Monday, December 20, 2010

What to Consider in New Product Development

I was fortunate over the weekend to run a brain storming session on new product development for a client, a well respected association whose members work with post secondary students. As part of this session, I presented several considerations for an association/company when developing a new product. Given the reception of these considerations by the client and his board, I thought I'd share them with you today.

Do your customers/members want it?  I realize this sounds a bit silly, but in truth it should be your first consideration. This product should also support the association's Mission as it will not only serve as a revenue source but also support the association's member value proposition and potentially impact your relationship with the member.

Can the product be profitable? I realize this may be a bit obvious, but there are products developed that are considered 'loss leaders' where an association/company will produce a product and sell it at a loss to support a larger initiative, say the association's Mission or driving sales of more profitable products.

Here you have serveral considerations: the goal of the product, the size of the market, costs associated with production and pricing.

First, in many cases you would be well served to make your product a 'continuity product,' like a subscription, insurance or membership. Here you can amortize the acquisition cost over the long term receipt of revenue (Lifetime Value). This also gives you a base market from which you extend the product line to new products and further driving revenue (how many NCIS' are there now, 3?).

Second, make sure you consider your staff's time in developing and maintaining the product. Needless to say, if your staff's time is taken up servicing a $19.95 product sale and they can't service the $250 product sale, you're loosing money.

Finally, can you identify your market? Not just outline who you think they, but actually get lists of them or clearly identify where they congregate (conference, webinare, seminar, list serve, websites, etc.). This will impact the cost of your product and, of course, your sale-price.

I would like to thank my dear friend and mentor, Tony Rossell, who provided me much of the material presented here.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Are you asking the right questions to develop your Winning Formula?

I just read the first draft of a booklet being written by my good friend Viney Kumar. Many of you know him and if you don't I recommend that you at least google him and take a look at some of his writtings. A very smart and very genuine guy.

In this booklet, Vinay talks about a "Winning Formula" which is made up of the answers to three simple questions:
  1. What are we selling?
  2. Who are we selling to?
  3. Where and how will we beat the competition?

I want to briefly focus on the first two questions simply because one, this is a blog and an "indepth focus" could write a book; and, two, trying to include the third question brings us to a second volumn.

We often think that the answer to these two questions is very easy and often may even get a bit confused - almost what came first, the chicken or the egg?

But I think this is where most associations and businesses get lost. They may loose track of who their members are or what they need.

The best example of this occured during the recession. Those associations that realized that their members were loosing jobs and, that what they were buying changed from conferences and education to looking for and finding a job, came out ahead. 

Those associations that realized that the market was in greater need of the career services they can provide focused (after all, "association membership is the greatest career insurance that someone can purchase")on acquisition and many managed to stay even or grew. Many of those associations that financial retrenched and focused on saving money, simply lost a great opportunity.

While we seem to be in a 'recovery,' I want to simply point out that the reason the recession was so bad for many was that they simply did not continually ask themselves the first two questions:
  1. What are we selling?
  2. Who are we selling to?

So ask these questions every time you develop and implement a strategy. Use them as a strategic compass to help you find your way to success. 

Friday, December 10, 2010

CalSAE - Winter Spectacular was...Spectacular!

This is just a quick shout-out to my new friends at CalSAE where I spoke on the 2010 MGI Benchmarking Study and provided real life tactics and results to that incorporate the study findings.
I want to thank everyone who attended for attending and hope that you were able to take away a few ideas that will help you achieve your goals.
Gina and the crew at CalSAE did a fantastic job. I especially want to thank Jim Anderson, President and CEO of CalSAE, for coming by and saying "hello" and tell you that you have a great team and run a great show.
As a point of interest, I will be speaking at Elevate 2011 - The CalSAE Annual Show from March 28 - 30. That will be a great session and I hope you'll come by for it.
Hope to speak with you all sometime soon.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Membership Basics - It's in the Numbers

In the world of membership marketing we use basic metrics to measure our progress. These metrics are:

  1. Renewal Rate
  2. Average Tenure
  3. Lifetime Value (LTV)
  4. Maximum Acquisition Cost (MAC)
  5. Steady State Analysis

I've spoken on these many times and I'm sure you all have read something on them at one time or another. But as my high-school coach would always work us on the "fundimentals," I think a review of these metrics and how we calculate them is never really ever wasted time.

Renewal Rate

  • Measures the number of members that you keep over a specific period of time, usually 12 months.
  • Formula:  (Total Number of Members Now - New Members gained over the last 12 months) / Total Number of Members Last Year
  • Example:  (10,000 - 2,000)/9,500 = .8421 or 84.21%

Average Tenure

  • Measures how long a member stays.
  • Formula:  1 / (1 - Renewal Rate) 
  • Example:  1 / (1 - .8421) = 1 / .1579 = 6.333 years

Lifetime Value (LTV)

  • Measures the average anticipated revenue from a member.
  • Formula:  Assume Dues of $125/yr and Non-Dues Revenue of $100/yr, (Dues = Non-Dues Renvenue) x Average Tenure = LTV
  • Example:  ($125 + $100) x 6.333 = $1,424.92 LTV

Maximum Acquisition Cost (MAC)

  • Measures the Net Lifefime Value of a member by deducting incremental costs associated with member services, cost-of-goods sold, etc.
  • Formula: Assume Incremental Costs = $50, ((Dues + Non-Dues Revenue) - Incremental Costs) x Average Tenure = MAC
  • Example:  (($125 + $100) - $50) x 6.333 = $1,108.275

Steady State Analysis

  • By considering the number of new members acquired in relation to the expire rate, this metric projects ultimate membership size where the number of members coming in will be equal to the number of members leaving. 
  • Formula:  Annual New Members Acquired / (1 - Renewal Rate) = Steady State
  • Example:  2,000 / .1579 = 12,666 Total Membership
  • Please note that this does not give you the 'when,' just the 'how much.'

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Reasons for Online Marketing

Here are a few reasons why, if you're not online marketing or you are questionning the value of online marketing, you NEED to be online, marketing.

a. Search marketing is about seizing opportunities. Every organization should maximize opportunities to engage potential members/ customers online that are actively searching for relevant services an organization provides by instituting a comprehensive search engine marketing strategy including paid search marketing and search engine optimization (SEO).

b. Marketing speed and agility are important competitive advantages, especially with today’s focus on costs. Online and search marketing allows for on-the-fly changes that save time and money.

c. Unlike magazines and publications that publish ads on their own schedule say once per month, search is on your customer’s schedule, real-time, engaged in the “now.”

d. Online marketing allows you to connect and engage with potential members when they’re receptive, when they’re ready to receive your orgs message.

e. With search engine marketing your org will have the ability to target an audience on a country level all the way to a 10 mile radius within a specific metro area.

f. Instantly generate and track leads for membership, products and services. Know precisely the path of how and when they found you.

g. Real-time reporting keeps your org on top of marketing results providing measures for accurate decision making and optimization.

h. Online marketing allows you to stay on top of costs because reporting and analysis are constant. You will always be in up-to-date on cost-per-new member, cost-per-customer, cost-per-lead, etc.

i. Unlike traditional push marketing channels, search marketing lets you pay only for consumer responses like click-throughs – keeping marketing expectations and budgets on track.

j. Major happenings in your field/industry occur all the time. Is your organization prepared online to capture these surges of awareness? Be prepared online and your org will surge with these happenings.

k. Search engine marketing does not get thrown in the trash, lost in a stack on a desk, filtered out by someone else. With search marketing your orgs message is only delivered when your target audience is ready to receive it.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

FREE Preview of MGI Tipster - Engagement is the key to Renewals!

Every month MGI puts out an email newsletter entitled MGI TIPSTER which provides, as the name implies, tips on membership marketing based upon research or our experience over 30 years of working with hundreds of associations. However, some of you may have never had the opportunity to read it. So, I thought I'd give you a chance to take a 'FREE TEST DRIVE' of the MGI Tipster by simply posting the November issue. Here goes...

As soon as a prospect joins an association, she or he becomes the most likely person not to renew. Most organizations have the same experience—first-year members are the lowest renewing cohort. New members take the organization for a test drive, so to speak, to decide whether membership value justifies the dues they paid. Therefore, the more frequent and more positive the interactions the association has with the first-year member, the higher the renewal rate is likely to be.

Engagement has become an absolutely necessary component of membership retention and growth. Organizations have discovered they must pay special attention to new, at-risk members and be certain that they interact with the association beyond being just a mailbox members.

Better engagement means better renewals

Research shows that in the past year members who...

•...upgraded their membership to a higher level of service were 12% more likely to renew
•...ordered a product in the past year were 28% more likely to renew
•...were also chapter members were 17% more likely to renew
•...attended an association meeting in the past year were 19% more likely to renew
•...attended an association meeting at any time were 7% more likely to renew, and
•...attended four or more meetings were 30% more likely to renew

Engagement does not need to be difficult; it can be as simple as a telephone welcome call.

Any communication with members is good; more is better

Effective engagement programs usually involve a series of communications that invite members to interact with the organization. A compelling engagement program orients members and steers them to make the most of the benefits, products, and services an organization has to offer.

This might be as easy as asking members to complete a simple satisfaction survey. If the first interaction succeeds, follow-up contacts reinforce the relationship, which in turn makes first-year conversions far more likely.

Engaging new members

The opportunities are almost endless:

• A welcome letter or phone call from a member service representative
• An offer to assist with registering for the password-protected sections of the website
• A mailing with a dollars-off voucher for a first purchase
• An email survey verifying the use of member benefits
• A courtesy call to answer member questions

A second purchase or interaction is important. Customer-retention expert Jim Novo says, "If a customer (or member) has not made a second purchase within 30 days, he or she is telling you something is wrong."

What research tells us about engagement

The 2010 Membership Marketing Benchmarking research study included a question that asked participants to list all the communication methods in use to engage or onboard new members. Here are the top ten, as reported by survey respondents, starting with the most used:

1. Email Welcome – 72%
2. Mailed Welcome Kit – 68%
3. Membership Card or Certificate – 59%
4. Volunteer or Staff Welcome Phone Call – 32%
5. New Member Introductory Email Series – 27%
6. Invite to a Chapter Meeting – 25%
7. Special Discounts on Services – 23%
8. In-person New Member Reception – 20%
9. New Member Newsletter – 20%
10. New Member Survey – 18%

The communications that correlated with higher renewal rates are high-touch contacts that can include mailed welcome kits, volunteer or staff welcome calls, new member surveys, and new member receptions. Associations with larger membership counts were more likely to report they used volunteer or staff calls to new members compared to other-sized groups.

Engagement is essential to growth strategy

The best measure of membership engagement is member behavior. A member who attends or buys, volunteers, or reads electronic communication posts is more likely to stay a member than one who does not.

The bottom line is this: lots of information sent to a member does not build engagement. However, finding ways to get a member to interact, use, and take advantage of the value the organization offers builds a more successful and longer lasting member relationship.

I hope you enjoyed this 'special preview.' If you'd like to sign up for the MGI Tipster, please go to and simply follow the links. Or, call your MGI contact (yes, me) and I'll be happy to get you signed up.
Have a great week!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

What are the requirements for change?

We all know that CHANGE is never easy. It causes pain, both from 'anticipation' as well as 'implementation.' But CHANGE is necessary and as such we need to find ways to make it happen. So, when thinking about implementing a change, think about:

Set a Clear Goal: much change never occurs because people involved don't understand why the change is necessary and what the goal is. Be clear with everyone involved as to what the goal is and the benefits.

Take Small Steps: even a 'little change' can be intimidating. Task Analyze the objective into smaller and easier to accomplish tasks so that people can understand the tasks easier and not 'dread' the change.

Stick to the Goal: with all the resistance you'll get, at some point it will look like the program will fail. Don't let it. Stick to the plan and keep pushing. Have faith in your abilities, your peers and your organization.

2011 is right around the corner. A new year to bring on new changes. Good luck!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I'm speaking at CalSAE in December

FYI - I'll be speaking on December 8 in Sacramento, CA, on the Membership Lifecycle and the Results of our 2010 Membership Benchmarking Study. This is a CalSAE event. They do a great job and this looks to be a wonderful event. If you're in town I strongly recommend that you find time to stop by.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Shout Out to Kogod Marketing Association

I had the distinct pleasure of speaking to about 22 very intelligent students from American University's Kogod Marketing Association. The Association is affiliated with the world renowned Kogod School of Business. What great school and a very impressive learning facility.

We talked about 'sales,' and what it takes to be a good salesperson. We talked about communication styles, personal evaluation of your own abilities, entrepreneurism, and much more.

Of special mention is Rachel Olsavicky, this year's president of the association. She is a real leader and, in my very humble opinion, has a tremendous future ahead of her.

Thanks kids for letting me bend your ear for an hour (maybe a little more...). I hope you found it helpful and enjoyed the time as much as I did.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

TSAE - Great People, Great Conference, a Great State!

I'm here in Dallas, Texas, speaking at the TSAE Annual Conference on the MGI 2010 Membership Benchmarking Study. This is my first time to a TSAE event - and what a great event. I saw some old friends from ASAE, and met several new ones like Chris Heaton of TMP, Chelsey Robles of TNLA, Bill McCausland of Texas Exes and his lovely wife, Asha Desai of AARC, Simeon May of NACBA, Scott Blech of EMDRIA, Cahterine Lee of TLA, and list goes on. All warm and interesting people.

Real pros as I like to say.

Whenever I speak I always learn something new or am blessed with the opportunity of "relearning" something...old. Or perhaps "old" is not the right word in this case...simple common sense. As many of you who have seen me talk know, for good or bad, about 80% of what I have to say is very planned's that 20% 'wild card' that sometimes offers either the greatest embarrassment or the greatest success. In this case I'm happy to say...greatest success.

While I presented on the results of the study, it was interesting to note that there seemed to be one very common problem among the 35 or so membership executives/pros who came to my session: communication. Did not matter if the association was membership or trade, large or small, state based or international. Most of the issues we ended up talking about were on communication between the association and members, members and members, and the association staff and itself.

So, the end game of this post is to take a lead from my personal 'Aha' moment. At the end of the day, there are no problems that can't be solved by good, solid communication. It sounds naive - even as I wrote it I thought "good grief, is this best you can do?" But, it is that simple. Its the exchange of ideas that offer the support and guidance that most of our members are looking for. Are there exceptions? Of course. But, I do believe that most of the time our greatest problems come from a lack of communication and can only be solved with an abundance of communication.

Have a great day!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Are Renewal Incentives a Good Idea?

I read a posting on the ASAE Membership Listserve asking about “kinds” of renewal incentives to use. While I’m not against using (and have used) renewal incentives, I think that, if an association is delivering value, the ‘incentive’ is being realized throughout the year (you may want to test adjusting your renewal copy to indicate just that).

Incentives are great tools to provide that ‘little something extra’ to get someone to try something new or join. But, if after using the resources of the association for a year you still need to provide a ‘little something extra’ to get people to come back, perhaps you're missing something?  (In fact, here’s a thought: if you use a premium, perhaps you segment off those members who renewed to the premium offer and place them in an “intensive” engagement program” then try to renew them without the premium? Just a thought.)

That “something” could be pricing, the wrong people joined, lack of knowledge as to the resources provided by the association, inability to use/find resources to solve their issues (why they joined), left the company/industry, etc.(this feeds directly into using the MEMBERSHIP LIFECYCLE as a strategic diagnostic tool. If you'd like to learn more about it, I'd be happy to forward some information).

In all of these cases, I don’t really see a renewal premium as the ‘silver bullet,’ but I do see the need to analyze who is not renewing by:
•     Who joined (title, company, etc.)?
•     When they joined?
•     Why they joined?
•     Have they participated in the association?
•     To what extent have they participated?
•     Who is paying for their membership?
•     How long have they been members?
•     etc.

With that said, if you use a premium go with one that links directly to the value proposition – information, career tool, etc.  And keep it inexpensive, renewals are about increasing ROI.

That’s my two-cents.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Speaking at TSAE on September 20

I'll be speaking on the 2010 Membership Benchmarking Survey on September 20 at the TSAE Annual Conference in Dallas, Tx. It looks like it'll be a great show. If you have the time, I strongly recommend that you try to attend.

ASAE Annual Conference in LA -- LA LA Land Never Looked Soooo Good

Great conference. That's all I can say. Bravo to DJ and the rest of ASAE for putting on a terrific show.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

ASAE Annual Meeting - Will you be going?

This year I will be attending the ASAE & the Center for Association Leadership Annual Meeting & Exposition in Los Angeles, CA. If you will be attending, I would enjoy meeting you in person. You can find me at the Marketing General, Inc. booth number 500. Please come by.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

My 17 year old son...another indication that 'social media' may not be the answer?

Sitting here at Rehoboth Beach, DE, part of our summer vacation ritual (for the past 16 years), I'm pondering my son's New Year's get rid of his FaceBook account. Yep, a 17 year old, honor society student, heading to college in a year, is getting rid of his social networking link.


He says its a 'waste of his time.'


Yes!  It seems he thinks he has better things to do with his leisure time than sitting behind a computer screen for hours at a time and engaging in multiple 'interactions' (my words to represent his sentiment).

His resolution, on the heels of my previous post, may indicate a trend AWAY from social media for our 'student' and 'young professional' prospective members.

This is by no means anything near to being considered 'scientific,' but I think it is interesting that I'm hearing (and somewhat sensing - the same way I felt the dotcom 'boom' was nothing more than a 'thud') this as more and more associations are asking me to develop and implement online awareness campaigns that utilize more and more social media. I think we need to be cautious and realize that, like the dotcom rush, social media is not the great panacea for attracting young members and keeping them engaged.

So, you may want to think twice if you're thinking that you MUST HAVE a social media component to your acquisition programs. It may not produce what you want, you'll have difficulty tracking it, and it may only last until the next big thing.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Are Social Media Platforms the tool to bring in "students" and "young professionals?" Maybe not...

Many associations express their concern about attracting and keeping student and young professional members. To that point, many look to social media to be that 'magic bullet' to attract these members.  But I just attended a program as CESSE that puts brings into question this strategy.

About 10 days ago I was fortunate enough to head to Pittsburgh, PA (check out the architecture and the Andy Wharhol museum if you can - fantastic!) and attended the 2010 CESSE Annual Show. I spoke with a many old friends and made a few new ones. At the show, Mark Crossly moderated a panel session where he invited four student/young-professionals to address the group. I think there may have been well over 40 membership professionals and executive directors in attendance.

While a great deal was discussed, the interesting takeaway was:
1) Separation of personal and business life: don't use Facebook to communicate professionally with us. What about LinkedIn? Maybe, but still not a good idea. What about an association developing their own social networking platform on their website? Most likely won't use it. what. They really didn't seem all that engaged in it.
2) Use direct mail and limited email to communicate with us. WHAT!? That's right, direct mail is still a preferred method of communication. Email if it is used wisely and you get to the point quickly. Txt messaging...better be important. Phone - you can call us as part of the renewal process, but only once.
3) Keep the magazine. That's a 180 degree turn. This panel of scientists and engineers said that they look at computer screens all day and a magazine is a nice change. Will they pay extra for the pub? Most likely not (but then you revise your pricing strategy and raise your dues).

To summarize this...what we've been doing is pretty good. Can it be tweeked? Of course.  But for the most part 'everything old is new again.' For those of you who doubt this, let me point out an observation...WE, as a generation, are developing this new technology and people usually like (love) the new stuff they develop and/or create -- ego, folks.  However, the "kids" don't have that ownership bias and evaluate each of these channels based upon what they deliver to them. Therefore, lets not dismiss this observation based upon our "ownership bias" of new technology. The 'future members' just want the tools they are promised and perhaps many think that a 36 page, 4-color, perfect bound, magazine is better than an e-newsletter -- sometimes.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Top 10 Power Words according to Yale University

Using the right word at the right time is essential to acheive ANY sales and marketing objective. In a recent posting by Gil Carlson on his blogg, he points out that, according to Yale University's psychology department, these are the TOP 10 Most Powerful Words you can use:

1. You -- Listed as the #1 most powerful word in every study reviewed. Because of the personal nature of advertising copywriting, you should use “you” in your headline, opening line and as often as possible. In fact, many copywriters will throw out a headline if “you” is not in it.

2. Results -- Works in rationalizing a purchase.

3. Health -- Especially powerful when it applies to a product.

4. Guarantee --Provides sense of safety at time of purchase.

5. Discover -- Presents a sense of excitement and adventure.

6. Love -- Continues to be an all-time favorite.

7. Proven -- Helps remove fear from trying something new.

8. Safety -- This could refer to health or long-lasting quality.

9. Save -- We all want to save something.

10. New -- It's part of basic human makeup to seek novelty.

Happy writing!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Unexpected Results on Social Networking and Association Renewal - Is Social Networking Really a Bad Thing?

The 2010 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report has been published with a surprising result!  As stated on P.9, "Results also indicated that associations using Facebook, Twitter and/or their private association social networking are significantly more like to have renewal rates under 80%."

While some may argue that this may be a "sampling error," or some other statistical anomaly, might it also be a possible warning?

One of the overall 'take aways' for me from this study is the importance of 'personal touch' in the marketing program for both member and trade associations. In almost every instance, those associations that employed some level of "personal touch" like phone calls or personal visits, had either a higher acquisition rate, a higher renewal rate or both.

With this said, is it really surprising that associations using social networking have a lower renewal rate? I'd be interested in hearing what you all have to say on this.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

MMC - A Success!

First day back from the ASAE MMC and I want to send cudos to the ASAE team that ran this program. I think it was one of the best MMCs ever. The sessions were good and the attendees were very much "into it."

MGI also launched the 2010 Membership Benchmarking Survey results at a reception we sponsored. If you attended, I hope you all enjoyed it. If you have any questions concerning the study or would like a free copy, please feel free to contact me.

I also spoke with Vinay Kumar on how you can use the Membership Lifecycle to help you diagnose problems within your membership program. It was well attended with over 30 people who had a lot to say and share. It was a great session and I want to thank everyone who attended and participated.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Ten Top Tips from the Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report

It's finally here! The MGI 2010 Membership Marketing Bechmarking Report. You can download your own copy by going to Web site registration is required for the download.

Tony Rossell offers a wonderful summary of the Top 10 Tips taken from this study on his blog (which I strongly recommend that you read). Here is that summary:

"1. Out of a list of 10 options, association executives are most likely to rank growth in member counts (22%), revenue growth (21%), and net revenue growth (21%) as the primary definition of success for their organization.

2. Findings indicate a more marked difference in membership growth of over 11% for those organizations focused on acquisition rather than those focused on retention or on a balanced strategy (18%: acquisition vs. 4%: retention and 9%: both), the five year change in membership (38%: acquisition vs. 27%: retention and 34%: both), and the change in new members (24%: acquisition vs. 7%: retention and 16%: both).

3. For associations with over 5,000 members, direct mail is considered the most effective channel for new member recruitment.

4. While Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are the most commonly used social media tools, they are not necessarily considered the most effective in reaching membership goals by association executives. In fact, the most effective social networking tools are considered to be those that are basically housed within the association itself, namely the association listserv (50%) and/or a private association social network (39%).

5. Approximately two-thirds of respondents report using mailed welcome kits, a decrease from the 2009 study of 15 percentage points (68% in 2010 vs. 83% in 2009). However, findings indicate that associations with greater than 80% renewal are significantly more likely to use the mailed welcome kits (75% vs. 58%).

6. Directionally, findings demonstrate that associations with overall increases in membership over the past year, as well as those with renewal rates higher than 80% are more likely to attempt more renewal contacts before a membership expires. These increases in renewal rates appear after seven contacts.

7. Associations with renewal rates of 80% or higher are significantly more likely to offer EFT renewals (14% vs. 3%) as well as installment payment plans (55% vs. 35%). Associations with renewal rates less than 80% are significantly more inclined to offer multi-year renewals (54% vs. 18%).

8. Associations showing an increase in renewals over the past year are significantly more likely to offer automatic credit card renewals, compared to associations with declines in renewals (29% vs. 17%).

9. Unlike in the 2009 study, price is not the top driver responsible for non-renewals; in fact, one-third of the association executives indicate that they believe members do not renew because they perceive a lack of value in the organization. This is an increase of about 80%.

10. Associations did not experience radical changes in membership numbers over the past year. The largest percentage of increases or declines in membership ranged from 1% to 5% of the previous year’s total."

If you have any questions concerning the study please feel free to contact me at or call me at 703.706.0358

Please feel free to share your thoughts and reaction to the report in the comments section below.

4 Pillers of Online Marketing

I read two interesting articles this morning. The first was by Wayne Friedman who reported that online ads will exceed $100 Billion (yes, 11 zeros -- $100,000,000,000) by 2015 and North America alone will be 45% of that ($45 Billion) and that Latin America will "...continue to be the fastest-growing region..." The biggest specific markets, I think to no ones surprise, will be China and Russia. Most of this will be billed through paid search.

The second article, written by Thad Kahlow and posted on Marketing Daily, pointed out the four most important investment considerations when developing your online campaign. In summary,

1. Launch a Robust Search Engine Marketing Campaign

Start with paid search. Find a sophisticated PPC team (three or more) or an agency (with multi-discipline expertise) that will look at your data and -- with a high level of confidence and certainty -- be able to promise you more ... lots more.

If you are managing a campaign in-house right now with only a single dedicated resource, chances are there are inefficiencies, which can be fixed quickly to yield immediate cost savings. Ever hear of exact mirror matching? While PPC is generating search results and ROI, build an internal search team and invest time and human resources toward gaining organic rankings.

SEO is the single largest potential for gain -- I mean CMO-attention-grabbing ROI. It's no longer snake oil and, when done well, it can put up huge numbers: rankings (branding), traffic (market share), conversions (sales). The winners in the online space -- the real winners -- will win first with SEO.

2. Improve the User's Website Experience & Conversions

Give your users what they want, when they want it, and how they want it. Do that well and you will improve your brand equity as well as measure increased business results. Focus on the users first and business goals second ... sit back and count the cash. Well, it's not that easy, but when done well, it feeds a cycle of online success.

According to Nielsen, spending 10% of your development budget on usability should improve your conversion rate by 83%. In most cases, it's far cheaper to use 15% of your development budget than to more than double your advertising budget.

3. Get in the Social Media Game

Start small, be realistic, and understand your first goal should be to listen. Yes, listen. Not market, not push a new message, not convert -- listen. Only after you have listened to your audience (current and potential clients) can you properly engage and begin a real conversation.

Once you build credibility and open a true dialogue, you can begin to reap the benefits of social media -- motivating others, your "mavens" to do it for you. Yes, eventually after you have climbed the mighty hill of social media, you can sit back and guide the boulder downhill. Let your mavens and evangelists do the work for you.

4. Measure

Measure it. Measure it. Measure it. Find out what works, find out what doesn't, and make business decisions based on real data. Don't guess, don't hope, don't anything ... measure it and improve marketing and results.

Much of this we've read before and hopefully many are doing. What I think is really important is when you put both articles into context, how important it is for us all to make a concerted effort to bring cohesive membership awareness, acquisition, engagement, renewal and reinstatement tactics to our membership development efforts. If online is where the ad revenue is going, then that is a HUGE indicator of where people are going. And either we can be in front of that, taking advantage of the 'low hanging fruit,' or way behind scrambling for crumbs.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Hope to see you at the ASAE MMC this Monday and Tuesday in DC

I am speaking with Vinay Kumar at the ASAE Marketing and Membership Conference this Monday and Tuesday. I hope to see you there. As a "look behind the curtain," follow this link to read a little about what Vinay and I will be speaking about

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Prepress Learnings from the MGI 2010 Membership Benchmarking Study - Most Effective Recruitment Channels

While we will be presenting the 2010 Membership Benchmarking Study this Monday, June 14, 2010, at a special reception sponsored by MGI at the ASAE Marketing and Membership Conference in Washington, DC, here is a taste of what over 400 associations who participated in the survey and shared their membership practices and their opinions on what works best for each stage of the membership lifecycle had to say when asked "What are the Most Effective Recruitment Channels?"

For associations with less than 5,000 members, word-of-mouth is the most effecive method of new member recruitment. It is also the second most effective method for associations with over 5,000 members.

For associations with over 5,000 members, the exact opposite is true: direct mail is considered to be the most effective channel for new member recruitment while word-of-mouth is the second most effective method.

For trade associations, as well as those offering both individual membership and trade membership, the most effective recruitment method is member word-of-mouth.

There is so much more to this study, so I hope to see you at the MMC next week. If you can't make it or would like your own copy, please contact me at and I'll forward it after next Monday or you can go download a copy from our website at

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Corporate or Association Membership Mgmt: Top Features to Look for When Deciding on Your CRM

Lewis Carroll is quoted as saying "If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there."

Unfortunately, I believe this is very true with CRM systems. These complex, time-intensive behemoths can be confusing.

But, your CRM system is the backbone of your member/customer communication. We count on our CRM to give us flexibility to communicate in any fashion our members/customers want to communicate in, to track the communications, and thru analytics and deeper analysis, to understand and anticipate their needs and levels of satisfaction.

From receiving your members' messages to responding to them, you count on your CRM to help you understand and address not only the obvious but also the 'implied.'

When developing a multi-channel campaign, I often hear that the CRM can't support this kind of activity or we "...can't track that kind of information." This is frustrating for my clients and certainly no walk in the park for me.

However, if you are looking to change your CRM, we all know that this is a long and very complex task that will require from 12 to 24 months of time from you and your team.

I was recently reminded of my own 'conversion experiences' the other day (I've run circulation departments for large publishing houses and have lead conversions of those files several times) and found a whitepaper by Focus Research entitled "10 Hosted CRM Features to Help Build Customer Loyalty: How to improve close rates and average deal size with the right CRM solution and features" that I thought might be helpful to those of you looking to invest in your CRM software or even looking to take the BIG BUCK LEAP and buy a new one.

  1. Lead Management: Lost revenue is often a result of allowing prospects to fall through the cracks. With lead management, however, every lead is promptly routed to the right salesperson. What’s more, leads can be tracked and managed through the entire sales cycle, from initial identification to final sale. 
  2. Feedback Management: By capturing customer feedback across all channels of communication, salespeople can capture a better understanding of the needs, wants and buying patterns of their customers. Furthermore, armed with feedback from countless touch points, a company can establish the processes required to deliver an optimum customer experience. 
  3. Order Management: When more than one department plays a part in processing an order, the margin for human error grows, as does the mound of paperwork. With order management, however, quotes are easily converted to orders, modified and saved in a single system. 
  4. Territory Management: Keep your sales reps from stepping on each others’ toes with territory management, which easily creates sales territories and manages territory-based processes with workflow rules and reports. 
  5. Email Management: One surefire way to anger your customers is by failing to respond to their emails. These days, email correspondence is used to log complaints, issue requests and offer feedback. Fortunately, email management can chronicle customer-related communications with automated tracking of customer emails. As a result, emails can be responded to in a timely fashion, and end users can establish alerts if a message has not been handled within a predetermined time frame. 
  6. Contact Management: When it comes to staying on top of your customers, Microsoft Outlook is simply not enough. That’s why most CRM solutions include a contact-management component to provide employees with a complete, 360-degree view of their customers. Sales reps can view all contact and account information, as well as a customer’s purchasing history, from a central location. And reps can better manage their to-do lists by establishing alerts notifying them of upcoming tasks and events so that each customer is treated in an individual manner. 
  7. Reporting: From standard templates to heavily customized documents, CRM tools can generate detailed reports featuring contact information, opportunity pipeline information, lead-status analyses and specific customer case studies. In the end, these reports are an ideal way to organize a company’s collection of customer information and insights. 
  8. Opportunity Management and Forecasting: Don’t promise what you can’t deliver. Opportunity management and forecasting provides a complete view of the sales and production pipeline so that businesses can accurately and quickly handle the orders they’re generating. 
  9. Marketing Campaign Analysis: How do you know if you’re getting the bang for the buck you’ve invested in a marketing campaign? CRM solutions can help monitor and analyze your advertising efforts, from trade shows to direct mail, so that every marketing dollar spent is spent wisely. 
  10. Marketing Revenue Tracking: So positive customer feedback isn’t enough to convince upper-management that a costly marketing campaign produced results? With marketing revenue tracking, a company can identify the marketing activities that generate the most sales revenue by directly linking every sales dollar back to its related campaign.
 Good luck.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Corporate Loyalty Programs Need to Change to Membership Programs - Develop "Indispensability"

As reported by the 4/29/2010 issue of Colloquy:

"According to an article in Marketing Magazine UK, despite 86% of the population using retail loyalty cards on a regular basis, 50% of shoppers do not think it is worthwhile collecting points, according to a new survey conducted by YouGov SixthSense.

The report also found that 93% of consumers would continue to shop somewhere, even if the retailer scrapped its loyalty program. Only 17% of respondents choose where to shop based on their participation in loyalty card programs.

The top loyalty programs, in terms of usage, show that consumers participated in more that one program, with Tesco Clubcard being used by 66% of those surveyed, Nectar by 55%, and the Boots Advantage Card by 48%.

"Loyalty programs need to do more to create customer loyalty. The programs are best suited to retailers that are used frequently or where loyalty cards can be used in multiple stores, so that points and rewards accumulate at a fast enough rate to keep people interested", stated James McCoy, research director for YouGov SixthSense.

The online survey was carried out between February 18 and 20, and 1,469 British adults took part."

Corporations can learn a lesson from Membership Organizations by stepping up their "loyalty programs," by working to become indispensable to their customers.

Associations work to not only service their 'customer's' current needs, but to anticipate them. There in lies the difference - loyalty programs reward for the present whereas membership programs provide for the present on a more individual level as well as anticipates the future needs of their "customers." We discuss a 'customer life cycle' where we develop products and services for our members at different stages of their career or membership cycle.

If corporations want real loyalty, they need to not only be a friend today by providing benefits now, but be a friend tomorrow and anticipate their customer needs move over the time of their customer lifecycle.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

What do job hunters need?

Job Boards are historically the #1 benefit of membership next to the publication and 'networking.' During the past 20 months, this has been more true than ever. Those associations that were quick to realize this early on effectively navigated this past recession with some associations actually growing.

Therefore, I thought it would be reasonable to include an excerpt from the April 26, 2010 issue of a weekly email I receive from ExecuNet, a recruiter. It points out the skills a job hunter needs to work effectively in finding a new position in this economy. I present this to you as an outline of what your members need to do if they are looking for a position in order to help you think about what services and products you may want to provide your membership in support of their job-hunting efforts.

"We recently released our 18th annual Executive Job Market Intelligence Report to our membership, and this year, amidst all the challenges, there were quite a few success stories. In the last decade alone, we've experienced recession, recovery, high demand for executive talent, recession again, and now, the slow climb back up. But where past recoveries have been more robust, this rebound has the spring of an underinflated basketball and not the high-bouncing SuperBall we'd like.

What became apparent in our research and the experiences of our members throughout the last year is that job search and career advancement require a much more specialized strategy than ever, with an amalgam of skills that reach well beyond functional expertise. To succeed as an executive today, you need to:

- Collect data like a market researcher

- Investigate like a private eye

- Talk to others like a journalist

- Evaluate like a business development professional

- Target like a salesperson

- Think like a marketer

- Interview like a consultant

- Operate like a profit center

- Help people like a humanitarian

It might sound impossible, particularly if you've been off the market for a while, but there is one element at the nucleus, and it's the thing that has remained constant in our research as a means to long-term career growth: your network — because that's where you can find the market researchers, journalists, consultants, sales, marketing and biz dev pros who can help you.

Robyn Greenspan
295 Westport Avenue
Norwalk, CT 06851

Do the services or products you provide to your job-hunting members support any of the above? Would they appreciate them?

Something to think about.

Thanks Robyn.

Monday, April 26, 2010

"The My Starbucks reward program has been an overwhelming success"

Membership has long been a viable marketing and revenue channel for corporations looking to tap into people's need to be part of something bigger - I call it the "joiner gene." In the Starbucks Corporation F2Q10 (Qtr End 03/28/10) Earnings Call Transcript as cited by, Howard Schultz, Chairman of the Board, President & Chief Executive Officer of Starbucks had this to say about the My Starbucks reward program:

"...My Starbucks reward program has been an overwhelming success, driving unprecedented levels of customer engagement and loyalty as noted by both store visit frequency and cash loaded.

In fact, the rewards program is cited by core customers as the number one reason for increased visits versus six months ago. Since relaunching the program in December, registered card users have shown a significant increase in frequency with continued steady ticket performance. Card reloads were up nearly 45% this quarter versus Q2 ’09 driven largely by reloads on the new gold level card and since the program launched in December we’ve added over one million new accounts.

In addition, more than 200,000 customers have earned their way to gold level by visiting Starbucks 30 times in just eight weeks illustrating the tremendous traffic driving power of the card and the ongoing loyalty of our customers. Early this month we expanded our Starbucks card mobile payment, a test to 1,000 of our licensed locations in Target stores nationwide allowing card members to load their cards and pay for their Starbucks purchases using their iPhones. Stay tuned for further announcements of important consumer facing initiatives that will enable us to leverage mobile payment and other technologies that are ready made for the Starbucks brand in the months ahead."

Here is the link to read the entire transcript: Starbucks Corporation F2Q10 (Qtr End 03/28/10) Earnings Call Transcript -- Seeking Alpha

The success of this initiative is obviously based upon:
- a well thought out strategy
- a strong communication plan
- a very strong brand
- strong messaging
- and most important, buy in by all levels to the successful execution
of the program

I bring out the last point only because in many instances, this is where we fall apart. We forget that every time a member contacts us, we need to stay on message and deliver it in a way that our members will want to stay with us. I know that you know this...and I am very aware of how difficult it is to keep your team motivated and your superiors interested. But if you can do this, then your renewal rates will increase and your product sales will increase...and ultimately your job will get easier.

Now, is this a straight ahead "membership?" Well, people are 'joining' (albeit for free) a program where they are expecting specfic benefits. So, in my book, this looks a lot like a membership.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Great Idea to Increase Engagement and Launch a Mobile Txt Initiative

I went to the ASAE Idea Swap in Columbia, MD, today. It was on the use of smart phones as a marketing channel and here is a very smart idea...

Amadie Hart of Beaconfire Consulting officiated the session and made what I think to be a very good suggestion.

Make your Membership List accessible to your member's smart phones. This can be done through either an app or a specially designed site (Not a big deal, really. It was suggested that you could use free software like Mobify or Mofuse to help you with this. There are more, simply Google "Mobile website design" and many more will pop up).

What a great way to demonstrate 'networking' and deliver a real value to your membership. It also allows you to explore (research) the value of that channel to your membership and help you decide how much you really want to put into developing it.

Ultimately, we all agreed that this is simply another channel like direct mail, email, publications, etc. through which we can communicate with our members, prospects and customers. What's important is understanding the kind of information that is most appropriate for this channel. date the mobile channel has really been most successfully used for those messages that are 'important' to the member and require an immediate response (ie: voting for the next American Idol; donating to the American Red Cross for Haiti relief; etc.).

I suggested that, when developing your communication strategy, that you identify information in a sliding scale of importance to your market (1 = not immediately important; 5 = must know it now!!!!!) and determine what channels you'll use to deliver the information by that level. So, an announcement about a new product line extension may be delivered via the Website and your monthly publication while a vote on a new regulation that will impact your business today may be delivered via mobile.

The best suggestion, as always, is to ask your members how they want you to communicate with them...then do it.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Taxes: I Just Renewed My Membership with the United States of America

It's April 16 and I paid my renewal in the United States (Association) yesterday. Its a sliding scale dues rate based upon net earnings. I got about $5.00 back so that most likely says alot about my income group.


I was musing on association models the other day and thought about how similar our citizenship is to a very complex association. As long as I pay my dues (taxes), I can enjoy the benefits of membership: free speech, persuit of happiness, the right to move around this great country unencumbered by police (for the most part), an educational system for my son, the right to work where I can earn the most (or at least try to work there), and so on. If any of you have traveled, you personally know how great this country is. And, if I decide not to abide by the rules that govern this association, I will be banned from using these benefits.

So, are there any lessons here for us as association professionals? The biggest one to me is clearly stating the benefits of membership and keep reminding our members of how great it is to be associated with such a great organization. Provide messaging for every opportunity to promote your membership (ie: National Anthem sung before every sporting event; nightly news promoting the work of leaders, openly celebrate your national and regional heros and those who have sacrificed for your cause, etc.).

Taking an aggressive messaging stand like this opens you up to also taking some shots, but in the end honesty and transparency is rewarded (ie: Bill Clinton comes to mind). But isn't this the kind of 'engagement' we all want from our membership? Honesty. Open debate on important topics so that the best idea for the majority of people can be implemented.

What is a great association? Well, my thought is one  that openly confronts major issues, supports debate and provides those who want to particpate, the opportunity to participate.

Needless to say, I think this is a great country to be associated with and I would not change my membership for the world.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Cut the Clutter on Your Website or You May Not Be Found

Google has announced that 'site speed' is a new search criteria. Given this new development, you would be well advised to review how 'cluttered' your site is and begin looking at how you can achieve your marketing goals using fewer files or simply trimming the load speed of your site.

The following is directly taken from a google posting at

"Speeding up websites is important — not just to site owners, but to all Internet users. Faster sites create happy users and we've seen in our internal studies that when a site responds slowly, visitors spend less time there. But faster sites don't just improve user experience; recent data shows that improving site speed also reduces operating costs. Like us, our users place a lot of value in speed — that's why we've decided to take site speed into account in our search rankings. We use a variety of sources to determine the speed of a site relative to other sites.

If you are a site owner, webmaster or a web author, here are some free tools that you can use to evaluate the speed of your site:

Page Speed, an open source Firefox/Firebug add-on that evaluates the performance of web pages and gives suggestions for improvement.

YSlow, a free tool from Yahoo! that suggests ways to improve website speed.

WebPagetest shows a waterfall view of your pages' load performance plus an optimization checklist.

In Webmaster Tools, Labs > Site Performance shows the speed of your website as experienced by users around the world as in the chart below. We've also blogged about site performance.

While site speed is a new signal, it doesn't carry as much weight as the relevance of a page. Currently, fewer than 1% of search queries are affected by the site speed signal in our implementation and the signal for site speed only applies for visitors searching in English on at this point. We launched this change a few weeks back after rigorous testing. If you haven't seen much change to your site rankings, then this site speed change possibly did not impact your site.

We encourage you to start looking at your site's speed (the tools above provide a great starting point) — not only to improve your ranking in search engines, but also to improve everyone's experience on the Internet."

Posted by Amit Singhal, Google Fellow and Matt Cutts, Principal Engineer, Google Search Quality Team

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Would you be happy with a 500% return on your member acquisition? Is your membership acquisition program too successful?

I visited a client this week and told him that "I have good news and bad news."

Good news first! I showed him a summary of the eight new member acquisition campaigns that we've run for him during the past 19 months. The results have been great. For every $1.00 he spent with MGI we returned $5.38 in membership dues.

A 1:5 ratio. An impressive metric. This was accomplished with new offers, a new package and using internal lists (expired members, product buyers) and a few external lists.

But its too much good.

Now the Bad News...I told my client that the return prompted me to make two recommendations: 1) we need to be more aggressive in our list and channel testing. While I do believe that my team - shout out to Toya - and MGI do a great job (hopefully many of you feel the same way), every campaign can't be a winner. Let's be realistic. We're ecstatic with a ratio of 1:1. The typical metric for retail is 1:3 or 1:4. I told him that we need to be increasing the size of our campaigns using more outside lists.

He got it right away! Even though we're just now beginning to dig our way out of a recession, he understood that he needs to invest more in exploring new opportunities.

The second recommendation was to review his renewal program. While the lists of product buyers ranks as the #1 response list for these campaigns, the #2 has been non-renewed members. If we take a Systems Approach to membership acquisition as outlined by the Membership Lifecycle, we realize that the success of our reinstate program is inversely dependent upon the success of the renewal and engagement programs. Given that the reinstate is so successful strongly indicates that not enough is being done to renew these expired members and possibly not enough has been done to get them engaged after they joined.

He understood.

We're now working to increase the number of lists and channels that we test and we'll be reviewing the renewal and engagement programs as we move forward.

But what about your reinstate and acquisition programs? Are they too successful? What return should you reasonably expect? These are important questions to answer.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

14 Tips to Use Google Effectively

Like you I try to read and attempt to keep up with "the information overload" of our profession. To do this, I love "Tip Lists." Short...concise...easy to read...all GOOD for a guy like me. So here is one I just found from a post entitled "How to Use Google Effectively - 14 Tips to Save You Time."

The title says it all..."14 Tips to Save You Time."

It was put together by Donal Daly on Sales 2.0 Network. I hope you can use it:

  1. Use quotation marks for exact phrases. Searching for “The TAS Group”, with the quotation marks, is much more efficient that just searching for The TAS Group, and return far fewer spurious results.
  2. Use ‘OR’ to include more than one search item: Searching for ipod OR mp3 player gives results that contain either ipod or mp3 player.
  3. Placing a ‘-’ in front of a term excludes that word. TAS -Group will give answers that include TAS, but notGroup, so none of the results will have the word Group in them.
  4. Use ‘~’ for synonyms. Searching for ~sales gives you results that contain sales alongside store, retail, etc.
  5. Find items related to a URL: Search related:, and your results will include information on The TAS GroupSales 2.0 Network and other related items.
  6. Search for sites that link to one another. If you search link:, you will find a list of all the sites that link to this blog. (There are quiet a few!)
  7. Look inside a site. Searching for trust will find every reference to trust, or links on other sites that connect to a page on that contains the word trust.
  8. Put … between numbers searches for numbers in that range. Searching for ROI 10…30 will generates a list of results that contain ROI and numbers in the range between 10 and 30.
  9. Not case sensitive: Google search is not case sensitive, so searching on tas returns the sames results asTAS.
  10. Get definitions: Using define: sale, will give you definitions of sale from many sources.
  11. Get time or weather: Using time: Dublin, Ireland or weather: Seattle, WA, will quickly figure out time zones, and tell you what time it is now in Dublin, Ireland (alway happy time) or the weather in Seattle, WA (always wet).
  12. Get exchange rates: 150 euros to dollars will (today) return 205.15 U.S. dollars
  13. Quick URL info: You can get info on, by searching on info:  It will include a short description, links to its cache, similar pages, and sites that link to that URL.
  14. Use Google as a calculator: You can use Google to evaluate many math expressions. Search for365*24*60*60 and will Google tell you the number of seconds in a day (31536000).

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Update to Say Nothing post...

In my earlier post "Say Nothing May be More Improtant" I want to update the response rate. It was 20...NOW IT'S 30. Still one sale, but my client has had the chance to have 30 conversations and personally pitch membership 30 times as a result of an email that HAD NO TEXT. These people called him!

Very cool.

ASAE GreatIdeas! Conference

I want to thank everyone who attended my session at the Great Ideas! conference. We had over 60 people attend the session and some great conversations. I hope everyone who did attend walked away with at least one "Greate Idea."

For those of you who could not make it, please let me know and I'll be happy to forward to you not only my session the The Membership Lifecycle, but also Jeremy Griffen's session on "Testing Strategies for Membership Acquisition."

Friday, March 26, 2010

Email Member Acquisition and Renewal Metrics

I recently reviewed a Silverpop study of for-profit promotions average click-thru and open rates.

But what about click-thru and open rates for membership acquisition and renewals?

In 2009, in three acquisition campaigns for three different clients, we sent out over 130,000 emails. Open rates ranged from 16% to 18.77%, with click-thru rates ranging from 3.49% to 5.66%.

Obviously the sample size is still small. But, what is interesting is how closely the open rates and the click-thru rates are clustered -- especially given the divergence of markets that received these emails. This gives me confidence that we might actually be seeing a trend.

Interestingly, when looking at renewals, I'm seeing an open rate of almost 30% and a click thru rate of almost 18%. In comparison to the acquisition open and click-thru rates this makes perfect sense.

This is the first step in reporting this data. I welcome anybody to report their responses as well.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

McKinley's 2010 Benchmarking Report

McKinley Marketing just released their 2010 Economic Impact on Associations: A Benchmarking Report on Priorities, Challenges and Strategies for 2010. Here is a summary of their key findings as presented in the report.

Survey Method
McKinley developed an online survey to measure key data in the EIA study. The survey was launched on December 8, 2009 and remained open until January 8, 2010. The results presented in this study include responses from approximately 350 organizations within the association community.

In many cases, the impact of the recession in 2009 was not as bad as expected.
Going into 2009, 82% of participants in McKinley’s initial EIA study felt that the economy was bound to have an extremely or somewhat negative impact on their ability to achieve their goals in the coming year. Eight percent did not believe the economy would have any significant impact — either positive or negative — and 3% anticipated a positive impact. In this study, when asked to look back on 2009, 37% of respondents felt that actual results were about what was expected while 35% claim that results were not as bad as anticipated. Twenty eight percent experienced results that were worse than expected (4% were “far worse”).

The outlook for 2010 is decidedly more positive than it was one year ago.
This time a year ago 82% anticipated that the economy would negatively impact their activities,
compared to 67% of this year’s respondents. As we look to 2010, 13% feel the economy will have
a positive effect (compared with 3% in 2009).

The recession remains a concern and will likely continue to affect associations’ core business lines.
Survey participants maintain a high level of alert over the economy’s effect on non-dues revenue activities, particularly sponsorships and advertising. Apprehension over meeting attendance has decreased slightly, though it remains a primary issue. Concern with the effect the recession has on membership recruitment and retention is diminishing slightly.

Many associations accessed reserves in 2009, with many organizations using the funds to invest in new initiatives.
Given the large percentage of associations reporting budget cuts in mid-2009, it seemed likely that associations would find it necessary to access reserve funds during the year. Indeed, forty-two percent of participants report having accessed their reserve funds in 2009. Of these, nearly half (47%) indicate that they used the reserve funds only to cover operating expenses. 53% used reserves to invest in new initiatives...
Budget cuts, freezes on salary increases and hiring freezes are the most likely results of economic conditions in 2010. However, budget cuts are down slightly in 2010.
...35% of participating associations indicated that budget cuts were currently happening. However, ... it appears that the overall trend toward cutting budgets is on the decline.

Growing membership remains the top priority in 2010, with the importance of increasing meeting attendance on the rise.
Once again, the top two priorities of the association executives that completed the study are improving member retention and acquiring new members.

Less than one-quarter of associations plan to add staff in 2010.
According to the data, 24% of associations polled plan to add staff in 2010, while 60% suggest they will not be adding staff (16% answered “Don’t know”). The most common areas where these staff members will be added are Education/Professional Development, Marketing, Membership, Communications and Meetings/Expositions.

Targeted marketing efforts are the most effective tactics, according to the data.
As in 2009, database marketing, event marketing/trade shows and market research are the most effective tactics to accomplish association goals, while online media, print advertising and member-get-a-member programs were cited as least effective.

Despite conditions, some areas are seeing slight budget increases, most notably market research, direct mail, trade show attendance/marketing and online advertising.
The overall trends extracted from the survey data indicate rather flat budgets in 2010 with respect to overall marketing expenditures. In most categories, the majority of respondents selected “remain the same” when indicating their anticipated budget situations for 2010 as they compare with 2009. There are some signs; however, to indicate that increases are underway in some of the more targeted areas of marketing such as market research, direct mail, trade show attendance/marketing and online advertising.

If you’d like to read the study, here is the link:

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Saying "Nothing" may be more important than saying anything

We all have stories about the the contradictions we see in marketing and sales. We'll say "no one will ever respond to this" or "this will really bring in the responses," and then you get more responses than you can handle or no one responds and all you hear are crickets.

Well, here is one of those stories.

I deployed an email for a client of mine yesterday to approximately 1100 prospects. Only when the email arrived, there was NO TEXT. No message, no nothing. A really big silence, if you will.
My client immediately called me and I immediately started digging into what happened.

Well, my client called me this morning and told me that I "may be onto something new." You see, in the past 24 hours, he's received over 20 phone calls from people who wanted to let him know that they received his email without any text.

That's a 2% response rate.

My client, being the resourcful fellow that he is, actually sold a $600 membership to one of the 20. That covers his cost of the campaign.

Why did this happen?

I think it primarily has to do with his association's brand to the people on the list - in other words, this is a good list. They are familiar with, and believe in the quality of, the association. So much so that THEY will follow up, taking time from their lives to qualify a communication.

Did I say this is a good list!

So, when you are struggling with your messaging, while you most likely shouldn't do it, why not think about doing the same thing - send out an email saying "nothing" and see what happens?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

To Willard Wigan, "small acts" create BIG returns

In accordance with my Sunday ritual, after having breakfast with my father I came home and watched CBS' Sunday Morning. A feature focused on Willard Wigan (, an AMAZING artist. While we often read about or see large works of art, he has gone to the other extreme creating sculptures on the heads of pins and in the eyes of needles. His tools are not paint brushes or chisels held in his hands, but his own eye-lashes or even the hair from a fly. You must view his art through a micro-scope. And he is being paid about $100,000 per piece.

Small act but a tremendous reward.

He is a modest man. He openly states that he hates doing the work but takes great pride in having done it. I really like this guy.

So why am I bringing him up? Well, it seems to me that Willard can teach us a few things about working with our members and team mates. Primarily, small acts pay great rewards. We make a promise, we keep it. A member calls, we listen and offer respect and concern to satisfying their complaint or observation. This may seem small, but it will reap huge rewards like increased renewal rates, increased product sales and increased word of mouth advertising which impacts member acquisition.

We may not like the customer service training or the extra time it takes, but we'll be proud of what we've accomplished.

Have a great week and check out Willard Wigan when you can.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Breath In, Breath Out, Move On - The Zen of Buffet

I recently went to the Margaritaville in Orlando and picked up a hat with the sagely words..."Breath In, Breath Out, Move On." I like this. Very Zen. Keith Moon, deceased drummer of The Who once said "No matter where you are, that's where you're at." Both are simple and very much in tune with how I would like to treat not only my foibles, but also my successes.

I also think the world would be a better place if we all felt that way. Don't get me wrong, I really believe that you celebrate your success; and, kick yourself in the proverbial butt when you don't measure up to your own standards. But these two sayings really put into perspective that unless you are curing cancer or have just landed an airplane on the Hudson River and everyone survived, pretty much what we do has relatively little impact on the world. It may make our "immediate world" a much better or more uncomfortable place, but in the long run the sun will still come up tomorrow and I'll still have to put my pants on one leg at a time.

I'm thinking about this now because of a personal situation that occurred just the other day. I purchased a 2005 Mustang Convertible for my son. Great price (thousands below retail), only 21,475 miles. It is RED with two racing stripes. Yep, I'm that kind of dad. Believe me, a great deal of research went into it and to my surprise, this one car, at this price, beat out every other used car we looked at for that price.

Well, when I went to pay the taxes on this vehicle I learned that I would have to pay the retail value and not Blue Book (I've never purchased a car from an individual before so I was not prepared for what happened next).

I was surprised (putting it mildly) that this tax bill was over $300 MORE than I expected. OMG folks! I blew my top. And unfortunately, my poor - and very patient - wife got caught in my tirade. Collateral Damage. It literally took me an hour to come down off the ceiling. A real "Hissy Fit." I then spent the next 12 hours apologizing to my wife of almost 22 years. She is a gracious person who is truly my anchor and someone who I do not deserve.

I simply did not..."Breath In, Breath Out, Move On" until it was a bit late. Live and learn.

Next time you're faced with a success or an "alternative-success" (how PC, eh?), think "Breath In, Breath Out, Move On." Maybe this will ground you and make the next success that much easier to attain and perhaps you'll have less "collateral damage."

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Wise Observation by Seth Godin

Like many of you, I read Seth Godin's blog which you can find at
There is no doubt that Seth is a marketer's marketer. His ideas are well based, intelligent AND practical. If you ever get the opportunity to watch Seth in action at an ASAE event, DO IT!

In today's update entitled "Driveby culture and the endless search for wow," Seth points out something very important about what I call "fast-food value" where the value proposition of a service or product lasts about as long as the time it takes to consume a hamburger or burrito.

The web has allowed these 'shoppers' the opportunity to kill hours just...looking. Taking a piece here and there, but never committing to a strategy or line of thought.  As membership marketers, are we pandering to an online audience who have the loyalty of a cat (no offense to you cat owners, but come on) as we fight for awareness as measured by clicks, views and eyeballs in an effort to satisfy our internal leadership, or are we using this exciting channel to educate and show our members and potential members that we provide the products and services they need to grow personally and professionally? The other question is, are these people really interested in that?

This is a thought-provoking article and I hope you enjoy it. Even after I've read this article 3 times and as I'm writing this at 7:06 am, I am distracted by my own thoughts on this very topic. Seth, good job and thanks. Again you've made me think.

Here you go...

Driveby culture and the endless search for wow.

The net has spawned two new ways to create and consume culture.

The first is the wide-open door for amateurs to create. This is blogging and online art, wikipedia and the maker movement. These guys get a lot of press, and deservedly so, because they're changing everything.

The second, though, is distracting and ultimately a waste. We're creating a culture of clickers, stumblers and jaded spectators who decide in the space of a moment whether to watch and participate (or not).

Imagine if people went to the theatre or the movies and stood up and walked out after the first six seconds. Imagine if people went to the senior prom and bailed on their date three seconds after the car pulled away from the curb.

The majority of people who sign up for a new online service rarely or never use it. The majority of YouTube videos are watched for just a few seconds. Chatroulette institutionalizes the glance and click mentality. I'm guessing that more than half the people who started reading this post never finished it.

This is all easy to measure. And it drives people with something to accomplish crazy, because they want visits to go up, clicks to go up, eyeballs to go up.

Should I write blog posts that increase my traffic or that help change the way (a few) people think?

Should a charity focus on instant donations by texting from a million people or is it better to seek dedicated attention and support from a few who understand the mission and are there for the long haul?

More and more often, we're seeing products and services coming to market designed to appeal to the momentary attention of the clickers. The Huffington Post has downgraded itself, pushing thoughtful stories down the page in exchange for linkbait and sensational celebrity riffs. This strategy gets page views, but does it generate thought or change?

If you create (or market) should you be chasing the people who click and leave? Or is it like trying to turn a cheetah into a house pet? Is manipulating the high-voltage attention stream of millions of caffeinated web surfers a viable long-term strategy?

Mass marketing used to be able to have it both ways. Money bought you audience. Now, all that buys you a mass market is wow and speed. Wow keeps getting harder and dives for the lowest common denominator at the same time.

Time magazine started manipulating the cover and then the contents in order to boost newsstand sales. They may have found a short-term solution, but the magazine is doomed precisely because the people they are pandering to don't really pay attention and aren't attractive to advertisers.

My fear is that the endless search for wow further coarsens our culture at the same time it encourages marketers to get ever more shallow. That's where the first trend comes in... the artists, idea merchants and marketers that are having the most success are ignoring those that would rubberneck and drive on, focusing instead on cadres of fans that matter. Fans that will give permission, fans that will return tomorrow, fans that will spread the word to others that can also take action.

Culture has been getting faster and shallower for hundreds of years, and I'm not the first crusty pundit to decry the demise of thoughtful inquiry and deep experiences. The interesting question here, though, is not how fast is too fast, but what works? What works to change mindsets, to spread important ideas and to create an audience for work that matters? What's worth your effort and investment as a marketer or creator?

The difference this time is that driveby culture is both fast and free. When there's no commitment of money or time in the interaction, can change or commerce really happen? Just because you can measure eyeballs and pageviews doesn't mean you should.

In the race between 'who' and 'how many', who usually wins--if action is your goal. Find the right people, those that are willing to listen to what you have to say, and ignore the masses that are just going to race on, unchanged.