I will admit this title captured my interest while scanning the sessions at ASAE’s Annual Meeting. As someone who would love having a two percent growth in membership the idea of a 2,400 percent increase is unimaginable! Nancy Hammervik from CompTIA graciously provided the following recap of her session but I’ll add a few thoughts first.
CompTIA’s primary revenue source is its certification program. The society I work with has very few funding sources outside of membership dues so clearly this model would be difficult to implement. The discussion also made me realize that we do not have the technology or processes in place to even begin to consider adding hundreds, let alone thousands, of members.
What I did spend a great deal of time thinking about was the resources available to members versus non-members. What am I doing to reinforce the value of membership – to both current and prospective members? This session was perfectly timed for me as I work through a website redesign that begins to put a structure in place to encourage and successfully manage growth.
Nancy Hammervik, Senior Vice President, Industry Relations
The Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) is a non-profit trade association serving as the voice of the information technology industry. With approximately 2,000 member companies, 3,000 academic and training partners and more than two million IT certifications issued, CompTIA is dedicated to advancing industry growth through educational programs, market research, networking events, professional certifications and public policy advocacy.
During the past five years, CompTIA, with its councils and community members, invested a great deal of time and funding to develop a growing portfolio of resources to help organizations in the industry be more successful. This portfolio included training and education modules, business tools and templates, research reports, accreditations and powerful events and networking opportunities.
However, the association was still thought of as the industry’s “best kept secret.” More needed to be done to grow the awareness of the resources available to channel businesses who became members. CompTIA wanted to change its image to become the best kept resource in the IT industry.
A New Plan
At the end of 2013, the CompTIA executive team worked closely with its board of directors to develop a plan to accelerate its efforts, elevate the CompTIA brand and ultimately bring more business value to the loyal CompTIA membership.
In April 2014 CompTIA launched its “Open Access” association membership model, removing the barriers to engagement and providing access to a considerable portion of its online content portfolio. The new Open Access model enabled both individuals and businesses – anyone seeking information – to engage with CompTIA resources and be introduced to its communities and programs cost-free, while simultaneously bringing more exclusivity and value to dues-paying members.
CompTIA dues-paying members were elevated to premier membership, gaining greater distinction and business value from CompTIA. Premier members represent CompTIA’s most engaged members – channel organizations committed to best practices and investing in their growth and success. Premier membership offers priority access to research, complete access to all CompTIA training and education materials, exclusive access to business tools and work templates, no-cost event registration for an entire organization, participation in advisory councils and discounts on accreditation training and testing for individuals and the companies as a whole.
The objective in moving to Open Access, however, was to grow awareness across the industry: to take CompTIA’s research and resources mainstream and to help more companies and IT professionals make informed decisions about the technologies they sell and support as well as the services they provide and the businesses they run. Therefore, individuals who were not yet ready for premier membership in the trade association, but did have an interest in learning from CompTIA, could begin to engage by signing up as a registered user.
CompTIA leadership was also very focused on ensuring premier members continued to receive far more value than the dues they paid. In the past, the association was reaching a fraction of channel partners worldwide. Now, with an open access model, CompTIA was able to cast a wider net with registered users and also go deeper with premier members to deliver even more value from the association.
With this expanded reach, the CompTIA brand has become more recognized by industry peers, partners and sometimes even end customers. This expansion has created an added “halo effect” for premier members. Coupled with the actual exclusive benefits provided, the return on dues is even greater.
In addition to the existing benefits at launch, the association has continued to offer new exclusive benefits for premier members. Most recently, in spring of 2015 CompTIA began to offer legal services for IT channel businesses, giving premier members a complimentary risk assessment tool, a one-hour consultation and access to industry-specific attorneys at low rates. More premier member benefits are on the horizon as well.
The association’s overall membership has held fairly steady with the change to open access, and roughly 10 percent of CompTIA’s new members have come as a result of first becoming registered users. Another measure the association uses is access to content, to ensure the information and tools CompTIA provides are being disseminated to the industry. With the move to open access, content usage increased nearly 150 percent in 2014, and is on track to increase an additional 50 percent in 2015. Engagement on the company website is also growing with increases in page views and time spent on the site.
The increased exposure of the CompTIA name through media coverage has also grown as a result of open access. The association saw a nearly 20 percent bump during the launch year, and is currently 20 percent ahead of that pace in 2015.
However, most important is the growing pool of registered users which provide a base of potential members in the coming years. In the months leading up to the launch, CompTIA promoted the impending registered user status and collected email requests for interested participants. At launch, more than 7,000 users became instant registered users. In the first year, that number grew to more than 30,000. Today, in mid-2015, CompTIA has more than 50,000 registered users of its open access content.
Investment and Learning
No serious transformation can occur without the investment of time, energy and resources throughout an organization. CompTIA committed to this plan and allocated approximately two percent of its annual revenue toward this project, with vastly more time and human capital resources spent to implement.
Consultants were used to supplement areas where CompTIA did not have domain expertise. While internal staff worked on back-end technology and integration, outside agencies were retained to design and code much of the new responsive front end. In terms of allocation, about half of the project’s resources (human capital and funding) were used in the project management and marketing phases. The design phase was the next largest expense, followed by discovery/planning. Actual development/testing/deployment was the smallest relative resource cost, primarily utilizing existing staff.