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.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Don Dea offers up Rules for Twitter as a Fundraising Tool

Don Dea is an accomplished entrepreneur, marketer and association pro. Among his many accomplishments, he is co-founder of Fusion Productions, current president of the ASAE Membership Section and a prolific writer with his own blog DigitalNow Community Group from LinkedIn. The following is taken from his post dated March 10, 2010.

Twitter fundraising has steadily been on the rise in the last two years. Twitter has been used to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for charities and charitable causes, and has been used to spread awareness about social issues. But it takes more than posting multiple tweets a day to get the job done. We talked to a few Twitter () fundraising pros about what they’ve found to be the best practices.

1. Cultivate a Strong Community First : First and foremost, always keep in mind that the power of Twitter is merely a reflection of the power of community. Twitter is not a fundraising machine; people are...

2. State Your Purpose and Your Request Clearly: When disseminating information, be sure to state your purpose clearly and concisely. Let people know why they should care about your cause, and be specific about how their contributions will benefit others. It seems like common sense, but there are times when we forget to highlight the “why” and “how” when making a statement or releasing a call to action....

3. Create Buzz and Excitement: Generating hype around your cause and event is imperative, which means it’s important to be singular and set your charity apart from the rest. Catchy taglines or hashtags and unique avatar ribbons are simple features that can be incorporated to brand your initiative....

4. Have a Strong Set Up Behind the Scenes: Twitter is a great a many things. It’s a tool for communication. It’s a platform for spreading your message. It’s an information source, and it’s a community builder. However, using Twitter and creating hype around your cause doesn’t guarantee any cold hard cash....

5. Have a Powerful Offline Component: While we can enjoy and value the exchanges we have via Twitter, at the end of the day, we’re humans and we feed the most off of human interaction. Whether it’s a tweetup, a festival, a rally, or a concert, having an offline component tied into your fundraising practice is vital....

6. Plan, Prepare, Execute, then Get Out of the Way: Like with any entity branded by social media, it’s important to remember that because Twitter is an integral part of your fundraising campaign, you do not have control over how your message is going to be spread. ...

7. Recognize Volunteers and Donors: Recognizing individuals for their contributions goes far, especially in the Twitterverse. Whether it’s a mention on a blog, a photo on a website, a thank you tweet, or a goody bag, your contributors should be acknowledged for their time and energy. Honors can be issued at offline events and make the entire fundraising experience that much more celebratory...

9. Keep Track of Developing Relationships: Seeing money come in is merely one of the many rewards bestowed upon non-profits, volunteers and donors. In addition to raising funds for important causes, a certain alchemy transpires when people come together to create social good, and from there more change-making can occur. Once again, the cornerstone is community...

10. Look for Ways to Improve for Next Time: Whether you meet your fundraising goals or you come up short, there is always room for improvement. Communicate with your supporters about what tactics worked with blazing colors and what actions bombed miserably. Be open to criticism and suggestions about ways the process could run more smoothly and effectively. Keep your humor and your wits about you.

Have brainstorming sessions. Research what other groups are doing to raise money using Twitter, but don’t try to replicate their campaigns. If you do so, your audience will see right through you.

Keep dreaming. Keep believing. Keep tweeting. And give yourself a pat on the back for doing your part for social good

By Don Dea Co-Founder, Fusion Productions