Friday, November 20, 2009

Have you tried these? 7 Innovative Ideas to Fight this Recession

A few months ago MGI published a white paper I wrote entitled "Seven Innovative Ideas to Fight This Recession." The purpose of the paper is to present seven practical ideas that membership leaders are using now to keep this recession from eroding their membership. Here is a brief summary of four of those seven ideas. You can find the complete white paper on the MGI website at under 'white papers.'

#1 - Create Member "Evangelists"
Cindy Simpson, manager of education for the National Society of Professional Engineers, worked for an association that made past presidents Membership Ambassadors, who worked with the membership department in recruiting new members.

#2 - Personalize the Member Experience...Literally
Kimberly Gray of the Associated General Contractors of Alaska told me about how they started a group of assocate members called the Associates Council. They meet with new members when they deliver new member packets, answering questions and personally assisting the new member with understanding and taking advantage of their membership.

#3 - Outrageous Offers!
At an ASAE Idea Swap that I was leading, one attendee state that her association was having trouble getting people to register for a conference. So instead of not filling the rooms, they gave away (FREE) the rooms to attendees.

#6 - Member Relief Programs
Belinda Reutter, director of member services for the National Institute of Government Purchasing, presented the idea of a 'transitional membership...which is an extended, time-bound complimentary membership for those between jobs.' She took this a step further in thinking about creating a similar category for those members who serve in the military.

These ideas are working. If they fit directly into your need, then use it. If not, I hope that they'll lead you to an idea that fits better into your situation. Again, you can download a copy of the original white paper from the MGI website OR simply call/email me and I'll forward one to you.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

How high is high and how low is low? Steady State Analysis is your "Early Warning Advisor"

Have you ever wondered how much your membership will grow or decrease if you did not change anything?

Well, here is a handy formula that will help you determine " high is high and how low is low" when talking about your membership numbers. The formula is called 'Steady State Analysis' and is one of the most important, foundational, formulas you can use to assist you in developing your member acquisition and member retention strategies.

Steady State Analysis defines the equilibrium of total membership where members gained will equal members lost.

The calculation: Annual New Member Input/Lapse Rate = Steady State Membership

What is "Lapse Rate?" It is the inverse of your Renewal Rate. So, if your association has an 80% renewal rate, your lapse rate would be 20% or .20.

Here are a few examples of how to calculate Steady State Analysis:

Annual New Member Input: 1,000

Lapse Rate: .20

1,000/.20 = 5,000
5,000 members is where your association will eventually end up if everything that has impact on your member acquistion and renewal remain the same.

"So what" you may say? Here's the kicker.

If your association has a membership of 2,500, your doing well. Or as my soccer coach Mr Spier would say, "Your in like Flint."

BUT, if your association has a membership of 10,000, you (obviously) have a problem.

While this formula does not indicate 'when' your association will end up at Steady State, it does tell you that, given current conditions remain constant, where you will end up here eventually.
THE most important aspect of this formula is that it can help you immediately identify how best to use your financial and talent resources.
If you're growing, reallocate the money that you were going to use in acquisition to other areas that are not doing so well. Or, if you're growing but not fast enough, allocate the acquisition money into testing new channels or doubling your current efforts.
If you're shrinking, then its your 'Early Warning Advisor' letting you know that you have to change something. This gives you the time to diagnose where the problem is and develop a plan and allocate the resources to correct that problem.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Key Elements to Your Association's Personality

Copy and creative are key elements of the personality (brand) your association presents to members, clients, and the world at large. Three key steps should be taken before messaging is developed:
  1. Establish a position - the one message that, if nothing else, the audience understands.
  2. Complement the position with a creative strategy - what the organization stands for and how the message fits.
  3. Confirm that the communication conforms to established (branding) guidelines to be sure all elements are consistent.
It is vital to pay close attention to good creative that properly complements the message. This may not be "pretty" or "interesting," but it won't detract from your brand and erode the trust that your membership has in you.

Friday, November 13, 2009

3 Simple Questions: Developing a Strategy for Social Media

While entertainment companies and a handful of corporations are effectively using social media tools in their marketing, promotions and communications strategies, the majority of associations, our bread-and-butter, still struggle with making the decision "Should we use it and, if so, how?"

First and foremost, lets remember that it is simply a communications channel. Like direct mail, telemarketing, your website, even the corporate water cooler, its a way to communicate your message to someone in a manner and environment that is most conducive to them for listening. I'm reminded of the 'internet craze' of 10 years back when I listen to many people talk about 'social media.' Perhaps, being a one-time dot-comer, I have a jaundiced view. However, it is wise and practical not to base the value of social media (and investment) on what we think it can do.

Taking this approach, we ask 3 simple questions:
  1. What communications need is the use of this channel going to satisfy?
  2. What is my target market?
  3. How are they using social media already?

In answering these very broad questions, remember to think in quantitative, as well as qualitative, terms. Our mantra now is ROI, and as many of us have seen, incorporating social media into your communications and marketing strategies can be costly in both financial as well as human resources.

There is no question that, for a growing number of associations, social media will become an intricate part of their overall membership strategy to increase awareness, drive member acquisition, develop and nurture member engagement, and support member renewal/retention.

But that's not to say it will be for ALL associations.

If you're on the fence, it seems that the best strategy for most is to: see how others are doing it first, then ask your members if they think its important; develop some ideas, then ask your members if they like these ideas or can offer some suggestions on how to make them better; test one or two of the best ideas, then ask you members if they used it and if so when/what/where/why and if not, why; make changes based on their suggestions, then ask your members....

Well, you get my point.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Now for something a little lighter...What not to do when marketing internationally

I'm writing to you from Chicago and just finished a meeting with a dear friend, Rob Nelson. The ultimate 'multi-tasker,' one of Rob's many responsibilities includes expansion of his association into other countries. We talked a little about that and the gentle, prove-yourself-as-you-go approach necessary when an American based association expands into other countries.

Now, as I sit here in Starbucks thinking about our conversation, I'm reminded of a collection of 'international goofs' performed by very well known and respected companies that truly underline Rob's observations.

I'm sure that many of you have heard or read these yourself over the years, but it never hurts to try and learn (or relearn) from others. Here are a few for your enjoyment:

There will never be a mass market for motor cars - about 1,000 in Europe - because that is the limit on the number of chauffeurs available! (Spokesman for Daimler Benz)

I think there is a world market for about five computers. (Thomas J. Watson of IBM)

The name Coca-Cola in China was first rendered as Ke-kou-ke-la. Unfortunately, the Coke company did not discover until after thousands of signs had been printed that the phrase means "bite the wax tadpole" or "female horse stuffed with wax" depending on the dialect. Coke then researched 40,000 Chinese characters and found a close phonetic equivalent, "ko-kou-ko-le," which can be loosely translated as "happiness in the mouth."

In Taiwan, the translation of the Pepsi slogan "Come alive with the Pepsi Generation" came out as "Pepsi will bring your ancestors back from the dead."

Also in Chinese, the Kentucky Fried Chicken slogan "finger-lickin' good" came out as "eat your fingers off."

The American slogan for Salem cigarettes, "Salem - Feeling Free," got translated in the Japanese market into "When smoking Salem, you feel so refreshed that your mind seems to be free and empty."

When General Motors introduced the Chevy Nova in South America, it was apparently unaware that "no va" means "it won't go." After the company figured out why it wasn't selling any cars, it renamed the car in its Spanish markets to the Caribe.

Ford had a similar problem in Brazil when the Pinto flopped. The company found out that Pinto was Brazilian slang for "tiny male genitals". Ford pried all the nameplates off and substituted Corcel, which means horse.

An American t-shirt maker in Miami printed shirts for the spanish market which promoted the Pope's visit. Instead of the desired "I Saw the Pope" in Spanish, the shirts proclaimed "I Saw the Potato."

Japan's second-largest tourist agency was mystified when it entered English-speaking markets and began receiving requests for unusual sex tours. Upon finding out why, the owners of Kinki Nippon Tourist Company changed its name.

The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a "C," the idea must be feasible. (Yale University management professor on Fred Smith's paper proposing a reliable overnight delivery service - Federal Express)

A cookie store is a bad idea. Besides, the market research reports say America likes crispy cookies, not soft and chewy cookies like you make. (Response to Debbi Fields' idea of starting Mrs. Fields' Cookies)

Scandinavian vacuum manufacturer Electrolux used the following in an American campaign: "Nothing sucks like an Electrolux".

When Gerber started selling baby food in Africa, they used the same packaging as in the US, with the beautiful Caucasian baby on the label. Later they learned that in Africa, companies routinely put pictures on the label of what's inside since most people can't read English.

While this is not directly related to 'membership marketing,' I hope you understand my message...always double-check your work. Like a carpenter, "measure twice, cut once," ask other people to take a look and get their informed opinion.

I hope you enjoyed this and had a 'giggle' or two.

Have a great day!