Ten things to cut in the recession, before you cut your marketing – no.1 – Association Membership

From Construction News’ Website – www.cnplus.co.uk– October 2008

1For the last few weeks I’ve been banging on about the recession, and how important it is to keep your marketing going through it, in order to come out the other side in a better position than you are now. “That’s all very well”, you’ve been saying, “but we need to make some cuts, or we’ll be going bust. What do you suggest?”

So, here goes the first in a short series of money saving ideas.

No 1. Association membership

How many Institutions and associations are there in the UK Construction sector do you think? A hundred? Two hundred? I’m not sure that there’s a reliable answer to the question. I know that corporate membership of these groups costs a reasonable amount for a decent sized firm, often of the order of £5,000, and that firms are typically in membership of several associations.

And I also know that many Institutions and Associations have sizeable and expensive staff, and in many cases a reasonably valuable real estate portfolio.

Now, I’m not saying it’s all a waste of money. But do we really need so many? Couldn’t a handful of bodies deliver the same value for much less cost?

I saw a story the other day about the British Cement Association, The Concrete Centre, and the Quarry Products Association deciding to merge. To me the mystery about this merger is why it’s taken so long to happen, and what possible justification there might be for maintaining the independence of the British Precast Association and the British Aggregates Association who declined to join the new ‘super-body’. Are their members needs so different and unique that they must have an independent body lobbying for them? Are they really serving their members’ best interests by staying out?

Consider the most effective trade body in the sector, the Construction Products Association. It has a small staff, but a massive impact. It is trusted, and authoritative, and is often consulted by government prior to regulatory change. Why is this? Perhaps because it is an amalgam of a hundred smaller organisations, and therefore lobbies with the power of all of them.

Constructing Excellence too derives its power from the bodies it has absorbed – the Design Build Foundation, the Reading Construction Forum, the Construction Best Practice Programme and more. Bodies with more members, and who represent a wider spectrum of companies achieve more.

Could we merge all the myriad institutions and associations into one built environment organisation? Of course we could. Will we? Unlikely. The only way to force the agenda would be if membership of such bodies declined to a point they became uneconomic.  At that point there would have to be a wholesale consolidation driven primarily by releasing the value in converting the palatial London homes into luxury Hotels, and reducing the staff overhead.

So, when it comes to ‘cutting the marketing budget’ time, find out how much your company spends on membership of institutions and associations, both corporately and through funding individual membership of professional bodies. Force that expenditure to pass the same ROI tests that your marketing activity has to. You may well find that the value of the memberships is significantly less than the cost. Er, apart from your CIMCIG membership, obviously – which is great value, and in no way worth cutting.

So, there’s five grand saved. Next time the executive washroom will be under the spotlight.

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