Will Associations Begin To Outsource Their Events?

Posted by Kevin Iwamoto on 12/17/2015

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I recently read a fascinating article in MeetingsNet by Sue Hatch that referenced the results of a study conducted by SmithBucklin — the well-known association, management and services company. They surveyed about 360 U.S. association executives about 12 business services — with the objective of finding out what jobs they are outsourcing (or planning to outsource), as well as any benefits they expect from outsourcing. (You can read the article here.)

The current reality is that an overwhelming majority of associations — 87% of them — currently handle their own event management, and about four out of five associations also tackle their own trade show management. Meeting and trade show-related jobs are among the least commonly outsourced.

So if you’re wondering which functions it is that associations commonly outsource, here are the study results for the question, “What Tasks Do You Outsource?”
  • Graphic design/multimedia/video: 52%
  • Editorial/publishing: 27%
  • Advertising sales: 27%
  • Membership technology: 26%
  • Trade show management: 19%
  • Exhibit/sponsorship sales: 18%
  • Advocacy/government relations: 18%
  • Marketing/public relations: 17%
  • Financial management or Accounting: 14%
  • Event strategy or management: 13%
  • Education program development: 8%
  • Social media: 7%

Now here’s the fascinating part of the study; when asked what services they are considering outsourcing, the association executives listed membership technology and event management most often.  

In fact, 12% said they are considering outsourcing membership technology, while 11% said event management.

Leslie Thornton, vice president, SmithBucklin Outsourced Services, said that “Association managers are recognizing the need to bring new, innovative ideas to their meeting space to help increase attendance, attract sponsors, and drive attendee and member engagement both at the event and year-round."

So while it’s great to hear that association executives are looking at the bottom line — and trying to deliver on the dynamic analytics required of them by their membership sponsors — if this event outsourcing actually materializes, this could be a huge windfall for all of the event management companies (who, by the way, are already members for many of these associations).   

How times have changed!

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