Postal Options for Global Membership Marketing

To a large extent, membership marketing still relies on direct mail to acquire new members and renew them. But one of the biggest challenges in global membership marketing is the postal expense surrounding these activities.

You can use the USPS Postage Price Calculator to calculate just how much it will cost you to mail just about any piece to any country in the world. For example, if you drop a one ounce letter into the international mail stream, you will pay $0.94 per letter. Considering mailing up to three ounces at non-profit rates in the US is $0.175, it is easy to see how the cost to service a member outside the US can be expensive.

The post office makes some other less costly international mailing options available for larger scale mailings. These are priced by piece and pound and carry additional requirements. These mailing options include:
  1. International Priority Airmail (IPA). This equivalent to First Class Mail in the US and claims a 3-7 business day arrival to the delivery country. Each IPA mailing must weigh a minimum of 11 pounds.
  2. International Surface Air-Lift (ISAL). This is equivalent to Standard Mail service and claims a 7-14 business day delivery. Each ISAL mailing must weigh a minimum of 50 pounds.
  3. Global Bulk Economy (GBE): This method uses surface transportation. Mail is presented to the International Bulk Mail Center and then dispatched by the USPS® via surface transportation. Delivery times average 21 to 35 days after the mail arrives at the USPS gateway. There is a minimum volume requirement of 100 pounds per mailing.

But probably the most cost effective and timely method for most organizations trying to serve global members is to use one of the mailing methods above through an international mail consolidator available under the USPS Postal Qualified Wholesaler program. These companies receive additional postal discounts from the USPS and will also:

  • Pickup from local domestic mail-shop
  • Sort and separate mail by country
  • Apply bar coded postal permit
  • Bag separated mail
  • Deliver mail to the airport for transit

My production manager tells me that in a recent mailing he did to the Pacific Rim of 26,000 pieces of mail, the postage savings of using an international mail consolidator ran around $8000 in comparison to mailing independently. Here is the link to a list of companies serving as a Postal Qualified Wholesaler.

How is your organization acquiring and serving global members?

Staying the Course during the Tough Times in Membership Marketing

In its annual survey, Direct magazine found that 45% of responding companies projected to increase their direct marketing spending this year while only 7% planned to decrease marketing spending. This was despite the fact that only 25% of responders anticipated their direct marketing margins to increase this year.[1]

In other words, these companies are choosing to sail into the head wind. How does Direct explain this? They say,

“In hard times direct marketers usually mine their customer base and leave prospecting for better days. So why are DMers, and especially consumer marketers boosting prospecting budgets? One reason is that house files have to be replenished regardless of the economic conditions.”[2]

Is there a lesson in this for non-profits? I think that there is.

Adding new members and customers is essential for growth. Therefore, no matter what the economy throws at you, retreating really is not a solution. Staying aggressive and finding ways to market smarter is the best course of action.

Here is one real world example of an organization that I admire. It is a trade association serving small businesses. They recently launch a membership campaign to acquire new members. They tested six mailing lists split over four direct mail packages. Overall the promotion generated only about 30% of projected returns. Many groups would give up at this point.

But buried deep within the responses that did come in were some golden nuggets. One of the four test packages actually made a profit. And within that package two of the lists did particularly well. The association’s decision on future marketing: let’s press forward and test more to find the keys to additional response.

If you declare that growth is your only option as an organization, then giving up is simply not acceptable. Instead, lack of response is your call to working harder and smarter.

[1] Direct, June 2008, p S 4 and S 10.
[2] Direct, June 2008, p1.

Improving Membership Retention through Automatic Renewal Programs

There is a way to increase renewal rates without adding more member value or changing your marketing efforts. You can raise rates by adding an automatic renewal program to your payment options.

Time after time, we find in lapsed member interviews and surveys that many members leave an organization for reasons of omission instead of commission. They did not dislike the organization, they simply forgot to renew.

That’s why associations have experienced success by adding an automatic renewal program where members actually have to proactively stop membership. It is not unusual for automatic renewal members to renew at 10 points above those not in the program.

Under this system, a member is given the option when they join or renew for an annual -- or sometimes even monthly -- credit card or EFT debits made to their account for dues payments.

Here is the publically available language that one organization uses on their web site to set up an automatic annual renewal program.

“Yes, I'd like to take advantage of AOPA's Automatic Annual Renewal Program and save $4 off my dues this year. I understand that each year you will automatically charge my annual membership dues to my credit card unless you receive a request from me to withdraw from this program. Enrollment in AOPA's AAR program will convey 2 sweepstakes entries to the enrolling member.”

Legally and ethically there are also issues to consider in launching this type of program. Rather than go into detail about them, here is a link to guidelines in the circulation industry that are used in order to establish an advance consent or automatic renewal program. Many of the points apply to membership.

Also be aware that an automatic renewal program will require additional administrative time and attention. On the June 13, 2008, ASAE membership listserv, Lillian Israel, the Director of Membership for the Association for Computing Machinery, wisely shared these experiences and cautions. “My association just began using automatic credit card renewal on our online renewals . . . there was a large pick-up of the service by our members. The only con, and you might not even term it that, is coming up with a strategy on the process used to notify members of expired cards, getting the updated credit card information, naturally making sure the credit card information on file is encrypted in a really smart way.”

If you are not looking at automatic renewal programs, it is something to put on your list. For those of you who have it in place, what has been your experience?

Downloads for Popular Requests are Now Available

I have had a number of requests for copies of some recent articles and presentations. I love to get emails, but to save time, I have put the most requested items online for easy downloads. So here they are:

Raise Dues without Lowering Membership, Forum magazine, March, 2008. As we face more inflationary pressures, you may be faced with raising prices or dues. Here is the feedback I received from over 300 association professionals on the best practices in this area.

Improving Your Membership Renewal Program, presented at ASAE and the Center’s 2008 Marketing and Membership Conference. Membership retention is foundational in membership development. This presentation includes both theory and case studies from one of my colleagues and our clients.

The Optimized Membership Program, MGI White Paper, June, 2007. Sometimes in membership marketing, it helps to step back and look at your entire program. This white paper covers each of the major areas in getting and keeping members.

The Economics of Membership, presented at the DMAW Association Days. I cannot understate how important it is to grasp the financial aspects in membership development. Understanding and being able to calculate renewal rates, membership tenure, lifetime value, the steady state of membership, and your maximum acquisition cost or membership margins are the key tools to succeeding in our profession. They are outlined in this presentation.

Hope you find these helpful. Feel free to post any questions or feedback.

My Summer Reading

The first day of summer in the northern hemisphere is the day of the year when the sun is the farthest north. This is June 21st. I love long summer days, so it is a great time of year for me.

Since summer is ready to begin, I am ready to pick out a book for my summer reading. I am a slow reader, so it will be just one book this summer.

Should I pick a witty and humorous novel or a top business book on social networking? How about reading a historical or biographical tome like the 944 page Team of Rivals, by Doris Kearns Godwin (my very enjoyable summer reading a couple of years ago)? No, my pick this year is the Handbook of Christian Apologetics: Hundreds of Answers to Critical Questions by Peter Kreeft and Ronald K. Tacelli.

Here is my thought, what bigger questions are there to consider than some of the following issues:

  • The existence of God
  • Faith and reason
  • Providence and free will
  • Miracles
  • The problem of evil
  • The Bible's historical reliability
  • Life after death
  • Heaven and hell
  • Salvation
  • Christianity and other religions
  • Objective truth

I have some ideas on a number of these issues. But as I have been asked questions lately by my very inquisitive daughter, I have come to see that I do not know as much as I think I do.

So it is back to the books: A look at some of the deeper questions about life.

What will you be reading this summer?

Case Study: Does this Marketing Stuff Really Work?

Can negative membership trends really be turned around through putting membership marketing best practices in place? Can marketing really make a difference even if the value proposition, dues pricing, and product offerings don’t change?

The answer is YES!

Clearly, any non-profit should offer the best value, optimum price and top product that it can. But just fixing the marketing component can have a big influence.

That’s why I appreciated the presentation done by Lori Jordan, Director of Association Services, for the Water Environment Federation (WEF) at the ASAE and the Center’s recent Marketing and Membership Conference.

According to her presentation, WEF had seen membership consistently decline beginning from 2001 to 2006. However, over the past three years through the deployment of an aggressive membership acquisition program and development of a multi-channel, high frequency renewal system, WEF membership began to climb.

In addition to adding new members through acquisition efforts, the new renewal system has helped the retention rate increase by an impressive 7 points.

The WEF story is an encouragement that there is hope for organizations that are experiencing a membership decline. If you would like a copy of the full presentation, please send me an email. My address is on the sidebar of the blog or you can reach me through LinkedIn.

In full disclosure, please note that WEF has been a client of my firm, Marketing General, Inc., for the past three years.

What successful turn around stories have you seen? Please feel free to share your comments.

Managing Global Membership – One Organization’s Philosophy

ASAE and the Center’s Marketing and Membership Conference had some very useful sessions.

I found comments from Dan Rex, Deputy Executive Director and Director of Communications and Marketing for Toastmasters International to be particularly of interest.

He spoke about his organizations global growth and the philosophy that they have followed. Toastmasters “now have nearly 226,000 members in 11,500 clubs in 92 countries.”

It appears to me from the presentation that Toastmasters is following a pretty tightly controlled global strategy. For example, Toastmasters has resisted the temptation to establish offices outside of the US. All staff is based out of their California office.

Additionally, they have made the decision to provide limited customer service hours from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm Pacific Time and customer service is only in English. Their policy states that “Toastmasters International does not have the World Headquarters staff resources or financial sources at this time to provide oral or written translation services. Communications sent to or sent by World Headquarters will be in English. It is understood, however, that change to policy will be considered in the future as the translation environment changes.”

Toastmasters has done only limited translation of their extensive materials driven by specific numbers of clubs in a language group. I saw Spanish, French, and Chinese transitions on their web site. Wisely, Toastmasters also tightly their trademark and copyrights with a clearly outlined policy and pro-active enforcement.

They do, however, give volunteers and prospective clubs many downloadable tools and resources to help them get started. In essence they have made membership self service through the web. And volunteers from around the world have been the key to launching new clubs and producing their growth and success.

By the way, here is a link to their 10 Tips for public speaking.

What do you think of the global membership philosophy employed by this group?

Great Summer Meetings

Graduations are finishing up. That means it is now summer!

What are you doing for professional development this summer? There are some great events coming up that – based on your location and interests -- you may want to consider attending. I have listed them below in alphabetical order.

AAMSE - Advancing Professionalism in Medical Society Management. The AAMSE Annual Conference is in Minneapolis, MN, July 23-26, 2008.

ASAE & the Center for Association Leadership. The Annual Meeting and Exposition, San Diego, CA, August 16-19, 2008.

Association Forum of chicagoland. Association Week 2008, June 17-20, 2008.

CESSE - Council of Engineering and Scientific Society Executives. The CESSE 2008 Annual Conference, Detroit, MI, July 15-18, 2008.

DMAW - Direct Marketing Association of Washington. The 2008 Bridge Conference, Washington, DC, July 23-25, 2008.

The summer calendar did not yet appear to be on the web site for NYSAE. Use the link to check for updates from NYSAE - New York Society of Association Executives.

Either I or one of my colleagues will be speaking at or attending all of these events. Feel free to comment below on the meetings that you plan to attend and share your recommendations from past conferences.

Yes, that is my son -- pictured above -- speaking at his high school graduation and my daughter in the foreground signing for the deaf and hearing impaired.