Friday, August 28, 2009

Social Media and the Membership Life Cycle

Tony Rossell, a dear friend and mentor, explained that The Membership Life Cycle is made up of 5 steps: Awareness; Acquisition; Engagement; Renewal; and finally, Re-instatement. How can associations effectively use social media to drive this cycle?

This is a huge topic full of peaks and valleys. For the sake of simplicity, I plan to address each of these 'levels' one at a time, begining with "Awareness" and hope that you readers will chime in with your thoughts.

Awareness is the first stage of the Membership Life Cycle. An association obviously has no hope of any individual becoming a member without first that individual's awareness that the association even exists. And, once the individual is aware of the association's existance, the individual still needs to become aware of how the association applys to his/her professional and/or pesonal life before he/she is ready to become a member.

Historically, associations have counted on word-of-mouth or personal recommendation as the basis awareness. Individuals, who have a personal experience with the association, talk about and/or recommend the association to their associates and friends. This experience takes many forms from simply reading an article, to saving money, to enhancing a career. The bottom line in all of this is how that individual benefitted from knowing about the association.

The use of social media in this process is obvious. At no other time has the flow of personal experience been so open as it is today. Almost unbridled by geography and language, social media allow individuals from around the world to freely communicate with each other.

The key to effectively using social media as a tactical marketing tool lies in the establishment of a clear goal and the measureable steps necessary to move a prospect from unware, to aware and ultimately to becoming a member. But as we've seen with word-of-mouth, the content placed in the social media must be dedicated to delivering a positive, and more importantly "personal", impact. Therefore, the goals that you establish to measure the effectiveness of social media must be based upon measuring the positive, personal, impact it has had on the potential member.

Therefore, your goals may not only include the number of 'hits' or 'views,' but the number of solicited or unsolicited responses from those individuals who have read the content. To take it a step further, perhaps you also measure the number of personal success stories that resulted from individuals who read and acted in someway on the information they read.

You can then use these 'responses' to further your impact by distributing them throughout other channels to include your website, direct mail, as well as additional social media.

I'm interested in your opinions.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Are Associations really a picnic?

It's 10:00 A.M. and I'm watching one of my favorite shows, Sunday Morning on CBS. The story I'm watching is really a pitch for a new book on picnics. The author of the book presents picnics as the opportunity to break out of your normal life and enjoy the company of friends and like-minded people over food in a different environment.

I suppose that's what we offer to our members. A picnic of sorts, where we give our members the opportunity to break out of their normal life to enjoy the company of like-minded people. Yes there is training, networking, papers, blogs, websites, committees, elections...on and on. But perhaps it all starts as a picnic? You may even think that all of these activities are simply picnics in a larger picnic? What the heck, it is Sunday morning. Have a wonderful day!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

For my trip to the ASAE Annual Conference, I picked-up and started reading a great book entitled "The Prime Solution" by Jeff Thull. It is a great read. While I'm still in the middle of it, I wanted to share something from the book that I am already finding useful in my own work with clients - a long-term look at how product development has moved from almost a level of 'cooperative play' (my words, not the authors) to a level of 'integration'.

'Era 1,' ("Obvious Value") - In the 1950's, sellers in the b-to-b world built an marketed products based upon basic needs fulfillment - the idea that the product will sell itself. It was either bought or not.

'Era 2' ("Augmented Value") - This period spans the '70's to the '90's and is characterized by providers building products which had a 'range of possibilities.' "There was the generic product...the expected product...augmented product' (p.28). This was solutions selling. The problem was that the solution typically was too difficult for the client to maintain or integrate into their business - in many cases due to the client's not fully understanding their needs and limitations (a result of a client's lack of introspection and the vendor's lack of helping the client to fully explore and understand their needs).

'Era 3' ("Complex Value Networks") - Started in the mid-1990's due to the increasing "speed of change" (p.30) and the increased complexity of problems. In short, Thull states that "...value complexity is the primary feature of the b-to-b landscape. Customers need more help than ever in diagnosing their problems and in designing, evaluating, and implementing solutions and achieving the complex, customized, and unique value they promise" (p.31).

While this model was presented in the context of technology solutions, I think it also describes the changes in marketing association memberships and associated products. In short, we can no longer just 'build it and they will come'. We need to help our members understand what they really want and need, then help them integrate these tools into their professional (and maybe personal) lives. That will foster engagement and we all know what that means to our renewal rates.

Let me know what you think...

Friday, August 21, 2009

In follow up to yesterday's post, as a membership geek, I'd like to share the formulas which provide a numeric way to help us track the effects of our membership marketing. Typically, these formulas are pulled together to create a Membership Dashboard which provides a 'snap shot' of these activities in a quick and easy to read format (if you'd like one I'd be more than happy to share the one we use at MGI).

As a quick reference, when talking with a CFO on membership activity, I usually find the following benchmarks to be most important:

  • Promotion Response Rate (PRR): The percentage of people who responded to a promotion.
    Total number of responses / Total number of prospects contacted X 100.
  • Renewal Rate (RR): The average percentage of membership that remains in a year
    (Total Number of Members Today - 12 month new members) / Total
    Number of Members in Previous Year
  • Membership Tenure (MT): The average time a member stays a member.
    1 / Reciprocal of Renewal Rate = .10
  • Lifetime Value (LTV): The economic value produced by a typical member.
    (Dues + Non-Dues Revenue) x MT
  • Maximum Acquisition Cost (MAC): An estimate of the maximum investment that can be made to acquire a member or customer at a profit.
    ((Dues + Non-Dues Revenue) - (Total Servicing Costs)) x MT

    Present these to your CFO to find out if they represent the metrics he/she is interested in. This is a great way to at least kick-off the dialogue.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Effective communication between Membership Leaders and CFOs

We can all agree that there will ALWAYS be some level of disagreement between CFO's and Membership/Sales. While CFO's deal with the daily business of running an organization, Membership/Sales leadership are ensconced in the future business of the organization...and there in lies the rub.

How much do we invest today to keep the organization going tomorrow? This is a tough question at any time, let alone now when we face 9.6% (and increasing) unemployment, increasing gas prices and much more.

In a session I presented with my good friends Andrew Goldschmidt, Rob Batarla and Susan Medick at the ASAE & The Center for Association Leadership Annual Meeting & Expo held earlier this week in Toronto, ON, in a room of over 40 CFOs and Membership VPs, Directors and Managers, we discussed how CFO's and Membership could better communicate.

It was a great conversation which brought out many important points but the most important one is transparency. Here are a few highlights I took away from the session:

  1. Let membership know about every decision that impacts their department. Sounds silly but many participants shook their heads "yes" when this came up.
  2. Talk with the membership. Many CFOs at the session strongly recommended that ALL CFOs should take the time to speak directly with as many members as they can. Everyone agreed that this can be difficult, but every CFO said it helped them to better understand what the members need, how to better help membership, and how to - in the end - do their job a little better.
  3. Try to clearly explain your decisions to your membership team/leader. They do not see everything that you are involved in so if they ask for money for a campaign or a promotion, and you decide that the money will be put to better use somewhere else, explain that (to the best that you can).
  1. Ask your CFO how to present ideas to him/her. What kind of numbers and explanations do they want? What makes a compelling argument to them?
  2. Timing. Month closing is a difficult time. If you have a request, perhaps it can wait until after month closing.
  3. Offer alternatives. If you have an idea, come in with several ways to accomplish the goal - Plans A, B and C.
It was great session and thanks to all who attended and participated.