Monday, August 29, 2011

Linda Chreno reports on ASAE Annual Conference session: What We're Learning from What We're Reading

Linda Chreno is well respected in the association world. With 20+ years of membership marketing and association management experience, and a voracious hunger for new technology and utilizing it to deliver superior association products and member experiences, she delivers a unique perspective of 'early adoptor' and 'experienced professional.' Therefore, I am pleased to call her a friend, compadre...and now CONTRIBUTOR to this blog.

She attended the recent (and very fun) ASAE Annual Conference in St. Louis, MO, where she spoke on web marketing for smaller associations. As we all did, she also attended a great session presented by Mark Anderson, Kristin Clark, Joan Eisenstodt and Jeffrey Cufaude. Here is her take on that important session:

"I attended a session at ASAE in St. Louis entitled: Readers Anonymous: What We're Learning from What We're Reading. The session was where Mark Anderson, FASAE, CAE, Kristin Clark, CAE, Joan Eisenstodt, and Jeffrey Cufaude MAI shared highlights of what they were learning from what they were reading. The session was remarkable and very insightful. Loved when they shared that they are reading many books at one time and they can learn from any book that they read!

As membership marketing professionals, we need to be alert for ideas that we can incorporate into our marketing and/or membership plans – from whatever the source including books that we are reading, Facebook posts, Twitter comments, and our own participation in other organizations.

For instance, in ASAE, diversity is a huge issue and focus point. The DELP program offers a group of diverse individuals the opportunity to deeply delve into the association management community through education, networking, and recognition. Does your association offer a similar program? For Rotary International, there are clubs in areas with a diverse potential membership base. At a recent District Rotary Membership program, attendees were provided with ways to attract and engage members from diverse cultures and then to embrace them within the club. One factor that was extremely insightful for me was that the clubs were not expected to “change” the members but expand the club to include them. This might mean understanding the differences in the cultures – what a great educational opportunity for everyone!

I just started reading CRUCIAL CONVERSATIONS: Tools for talking when the stakes are high. "Step out of the content of the conversation" is one of the suggestions - for seeing body language, the location of the conversation, etc. Too often we listen for what we want to hear and then speak on that instead of actually hearing the words and their meaning. Is that what we do with our members?

Another example might be the recent NETFLIX pricing re-structure. Although a for-profit company, their customers are similar to members – paying a fee for a benefit. When Netflix changed the pricing, there was a very vocal response to the change. Can associations learn from this – how should it have been communicated to customers, how should customers reactions been considered, etc. Associations often change a program or a benefit –and they change because of a small number of members’ opinion, a Board decision, or a staff decision – without verifying that the membership or community as a whole wanted the change. And even is the change is required, are members allowed the opportunity to voice their concerns before implementation – or does it happen after the fact?

As association professionals, we need to be alert for new ideas, new concepts, and new opportunities from a variety of sources. Don’t be afraid of considering incorporating something from outside the association world into your association planning – you might be very pleased by the results."

If you attended the session, or attended another session that you feel strongly that others should learn about, please comment or let Linda or Erik know. We'd enjoy hearing your opinion and maybe even giving you the opportunity to post it on this blog.

If you'd like to reach out to Linda, here is her contact information:

Linda Chreno, CAE, IOM
Direct: 510.352.8197 - CA
Direct 703.706.0339 - VA
Twitter: lindachreno

Experts in Membership Marketing is written by Erik D. Schonher, Vice President, Marketing General Incorporated. You can reach Erik by calling (703) 706-0358,, FB & LinkedIn.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Membership Marketers Must Know The Numbers!

I recently spoke on Membership Engagement at the 2011 ASAE Annual Conference in St. Louis. At the conference I shared the following quote from The Fournaise Marketing Group:

“73% of CEOs think Marketers lack business credibility and are not the business growth generators they should be: they are still too far from being able to demonstrate how the…marketing strategies and campaigns they deploy grow their organizations’ top line in terms of more customer demand, more sales, more prospects, more conversions or more market share.”
- 2011 Global Marketing Effectiveness Program

In short, to effectively communicate our understanding our association's business/marketing needs and make our requests meaningful to them as we build our budgets and programs, we need to use the "language" that our Executive Directors, Presidents and Board Members (who in many cases are CEO's in their respected industries) understand. While at one time, for us in the membership marketing world, that language included ROI, Response Rate, Renewal Rates, Membership Tenure, Lifetime Value, Membership Stassis and Maximum Acquisition Cost, it now also includes open rates, clickthrough rates, lead conversion, number of impressions, page views, purchase history, channel management and more.
Additionally, these numbers make it easier for us to make the decisions we need to improve our strategies and ultimately our business. Data driven decision making must be measured and evaluated in as objective way as possible. Identifying meaningful data patterns and creating custom scoring models provides the business intelligence by which our industry has always been defined.

If you have any questions on what to look at for your association, or how to calculate it, please let me know. If you'd like a FREE Membership Dashboard, I have one that we've developed for our clients and I'd be happy to send it to you.
If you have an instance when you used data to drive your business decision making, please share it with everyone on this blog.
Experts in Membership Marketing is published by Erik Schonher, Vice President of Marketing General Incorporated.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

6 Tips to Make Membership Research Work.

Dr. Adina Wasserman, Director of Research for Marketing General Incorporated, is a very talented and experienced researcher whom many associations owe for their success. She is also the talent behind MGI's Membership Benchmarking Survey, an annual study conducted by MGI of what is working and not working in association marketing and membership development. The results of the 2011 MGI Membership Benchmarking Survey will be released at the end of this month. Let me know if you'd like a FREE COPY and I'll be sure to send it to you. For those of you attending ASAE later this week, an Executive Summary will be available at the MGI Booth or email/call me and I'll be sure to email it to you. 

Dr. Wasserman just sent me a few insights for associations who are considering conducting research and I wanted to share them with you. If you would like to discuss these ideas with Dr. Wasserman, you can reach her at (703) 706-0373 or

1. Use your budget wisely. Research is often the first thing to get eliminated in a downturned economy. This is the wrong direction to take. Research is important in a good economy, but it is imperative in a slow one. Maintaining or increasing market share, renewing members, and slowing attrition, becomes more difficult when the economy is slow, making it that much more important to understand your members’ needs. The association which can successfully meet their members needs and provide professional assistance in a challenging economy will be better able to stave off the effects of an ill economy.

2. Negative is sometimes positive. Don’t be afraid to hear the “negative” feedback from your members. How can you fix a problem if you don’t know it exists? Having your head in the sand will not make the problems go away. Welcome any negative feedback as an opportunity for guided improvement. Have your members lead you directly to your problem areas. X marks the spot, right?

3. The Board can be blind. We often hear that the BOD knows their membership well, and knows what their members want. This may be true, but there are often gems of information that the BOD is unaware of that can only be elicited from member feedback. While it is certainly useful to gather Board members’ perceptions of what their members want, do not use this information to the exclusion of member feedback, as there are often times when the BOD is out of touch with what the members really want.

4. Don’t under-survey. When conducting an objectives meeting with a client, we often hear that they have never surveyed their membership, or that their last survey was four years ago. It is impossible to stay tuned to your members’ needs if you don’t ask what they want. We recommend at least a yearly membership survey to understand member needs and challenges. Furthermore, a yearly (or at the very least, bi-annual) survey allows an association to also see if priorities and needs have shifted among members or member groups within the association. Being able to react to shifts in an appropriate timeframe lets the members know you are listening.

5. Don’t over-survey. On the flip side, some associations are almost “too in-touch” with their members. Survey fatigue can be a problem when members are inundated every month or every other month with surveys, resulting in reduced response rates and member irritation. This often happens in associations where many different departments work independently of one another and do not share their survey schedules. One way to combat this is to have departments make their survey efforts known to all the other departments so everyone is aware of who is doing what research and when. Another suggestion is to randomly survey different blocks of members so that every member doesn’t receive every survey.

6. Timely incentives are key. If you are offering an incentive for participation in ANY research, make sure that the incentives are sent in a VERY timely manner. For drawings, congratulate winners on your website to let members know that the incentive drawing has been completed. Late incentives can cause resentment and irritation among participants.

Experts in Membership Marketing is written by Erik D Schonher, Vice President for Marketing General Incorporated, who can be reached at (703) 706-0358 or at

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Online Video Viewing Continues to SURGE!

As cited in a BtoB ( July 27 article, according to Magda Media Futures, "Online video viewing continues to grow, with 23% of Americans watching a video online daily, compared with 13% in a similar study conducted a year ago."

They go on to indicate that "...57% watch online video weekly, up from 50% of the population last year. Males ages 18 to 34 watch 7.8 hours of online video weekly, compared with 5.6 hours per week among all viewers."

As more people begin to 'expect' video as part of their lifestyle, are associations prepared for yet another retooling of their channels of communications? 10 years ago websites with 20 pages and flash were new and exciting and listserves were the 'next great thing.' They then could cost $25000 to $50000 to develop, design and implement. Now, they simply are expected.

15 years ago, when I dabbled in music video production, we could put a music video together for $15000 to $50000. Today, those types of videos wouldn't sell much - simply the technology has gotten better and cheaper...and most importantly, PEOPLE EXPECT MORE!!!

Associations went kicking and screaming into the digital world, and really many associations are still combating the transition from an 'analog to digital world.' 

But a digital world it is and that is where our members live.

The point being, lets embrace the video technology and get ahead of this curve. We are the curators of information for our members, so lets provide it through ALL CHANNELS that they deem appropriate.

I'd enjoy your thoughts on this and examples of what your association is doing to use video in their marketing and member engagement programs.

Experts in Membership Marketing is written by Erik D Schonher, Vice President for Marketing General Incorporated. 

Monday, August 1, 2011

The inferred power of Twitter!

I'm in Chicago visiting with clients today and tomorrow. After catching the 7:00 AM flight this morning from BWI and a day full of meetings, I was happy to catch dinner and spend some time with my good friend, Dean West, President of Association Labs and one of his associates.

We finished our dinner and began to consume "adult beverages" as we spoke about the days events and philosphized on the association marketplace.

Our waiter, in a hurry to clean our table, spilled an entire glass of red wine on Dean. Simply knocked it over. Now, the wine was Dean's associates, not Dean's. As the waiter went away and quickly returned with a cup of hot water (and I think lemmon), we kidded him saying that "...everything would be ok as long as Dean gets another drink."

The waiter offered "free dry cleaning" and implyed that he couldn't offer a free drink. In fact, he suggested that he should replace his associate's glass of wine as he was 'the damaged party.' Dean immediately produced his i-phone and told the waiter that he was about to be put on Twitter.

Truth of the matter...he never hit record.

Low and behold, Dean received a drink...but no dry cleaning. Oh well, we considered it a win anyway.

Interesting that the threat of social media was necessary to produce what we all (hopefully) would assume to be a natural customer service response.

So the question is, when your members call about a problem or a concern, is your staff solving their problem or do they wish they could pull out their i-phones?

Let me know what you think of this post. 

Experts in Membership Marketing is produced by Erik D Schonher, Vice President for Marketing General Incorporated.