Thursday, September 29, 2011

Industry Service Announcement: DMAW Session on QR Codes



QR Codes: Unlocking the Power of Print

12 noon - 2:00 pm
SEIU Conference Center
1800 Massachusetts Ave., NW
Washington, DC

Limited to 45 people
$45 - Members
$60 - Not-yet-Members

QR codes - those black and white Rorschach-test-like squares are popping up everywhere. From retail store windows to magazine ads and now even direct mail, we are seeing them more and more. What exactly do they do, and more importantly, are they effective?

QR Codes, which stands for Quick Response, are 2D barcodes which can be scanned using smartphone reader apps and then the mobile browser directs the consumer to a link site. Ultimately, the code can help drive your donors, members and customers to take a number of different actions to support your direct marketing goals.

Want to find out what they can do for your direct marketing program?

Register for the DMAW October Luncheon: QR Codes: Unlocking the Power of Print

You will learn how QR Codes:
• Allow for ways to embed content, drive calls to action, and unlock the power of the printed page
• Can be tracked
• Are created for better readability
• Are scalable - from simple static codes that can be generated in moments for little to no cost to Sophisticated 1-to-1 codes that unlock the power of data and personalization.

You'll also learn some mobile marketing trends, adoption rates and best practices, as well as review some examples of brands that are using QR codes in both fundamental and innovative ways.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

SEM, SEO & PPC: Key Terms in Making Your Website Effective

Digital or "E" Marketing has fast become a cornerstone of our communications platform. From awareness building programs that include lead generation, to acquisition programs using lead conversion tactics and followup emails, to engagement programs that are geared to increase member participation on blogs, downloads and education sessions, to renewal programs, digital marketing is here to stay!

Much of the success of Digital Marketing is maximizing the searchability of your website. In a conversation I had with Todd Michaels, Director of E-Biz at MGI, he provided what I thought to be a clean and clear overview of SEM which I thought you would like to review.

Todd told me that Search Engine Marketing (SEM) encompasses all aspects of making your website visible to the major search engines. The most common SEM tactics includes Search Engine Optimization (SEO), pay per click (PPC) Advertising and Paid Inclusion/Placement (PIP). SEM can be considered to be those tactics employed off of your website to better improve its overall rankings with the major search engines.

PPC Advertising, when run effectively, is an excellent tool to drive traffic to your website and also help improve your bottom line SEO effectiveness, when run in conjunction with each other. They can be effectively used for the purpose of generating leads for membership acquisition campaigns, to generate conference awareness, webinar promotion and also magazine subscription trials for our association clients. It is important to note that any PPC approach be grounded in sound direct marketing testing principles, campaign measurement and analytics and solid PPC account structure.

Paid Inclusion/Placement can be both a solid SEM and SEO tactic. For PIP campaigns, we research those websites within our clients niches, finds those with both the strongest links and overall SEO health, but also those websites highly trafficked by visitors to the websites of our clients. Implementation of a successful PIP campaign gives a quick boost to overall SEO and also allows for deep-linking into the websites of our clients. PIP can also include paid and free listings with all search engines, big and small.

Have you optimized the searchability of your website? Are you using PPC to generate traffic for your programs? Are you using PIP campaigns to stimulate web awareness? Let us know how you are using these tools.
Experts in Membership Marketing is written by Erik Schonher, Vice President, Marketing General Incorporated and can be reached by phone at (703) 706-0358 or email

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Good News! Membership is Rebounding as reported by the 2011 Membership Benchmarking Report.

As reported by the 2011 Membership Benchmarking Report, released last week, over 600 membership marketing professionals and Executive Directors surveyed indicated that all three of the primary metrics that measure the 'vital signs' of association membership marketing are back to, or exceeding, 2009 levels.

Overall Membership...UP!

Overall New Member Acquisition...UP!

Overall Renewals...UP!

ALL UP over 2010.

So what does this mean to you? Strategically, a couple of things...

First, since these metrics are cumulative, meaning trends in new member acquisition and renewals determine the overall membership trend, they can give you a quick diagnostic of what is working for your association. 

Second, as indicated in the report, our industry is reporting a positive trend in each of these metrics. Comparing your own metrics to these 'industry benchmarks,' can help you possibly determine if your supporting your member acquisition &/or renewal programs properly.  

As a possible example, if you found your overall membership is unchanged, your renewals are up but your new member acquisition is down, and your goal is to grow your overall membership, you may want to consider reallocating some staff time &/or money from renewals to new member acquisition.   

Another example might be if you find that your overall membership is down, member acquisition is flat and renewals are down,  then your association is going against the overall industry trend and you may want to consider revamping your overall approach.

As many of you are preparing for 2012, knowing what to look at, with knowledge and understanding of the basic trends in an industry, can help you quickly identify the effectiveness of your programs and their impact on your overall membership efforts. These 'strategic tricks' are invaluable to your success and the success of your association.

Experts in Membership Marketing is written by Erik Schonher, Vice President, Marketing General Incorporated, and can be reached by phone at (703) 706-0358 and email at

Saturday, September 17, 2011

What information should I be collecting for my membership marketing program?

I’m fortunate to have the opportunity to speak and lecture quite a bit around the country on membership marketing. One question that I get more than any others is "What Information should my association collect for membership marketing?" 

First step, start by looking at your members.  Simply put, new members will "look" like current members.
Next, to build a profile of your existing members, you must have more than just the basic contact information for each member.However a word of caution…before you tie up resources and start any initiative to collect information, you need to figure out what you’ll do with the information. You must ask “How will this information help us with our Mission?”
Members are essential to the completion of every association's Mission. 
Therefore, as every association needs members, they must figure out how to attract new members and retain current members. This database needs to provide information that you can use to understand what your members want, how they want to communicate, what they respond to, and a host of other metrics that will help you develop and refine your member acquisition, engagement and retention programs.
Since associations come in many forms, trade, individual, some mix of both, lets take a 5,000-foot-view of what “types” of information you might want to collect:
- Information that can be used to find lists of non-member association prospects.
- Information that will provide insight into why your members joined the association.
- Information that will help you understand why members renew.
With this context set, in addition to basic contact information, here are some suggestions of specific information you will find useful in developing and refining your membership marketing plans:
·      Join date (and a separate rejoin date in case they expire but rejoin a year or two later)
·      Source (where they came from)
·      Number of years in the industry
·      Title/responsibility
·      Offer (what membership offer/message did they respond to)
·      Expectations (reason for joining)
·      Product purchase history
·      Engagement activity (committee participation, comments on Listservs, conferences/webinares attended, etc.)
There are obviously more, and to some point, they are dependent upon each association. However, if you collecting even 3 or 4 of the above, you’re doing better than many of your peers.
Your association's database may not have everything you need to effectively market to non-members, but that doesn't mean you can't ask for it. With the right information in hand, your membership marketing can be much more effective. Just be certain that you don't waste your association's resources or your members' time by asking for information that isn't truly useful.
Let me know what information that you’re collecting and how you’re using it.

Experts in Membership Marketing is written by Erik Schonher, Vice President, Marketing General Incorporated. If you have any questions concerning the content, Erik can be reached by phone at (703) 706-0358 or email at

Friday, September 16, 2011

It's about Member Indispensability

Dr. Adina Wasserman is a first-class researcher whom I'm very pleased to have worked with on a number of research projects. Her experience is second to none and her ability to take a piece of data and transform it into a usable piece of information is to be applauded.

In my own work, and during our conversations, Dr. Wasserman points out that member satisfaction levels, while providing a good benchmark for comparative evaluations over time, are not the best indicators of member engagement with the association. While satisfaction is certainly a part of member engagement and loyalty, we do not believe it is the driver.

I've seen this in many studies where current members and expired members both rated their experience with their association as being "satisfactory."

She recommends associations shift to an Indispensability and Needs Assessment study, which allows association members to assess the importance of the benefits and services offered, and then evaluate the quality of delivery of those benefits and services. This is called Gap Analysis, or the statistical comparison between the degree of importance and the perceived level of delivery. This research offers evidenced-based data pinpointing where an association is performing well and where it is not, and whether attention and resources should be focused to maximize programs or abandon them. We have both found, in our work together and seperately, that this methodology gives the most effective understanding of what the membership wants and expects from its association.

If you're thinking of performing a membership study, remember that its the member's loyalty to and dependence on the association that determines your renewals and ultimately your financial position.
Experts in Membership Marketing is written by Erik Schonher, Vice President, Marketing General Incorporated. If you have any questions concerning the content please feel free to call him at (703) 706-0358 or email him at 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

How Often Do You Increase Your Membership Dues? - Results from the 2011 Membership Benchmarking Report

Recently I've been asked by several Executive Directors and Membership Marketers how often they should raise their dues?

This is obviously an important question and one that is unique to each association given its market, its penetration within the market, number of competitors, current dues rate and when the last dues increase was performed.

However, its been our experience that a small (10% or under) increase will, in most cases, have little to no impact on your membership numbers.

Respondents to the 2011 Membership Benchmarking Report seemed to fall in line with this as well.  When asked:

  • "How often does your association raise membership dues?"
  • "When was the last time your association raised membership dues?"
  • "What was the average percentage of your last membership dues increase across all membership catagories?"

We found that "...30% of the associations reported that they will raise membership dues in 2011 and 71% will increase dues rates between 1% and 10%."

"How often does your association raise membership dues?"

17% responded "Annually"
4% responded "Every other year"
58% responded "As needed"
9% responded "Never"
12% responded "Other"

Monday, September 12, 2011

FREE Download of the 2011 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report Now Available

Finally Here!!

I'm happy to announce the release of the 2011 Membership Marketing Benchmarking ReportA free download of the full report is available, with site registration, using this link. 

This marks the third year that Marketing General Incorporated (MGI) has surveyed associations to better understand the strategies and tactics used to recruit members, engage new members, renew existing members, and reinstate former members.

Each year new aspects related to membership marketing our explored in our research.  This year the report features new data on the practices in increasing membership dues, engaging members with products and services, membership chapters, and the key impediments that hold back membership growth.

However, beyond cataloging membership practices, the Benchmarking Report also takes these practices and cross-tabulates them with the membership results associations are experiencing.  The comparison of practices and outcomes in membership provides strong directional information on what tactics and strategies might be added or dropped to help improve an organization’s membership program.

I hope that you find the 2011 Report of help as you seek to maximize the membership results for your organization.  

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Adding a Membership Catagory? A Suggested Approach Driven by Data!

This week we’re fortunate to hear from my friend, Kristi L. Van Buren, Manager Member Services for the Community Associations Institute.

Kristi is a big believer in data-based decision making. This is to be expected given that she earned a master’s degree in public policy from George Mason University, and has a been working with non-profit organizations and trade associations for over 10 years with five years specifically in membership marketing, and . And if that wasn’t enough, she was recently awarded a scholarship from the ASAE Foundation towards obtaining a CAE certification.

In today’s post, she talks about the process her association is going through to create a new membership category and presents how her team is approaching it.

“How do we quantify items that seemingly cannot be measured? How can we produce useful generalizations regarding diverse member populations? Economists are trained to forecast results by collecting, researching, and analyzing data using various sampling techniques and mathematical models analyzing and quantifying human behavior to make predictions about future behavior.

Isn’t this what we as association professionals try to do every day? Are we using data effectively to help us guide our organizations? While experiential and anecdotal information has a part in creating the policies that guide an association, it cannot be the sole factor supporting the decision-making process.

Have you ever known a program or product to be created from one vocal member’s suggestion? Despite the fact that an organization is equipped with a tremendous amount of information within their AMS, sometimes the focus on member service supersedes actual data when creating programs and services. With member service on the forefront, we reactively aim to please but should not let this drive our decisions when empirical data indicates an alternate path towards reaching organizational goals. Coca-Cola, Apple, or Sony would never launch a product without extensive market research, and as non-profit professionals we should similarly utilize many of the techniques that generate success for our for-profit friends.

Currently, my organization is in the process of creating a new membership category. Our team expects great success and we are very excited about this initiative which makes it easy to get caught up in “what could be.” Our optimism and excitement reinforces the need to realistically research and address all variables so we do not overlook any potential challenges.

In order to maximize positive outcomes for our membership and the association, we have:

1. Created and interviewed a focus group: What do they want? What have we overlooked?

2. Completed an environmental scan to determine our potential universe of new members: Are there enough prospective members to justify the program?

3. Conducted research on cost and offerings of similar and different associations and interviewed some of their staff: How can we build from their success and not reinvent the wheel? Who of our “competitors” has already implemented this category?

4. Completed a cost-benefit analysis to justify the resources: What is the actual cost?

5. Projected results: How do we measure and identify success?

6. Planned to pilot this program: What will this tell us? Who will participate? Can we make changes based on findings prior to a broader launch?

By asking these questions and answering them with empirical data, we have the best opportunity to mitigate risk. While this process has required an investment of effort and time, data-driven program development will allow us to provide better benefits to our members, rather than attempting to respond to anecdotal or “knee-jerk” changes in our membership’s requirements.

How would your next program be different if all related decisions were data-driven? I challenge you to consider the following before your next product launch or marketing campaign:

1. Use your current data and collect more data.

2. Ask a lot of questions and find data to support the answers.

3. Explore possible scenarios that oppose your instinct to best prepare for potential issues.

Especially in this economy, we have to be smarter than ever. Being an expert does not necessarily mean that you know all of the answers; it means you know how to pursue and rely on empirical data to make the most informed decisions.”

Has your organization added, or even consolidated, a membership category? Perhaps your experience offers another perspective? Please give us your comments.

Experts in Membership Marketing is published by Erik Schonher, Vice President for Marketing General Incorporated. He can be reached by email at or by phone at (703) 706-0358.

Friday, September 2, 2011

The 2011 Membership Benchmarking Report is finished!

I wanted to let you all know that I've just reviewed the final PDF of the 2011report and it is being sent to the printer. We should be sending them out in the next week or so.

If you've requested a copy, we'll work to get your copy to you as soon as possible.

If you have yet to request a copy, please forward your name, association and email address. I'll make sure that you receive a copy.

Have a wonderful Labor Day everyone!!

Experts in Membership Marketing is written by Erik Schonher, Vice President, Marketing General Incorporated. If you ever have any questions regarding the content of this blog, please feel free to contact Erik at (703) 706-0358 or via email at