The Seven Deadly Sins of Marketing

Tony Rossell, SVP, Marketing General Inc.
has been in the association sector for 30 years and the following post is based on his presentation at a recent conference I attended in DC.

1. Undefined Value Proposition – how compelling is your value prop?  It’s important to be clear in your communications on how you are helping your members grow their business, comply with a new regulation or gain access to capital to name a few.  Members renew from received value.  Members join for perceived value.  Do your research (i.e. survey your members etc.) and find out what they want.

2. Excessive Planning – some associations are suffering from “paralysis from analysis.”  His point is just get out there!  Set a plan, launch a campaign, study the results and act on your results.  Continue to test, track and adjust as needed.

3. Abandonment of Membership Recruitment – you can’t just rely on renewing your members.  Even if you have high retention rates, in order to grow your chamber, you need to continue to recruit new members.  Keep potential new members in your sales funnel.

4. Overreliance on a Single Channel – don’t just rely on one communication tool (i.e. email).  You need to create an omnichannel marketing campaign (i.e. email, mail, annual meeting, social media, digital ads, texting, video, content marketing, etc.).

5. Insufficient Frequency of Contact – 5 email, 3 online, 1 mail, 1 phone call is the average number of touches based on their research.  It’s not enough! 

6. Inadequate Special Offers – the speaker is an advocate of special offers.  They could come in the form of a gift card, logo shirt or additional months of membership.  I personally am not a fan of discounting membership rates.  I view that as your not worth the price of dues.  I am fine with sending a shirt with your logo.

7. Lack of testing and Analysis – he finished with the key point of folks not testing what’s working for you.  It’s imperative that you test everything (i.e. subject lines, sender, format, message, call to action to name)

He finished with the statement that associations showing growth are seen as innovative.

For a free copy of Marketing General's annual membership and marketing benchmarking report go HERE.

Tune Up and Rev Up: Improving Your Membership Recruitment

The following post is based on a session at the MMCC recently held in Washington, DC, by members of ASAE's Membership Council.

It was a great discussion on utilizing 8 tools in tuning up and revving up your membership recruitment.

Here are the 8 highlighted tools:

Target Audiences – who do you want to join your chamber?  Define those that are most likely to join (i.e., your lapsed members are at the top of that list).

Value propositions – why should your members join?  It’s about that radio station, WIIFM, what’s in it for me?  Talk about the benefits that your members will get by being a member – knowledge, business, etc. not about features – newsletter, monthly luncheon, etc.  Meet their needs.

Offer – why should your members join now?  Special offers (i.e. 25% off, please note I’m not a fan of discounts)?  Just be clear in the value of joining your chamber.

Multi-channel, multi-touch – ask your prospects to join via multiple channels on a regular basis.

The ASK – is it clear that you want them to join?  Make it front and center and make it easy to join.

Testing – you should be do some A/B testing to see what message or offer is working best in converting your prospects into members.

Results evaluation – analyze your different campaigns and figure out which campaign generated the most money for your chamber.

Budget – fuel up!  Get your list updated, and start sending your marketing campaigns, whether mail or email, and send them on a regular basis.

They left us with three final takeaways:

  • Evaluate your membership recruitment campaigns.
  • Measure your performance, what’s working and what’s not working.
  • Make changes to improve your response rates.  And remember, these changes can be very simple.

For a great resource from Aptify on membership recruitment for associations go HERE.

Should Your Association Launch a Podcast? 5 Questions to Ask

I attended a great session presented by Evan Sparks, American Bankers Association, on the title of this blog at the recent ASAE Marketing and Membership meeting in DC.

He started by saying that some folks feel podcasts are replacing radio – radio duplication.

Are you part of the 62% of Americans that are listening to podcasts?

He explained three types of podcasts:

  1. Q&A
  2. Panel discussion – one-on-one, not a panel of four
  3. In-depth lecture

But before you dive in, ask yourself the following five questions?

1.    Who are your members?

  • Will there be enough members that will engage to make the podcast sustainable?

2.    How do your members currently engage with your organization?

  • You must understand this to make an informed decision on whether your members will engage, do they have the time or are they already getting the information they need through your current communication vehicles?  Can the podcast supplement your current program of work as it relates to your content, advocacy work, training programs?  Think of a podcast as the new conference call you use to do with your members on a hot topic.

3.    What’s your content strategy?

  • Free vs paid – is this a marketing opportunity for new members?  This is also an opportunity to get a sponsor to generate non-dues revenue.
  • The content long tail – use the podcast as a way to tease upcoming programming or keep the content alive and in front of your members.
  • Adapting existing content – don’t recreate the wheel.  You’ve heard me say it before, repurpose your content on multiple channels.

4.    What is your current content mix, and how would podcasting fit into that?

  • Range of topics.
  • Your print vs digital.
  • What frequency strategy will you have for your podcast?  Daily, weekly, monthly or quarterly?
  • Long-form or short-form?  Most will say 15 – 20 minutes tops.
  • Active and passive.

5.    What resources can you devote to production and distribution?

  • Goals and objectives (engagement vs revenue).
  • Who will host the podcast?  Be consistent.
  • Format – as mentioned above, long-form or short-form.
  • Equipment you need?
  • Production – staff vs dollars?
  • Distribution – what channels will you use to reach your audience?
  • Marketing – if you don’t market it, no one will listen.

At the end of the day, make sure you have a base of people that will engage with a new podcast on a regular basis.

The speaker’s final comments:

  • Podcasting is not for everyone.  
  • Your organization should be able to identify your goals for creating the podcast, including but not limited to, the tailoring of your content, format and frequency that fits your audience and your content strategy.
  • It’s a great way to introduce members of your team that are subject matter experts to your membership and community.
  • Don’t give your guests the questions.  Do give them a sense of the overall direction of the session.

For more information on starting a podcast, the logistics side of the equation, go HERE.

Critical Email Tips To Radically Improve Marketing Performance

I recently attended a session featuring Jay Schwedelson, Founder, Subject Line and Outcome Media
on the title of this blog.

He started with the comment, "open rates – is the key."

But things have changed since Apple changed the way they track open emails.  Open rates have been inflated by 40% by the new tracking that took effect May 1, 2022.
Content in the subject line – it’s what’s going to get your email opened.  Some words or things to use/do to make that happen:

  • FREE
  • Use brackets [   ]
  • Capitalization
  • Emoji’s, (emoji’s are boosting open rates) – sense of urgency with emoji’s – think about starting your subject line with an emoji.
  • Have you thought about using …at the end of your subject line?
  • Using the word "Offer" in the subject line.
  • 101 in the subject – membership 101, etc.
  • Tips on …. Have your subject line be a question?
  • The use of fear, i.e. Don’t miss out on …
  • Put title of recipient in the subject line – for marketers, chamber staff.  
All of the above suggestions are key to put in the first half of your subject line.  At the end of the day, you are not sending out enough email.  It’s all about engagement!
He went on to mention three top suggestions to get your email opened:
  • Free guide or free report
  • List/checklist
  • On-Demand vs Watch Now

His final rapid fire comments:

  • Repetition is good – 3 days in a row vs 2 days will raise your open rates.
  • Monday is still the best day to send your emails.
  • Benefit vs commitment (click for benefits vs download)
  • Logos should go to your offer page not your home page.

Good luck in your email marketing campaigns!

Creating a Value Proposition for Your Chamber or Association to Attract Members

At a recent webinar sponsored by Institute for Organization Management (IOM), Amy Hager led a discussion on creating your value proposition.  
I have written about that before and it can be found HERE.
Now on to the title of the blog post.  The following are my notes from Amy’s presentation.
Mission vs Value Statement – two different things!
Mission – describes the things you do to fulfil your vision.  A quick example, if the vision is to cure cancer, your mission would be the things you do to help people live with cancer.  A vision of an organization is something to strive for and not necessarily achievable.
Value Proposition – the benefits your stakeholders (members, industry, donors) gain by supporting your organization.
Value propositions will change to meet the needs of your members.  Your mission will not.
Three qualities of a value proposition:
  1. Focus on the end result – why you exist, relevant to current pain points and what you’re delivering to your members.
  2. Don’t be vague – focus on how you are helping your members that you can measure and that you can communicate to your members.
  3. More than a catchy slogan – describe why people join your organization.
Do you define/redefine your value proposition as needed?  What do you do very well (think your top benefit), who is your ideal audience and what problems are you solving for them?
Remember, you can’t be all things to all people.  Focus, focus, focus on your core audience.  Sounds like a version of the Hedgehog Theory.  For a blog post on that concept can be found HERE.
Do you define your features vs benefits of membership?  We confuse the two.  An educational training program is a feature of membership, the knowledge you gain from that session to solve a future problem is a member benefit.
She asked the question, “do you know what your members value?”  You should know.  Ask, ask, ask through surveys, focus groups or during your virtual meetings.
How are you sharing your value proposition?
  • Website – a great place to rotate/tweak your value proposition.
  • Email – newsletters, recruitment campaigns, engagement campaigns and automation (auto email responses if they visited a certain page on your website).
  • Board and Membership Committee – make sure your volunteers have that value proposition elevator speech.
  • Social Media – the use of platforms where your members hang out is a great way to communicate your value proposition, through the use of banners, ads, testimonials, or content marketing.
  • Media – do you have talking points for your chairman?  If they are interviewed, they should be able to describe your value proposition to any question the media might ask.  They should be able to prioritize the one thing you want the audience to take away.
For a great ASAE article on value propositions go HERE.

At the end of the day, stay focused on your messaging when talking about your value proposition!

How Thriving Associations are Embracing Innovation and Blazing a New Trail to Relevance

The following is based on a webinar I attended, moderated by Michael Hoffman, with Gather Voices, on the subject of the title of this post.

For a copy of Mary Byers and Harrison Carver's book on Race for Relevance go HERE.
They started out by talking about communication styles during the pandemic.  Do you know the preferred ways of communication for your members?  If not, ask your members how they want to be communicated with.
Generations play a role in how each want to be spoken to and how they will engage with your organization.
They discussed the idea of going back vs moving forward with how we communicate with our members based on in-person or virtual meetings.  You need a separate virtual strategy, not just streaming a live event.
Younger members are not engaging like the older members.  Are your membership business models changing?  Do you have a non-member revenue strategy?  It’s about building influence in your industry or community.  Mary asked the question, “do these folks need to be members?”
They pivoted to having a discussion on organization boards.  Does your board represent the different generations in your membership and community?
Think about how you are selecting new board members.  The old model of the volunteer journey may be over.  The thought of it taking 10-15 years to get that board invite after you’ve participated in other activities within the organization are over, or they should be!
Do you have a designated board slot for the Gen Z group?
They went on to talk about how innovation plays a role in our organizations – things they’ve seen: creating a strategy, set aside money to experiment, list possibilities and then prioritize and finally test.  Corporate America has been doing this for years.
It’s important to focus on what’s working (think delivering value to your members) and getting rid of sacred cows.  For a blog post on killing sacred cows go HERE.
“Keys to innovation is abandonment” – what a great quote.  How are you evaluating your program of work to decide what you should be focused on doing?  Is your program of work mission specific, do members participate, do you make money on these programs?  You must look at your resources and capacity to deliver a great product.

I did a previous post on the Hedgehog Theory which goes into more depth on the idea of the previous paragraph, for that post go HERE.
Use data to make these decisions and be consistent in whatever questions or metrics you want to use to decide what programs you will maintain and those that you will shutter.
Create a matrix and use it to evaluate each of your programs. That way you’re comparing apples to apples and oranges to oranges.
Remember, nonprofit doesn’t mean don’t make a profit.  Run your chamber like a business.  You are a business organization, right?
Fail forward and fail fast.  That too is a part of innovation. Launch your new program and see if your members react.  Did they engage, attend, buy?  If not, tweak and try again, or drop it and move on to the next idea!
For a copy of an updated version of the Race for Relevance book go HERE.

Top Digital Marketing Trends and Opportunities

I recently attended a webinar on the title of this post moderated by Kevin Taylor, Communicate by Design.

Speaker Bill Shaheen, Vice President, MultiView, highlighted eight trends based on an association leadership study they recently conducted.  For a copy of their 2021 Digital Marketing Trends & Opportunities report go HERE.

He made the general statement that the biggest pain points for organizations to do better in their digital marketing are lack of time, resources and knowledge.


Here are my notes based on his presentation:


Digital Content Consumption – prior to Covid, people would spend on average 3 hours and 17 minutes consuming digital content, post Covid that jumped to 6 hours and 59 minutes per day.


E-Learning Has Skyrocketed – Google searches increased by 100% for online courses.


Connected TV (CTV) – using the Internet for TV programming, not your cable company.  Think Netflix, HULU, Apple, etc.


Video is the Most Popular – YouTube is right behind Google (parent company).  93% of brands acquire new customers because of video on social media.


Digital Ads – remains strong.  The younger generations consume through social media while the older generations consume through TV.


Contextual Ads Perform Best – these are ads that are related to the content you’re looking at on the Internet in real-time.  It’s not a static ad on a landing page.


Marketing Personalization is Mandatory Not Optional – give your members what they want when they want it.  Today’s databases easily allow this to happen.


Virtual Events Are Here to Stay – at least for 2022 and part of 2023.  Once people feel comfortable with in-person events, they will come back strong.  We’re already seeing this now.


Bill then pivoted to talk about digital marketing opportunities and suggested the following three things you should be doing: 1) increase your digital investment; 2) spend more on digital vs print; and 3) spend 5-6% of annual revenue on marketing each year.


He went on to talk about the top three places to invest your digital dollars: 1) website; 2) social media; and 3) email marketing.

Other areas he mentioned were search engine optimization (SEO) and content marketing.  When it comes to social media, find out where your members are consuming their digital content.


Final suggestions:


  • Target your communications to your different audiences within your membership.
  • Video marketing through testimonials and e-learning promotion.
  • And don’t forget to make it personal.  You want to speak to them as you really know them, based on their past participation with your organization.