| Association Articles
CHANGES IN ASSOCIATION COMMUNICATIONS
Associations will rapidly adopt the Internet as the means through which it can efficiently and economically conduct marketing, research, and membership service support. With the number of users growing monthly at an estimated rate of 10%, the Internet is the fastest growing global telecommunications network. Nearly 75% of that growth was derived from new users within the business community. What is more important, of the networks registered within the Internet worldwide, approximately 63% of them are owned by businesses or research laboratories. Finally, the rate at which businesses are connecting to the Internet is accelerating. The number of commercial domains (business Internet connections) increased more than 261% between April 1993 and April 1994. As a result business subscribers are expected to exceed their educational counterparts sometime this summer.
Like Large and small business, associations are embracing the Internet as a fundamental communication tool used to conduct daily business. Fortune 500 companies such as Xerox, IBM, Merrill Lynch, Motorola, Intel, Digital Equipment, Sun, and Hewlett Packard are using the Internet as an important utility through which they communicate internally, with their business partners, and with their customers. Association such as Global Agricultural Biotechnology Association, Global Electric Auto Association, American Ceramic Society, Software Publishers Association, Direct Marketing Association, International Door Association, National Federation of Paralegal Association, National Marine Representatives Association, American Windsurfing Industries Association, Commercial Association of REALTORS, Entrepreneurs Association, and the International Communications Industries Association are also discovering the Internet to be a cost-effective communications means through which they can conduct research activities relating to their services, members, and markets as well as conduct efficient massaging, surveying and directory technologies.
The means through which commerce is conducted is changing due to the rapid evolution of electronic connectivity, its widespread availability, and its acceptance as a viable communications vehicle for business users. The availability and efficiency of a global network system is redefining the manner in which business is conducted. Companies with an established reputation for leadership and vision, such as Xerox for its approach to the marketplace and Intel for its approach to the deployment of technology, are using the Internet as a key instrument in their efforts to improve sales, market, and research communications. The nonprofit sector is learning from corporate America and adapting this technology to improve basic services, as well as augmenting their marketing acquisition on a grand scale.
The demographics of the Internet population lend further support to the fact that it is now an accepted (and growing) business communication tool. Of the more than 20 million Internet subscribers, approximately 50% are 25 years of age or younger. This is due to the large educational community using the Internet. It is important to note that even with such a large number of relatively young subscribers, a meaningful number of subscribers (30%) use the Internet as a tool for supporting their business endeavors. Considering the likelihood that some portion of subscribers above 46 years of age also uses the Internet for work-related purposes, the number of potential business prospects easily exceeds five million.
Business information needs change within the different levels of a commercial organization. Those at the top are typically deluged with data from which business plans and strategies are developed. Yet those below them have limited access to the same data; making it difficult for employees to grasp the value of business strategies. This in turn impedes the employees' decision making capabilities relevant to the tactical activities necessary to support the business's overall strategy. Networked environments incorporating the Internet are being used by businesses to encourage information gathering, problem analysis, and customer input by all levels of employees for use in the business planning and tactical delivery process. The Internet provides employees the motivation and the vehicle to conduct dialogue outside the company's walls and beyond its comfortable internal barriers. Businesses using this global network today claim significant benefits in terms of productivity, the ability to access what could be considered the world's largest public library, and collaboration with their business partners.
Internet access to discussion groups on thousands of topics through electronic mail makes it a straight forward task for employees at all levels to communicate with knowledgeable people that willingly provide assistance and input. Customer support organizations can use these discussion boards (or their own) to assist customers in all phases of presales and postsales support. Marketing groups can have access to information relevant to any number of specific topics ranging from regional economic information, census data, European and Latin America markets to scholarly papers, business information, and technical journals through Internet information servers. Of equal importance, the Internet's discussion boards and electronic mail provide marketing with a means of communicating directly with its company's customers. This capability provides companies with the ability to identify product opportunities, changes in the competition, unaddressed customer needs, shifts in price/performance/value propositions and a host of other indispensable information points that are difficult, if not impossible, to obtain through more traditional and more costly means.
Corporate sponsored Internet access gives a company the opportunity to implement highly cost effective vehicles not only for market and customer support needs, but also for the purpose of selling its wares. The Internet provides companies genuine access to the global village. The physical location of a commercial concern is not important in terms of reaching potential customers. Fundamental to the Internet's architecture is the capability to transport information between two users globally. The traditional constraints imposed by long distance data exchanges do not exist. Businesses are discovering they now have the ability to reach and communicate with (potential) customers in Europe and Asia through the Internet with the same cost effectiveness and ease as in the United States. CommerceNET is a good example of one of the first commercial endeavors currently underway with the objective of more fully utilizing the commercial opportunities which the Internet offers. Recognizing the commercial value of the Internet, major corporations including Hewlett-Packard, Lockheed, Pacific Bell, Intel, Digital Equipment Corporation, Xerox, and Bank of America are engaged in this large-scale trial of offering business services to customers through the Internet.
The value the Internet yields is now recognized far past the higher educational community in which it was born and cradled. It is regarded by the governments as well as by insightful business management as a vehicle offering immense commercial (sales, market, and service) development opportunities. Local domestic communities, foreign governments, and foreign business concerns are deploying their own Internet nodes and backbones in recognition of the Internet's value in successfully accessing the global marketplace. Some local communities (e.g., Cleveland, Ohio) now operate Free-Nets to promote access to and use of the Internet. Singapore, for example promotes itself as the Intelligent Island with a plan called IT2000 supported by its National Computer Board. The objective of Singapore's plan is to become Asia's center for information technology with the Internet at its heart. The Internet is therefore promoted within Singapore as an essential resource for every business. PIPEX in the United Kingdom and Japan's Internet Initiative are two examples of commercial Internet providers that are prospering in countries other than the United States.