Michelle M. Smith and Rick Blabolil became the newest members of the BMA International Board of Directors in October. They will lead the development of a research arm. The initiative will be built through a partnership with the academic institution The FORUM: Business Results Through People.
This has immediate implications for members, said Smith, who has been named the association’s first VP-research. She serves as VP-business development at O.C. Tanner and has served as a FORUM trustee since its inception. “The BMA just inherited a huge library of content that we can share,” she said.
The library includes academic reports, white papers and executive briefs focused on topics ranging from branding to customer engagement. The partnership signals a shift in focus for The FORUM, which will turn its attention from incentive marketing to business marketing at large.
Dr. Frank Mulhern, an associate dean at Northwestern University’s Medill Graduate School of Integrated Marketing Communications, serves as academic director and principal researcher of The Forum. He and his team will bring an independent eye, sound methodology and increased credibility to BMA research, said Blabolil, the association’s new director of research. He serves as a FORUM trustee and is president of Marketing Innovators.
“We’re going to elevate the research and increase the volume,” he said. Marketers increasingly see their roles changing and now have a place in conversations about sales, human resources and information technology “This is a key time for the industry. Marketing is going to play a bigger role, and this research is only going to support it.”
Smith and Blabolil will form a BMA research committee and present a formal plan for the partnership at the January meeting of the International Board of Directors. They will be discussing potential research topics and also looking for new channels—including webinars and face-to-face events—that can provide value for BMA members.
All research will be free to BMA members, Smith said. But the board will discuss opportunities to reach outside parties as well. “We hope research will create a non-dues revenue stream for the BMA,” she said. “We want to think that through carefully.”
The first research project completed in 2014 will focus on marketing to millenials in the workplace. Smith and Blabolil also are working to rebrand all of The FORUM assets and bring the content over to the marketing.org site.