I recently participated in a LinkedIn group discussion on strategies for branding/repurposing content that centered on a key concept that many association managers and volunteer leaders seem to miss: You must let customers, not producers, define the association’s product offerings.

The original poster related that his organization’s attempt at content aggregation and reselling was not as successful as they had hoped. In his view, the product failed because the senior management curated the content into bundles that they thought would best benefit the end users. He felt that it would be preferable to let the customer pick and choose the content in his or her bundle.

This is absolutely correct for most products, in my view. And especially so for content bundles that can be easily aggregated according to customer preference.

We are living in a world where technology has enabled customers to tailor their purchases to closely fit their individual needs to the letter. Sites like Amazon.com have acclimated us to a way of buying that incorporates unlimited “mix and match,” to its great success. Associations will need to follow this model to maximize their revenue, especially in terms of non-dues revenue-generating products.

Like it or not, associations directly compete for information share and customer dollars with giant product clearinghouses like Amazon.com. The only way to do this successfully is to listen carefully to the needs and wants of the customers and let them drive the purchasing decisions for your organization’s unique products. In this case, being a facilitator, not a curator, will reap benefits.

If you’re interested in the thread that started this, you can check it out at LinkedIn’s Association Media and Publishing discussion page.