By Raisa McNab, CEO at the Association of Translation Companies
What’s your strategy for building long-term growth in the association? Recent research shows that 50% of associations are looking to build growth through partnerships with other organisations. For the Association of Translation Companies (ATC), innovative commercial collaborations are the key to unlocking growth and adding value to members – and we’re looking to partner up with TAF members to share the benefits.
This is the (post-everything-that-has-hit-us-plus-AI) landscape
Over the past two years, I’ve been having conversations with our member companies about what makes the biggest impact on their business in terms of support from their trade association. Rather surprisingly, it’s not the community or networking, or the member benefits and guidance, or the advocacy and lobbying. It’s something much more fundamental; our members want us to help them do better business.
I’ve also had many conversations with fellow association leaders about how to keep our associations relevant in a rapidly changing landscape where information overload is a very real thing, our attentions are being pulled into a hundred different directions, and where the role of trade associations is being put into question.
This is the (post-everything-that-has-hit-us-plus-AI) landscape where trade association leaders have to think very hard and very carefully about how not to just stay afloat, but how to continue to add value to members in a way that no one else can.
The ATC’s members are language service companies who support every single sector and industry in the UK, providing multilingual translation and interpreting services to facilitate internationalisation and exporting in over 300 languages. For them, business means working with companies looking to start exporting or expanding their international footprint.
Building value with no money exchanging hands (we have none)
Our response to our members’ needs was to dream up an innovative new strategy around commercial and trade collaborations, with a remit to build relationships with business organisations and trade associations, and to find partner associations whose members’ interests align with those of our members.
This is why we joined TAF, and this is why we took a bold step to invest in a totally new part-time role for a Commercial Collaborations Lead. And we’ve had some great early successes, among them a jointly-developed best practice guide with MRS, the Market Research Society, a collaborative webinar with the Hampshire Chamber of Commerce, and monthly webinars with the UK Export Academy. The feedback from members has been tremendous.
These partnerships are based on mutual win-win collaboration, with no money exchanging hands (we have none to spare). When we find a best-fit partner, it’s not a hard sell – our advice and our members’ globalisation services add value to our partners’ members in a way that positions our partner associations as facilitators of growth. And who wouldn’t want that?
Think not just outside the box, but outside the room
But this is all par for the course, partnerships have always worked, and always will. What we also want to do is to think not just outside the box, but outside the room. I’ve spent my career in the language services industry. We are really good at talking about our skills, services and technologies within our own circles. That’s evidently not enough, which is why we have been innovating around how we could use a collaborative approach to amplify our voice outside of our own industry.
At the recent Association of Association Executives’ World Congress, we struck a partnership with the wonderful team at Zinc Media whose ground-breaking new business model revolves around working with trade associations to produce documentary-grade content disseminated not just to the trade associations’ internal audience, but to national media outlets, trade and press publications, and global business platforms – FREE OF CHARGE (I have looked, there is no catch, just a brilliant collaboration model).
Together with Zinc, we have teamed up with CIM, The Chartered Institute of Marketing, and are talking to a number of exporter associations to jointly produce Global Horizons: Unlocking Britain’s Export Potential, showcasing international trade insights in collaboration with leading industry bodies.
The benefits of media collaboration are self-evident
The Global Horizons video series will shed light on the diverse landscape of global trade while highlighting opportunities for British businesses, equipping them with the knowledge and tools needed to succeed in international markets. Topics range from trade policies to export strategies, and from marketing approaches to overcoming language barriers. Importantly, the series emphasises the vital role of diversity and gender equality in the global business landscape, showcasing how these factors foster innovation and better decision-making.
Within the production, the ATC, the CIM, and other participating trade associations, along with the private sector, contribute valuable insights, expert opinions, and real-life case studies, painting a holistic picture of the internationalisation journey. The collaborative effort ensures a rich narrative that aims to empower businesses, enhancing their ability to thrive in the global marketplace.
For me, as the one responsible for our commercial collaborations strategy as well as our purse strings, the benefits of this media collaboration are totally self-evident:
· An interesting, insightful, top-quality documentary that positions our association as an industry leader, and our members as the go-to providers.
· Wide dissemination through channels that would otherwise be well beyond our reach and financial capacity.
· New commercial collaborations with trade associations whose members are buyers of our members’ services.
We too want to be Big in America
In this internationalisation space, Zinc has done some amazing work already, in collaboration with the Department for Business and Trade, on a new LinkedIn-streamed series Big in America with the inimitable Alex Polizzi.
And the best news is that if you just got as excited as you might imagine I am right now, we are still looking for a couple of trade associations to join our expert panel and for prospective sponsors who share our vision for empowering British businesses in the global marketplace, to join us on this exciting journey.
If you’re interested in shaping the future of international trade and driving success for your business community, get in touch with me at email@example.com and I’d be happy to talk more!
Beyond this project, for me, staying relevant as a trade association is about finding ways to provide value to members that they can’t get elsewhere, and to do it in a way that helps grow their business. It feels like we’re starting to crack this particular nut with commercial collaborations. What’s your best new strategy for growth?