Happy New Year!

Here is a thoughtful quote on which to end the year.

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” 1

I wish you and those you care about a peaceful and joyful 2010.

1. Albert Einstein (German born American Physicist who developed the special and general theories of relativity. Nobel Prize for Physics in 1921. 1879-1955)

Is a Freemium Membership in Your Future?

Does it make sense to have a free introductory membership to capture a larger share of your market and then work on moving these members up to a paying level of membership?

Clearly the Freemium concept is one that is growing and can make sense depending on your situation. The concept is based on the economics of abundance. Here is a video that outlines this economic concept.

The Freemium Blog lists four characteristics that would indicate if an organization could successfully use the Freemium model.

1. You have to have a quality, free product that people would want.

2. Your product should have little or no marginal cost. For example, offering online only membership might be done with very little marginal cost.

3. You need a big potential audience. Only a percentage of those who take the free offer will convert to a paid membership, so you need to be sure the economics work for you.

4. You have to have premium membership or additional products to upgrade the member to from the free membership.

Here is another article that I thought you might find of interest on calculating the economics behind various types of membership/customer relationships. It is presented from a for profit, web membership perspective.

The article, Using the Freemium Model of Membership Marketing for Business Success, looks at the economics of four types of relationship with a customer.

Traditional Product Sales – Offering a single transaction to a customer without an ongoing relationship.
Recurring Membership – Offering a monthly membership fee tied to a purchase.
Single Payment Membership – Offering an annual membership fee tied to a purchase.
Freemium Membership – Offering a free initial membership with an option to upgrade to a paid membership.

I am not necessarily recommending any of the strategies above. Although I think that de-bundling from a membership approach to a transactional approach would be unwise. But my thinking in sharing these is to remind us to step back and look at our membership product to see if it still makes sense the way it is configured. Are there other ways of going to market that should be explored?

Feel free to share any of these that you have tried by posting your thoughts here.

Belonging: The Power of Membership Marketing

Why is membership such a powerful mechanism to build relationship? Because properly understood, membership can build the platform of common vision, values, and valuables to produce belonging.

This desire to belong is beautifully explained by Simon Sinek in his analysis of an old Dr. Seuss story.

“In his 1961 story about the Sneetches, Dr. Seuss introduced us to two groups of Sneetches, one with stars on their bellies and the other with none. The ones without stars wanted desperately to get stars so they could feel like they fit in. They were willing to go to extreme lengths and pay larger and larger sums of money simply to feel like they were part of a group. But only Sylvester McMonkey McBean, the man whose machine puts ‘stars upon thars,’ profited from the Sneetches’ desire to fit in.

As with so many things, Dr. Suess explained it best. The Sneetches perfectly capture a very basic human need – the need to belong. Our need to belong is not rational, but it is a constant that exists across all people in all cultures. It is a feeling we get when those around us share our values and beliefs. When we feel like we belong we feel connected and we feel safe. As humans we crave the feeling and we seek it out.”1

Do you agree that belonging is a basic human need? Is membership a way to help meet this need?

1. Simon Sinek, Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, Penguin Group, 2009, page 53.

Your Feedback Requested

Over the next couple of weeks, I am beginning to work on the questionnaire for the 2010 version of the Membership Marketing Benchmarking Survey.

As I get started, I would appreciate your feedback on what new benchmarking data might be of help to you and your organization. Some portions of the survey will be repeated from this year to allow for trend analysis, but I also want to add new elements that give you statistical data for questions you might have.

So if you have the opportunity, please feel free post a comment here with your suggestions of any membership marketing areas for which you want additional benchmarking information.

If you would like to take another look at the 2009 Report, here is the link to download a copy: http://www.marketinggeneral.com/accessWp.asp.

My goal is to build the questionnaire over the holidays and your feedback will be a big help.

Improving Attendance using Content, Frequency and Multiple Channels instead of Marketing Bulk

A recent article by a reader and commenter of this blog, Darryl Walter, had some important insights that I wanted to share.

The article focused on promoting an annual conference, but as we have discussed in previous posts the concepts of content, frequency and channels are applicable to most all marketing efforts.

Walter shared the substantial increase in meeting attendance that he was able to achieve at The Wildlife Society by strategically reallocating his marketing resources.

“In the past, The Wildlife Society had mailed a 32-page pre-conference registration book to members and recently expired members.”1  But this year, he did away with the big mailer. Instead he refocused his budget and initiated three new techniques.

• He launched a conference web site and drove prospects to it using a weekly conference e-newsletter. It started going out ten weeks prior to the meeting and highlighted a different aspect of the event.
• Instead of one mailing, he sent out three low cost direct mail pieces that pushed prospects to the web site.
• Finally, the week that early bird registration was due to close, he sent out daily emails pushing for the sale.

He also expanded his reach by going beyond current members to “deeply lapsed expired members, as well as former non-member attendees.” 2

We all have limited budgets and need to decide how to use them in the most economical way possible. When you have the choice, select more touches in a concentrated timeframe to people who are aware of who you are and what you offer.

1.  Darryl Walter, Tips for Promoting your Annual Conference, DMAW Marketing Advents, December, 2009, page 7.

2. Ibid

Improve Response by Testing Email Subject Lines

In my recent post on market testing, I mentioned testing email subject lines. This is perhaps the easiest and fastest test that you can do. In a day, you can determine which subject line get’s the most opens and clicks.

And since you only need 40 opens to give you a pretty good statistical read on what subject line works best, you can test subject lines with a small subset of your email list, read responses, and then deploy the rest of the list using the top performing subject line.

So what are some subject lines that you might want to try testing?

You will find that simple and direct work best. Typically you want to make and offer or give a promise. It also works to present a knowledge gap. Highlight something the recipient should know, but may not know.

The VR Marketing Blog offers “29 Great B2B Subject Lines”. Some of them include the following:

• “Save Money and Look Like a Star to Your Boss
• How to make it onto your buyer's short list
• Complimentary Webinar: [insert webinar name]
• Breakfast & Secrets for How to [insert problem you solve or product you sell]
• Success Tip: 5 Ways to a Better [xxxx]
• Register Today: [inert name of event] Nov. 5 2009
• Entry deadline fast approaching
• New White Paper: Best Practices for [Insert problem and solution here]
• Success Tip #1: [Insert Tip Headline Here]
• Extended for a Day: Get Free Shipping Through Friday
• Your Weekly Alert: [insert topic here]
• Hear Exclusive Research Presented on [insert what your event is about] - Register Now!
• Inside: [hot topic in your newsletter you think will get the most opens]
• Save $200: [insert event here] Early Bird Registration Ends [insert date here]”

What are your best performing subject lines? Please feel free to share them here.

MGI President Rick Whelan Receives Direct Marketing Association of Washington Distinguished Achievement Award

For over 22 years, I have had the privilege to work with my colleague Rick Whelan. So it was an honor to be a part of the award ceremony this week when he received the Award for Distinguished Achievement. Congratulations Rick!

Here is the press release on the award.

Alexandria, Virginia — Marketing General Inc. (MGI) President Rick Whelan is the 2009winner of the Direct Marketing Association of Washington's (DMAW) Award for Distinguished Achievement (ADA).

The ADA is the highest honor DMAW bestows on an individual and recognizes professional achievement, involvement with DMAW, contributions to furthering industry knowledge, and promoting careers in direct marketing, association marketing, and membership marketing.

Whelan is a DMAW past president and currently serves on the DMAW Educational Foundation board of directors. He has 30 years of experience in marketing and advertising for both non-profit and for-profit organizations and businesses. He is a frequent speaker on association marketing for national associations and has written numerous articles in the field. During his tenure as DMAW president, he brought the Production Club of Washington under the association's umbrella and led the adoption of The DMA Ethics Code of Behavior. In addition, he has also chaired the American Society of Association Executives' Membership Section.

As president of Marketing General Inc., Whelan oversees a company of 60 marketing specialists who together have the responsibility for the day-to-day strategic marketing and creative needs of 45 organizations in 16 states and the District of Columbia.

Whelan's professional expertise is in program development and creative strategies, membership acquisition, program operations, and organizational management. He has worked closely with dozens of education, public service, and health care associations, and has served clients in trade, professional, and fundraising organizations.