How should our association deal with our event’s competition?

If your association has a competitor that offers a similar event to a similar target audience, you have three options:

1) Ignore them.
2) Work with them.
3) Compete with them.

Your association’s decision to ignore, work with or compete with your event’s competition is critical. If your association makes the wrong decision, it could cause significant harm to your event. Review these guidelines and proceed thoughtfully and carefully, involving your association’s board of directors as needed.

Ignoring your association’s competition works if they are weak and likely to fail. Working with them would tend to give away your association’s resources for little gain. Making any extra effort to compete with them may also waste association resources.

Working with your association’s event competition is difficult. While partnerships may work in the short term, sooner or later either your association or your competition will be gaining more from the arrangement, making the other party unwilling to continue. However, if your association’s event is weak and the competition is very strong, working with them may be in your best interest. In that case, it is important for your association to manage the relationship very carefully so that your competition does not decide to cease the partnership.

If your association’s event competition is relatively strong, but not overwhelmingly stronger than your association’s event, competing with them may be the correct strategy. If your association is ready to compete with them, keep the following points in mind:

– Don’t mention them by name in your association’s marketing unless it is appropriate.
– Try to neutralize your competition’s strengths, but don’t necessarily try to beat them at their strengths. For example, if your association’s competitor tends to have popular keynote speakers that help draw attendees, then your association may wish to add equally-attractive keynote speakers. However, you may not want to try to one-up them in this area of strength because doing so could be difficult and consume resources that are best used in other ways.
– Try to attack your competition’s weaknesses. If your competition has a weak educational program, then it may behoove your association to fortify your educational offerings to differentiate your association’s event versus your competition’s event.
– Try to fortify your strengths. If your association’s strength is the diversity of its global attendees, make that even stronger. The idea is to build up your association’s strengths so that they can’t be neutralized by your competition.

Tread carefully when making the decision to ignore, work with or compete with your association’s event competition. Once your association has made the decision, however, try to stick with it. Starting down one path and then choosing another could waste resources and create feelings of ill will, creating an even more threatening competitive environment.

Does your association ignore, work with or compete with your competition? Has this strategy been successful?

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