Looking Ahead: A Digital Products Portfolio Generates Non-Dues Revenue and Engagement

Tobin Conley | 11.18.20
Topics: Web - Mobile - Social, CIO - Digital Transformation - IT Maturity, Digital Workplace

These days more than ever, associations are seeking new sources of non-dues revenue to replace the income they used to rely upon from in-person meetings and events. One way to monetize creatively is by developing a digital products portfolio for members and customers.

What’s in a digital products portfolio?

In times of change, people focus their attention on improving their skills and increasing their knowledge. The more they know, the more they’re worth to an existing or prospective employer—or client. In response to this growing market demand, associations are ramping up their online learning programs.

Members and customers are interested in:

  • Online courses of varying lengths
  • Webinars
  • Virtual conferences
  • Digital badge and certificate programs
  • Online learning subscriptions
  • Opportunities to make connections and network with peers, suppliers, and/or clients

On-demand session recordings are a good place to start. It’s easier to repurpose existing content than design a program from scratch. You can provide access to these recordings as part of a conference registration package or sell them separately, either individually or packaged by topic or career stage.

An increasing number of organizations provide conference registrants with limited-time access to recordings. Then, they ‘retire’ the content for future sales or inclusion behind the association’s paywall, restricting access to members only.

Sponsors and exhibitors are seeking content marketing opportunities year-round not just during the few days of your virtual conference. Sponsored content gives them the opportunity to share their valuable expertise with your members and audience.

Consider generating revenue by offering corporate partners the opportunity to sponsor:

  • Blog posts and articles
  • Survey reports
  • Webinars
  • Educational videos
  • Conference sessions
  • Podcast episodes
  • Virtual discussions, roundtables, and networking meetups

Don’t be afraid to test new digital products, but frame them appropriately—as pilots. When experimentation is in play, it’s much easier to discontinue pilot products if they prove to be unsuccessful.

digital-products-portfolio-1200

Plan Your digital products portfolio

Creating a digital products portfolio doesn’t happen overnight. It takes substantial time, effort, and investment. Map out a strategy for the process—one that aligns with your organization’s strategic plan.

The planning process must be inclusive and interdepartmental. Now more than ever, silos must be broken down so collaborative work can take place. Consider multiple perspectives when planning your portfolio:

  • What will the new portfolio of digital products bring to content consumers from various segments of your audience?
  • How will these initiatives meet the needs of those who produce digital content as well as those who consume digital content? Taking into consideration the aims of each of these constituencies will help your organization better align your digital product offerings.
  • How will the interests of business partners and other stakeholders be represented?
  • What will best advance the mission/vision of the organization?
  • How will your digital products factor into your organization’s content strategy and learning strategy? (You do have those, don’t you?)

Prioritize a finite number of products to develop, and start now. This requires making choices, sometimes very tough choices.

The best way to proceed is by establishing a business case for competing initiatives/products, including:

  • Business plans for each option
  • Projection of potential costs and revenue
  • Value generated for various parties
  • Technical and human resources required

It’s also important to consider any related initiatives and/or external factors that might also play into the rollout of new digital products, including competing items (from either for-profit groups or other associations), any upcoming changes to your membership model/structure, or larger issues affecting your constituents’ profession/industry.


Quick STart: Repurpose Existing Content

It’s easier to start with what you have in hand than to create products from whole cloth. For example, we already mentioned selling session recordings. But what about segmenting those videos into more viewer-friendly chunks to use as online course components?

Provide recaps of virtual educational events, such as webinars and conference sessions, in blog posts and articles. This content can also be used in marketing campaigns for future events.

Share snippets of session recordings in your online community as a spark to further discussion. Ask presenters and volunteers to keep the discussion and learning momentum going. These follow-up discussions may require additional ‘care and feeding’ as they are by no means auto-magic!


Develop a Digital Products Portfolio that Underscores the Member Value Proposition

Right now, members need resources that will help them adjust to and thrive in changing conditions. Your digital products portfolio must give them opportunities to engage how they wish:

  • Reading articles and blog posts, survey/poll results, case studies, and benchmarking reports.
  • Watching and listening to videos, session recordings, and podcast episodes.
  • Exploring and researching learning and career pathways.
  • Talking shop in your online community and book clubs, and participating in virtual meetups focused on topical discussions or birds-of-a-feather conversations.
  • Volunteering, specifically, virtual microvolunteering.

Remain vigilantly and acutely aware of emerging member needs, especially in this new and evolving environment. Everyone has been affected by the COVID-19 crisis, so the crucial question is how your organization can provide what members need most

Many organizations are on the brink of a major shift in their offerings to members. Whether you plan to recast existing resources to make them available digitally, or create entirely new product lines (or both!), take into consideration the needs of your members and market and how they want to engage with these new resources.

Questions? Contact DelCor

About Tobin Conley

A walking encyclopedia, Tobin supports associations in their quest to succeed in all facets of technology strategy and operations, pulling from a rich history working in and with associations, volunteer boards, ASAE programs, and his CAE.

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