SMA-NA Dissolved

It's with a very heavy heart that I was forced to dissolve the Search Marketing Association of North America (SMA-NA) today.

I'm the last man standing from the Board, and the only communications I've received from members recently have been requests to cancel their subscriptions. So that's it. I really wish it were different.

The History

The SMA-UK was started back in late 2004 as a response to several issues, notably concerns over SEMPO's teething problems. I had been contributing to SEMPO to this point but had grown disenchanted with some aspects of it as well, so, I flew to Stansted, England around Christmas 2004 to meet with them with the express idea of founding a North American chapter - the SMA-NA. Mike Grehan was instrumental was providing help and encouragement during this stage.

At first, there was a lot of interest and excitement about a new search marketing organization, and I remember the early meetings being full of lively conversation and lots of ideas. At this point a veritable "Who's Who" in SEO stood up to help out: Christine Churchill, Debra Mastaler, Andrew Goodman, Ben Pfeiffer, Fionn Downhill, Bill Slawski, Beth Abernathy, Karl Ribas, Ignacio (Nacho) Hernandez, Kim Krause Berg, Jeff Nelson, Barry Welford, Rand Fishkin, Eric Martin, Matt Service and too many others to list, but not to appreciate greatly! (Yes, I know that there are a couple of errors in the membership list - I'll fix them as soon as I can).

The Current Situation

The problem, I think, is that we started off with the idea that search marketing association should be readily available to everyone who wanted to join. This means low membership fees. The problem is, that means restricted access to resources due to a lack of money and a subsequently higher reliance on volunteers from an extremely busy industry. Worse, we didn't want to appear beholden to large money-rich sponsors (such as search engines, etc) that may attempt to control or direct the organization, so we were not very aggressive in looking for sponsors. This all combined into a significant cash crunch, even though we used as much volunteer time as possible, traded services (ie hosting) for memberships and hired a part-time employee to do updates rather than a full-time management staff.

The other members of the board held on for as long as they could, but there was just so long that they could try to run their own businesses as well as the SMA-NA. Myself, I've been getting very busy as well, and combining this with my recent health problems, it simply is not reasonable to continue attempting to run the organization. It's also unreasonable to expect members paying fees in return for few benefits outside of a nice link and some discounts, and very little communication.

In the meantime, SEMPO has hired professional managers and the initial concerns I had 2 years ago are no longer as valid as they once were. The remaining concerns can probably be addressed internally. In short, I'm fighting problem that really doesn't exist with an organization that in most practical aspects also doesn't exist. No matter how strongly I feel about the goals of the SMA, it's come to the point where I feel I can make more of a contribution to the industry using other methods and processes, and this is where I feel I should focus my efforts to promote and engage this industry I love and am so deeply a part of.

What's Next

From an administrative standpoint, I will maintain my position of President of the SMA-NA long enough to properly wind it down, pay it's remaining bills and so on, but I will not be actively engaged in anything else SMA-NA related.

On one hand, this is a very sad day for me, but on the other hand, I believe that the fact that we are at this stage means that this industry is growing and maturing, and that the issues of the past are no longer holding us back from dealing with the problems and challenges of the future.

Ian McAnerin


qwerty said...

That's a shame, but it's completely understandable.

I for one still have issues with SEMPO, and I don't think I have any reason to expect it to become the kind of organization I'd want to join.

David Wallace said...

I'm sorry to hear this, Ian but did expect it as the association never really got its legs.

Thank you for all your efforts (as well as others) over the past couple of years.

BWelford said...

I'm sorry to hear this news, Ian, but in this social media frenzy world, it's difficult to get the continuing involvement that such organizations require. Thanks for the efforts you put in. Like qwerty I'm not sure SEMPO will do the job that's needed, but you have shown that even with a great deal of effort it's a daunting challenge.

Ash said...

Sorry to hear this. I set up some months ago to hand it over to an SMA that might spring up in the future in my region. Until the WIIFM deliverable is strongly defined, such a body will struggle to survive.