exclusively on associations, or whether it's possible to provide a good product and good service to both associations and for-profits. I guess I mean association tech vendors specifically. There seems to me to be such a vast difference between associations and for-profits when it comes to technology that I tend to think that an association technology vendor needs to be specifically focused on associations in order to both get the tech right and be able to adequately support clients.

For instance, association management software (AMS) is, obviously, specific to associations. Ditto for online community platforms that integrate with AMSs. Ditto again for learning management systems and who knows how many other tech products that are specific to the association world, and for which for-profits would probably have little use. However, it seems like several association tech vendors are now either dabbling in or just plain moving more towards focusing on the corporate/for-profit space. I can understand this--there's a LOT more money being earmarked for social tech in the corporate sector than there is in the association sector. Corporations are hiring for social media and community management jobs in droves while associations are...well, not. I get that this is where the money is and if you're a business, that's where you'd want to be.

But what if where you are is actually in the association space? With clients who often have very small staffs and look to you for support and guidance. Can you adequately market to/support/provide a great product to both associations and corporations?

I honestly mean this as a question that I don't know the answer to but am curious about...

No comments: