What I’m Reading

The answer has been, “not too much,” at least lately, but I did want to point out a few goodies:

Also, I was recently on vacation and had the chance to read novels (!!) If you’re a fan of dystopian/apocalyptic reads, I highly recommend Margaret Atwood’s MadAddam trilogy.

Posted in blog roundup, innovation, management, social media | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Good Advice from Your Association Agony Aunt

Have you been keeping up with your Dear Betty posts lately? My association agony aunt alter-ego has been busy answering questions like:

Got a question for Betty? Submit it to

Posted in marketing, membership | Tagged | Leave a comment

Free Webinar: Getting to the Good Stuff

Peter Houstle (Mariner Management) and I are just about to release a NEW whitepaper on Evidence-Based Decision Making for Associations. It will formally drop next week, but you can get a preview this week via the FREE webinar series.

Peter and I will be talking about the whitepaper THIS Thursday, April 24 from noon – 1 pm ET. I quote from the reg page:

Association executives have more types and greater amounts of data readily available to us than ever before. In fact, the combination of data and tools available in 2014 theoretically allows us to move beyond the standard operational dashboards we’ve been using for years and get to the “good stuff,” where we can start asking meaningful, mission-driven questions and use data to inform our decision-making processes around them. But how do we do this?

Join us Thursday to find out.

Also, is CAE-approved, so you can get credit for attending!

Posted in innovation, leadership, management, webinars | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Is Growth Necessarily Good?

At CalSAE’s ELEVATE Conference last week, I attended a session on association trend spotting led by Shelly and Mark Alcorn. My team was assigned the mindfulness trend. After some discussion about information overload, the pressure of always being connected and what that does to face to face personal connection, and what is the appropriate role for an association in a member’s life (hint: you are not the most important thing in your members’ lives), the innovative idea we came to was that growth is not always necessarily a good thing.

For membership associations, total membership count tends to be one of the key pieces of data we report to our senior leadership, our Board, and often publicly. And up is always better, right?

Not necessarily.

First of all, to quote the forthcoming Spark whitepaper on evidence-based decision making in associations (co-authored with Peter Houstle of Mariner Management & Marketing):

More members may be better up to a point, but beyond that you risk bringing in marginal members whose commitment to your mission is incidental at best, whose contribution to your community will be minimal, and whose acquisition and renewal costs will exceed their marginal revenue. In other words, they’ll be a drain on your association’s resources.

(Joe Rominiecki talked about this concept recently in Associations Now, too.)

This is all focused on growing your market share, that is, getting more customers.

But there’s also the concept of growing your customer share, that is, getting your customers to have a larger relationship with you – to buy more stuff and be more involved.

Harvard Business Review recently highlighted this same trend in looking at “super consumers.”

“But my most involved members already are, well, really involved. They aren’t going to buy more, are they?”

Actually, they will. To quote HBR:

…superconsumers represent 10% of a category’s customers but account for 30% to 70% of sales and an even higher share of profits.

Admittedly, their study focused on consumer brands. But it reiterates a message associations would benefit from, one that I’ve written about before:

Assume you have 10,000 members. Your annual meeting regularly sees 500 attendees, at $500 a pop. Based on past attendance, your actual number of prospective attendees is about 1,000. And you have a $10,000 marketing budget.

Most of us proceed to blast undifferentiated messages out to the entire 10,000 members. Which means we can spend $1 per member trying to get people to our conference. What if, instead, we focused that $10,000 and our staff time ONLY on the 1000 prospects who are likely to attend? All of a sudden, we’re only managing 1000 contacts, not 10,000, and we have $10 per prospect to market the conference. What if those focused, high-impact messages aimed only at truly likely attendees could increase conference attendance from 500 to 700? At $500 a head, that’s an additional $100,000.

In other words, pay more attention to your super consumers, who are, again according to HBR:

…defined by both economics and attitude: They are a subset of heavy users who are highly engaged with a category and a brand. They are especially interested in innovative uses for the product and in new variations on it. They aren’t particularly price sensitive. (emphasis added)

These are the people who aren’t just members or attendees or readers – they LOVE your association and are willing to offer their time, expertise, and innovative ideas to make it better.

What are you doing to find them, to nurture them, and to let them know you appreciate them? Maybe if we all got off our “growth in (marginal?) membership, no matter what” hamster wheels, we could find out.


Posted in Feature Story, innovation, membership, whitepaper | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Always the Last to Know: AllJoyn

The Internet of Things is a really cool idea. The only problem is that, in order for it to happen, “things” have to be able to talk to each other, which is far from automatic. Different manufacturers, different operating systems, different control systems, different signals, different types of machine language. No communication.

AllJoyn is an open source project that aims to bridge the language barrier, allowing a wide variety of Internet-connected devices to see each other, share information, and be centrally controlled.

Posted in cool technology, innovation | Leave a comment

Marketing on a Shoestring Budget: Crowdsourced Tips!

We had a rockin’ session at CalSAE’s ELEVATE Conference yesterday morning on this topic (see the tips, slides, and bonus tips here), and the session participants were full of fantastic contributions as well:


  • Trade ad space in a popular industry magazine for distributing that magazine to all your conference attendees.
  • Trade signage at all your events for special sponsorship recognition. (I have used this one myself and it works great!)
  • Trade a really special product made by a company in your industry (like LiveScribe pens) for membership.


  • Reaching out to a small, carefully segmented group? Use an Evite!
  • The received wisdom is to send emails Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. BUT…
  • You need to know your members. If they’re mostly able to be online on the weekends, that’s when you should be emailing them.
  • Coordinate your teams so you’re not sending too much. In other words, have a communications calendar.

Word of Mouth!

  • Use testimonials, make sure you include photos of the members you’re quoting, and think of new ways and places to use them. For instance, can you record short videos at your conference getting a BUNCH of members to answer one question: “What’s your favorite thing about membership?”
  • Offer something free to non-members, which will allow them to try before they buy, to make contact with members who will say positive things about the association, and to have a good first experience with the association. Also, those people are now leads.
  • Use your members and volunteer leaders to reach out to non-members, new members, and members who will soon be up for renewal BEFORE they lapse. Calling lapsed members is scary. Calling new members is fun!
  • Develop relationships in your profession or industry so that the other players in your space say good things about your association. Someone else saying something good about you always has more impact than you saying something good about yourself.
  • Ask your members. Ask your non-members. Ask your volunteers. Ask your attendees. Ask your Board. What should you ask them? “What are your goals and needs, and how can our association help you get there?”

Customer Service!

  • Waive cancellation fees – and make sure people know you’re doing that. It’s not really going to cost you very much, and it’s a HUGE service to attendees that removes a major objection to registering.
  • Members should only ever have to make ONE CALL. It’s your responsibility to get back to them, not the other way around.
  • Someone calls with a problem? Listen to them, and then ask them what they would want to make it right. They’ll come up with more clever, and often more cost-effective, ideas than you will.
  • Realize that complaints are an opportunity to gather the intel that can make your association better.
  • Make sure everyone is trained in good phone etiquette. Never transfer someone to voice mail. Always transfer them to the RIGHT person, and make a warm transfer (i.e., don’t make them keep explaining their problem – YOU explain it). Have a service level agreement for how long you have to return a call within business hours. And make sure your receptionist knows that he’s your Director of First Impressions (LOVED that one).


  • Use your open LinkedIn group (because you SHOULD NOT have a closed group) as a source of membership leads. And remember that you have to offer them something they want to capture their information so that you own the lead.
  • Have a great, unique member benefit? Share it with your allied organizations, and allow them to share it with their members. That builds goodwill and opens the door to better, deeper, more productive partnerships.
  • Work with your members to create content. They’re experts in your industry or profession – let THEM shine.
Posted in conferences, crowdsourcing, innovation, marketing, membership, presentations | Leave a comment

Marketing on a Shoestring Budget: Bonus Tips!

I’m presenting at Cal SAE’s ELEVATE Conference today, on the topic of membership marketing on a shoestring budget. During the presentation, I shared five tips. Below are the bonus tips I promised everyone in the session:

  • Membership recruiting is an eternal program, not s series of intermittent campaigns. Have a plan! The same holds true for retention.
  •  When developing your plan, use a simple business plan as a template. It will help you stay focused and set goals based on what is realistic and feasible.
  • Include your volunteers when developing your plan to ensure inclusion and buy-in.
  • Break the rules every once in awhile. Don’t be afraid to do the thing that you’ve always been told won’t work. Just do it more creatively or with a twist!
  • Don’t waste face to face. Collect testimonials at every event to use in your marketing. Think about recording video testimonials. And conduct focus groups. You KNOW you have a question you’d like to put to your members, so do it!
  • When contacting prospects or new members, send “from” members of your membership committee. It will be more personal than coming from the association.
  • Experts say the list contributes 40% to your success, the offer and 40%, and your creative just 20%. We get most excited about what it looks like, but it’s not about how pretty it looks. It’s about what you offer and who you offer it to.
  • Don’t dump all the membership benefits on your new members at once, and don’t assume your existing members know everything your association offers them. Look for opportunities to remind them on your website, emails, social channels, and print materials.
  • At least once a year, mail something first-class, Address Correction Requested, to your entire prospect list to update moves and address changes.
  • Integrate your membership marketing into EVERYTHING you do!

For the tips presented at CalSAE, see my slides:

Posted in conferences, marketing, membership, presentations | 1 Comment

What I’m Reading

Posted in blog roundup, innovation, leadership, marketing, membership, social media | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

10 Tips for Creating Better Marketing Pieces

Missed my Association 101 #10in20 webinar sharing 10 tips to create better association marketing pieces on Friday, March 14?

Never fear!

The archived recording is ready and free to view/listen to here (where you can also download the 10 tips handout).

Or you can just review the slides:


Posted in marketing, presentations, webinars | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Always the Last to Know: Blog Topic Generator

Got a blog? Occasionally run out of ideas for what to write ON your blog?

Hubspot to the rescue!

They have a free online blog topic generator – you give them a few nouns that are things you’d like to write about, they give you a week’s worth of potential blogging topics.

For instance I plugged in associations, membership, and retention and got:

Hubspot blog topic generator results

Not too shabby – well, OK, I’d probably pass on the Miley Cyrus one, but the others could be quite interesting!

Posted in cool technology | Tagged , | Leave a comment