For many associations, vendor relationships are valuable in augmenting staff resources, making technological advances, and even generating financial gain. Such is the case for the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), which leverages its vendor relationship with Ascend Media — provider of daily newspapers, exhibit guides, digital communication tools, and sponsorship items for conferences — to generate non-dues revenues for the academy. Suzanne Lothary, director of marketing for AAD, said the partnership has resulted in “astounding” advertising and sponsorship sales results.
Meanwhile, the American Urological Association (AUA) found value in a similar fashion, according to Janet Skorepa, executive vice president of education and meetings at AUA. “Our team sold 67 percent more advertising revenue than our previous publisher, and the engagement metrics for our digital publications continue to increase year-over-year,” said Skorepa of working with Ascend’s sales team.
For others, a vendor relationship enhances strategic and creative thinking. From print and digital content development to tracking member engagement, the results can be powerful when enlisting the support of a vendor. There are tips, however, to ensure that your combined efforts are well matched. Dean Monti, MFA, AAD’s managing editor of special publications, recommends communicating a work process.
“It’s important to provide specific guidance and detail for projects and tasks. This will help ensure you get what you need. Likewise, build good communication with your point people,” Monti said. “Encourage creativity in all aspects of the work that the vendor is providing and encourage creative problem-solving. Invariably, hiccups will occur, and it can be helpful if your vendor has thought about possible solutions before coming to you with a problem.”
However, many associations recognized the value of vendor relationships well before the pandemic. Continues Grantham, “we’ve long seen the value in outsourcing certain tasks where it makes sense, especially seasonal items related to our events. The pandemic has probably made that even more important as we all navigate a new normal.”
Regardless, AAD’s Monti points out that flexibility is an important asset when choosing a vendor/partner. And that applies to both the association and the vendor. Companies should be able to expect timely results from vendors, he said, but be willing to adjust plans as everyone works toward a common goal.
“From our perspective, the model works as efficiently in a post-pandemic world as it worked in the pre-pandemic world,” Monti said. “Remote working has made communication more fragmented and not as cohesive at times but this is something we’re all learning to adjust to. It works best when there is good teamwork and communication on both ends, both internally for client and vendor and between client and vendor.”