In Memoriam

Last Monday I received a call from my client that Connie Penne, the Vice President of Membership for the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) had passed away suddenly over the weekend.

The staff at NBAA and my team was shocked and grieved by the loss. Connie was an intelligent and accomplished marketer. Just this summer she was a presenter at the DMAW Bridge Conference. Before joining NBAA, she was the Director of Member Data and Strategic Services at AARP.

But I will remember Connie most as a person of kindness.

I still remember calling Connie after we had made a big mistake on our first marketing campaign that we did for her back in 2005. I explained what we had done wrong knowing the embarrassment and problems that it would cause her and her organization. I still remember her response to my call. She thanked me for my honesty, accepted my apologies, and said “let’s get this fixed for our next promotion”. We continued to enjoy a great working relationship over the years.

Connie is survived by her husband and three children.

For those of you who knew Connie, I wanted to let you know that the memorial service has been scheduled for Saturday, September 6, at 7 pm. at College Parkway Baptist Church, 301 College Parkway, Arnold, MD, 21012. There will be a reception following the service at the church.NBAA has been working with College Parkway Baptist Church to establish a Memorial Fund for Connie. Contributions to the fund will help the Penne family address a variety of immediate and long-term financial challenges. Persons wishing to make a contribution to the Fund may do so by making a check payable to “The Connie Penne Memorial Fund.” Please note that contributions to the Connie Penne Memorial Fund are NOT tax deductable.

Mail should be addressed to:

The Connie Penne Memorial Fund
C/o College Parkway Baptist Church
P.O. Box 859
Arnold, Maryland 21012

Connie was a woman of faith and was very involved with the faith-based organization Samaritans Purse, particularly their “Operation Christmas Child” effort. Persons wishing to make a tax deductable contribution to Operation Christmas Child in Connie’s name may use the following link.

The link allows a donation to be given in memory of an individual.

If you knew Connie and want to add a comment here, please feel free to do so.

Ten Top Membership Acquisition Offers

Many of us are enjoying watching the Olympics with the “thrill of victory and the agony of defeat”. But at least one marketer is frustrated with the amount spent on the TV ads without ROI.

Denny Hatch writes in Target Marketing, “Nothing—nothing!—bugs me more than advertising writers who call TV ads “winners” because they’re the “best-remembered” and/or “most-liked.”Did the ad sell anything? What was the ROI? . . . If you want a response from a prospect, it’s imperative that you make an offer. No offer, no response.”[1]

Hatch makes a good point. It is easy to get lost in creating memorable and entertaining marketing communications without being sure to focus on effectiveness. Just like the Olympic competition, your marketing can be set up to measure performance and show a clear winner and loser.

That’s why good membership marketing promotions include a compelling offer and ask for a response.

Here are 10 of the top membership marketing offers that have worked for my clients.

1. A discount almost always is the top offer in membership marketing. The amount of the discount must be appropriate to the product/situation. Generally a discount should be 15%-35% and move the rate below a price point. In membership acquisition, a properly developed discount will produce both more new members and more total revenue.

2. A "no-risk" or “no-obligation” offer will almost always out pull a "hard" (pay now) offer. It usually works best with organizations that have a lot of "mail box" benefits and higher priced dues. Accepting the no-risk offer includes the right for an invoice to be sent out and either paid or cancelled by the responder.

3. A product voucher offering new members $75 to $100 in savings on any purchase from the association can make a lot of sense. It has a high perceived value and helps the new members engage the organization with a second purchase right after joining. Typically, these vouchers will see a 20% redemption rate. So in theory the voucher can be 5 times higher than a discount.

4. Sweepstakes increase front-end response by 35% or more, but may decrease total paid response. Sweepstakes work best for impulse items, e.g., magazine based membership, contribution to a charity.

5. Premiums (free gifts) rarely beat discounts, but off-the-shelf items can be used at such little added expense that they make economic sense. The best premiums appeal to the self-interest of the reader (e.g., special reports or a salary surveys).

6. Offering more of the product can increase response (e.g., 15 months of membership for the price of 12). But generally this works best in markets where the product is already well known to the reader (e.g., qualified prospects, and former members).

7. A free trial offer will usually out pull a hard offer by at least 3 to 1 on the front end and 1.5 to 1 on the back end. But the key to making it work is developing a back-end conversion series to move the trial members to paid members.

8. A shorter term offer (e.g., 6 months membership) will pull up gross response, but beware; it may not increase response enough to cover the added costs of the extra renewal and loss of some buyers after the initial term sale.

9. Guarantees (i.e., money back if not satisfied) has become a basic “have to have” offer that is added to increase the confidence of the buyer. There is usually very little redemption on a money-back guarantee. If members do not like the product, they simply do not renew.

10. Installment billing with EFT or automatic credit card charges. This option turns a $239 membership into an easy monthly payment of $19.91. You do not pay for your cell phone or electricity up front, why should you have to pay your dues in one lump sum?

Okay, here is a bonus item.

11. Every offer should include an "upgrade option." An appropriate upgrade can attract 10% to 30% of the respondents to it. Offer a member an additional newsletter or an association book club option. We discussed some options in Growing Revenue through Membership Packaging.

Any special offer takes some time to make sure that back end operations support what is being offered up front.

Would you add any additional special offers here? What has worked best for you?

[1] Denny Hatch, “The Madness of Advertising on TV Blowing $750,000 in 30 seconds”, Target Marketing, August 19, 2008: Vol. 4, Issue No. 46

Strategic Planning and Membership Development

Once a track record is established, membership marketing can be fairly predictable. Acquisition response rates to proven lists and renewal rates on a membership base are statistically predicable.

However, this does not mean that a membership program can be put on auto pilot. Continually testing new approaches in copy, offers, formats, and channels is required to keep a program healthy.

Marketing works best when it flows and adjusts like a team in a basketball game instead of like a scripted theatrical performance.

That’s why I very much appreciate the perspective in the recent article, “The Perils of Strategic Planning”, in Associations Now.

“Flexibility and fluidity, not strategic plans, are the keys to success . . . the ability to respond quickly without moving through layers of committees for approval to adjust the plan.”[1]

This may sound basic, but I have seen strategic plans, bylaws, and operational procedures shackle programs that otherwise might be thriving. Membership development works best when the marketer keeps a finger on the pulse of the market. As new tactics prove successful, the strategy should be adjusted to respond to the new reality.

[1] James F. Hollan, CAE, “The Perils of Strategic Planning”, Associations Now, (August, 2008): 72 – 78.

Another Good Example of Group Membership

Last week I wrote advocating offering group or bulk memberships. This membership packaging system comes in a number of variations.

One package I have come across that I like is offered by APICS The Association for Operations Management. Their web site describes the group and enterprise membership package this way.

APICS group membership enables up to five employees at the same company location to have full APICS membership privileges, including member publications, access to members-only Web content, and savings on APICS products and services. Group memberships are company-owned and transferable from one employee to another at the same location. A company may purchase multiple group memberships. Group members enjoy the convenience of a single billing contact.”

It appears that APICS does offer some discounts for these group members. The group membership is purchased in sets of five memberships. The typical per member pricing is $200, including chapter membership, but the pricing for enterprise membership is:

• 25 to 99 members – 5% ($190)
• 100 and above – 10% (180)

From the latest data on APICS web site as of March 2008, there were 1,496 Groups Site Companies with 7,480 Group Site Members. Group members made up 17% of APICS 44,017 members.

I do not have data on this, but I would expect that APICS enjoys a superior renewal rate on group memberships. They also should find that the initial ROI on acquiring group memberships compared to selling individual memberships should be higher.

APICS has established a goal of growing membership to over 53,000 by 2010. To achieve this growth, a lot of time and attention will need to be spent on acquisition and retention, but group membership is one important tool to help build stable, long-term growth.

Associations “Get it” that it is all about the Relationship

If you read this blog frequently, you will know that I believe that membership association executives are really relationship marketing professionals. Just like transferrable association job titles for director of IT, marketing, human resources, the relationship marketing role is one that we should highlight as needed and important both to non-profits and for profits.

So it is interesting to see that although for profits want to build relationships with their customers, many do not get it yet. I think that it is fair to say that all associations have some type of welcome program for new members.

However, it appears not to always be the case in the corporate world. “Two recent studies – one by deliverability firm Return Path, another by e-mail service provider Silverpop – found that a third of online merchants fail to send any e-mail to new subscribers within 30 days of sign-up. Even more astonishing, 60% of online marketers don’t send ‘welcome’ e-mails to new registrants, according to Return Path.”[1]

[1] Ken Magill, “You Can’t Even Say Hello? DMers that don’t send ‘welcome’ e-mails are just begging for trouble”, Direct, July 2008, p. 33.