Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)
International growth strategy case study
The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) has 275,000 members from more than 160 countries that are interested in human resource management issues and practices.
SHRM has been active internationally for a number of years but in the last two years, these efforts have been paying off with increasing results. This is in large part due to a recent shift in strategy and approach.
Leading with solutions and services, instead of membership
As membership driven organizations, it is both normal and common for associations to lead with membership when targeting international markets. Membership, however, is often a bundle of several services and benefits that are not easily transferred to international markets. In addition, membership benefits often depend on a certain critical mass of members in a specific geographic region to deliver on the promise of networking and information exchange with their peers.
For SHRM, the shift from promoting membership first and foremost to providing specific programs, events and solutions has resulted in better overall sales results, including increased membership as a positive by-product.
There are many ways for associations to actually engage with an international market; you can place your own staff and programs locally, work through a chapter structure or use third parties to help deliver your products and services. The right solution really depends on your particular association and situation.
In the case of SHRM, a shift to a content licensing model allowed them to expand to more countries much more rapidly and with less direct investment than if they had tried to grow the markets using only their own resources.
By authorizing specific partner organizations to obtain a license to use and resell SHRM content and programs, SHRM was able to a.) reach a much larger audience, b.) transfer a significant amount of risk to the third party partners and c.) build new revenue streams without dramatically increasing costs.
With this new approach, SHRM is now working with delivery partners in Brazil, Bulgaria, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Denmark, Egypt, Ghana, Greece, Japan, S. Korea, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Romania, South Africa, Trinidad & Tobago, Turkey and several countries in the Gulf region, and cultivating new partnerships elsewhere around the globe.
Revenues from international markets are a growing segment for many associations. It is important to remember that international revenues does not just refer to sales outside the U.S., it should also take into consideration the number of international attendees that participate in your U.S. based meetings and events.
For example, SHRM most recently had nearly 1,100 attendees from 91 countries – an all-time high for global diversity -- at its Annual Conference in Orlando, more than 8% of all attendees. This is a result of promoting the annual event to their growing international membership base and through the network of delivery partner organizations.
Of course, international sources of revenue count as well and SHRM is organizing local events in India, China and the UAE that have helped to grow overall international revenues to more than $5 million annually.
Words of Advice
According to Howard A. Wallack, MSc, GPHR, HRMP, SHRM’s Vice President, Global Business Development, associations would benefit from following a few words of advice;
1. If you want to grow international markets, you have to invest time, in person, in the markets you want to grow. International development is not a spectator sport.
2. If you work through partners, you must have a solid system in place for due diligence when selecting partners and for execution. You can’t expect partners to just work without oversight or direction.
3. You will need clear metrics and measurements to stay on top of your business. Tracking the most important data, (revenues, unit sales, registrations and attendees, etc.) in real time will help you spot problems early enough to take corrective action.
In the past, SHRM was more passive regarding its international engagement, but they are now getting much better results with a proactive strategy and approach.
A subtle strategic shift from primarily promoting membership to a focus on specific programs and benefits has increased revenues and membership for SHRM in targeted international markets.
In addition, the use of a content licensing model has allowed SHRM to much more rapidly expand to more countries, with less risk, while keeping costs manageable.