3 Tips on How to Improve the Presentation of Your Membership Product

Whether it is a meal at a restaurant, a theatric performance, or a piece of art, presentation is important.

How membership is presented is also important when promoting to prospective members.

So when I came across some behavioral concepts from the consumer market in the Mckinsey Quarterly magazine, I thought that they could be applied to how we market and present our membership product.  Here they are. 

1. Offering payment terms – Many organizations find that adding a bill-me to a membership promotion or offering installment billing can improve responses. In fact, over 45% of associations report that they now offer a dues installment payment option. Similarly “retailers know that allowing consumers to delay payment can dramatically increase their willingness to buy. One reason delayed payments work is perfectly logical: the time value of money makes future payments less costly than immediate ones. But there is a second, less rational basis for this phenomenon. Payments, like all losses, are viscerally unpleasant. But emotions experienced in the present—now—are especially important. Even small delays in payment can soften the immediate sting of parting with your money and remove an important barrier to purchase.”1.

2. Offering a tiered membership with lower and higher priced options – I have commented in the past on the benefits of developing a tiered (or multi-level) membership product. These tiers allow a member to pick the best value for themselves and allow the organization to maximize its share of wallet. As an example from the retail world, “many restaurants find that the second-most-expensive bottle of wine is very popular—and so is the second-cheapest. Customers who buy the former feel they are getting something special but not going over the top. Those who buy the latter feel they are getting a bargain but not being cheap.” 2.

3. Bundling diverse additional services into a membership package – The opposite problem of having only one membership category is having a membership with lots of choices like interest sections, local chapters, and optional periodicals. This complexity can actually reduce response rates. In fact, “reducing the number of options makes people likelier not only to reach a decision but also to feel more satisfied with their choice.”3.

Trying new ways to present membership really comes down to making the buying decision easier for a prospective member. We make it easier for them to buy if we offer payment over time and if we give a member a product that both meets a member's diverse needs, but also is not too complex or cumbersome to purchase.

What other suggestions do you have to better present membership in your organization?

1. Ned Welch, A marketer’s guide to behavioral economics, McKinsey Quarterly, February 2010.
2. Ibid.
3. Ibid.

3 Membership Marketing New Year’s Resolutions

The start of the New Year is a good time to step back and look at the big picture and put in place some initiatives that can really make a difference. So here are three resolutions that you may want to make for a more successful membership year in 2011.

1. Adequately Fund Membership Marketing – Just like putting money into retirement savings, investing in membership pays dividends for years to come. A new member produces a long term income stream. However, as I meet with membership organizations, I am continually surprised at the budgets that have been set aside for marketing. Almost every organization wants to grow their membership, but rarely do I see budgets that are tied to the lifetime value of a potential member. Lack of funding means many organizations are leaving money on the table and missing their potential by not crunching the numbers to determine how much they should be investing in getting more members.

2. Initiate and Cultivate Potential Member Relationships – We find that a promotion sent to a prospective member who provided an opt-in to receive more information from an organization will garner up to four times the response than the next best list. To gather this opt-in, we offer free content from our clients in exchange for contact information (an opt-in). The content offer may be presented through SEM, online ads, or to visitors to the organizations website or social media sites. The key is to initiate the lead and then cultivate the relationship.

3. Test and Track Membership Marketing Efforts – If you want to double or triple your marketing returns over the next year, then setting up marketing tests with a control and test cell is your best opportunity. You can test what marketing list is most responsive, what message is most compelling, and what offer best encourages action. To test you need to code the outbound marketing pieces and track the responses as they are returned. To capture un-coded responses, match back returns to your promotion file.

These membership marketing resolutions are summed up well by a comment from one of my survey respondent who wrote:

“When you actually do a recruitment campaign, they join. When you engage with your members, they stay. When you analyze the data, you find a nugget of information that can change all of your preconceived ideas.”

What are your membership marketing resolutions for 2011?

Can We Talk? Join an Interactive Discussion on the Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report

For those readers located in the Baltimore/Washington metropolitan area, I wanted to invite you to attend an interactive session that I am leading for the Maryland Society of Association Executives discussing the results from our Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report.

The meeting is on Wednesday, January 12th. If you have read the report and have comments or questions or simply want to learn more about the research, you can sign up using this link.

How Long does the Average Member Stay with an Association?

There is actually a formula to calculate how long members on average continue their membership. It is called calculating the Average Tenure of a member.

Here is how you can calculate this for your membership. Take the lapse rate of the membership (the opposite of the renewal rate) in a decimal form and divide it into the number 1. So a membership organization with an 80% renewal rate would have a lapse rate of 20% and an average tenure of five years (1/.20= 5).

Another way of looking at this calculation is if you have a 20% lapse rate, your membership will turn over every five years.

So what would be the “average”, Average Tenure for membership organizations?

In our 2010 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report with over 400 participating associations, our average renewal rate was 83%. So this would put the Average Tenure of a member at 5.88 years for the participating organizations.

Please be aware that this is an average for the participating organizations. Some reported renewal rates less than 50% and others more than 90%.

Knowing the Average Tenure of your membership is a crucial data point to use in marketing planning and making long term budget projections.

Does it Make Sense to Hire a Consultant to help your Membership Marketing Team?

In an article in the November issue of ASAE’s Consultants Connection newsletter (member sign in required), I make the case that there are at least five good reasons to add a consultant to your team.

1. To supplement existing staff.
2. To bring perspective and objectivity.
3. To provide a proven methodology.
4. To raise accountability.
5. To share special knowledge or skills.

As a consultant, I have an opinion, but I would enjoy your feedback.  What do you think? Do consultants play a role in helping organizations with membership marketing or should this be entirely an inside job? Have you used consultants successfully? What positions on your marketing team do you look to fill with a consultant? What do you look for in choosing a consultant?

Please feel free to share your thoughts.

Using Social Media to Recruit Staff

A former client contact of mine helps to manage a blog and related social media to recruit staff for the company where she works -- Sodexo.  I think it is a really creative use of a blog, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Here is the link. If you get a chance, take a couple of minutes to browse all of the tools that are deployed.

The Top 25 Lessons Learned in Membership Marketing: 200 Marketing Pro’s Share their Wisdom

We asked 200 membership professionals to share in their own words what were the most important or successful lessons that they have learned in membership marketing. I have reviewed all the comments and have distilled these direct quotes down to the top 25 responses. I think you will find them inspiring and insightful.

If you would like to see all 200 responses, please email me and I can forward them to you.

1. A multi-channel approach is best. There isn't any silver bullet. A variety of techniques, well executed elicits success.

2. You can't spend too much time or money on marketing.

3. When you actually do a recruitment campaign, they join. When you engage with your members, they stay. When you analyze the data, you find a nugget of information that can change all of your preconceived ideas.

4. There is no such thing as a Non-Member....only potential members. You must keep trying and promoting; they will never buy - if you do not (personally) believe in what you are trying to sell; this includes the Association itself...not just the 'goods' of the Association offers.

5. Members need to be reminded multiple times about their membership dues. It always amazes me that you can contact a member 7 times and then 1 year later, they are "surprised" they are no longer a member of our Association.

6. Personal contact with people. Connecting with individuals at conferences, meetings, in their workplace, or on the phone has been the most successful for us. Staying connected through e-mail was second in our marketing plan.

7. Market early, market often!

8. Like the economy, membership marketing goes through cycles. You need to make sure your message speaks to what is motivating people in tough times and be prepared for when the changes come.

9. Focus on what makes your association unique. What niche do you fill that no one else can - market that to potential members?

10. Positive word-of-mouth is worth its weight in gold. If you can get your existing members to recruit new folks then you can just sit back and count the cash.

11. That the membership model is rapidly changing as a result of increased access to free information.

12. 80/20/10. Staying motivated even when you see low membership involvement. Remembering that 80% will not be active members, 20% will be active participants and 10% will take on leadership roles.

13. It's not easy.

14. It is incumbent upon any association to first provide value to its membership and then to communicate that value to the members on an ongoing basis. Building community and member engagement is the key to successful membership marketing.

15. Membership marketing is not a silo unto the membership department alone. It requires coordination across multiple departments, lest it appear that the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing. This remains an ongoing challenge in my association.

16. This survey has reminded me of what I have learned, and ashamed to say not implementing half of it. I'm the only full-time staff, but I know better.

17. That there are very few "new" ideas and listening to what others are doing is the best way to improve your business.

18. The most important lesson I've learned is test EVERYTHING! Also, agility is paramount. You have to be agile enough to change your strategy, approach or messaging quickly.

19. Never stop doing it. We are seeing results today of marketing we continued to do through 09 even though there was a downturn.

20. Direct mail works for our association. And it works especially well if you continue to test your campaign ideas. The process to change is constant and important. We've learned what works well with young members, what works well with older members, whether advocacy is important to certain contingencies, and more.

21. I have learned to apply the same discipline in marketing as we do in software/standards development.

22. You must continually examine your marketing mix to ensure that you are maximizing ROI, utilizing the most cost-effective channels for different audience segments, and placing retention and acquisition efforts and expenditures in the most appropriate balance to meet organizational goals.

23. Without accurate and comprehensive performance data and statistics on membership activities (financial, marketing, costs, lifetime value, recruitment, retention, on boarding, etc.) it is virtually impossible to determine the health and success of the membership program.

24. 1. Test new things and track everything--it's the only way you'll know what works and doesn't work. 2. Recruiting new members by direct mail trumps e-mail marketing 100 times over. 3. Many of those in management do not understand the value of marketing--or the difference between good and bad marketing efforts/techniques. So, it's important to educate them and toot your own horn to help them understand. But don't get your feelings hurt if they do not! 4. Member testimonials add considerable value and spark to all.

25. The right list and the right offers are key to prospecting. Retaining members is the work of the organization. Delivering the value promised through marketing is key to renewals.

Okay, here is a 26th bonus comment.

26. Most important lesson is how critical membership marketing is to our success (and how frustrating it is that we don't have enough staff to do it well.

Building Your Online Membership Lead Generation and Conversion System

In my last post, I noted the importance of building a mechanism to capture leads that come to your website through SEO, SEM, social media, third party links, or online ads.

The vast majority of visitors are not going to join the organization on their first visit to the website. However, an attractive offer of free additional information related to their search can be enticing.

Therefore, the initial goal is to get an opt-in from the visitor for future communications. This list building function can often be done by having these web searchers directed to a microsite specifically designed to capture an opt-in.

The next question is what to do with these leads and how to maximize the effectiveness of the conversion system.

One way to look at this lead to paid member conversion system is as a funnel. Each stage can be monitored and measured for optimization.

A good system might look something like this.

Responses and effectiveness can be measured at each stage of the funnel:

• What online ads, pay per click, or co-registration sites are the best sources for leads?
• What offers – free articles, newsletters, discounts, event notifications -- produce the highest opt-in rate?
• What cultivation efforts -- email, mail, phone follow-up -- produce the highest click through rates and membership sales rates?

Many membership groups make huge investments in their websites, but do not fully take advantage of the traffic that the site may produce. Adding a lead generation and conversion system to an attractive website helps maximize the economic value of the site.

Please let me know if you would like to talk more about setting up this type of program and how to optimize it.

Maximizing your Website as a Tool for Membership Recruitment

Many membership organizations invest a lot of time and energy in building web traffic through SEO and some also with SEM. But surprisingly few use a visit to a website as an opportunity to capture an opt-in from a prospective member.

Joel Book commented on this in DM News. He wrote, “Research from Web analytics technology provider Webtrends shows that on average, 95% of website visitors leave a site without indentifying who they are and taking some form of action, such as subscribing to your e-newsletter. That’s why subscriber conversion is one of the most important metrics that impacts marketing ROI.”1

When an opt-in is captured, we have found that these leads are some of the highest responding lists for membership recruitment campaigns.

So how do you get a visitor to opt-in to receiving additional information from an organization?

We recommend a concept that I call trading content for contact. This involves trading valuable information in exchange for the right to continue a dialogue with a prospective member. This information typically comes in the form of a free email newsletter or a white paper on an important topic of interest to visitors.  This process is fundemental in achieving the awarness stage of the membership lifecycle.  Here is one example of offering whitepapers or an email subscription to visitors of a website. 

If a visitor to your site desires to access valuable information, you do not have to give away the store.  It is not inappropriate to ask them to share who they are and have the opportunity to opt-in for future contact.

1. Joel Book, Advanced e-mail tactics can shed light on new customers, DM News, Strategic Content, October, 2010, page 10.

To Collaborate or Not to Collaborate that is the Question

I have a confession. I do not function well on a committee. The challenge for me is that many times, I think I know the right answer and I do not have the patience to wait for the group to come to a conclusion.

So I appreciated Joe Rominiecki’s post today on the Acronym Blog titled, “Collaboration for collaboration's sake”.

He writes, “assuming collaboration is always positive puts a greater value on process than it does on results. It ought to be the other way around. Surely collaboration is great in the right situations, but not all the time.”

So his post makes me feel a little bit better about my aversion to committees.

However, over my career I also know that over confidence can be a big trap. Often I don’t know what I don’t know. This is expressed really well in an old proverb that says, “The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who can answer sensibly” (ESV Pr. 26:16).

Which do you find the biggest challenge in your organization – too much or too little collaboration?

Why Share the Wealth through Membership Recruitment?

This past weekend, I was in Chicago doing some membership presentations and spoke with members of one group who asked, “Why should I recruit members for the organization? Aren’t I just helping my competition?”

I appreciated the honest question. Here is how I answer the question, but please feel to share your perspective.

I can think of at least six reasons to invite others to be members.

1. A competitor’s ability to find out about membership and the products and services behind them is only a click away on their computer. It is not as secret as one might think.

2. A competitor having membership information is much less important than that competitor’s ability to execution on what they have learned. Win on your ability to execute not on simply knowing something.

3. No matter how sophisticated or unsophisticated a fellow member, there is still something to learn from them through interaction as members. Ultimately, you will learn and grow from the interaction.

4. A bigger and better membership organization benefits everyone since it enables the funding and development of more services and resources for all members.

5. A bigger and better organization helps heighten the image and awareness for the entire industry.

6. Helping a competitor by sharing membership may result in an acquisition, new employee, or referral in the future for you.

Please feel free to add your thoughts in the comments section.

How to make sure the Price is Right!

Are you using price as a strategic tool to drive sales? A very high price may support the impression that you product is exclusive. A low price may help launch your product against an established competitor.
Pricing is a part of marketing and needs a strategy just like promotion and packaging.

Lynda McDaniel makes the point in her October Associations Now article, Perspectives on Association Pricing, that pricing for association products, services, and membership can sometimes receive inadequate attention. And yet, proper pricing can actually determine a product’s success or failure.

She shares some great examples from pricing strategies used by a number of associations related to membership, conference, and publications. She also highlights some of the findings from the Dues Increase Research that I did several years ago.

Here is the link to the article.

Engaging New Members to Improve Renewals

Most membership organizations will find that the most likely members not to renew are first year members. In fact, it is not unusual for new member renewal rates to be up to 20 percentage points lower than longer term member renewals.

To help increase new member renewal rates, some organizations put “conversion” or “engagement” programs in place. The goal of these programs is to get new members involved and participating in an organization’s events and services.

So it was interesting to note the results of a quick online survey that ASAE did with one of their newsletters. They do not present it as statistically valid due to the limited number of responses, but it is interesting to note that only 26% of associations report running a special new member program for their organization.

ASAE Membership -- Recruitment and Retention

More Marketing Channels Available for Membership Recruitment

There are now more marketing channels to use in membership marketing than ever before. These options give us wonderful opportunities, but also some real challenges.

I thought that a former colleague of mine, Dave Taylor, expressed the potential challenges with adding more and more marketing channels well in his blog. He wrote,

“I believe that many, if not most, of the organizations pursuing this strategy will not be able to sustain this pace (or spend) to keep up with all these new channels. Even more dire: they will become so focused on managing all the new media (often with the same resources they had before the influx of the new media) that they will eventually dilute their attention to their core (and perhaps more pedestrian) programs – the same marketing programs that have proved all the ROI to this point in time.”

Ideally, careful tracking of membership recruitment will help define what marketing channels are most effective for your organization. And, in line with the quote above, I believe you need to track two key pieces of information. First, you want to look at ROI by channel. Where do the most members come from at an acceptable price? Secondly, you need to track where you invest your time. For example, social media can be fun and it can produce a good membership ROI, but if it takes up time that could be spent on more productive media, then it may not be the best investment.

Will You be Attending #ASAE10 this Year?

This year I will be attending the ASAE & the Center for Association Leadership Annual Meeting & Exposition in Los Angeles, CA. If you will be attending, I would enjoy meeting you in person. You can find me at the Marketing General, Inc. booth number 500. Please come by.

Membership Renewals: A Couple of Quick Tips

Here are a couple of quick thoughts you might want to try to improve your membership renewal rates.

1. Frequency – How many touches do you have in your membership renewal program and how do you know how many you should have? Here is the rule of thumb; you should continue to spend money on renewal or reinstatement efforts until it costs less money to bring in a new member. Based on this formula, I know one membership organization that now has a 40 touch renewal program that includes mail, phone calls, and email.

2. Offers – Many membership organizations are finding that renewal payments are getting later and later from members. This is costly because more renewal efforts are sent out and it hurts cash flow. Here is how one group has moved up payments. They have included a product voucher offer in their early renewal notices. If a member renews early, a voucher or coupon is sent to the member that they can redeem toward the purchase of a product or service from the organization. Offering the voucher has lifted early renewals, but a low redemption rate has cost the association very little. And any member who makes an additional purchase from an association has a much higher likelihood of renewing in the subsequent year.

3. Channels – In some social media that I monitor, I hear the question posed, “should I move my renewal efforts from mail to email?” I think that the answer should not be “either/or”, but it should be “and”. In our 2010 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report, we highlighted that 88% of associations now use email in their renewal program compared to 83% in 2009. Associations using direct mail for renewals dropped from 91% to 85%. But based on these high percentages, it looks like most groups use both of these channels. What seemed to most positively impact renewals was adding additional communication channels. For example, staff renewal phone calls, fax, and peer member contacts were positive indicators for renewals with the groups that used these channels.

Feel free to add any additional tips that you might have to the comments section below.

Networking and Career Guidance

In addition to his work with me at Marketing General, Inc. my colleague, Vinay Kumar, also spends much of his time as a career coach.

I wanted to share a couple of links to some of his recent articles and posts on careers that I think you will find of help.

Today, Vinay had a piece appear in the Washington Post on how to network at a professional event or party. He provides some simple steps you can take to connect with others.

The Career Wheel
I also enjoyed his recent post, Keys to Career Satisfaction and Success. I have included his graphic here which highlights his career philosophy.

Under the “Good Blogs” section of this blog, you will find Vinay’s latest postings displayed. So when you need a good career suggestion, please click through to his blog.

Summer Reading

This summer I decided to try and read something more enduring than the latest marketing or business book. So when I received the book, The Cross of Christ, as a present, I decided to dive into it. The author, John Stott, served as an Anglican priest in London, but because of his writing has been recognized by Time magazine as one of the “100 Most Influential People in the World.” This is considered to be his classic work.

Even though the book is about themes with which I am familiar, I have found that the depth, perspective, and logic has taken the subject much deeper than I have considered before.

Here is a quote that provides an overview of the major themes of the book.

“The cross enforces three truths – about ourselves, about God and about Jesus Christ.

First, our sin must be extremely horrible. Nothing reveals the gravity of sin like the cross. For ultimately what sent Christ there was neither the greed of Judas, nor the envy of the priests, nor the vacillating cowardice of Pilate, but our own greed, envy, cowardice and other sins, and Christ’s resolve in love and mercy to bear their judgment and so put them away. . . .

Second, God’s love must be wonderful beyond comprehension. God could quite justly have abandoned us to our fate . . . But he did not. Because he loved us, he came after us in Christ. . . It is more than love. Its proper name is ‘grace’ which is love to the undeserving. . .

Third, Christ’s salvation must be a free gift. He ‘purchased’ it for us at the high price of his own life blood. So what is there left for us to pay? Nothing! . . . The same cross of Christ, which is the grounds of free salvation, is also the most powerful incentive to a holy life.”1

I will get back to membership marketing with my next post. I find that email, twitter, and phone calls take me away from thinking more deeply about big issues in life. I have enjoyed reading more deeply this summer.

1. John R. W. Stott, The Cross of Christ, IVP Books, pages 85-86.

Email Usage Up, but Effectiveness Rated Lower for Membership Recruitment

One of the benefits of publishing research is that people read it and provide feedback. Your ideas plus my ideas equals better insight.

One of my colleagues just pointed out to me that there is some important data in our Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report on how associations are using email and how effective it is for them.

When we look at several key membership marketing functions, our statistics show that email usage has grown from 2009 to 2010. The following chart shows the percentage of associations using email for building awareness with prospective members, getting new members engaged with the organization, and renewing members all increased.

Interestingly, when asked to rate the effectiveness of using email to recruit new members, those who said that email was the “most” effective channel, dropped from 24 percent in 2009 to 10 percent in 2010.

Bottom line, associations are using email more, but there may be a drop off in productivity.

What is your organizations experience?

Practical Uses of Social Media for Association Marketing

Last week I had the chance to facilitate a session at the ASAE and the Center’s Super Swap meeting.

Of course, the topic of social media came up for conversation. And my impression from those who shared made me feel that many associations are experimenting with various social media tools, but may not have a focused strategy in place on what they are trying to accomplish.

As I was thinking about it this week, I came across a post on the LeaderConnect blog that summed up many of my thoughts on the practical uses of social media really well. So I wanted to share the three points this blog made on practical social media strategies here.

• “In-bound marketing. You’re trying to “get found” in an age of media clutter and ever-more effective ways of blocking your marketing messages. Outbound marketing—advertising, direct mail, trade shows, PR—will always be necessary but our patience with that sort of messaging evaporated a long time ago. You want to be where your potential members are and position yourself as an organization with interesting, worthwhile things to offer. They come to you rather than you beating on their door begging to be let in.

Lead generation. You’re trying to find them without renting a list or paying the trade magazine in your industry to do it or buying a booth at a trade show in order to collect business cards. If you are in the right social media groups and you’re paying attention and posting content that the group cares about, you will find potential members (and speakers and sponsors and contributors).

The Deep Sell. We had a wonderful client at Pier 1 Imports years ago. He called content “the deep sell.” You are not selling Papa-san chairs. You are selling relationships, access to a network of smart people who share interests and want to have substantive, valuable exchanges of information. You can’t do that in a one-page ad. Social media enables you to explain yourself, to market yourself based on value rather than on price.”

The unifying strategy here is using social media to connect potential members and prospects with you. I describe it as an economical way to put a store on a major highway. Prospective members are driving by and social media can give them a place to pull over and connect with you. If you would like to read the entire post, here is the link.

Please let me know what you think.

7 Proven Ways to Grow Your Membership

In the July issue of Associations Now, I had the opportunity to write an article highlighting some of the key strategies needed for a growing and thriving membership ranging from acquisition to engagement to renewals.

I think you will find the article helpful.  It is available on ASAE and the Centers’ website. Feel free to download a copy. If you are a member, you can also comment on the points that I make.

Four Reasons Why Thriving Membership Organizations Stop Growing

This is by no means and exhaustive list, but I have come up with a list of what seem like the four major reasons why a healthy organization can come to a dead end in membership growth. Feel free to add your thoughts on additional reasons.

Here they are.

1. Market Saturation: There is no such thing as perpetual growth. At some point every organization will hit a point of getting all the prospects who want to join.

2. Disenchanted Members: Whether it is poor customer service, a lack of new compelling content, or a weak fulfillment operation, unhappy members can stop growth fast.

3. Competition: Millions of smart people are daily trying to come up with a better products and services. If someone else can give better information, faster service, and lower prices, then an organization can be outflanked.

4. Inadequate Marketing: You can have market potential, happy members, and the best product, but if you do not get the message to the right people, then growth will stop.

Interestingly, although each of these situations can halt growth, I think that there are potential solutions that can help an organization “jump the curve” and extend growth. The solution starts with acknowledging there is a problem and then focusing on the root causes not the symptoms presented by the problem. Perhaps we can look at some of these options in a future post.

Ten Top Tips from the Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report

One of the most enjoyable projects that I work on each year is the Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report. As I have noted on this blog, I was very appreciative to have 407 associations participate in the research this year. If you were one of those groups, you should have received a link to the full report last week.

Today, I wanted to share ten top tips from the hundreds of findings appearing in the report.

1. Out of a list of 10 options, association executives are most likely to rank growth in member counts (22%), revenue growth (21%), and net revenue growth (21%) as the primary definition of success for their organization.

2. Findings indicate a more marked difference in membership growth of over 11% for those organizations focused on acquisition rather than those focused on retention or on a balanced strategy (18%: acquisition vs. 4%: retention and 9%: both), the five year change in membership (38%: acquisition vs. 27%: retention and 34%: both), and the change in new members (24%: acquisition vs. 7%: retention and 16%: both).

3. For associations with over 5,000 members, direct mail is considered the most effective channel for new member recruitment.

4. While Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are the most commonly used social media tools, they are not necessarily considered the most effective in reaching membership goals by association executives. In fact, the most effective social networking tools are considered to be those that are basically housed within the association itself, namely the association listserv (50%) and/or a private association social network (39%).

5. Approximately two-thirds of respondents report using mailed welcome kits, a decrease from the 2009 study of 15 percentage points (68% in 2010 vs. 83% in 2009). However, findings indicate that associations with greater than 80% renewal are significantly more likely to use the mailed welcome kits (75% vs. 58%).

6. Directionally, findings demonstrate that associations with overall increases in membership over the past year, as well as those with renewal rates higher than 80% are more likely to attempt more renewal contacts before a membership expires. These increases in renewal rates appear after seven contacts.

7. Associations with renewal rates of 80% or higher are significantly more likely to offer EFT renewals (14% vs. 3%) as well as installment payment plans (55% vs. 35%). Associations with renewal rates less than 80% are significantly more inclined to offer multi-year renewals (54% vs. 18%).

8. Associations showing an increase in renewals over the past year are significantly more likely to offer automatic credit card renewals, compared to associations with declines in renewals (29% vs. 17%).

9. Unlike in the 2009 study, price is not the top driver responsible for non-renewals; in fact, one-third of the association executives indicate that they believe members do not renew because they perceive a lack of value in the organization. This is an increase of about 80%.

10. Associations did not experience radical changes in membership numbers over the past year. The largest percentage of increases or declines in membership ranged from 1% to 5% of the previous year’s total.

If you would like, you can download a copy of the 2010 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report here to see the data and charts associated with these tips. Web site registration is required for the download.

Please feel free to share your thoughts and reaction to the report in the comments section below.

ASAE 2010 Marketing & Membership Conference

If you are planning on attending this year’s Marketing and Membership Conference, I would enjoy meeting you. My company, Marketing General, Inc. will be hosting a reception from 5:15 to 6:30 on Monday, June 14th after the first day of sessions. Please stop by the reception so we can meet.

At the reception, we will also be distributing the executive summary of the 2010 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report. I would like to share a copy with you. The report in its entirety will be going out next week to the 407 organizations who participated in the research.

I look forward to meeting you if you will be attending the meeting.

The Growing Concern over Membership Value

“Are we delivering the value members want?” It is a common question that I hear from clients these days. Value seems to be the top issue on many membership marketers’ agendas.

Our 2010 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Survey confirms the heightened concern around this issue. For a second year, we asked association executives what was the top reason that their members did not renew. Last year the answers focused on cost with the top two reasons given as “the employer would not pay for membership” or the membership was “too expensive”.

However, for 2010, the top reason given for non-renewal was a “lack of value”. A total of 36 percent of respondents sited value as the key issue an 80% leap over last year.
Is there any good news in this? I think so. When we believe members lapse because dues are too expensive, it does not leave much room for fixing the problem. However, if we think members leave for value issues, we can do research and member interviews to better understand what they are looking to receive and make changes to communications or the products themselves to enhance the value.

Asking how we can deliver more value to our members is a very productive question when we put actions behind it to discover the answer.

Here’s How to Engage Your Members

Much effort in membership engagement and retention is focused on informing members of all the great things an association does. But the research shows that giving members more information falls short. Engagement comes by impacting a member’s behavior.

That’s why I enjoyed the comments by David Gammel, in his May article in Associations Now, Connect. Engage. Accelerate. He writes, “I define member engagement as the following: Engagement is the result of a member investing time or money with the association in exchange for value.”1

I agree with his definition. And in fact from my research, it is not only a good definition, but it actually works.

Awhile back, I reported these results from a membership analysis that we did.

• Members who upgraded their membership in the past year to a higher level of service were 12% more likely to renew.
• Members who placed a product order in the past year were 28% more likely to renew than those who had not placed an order.
• Members who also maintained membership in an optional local chapter along with their national membership were 17 percent more likely to renew than those who were not a member of a chapter.
• Members who attended an association meeting in the past year were 19 percent more likely to renew than those who did not attend a meeting.
• Members who attended an association meeting at any time in the past were 7% more likely to renew than those who never attended a meeting.
• Members who attended four or more meetings were 30 percent more likely to renew than members who never attended a meeting.

But the engagement does not just need to be a financial exchange. Engaging interaction can be as simple as a phone call. In a presentation for ASAE and the Center that I did with Karen Gebhart, President of the AOPA Foundation, we reported that their research showed members who called the association’s '800' number compared to those who did not had an improved retention rate.

Gammel also highlights, “If you accept that engagement occurs when someone invests time or money with the organization in exchange for value, you can then consider opportunities to do so before that person becomes a members as well as after.”2

In my membership lifecycle vocabulary, I call the pre-membership engagement stage awareness, but the concept is basically the same. In essence it is helping a potential member to find you and initiating some level of relationship. One method is what I have come to call trading content for contact. If you want more information on this take a look at my post, The Push and Pull of Membership Recruitment and see how this strategy might be used at the introduction or awareness level.

The bottom line is that lots of information sent to a member does not build engagement. However, finding ways to get a member to interact, use, and take advantage of the value you offer builds your member relationship.

1. Associations Now, C. David Gammel, CAE, Connect. Engage. Accelerate. May, 2010.
2. Ibid.

What Strategy Leads to Membership Growth?

In our Membership Marketing Benchmarking Study this year, we asked participants to tell us their membership growth strategy. We offered three options:

1. A greater priority on acquisition than retention
2. A greater priority on retention than acquisition
3. An equal priority on acquisition and retention

Then we cross tabulated these answers with reported membership growth rates over one year and five years.

Which one do you think correlated with increased membership growth?

It was interesting to me to see that putting a priority on membership acquisition compared to a retention strategy or a balanced strategy directionally linked to growth in membership. The following chart shows the proportion of those who reported following one of these strategies who experienced at least one percent growth this past year or over eleven percent growth over five years.
How do I explain this outcome?

Here is my theory. There is only so much you can do to keep members. After awhile you reach the point of diminishing returns by trying to renew retired members or those who have left the field. But there is always more that you can do to get new members. So moving additional investments to acquisition is more likely to pay off for a membership program.  What do you think? 

Membership Dues Pricing and Value

The last few months, I have received a number of questions related to dues increases and pricing issues for membership.

If this is a topic of interest for you, please feel free to join me and my colleague Erik Schonher for an ASAE and the Center Membership Idea Swap titled, The Fundamentals of Pricing and Value.

The session will take place this Wednesday, May 5, from 9:30 to 11:30. Here is the link to register.

We will explore some of the following topics:

Pricing Theory
Price and Offer Testing
• Price Points
Dues Discounts
Dues Increases

But if you cannot make it, feel free to look at some of my previous posts related to these topics.

Comparing Growth Rates of Trade Associations to Individual Membership Associations

Trade associations have had a much tougher membership year than have individual membership associations.

In our 2010 Membership Marketing Benchmarking study, we asked respondents to identify their association by what membership structure they operated under: trade or organizational, individual, or both.

When we cross tabulated structure with our membership growth question, we found that 42 percent of individual membership associations had experienced membership growth in the past year, but only 25 percent of trade associations saw growth.

Here is a chart of the results.

A Tough Year for Membership Organizations

When you compare the percentage of associations that report growth in overall membership, new member acquisition, and membership renewals from 2009 to 2010, you see a consistent downward trend.

The comparison comes from looking at previously reported responses from the 2009 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report with new data under analysis for the 2010 Benchmarking Report.
The most significant drop off for membership organizations appears to be in renewals. In 2009, 31 percent of responding associations reported that renewal rates for their organization had decreased in the previous year. In 2010, 44 percent of associations reported a decline in renewal rates.

On the positive side, 62 percent of associations reported that new member input in 2010 has either increased or remained the same from the previous year.

Here are some of the charts highlighting this data.

When I reflect on results that I am seeing across a broad range of membership organization clients, these trends seem to be holding true. Acquisition efforts appear to still be meeting with good success, but holding onto the same level of renewals from previous years has been a real challenge for most associations.

The Correlation of Social Media Usage and Membership Growth

As I dive into the data from our 2010 Membership Benchmarking Survey, I am discovering some very interesting outcomes. I will be sharing some of them on this blog, but of course the full report will go to the 405 associations who participated in the research.

The power of any survey data is not in the answers themselves, but in the cross tabulations. Looking at one answer compared to another. Today I took a look at official usage of social media by associations cross tabulated with associations reporting either membership growth or decline.

The crosstabs highlight patterns or correlations that can aide an organization in making decisions. However, please remember that a correlation is not a prediction. Because organizations doing one activity display higher growth rates than those that do another does not mean that replicating that one behavior will result in growth.

There is a lot to discuss in today’s data. Here are a few comments.  First of all, there has been an explosion of the use of social media in associations. Only 8% of associations participating in the survey said that they do not officially use any social media tools.

The most popular social media application used by associations is Facebook with over 75% of associations reporting that they officially use it as an organization.

On the other hand, only 17% of associations reported that they have a “private association social network”. And those organizations who have a private social network are 28% more likely to report growth in membership compared to the average association. While groups that use LinkedIn are 13% more likely to report a decline in membership numbers.

Here is a chart that takes a look at the top responses from the survey.

I would appreciate your theories on what this data may be saying about social media and how it can impact an association. Feel free to post your thoughts.

The Push and Pull of Membership Recruitment

Marketers sometimes categorize products as either "push" or "pull." In a pull system the consumer requests the product and 'pulls' it through the delivery channel. On the other hand, in a push marketing system the sales efforts are initiated by the producer and information is 'pushed' toward the buyer.

Membership has traditionally been defined as a "push" product. Most people do not wake up in the morning and say, "hey, I really need to join something today." Instead, they need to be actively sold.

However, we live in a time of exciting change and the paradigm for membership recruitment is changing with it.

Today, effective membership recruitment often includes a pull strategy as part of the marketing mix by taking advantage of online opportunities and social networking tools.

In fact, in our most recent Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report, 56 percent of association executives reported that one way prospective members learned about their association was through association-sponsored social networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn and another 33 percent report the use of search engine advertising or online ads helped make prospects aware of membership. These channels still fall below the top awareness builders for membership, but they reflect signgrowth over the previous year.

Here is what survey respondents highlighted as the top means by which prospects became aware of membership.
So how can this pull strategy be deployed?

We are effectively implementing a pull strategy through what we call trading content for contact. Instead of initiating a relationship by selling a membership, we allow potential members who are seeking specific information to find us through the very content they seek.

With this pull strategy, the relationship is started by presenting valuable information and resources that only a qualified or prospective member would find of value. This concept takes portions of the membership content and offers it for free through a host of online tools. These include:

• Co-Registration Submissions
• Ad Networks including LinkedIn and Facebook
• Online PR Releases
• Article Submissions
• Blogs
• Social Media Ads
• Affinity Media
• Search Engine and Content Advertising

As prospective members access the valuable content, they also are asked to opt-in to receiving additional communications from the organization. These prospective members who have raised their hand to a relationship are cultivated and given the opportunity to join the association and take advantage of all the products and services available.

In a very real sense, by using this pull strategy, the membership organization opens a very large funnel to allow potential members to pull themselves into a relationship at their own pace and as their needs dictate.

And because of the traceability of each stage of the relationship through web and database records, the system can continually be monitored and optimized to make the movement into a full membership relationship as simple and easy as possible.

Is it time to put a little PULL into your membership recruitment efforts? Please share any experiences you are having with these methods.

Membership Marketing Response Rates by State

It is fun to slice and dice data. So the other day, we decided to run response rates by state for one membership organization. Over a million pieces of recruitment mail were analyzed that went out over several campaigns and there were over 10,000 paid responses. No geographical variations were requested in any of the original lists used.
What did we discover?  From the best responding state to the worst responding state, we found a 360% variance in response rate.

I will share, some of the best and worst states, but please be aware the results do not mean that it is good or bad to mail into any of these states. It only reflects how some prospects in these states responded to a particular product offering at a specific point in time. Nevertheless, it might be a worthwhile analysis to do for your marketing efforts.

The top responding states were:

1. Vermont
2. South Dakota
3. Rhode Island
4. Wyoming
5. Utah

The lowest responding states were:

1. West Virginia
2. Alabama
3. California
4. Alaska
5. Washington DC

The efficiency of your marketing efforts can often be improved by doing some fairly simple data analysis. What analysis have you done that has helped to focus your marketing efforts?

Six Membership Renewal Tips to Improve Efficiency and Effectiveness

A number of you have requested the sample renewal form that I mentioned the other day. Since it looks like a lot of us are taking a close look at renewals, I thought I would also share some practical renewal tips that you may want to consider in developing or revising a membership renewal series.

Here are six tips to help make your renewal series more efficient and effective.

1. To save postage and avoid inventory controls all notices (months 8 to 16) mail in one zip string. This means that we use common inventory each month for all notices that are sent out whether it is the first or last notice.

2. Messages for each notice are done using variable laser copy. This allows the headlines and voice to change with each notice. The messages can focus on special offers or unique benefits and become more forceful with each subsequent month.

3. We manufacture the same envelope for renewals, but simply use a variety of paper colors. So a different color envelope goes out each month. In January, for example, all of the renewals might be sent out in a yellow envelope.

4. Likewise six different versions of a renewal buck slip are printed six up on 11 x 17 inch sheets then cut. This allows for a different buck slip to be rotated into the renewals over a six month period highlighting a specific member benefit. The July version of a buck slip might highlight the benefits of the organization’s online community.

5. Renewal envelopes use an oversized window to allow the variable headline copy to show through the envelope. The effective of this is to provide a personalized teaser message to each renewal cohort – month 8 to 16.

6. Finally, our Membership Marketing Benchmarking Survey confirmed the effectiveness of higher frequency renewal programs. The data indicated that the sweet spot was between seven and ten renewal contacts.

I hope this information is of help. Please post your thoughts and comments below.

The Difference between a Membership Renewal and a Membership Invoice

Sometimes I see the terms renewal notice and invoice used interchangeably in membership and circulation development. I thought that it might be helpful to point out that there is an important legal difference between the two.

“An invoice is a bill sent by a provider of a product or service to the purchaser. The invoice establishes an obligation on the part of the purchaser to pay, creating an account receivable.”1

However, when a membership is up for renewal, there is no obligation to pay and no account receivable. The member has not received anything and has the option to pay, but no legal obligation to pay. Therefore, a renewal notice is not an invoice and cannot use the word "invoice"

There are cases where an invoice can be sent to a member. An invoice is acceptable if a prospective member requests to be invoiced from a membership solicitation or from a renewal notice. In this case, because the member has agreed to take on the obligation to pay, an invoicing the member is the proper response.

By the way, if you need to redesign your renewal notice based on this post or for any other reason and want a sample of a successful membership renewal notice, please let me know and I will send one along to you.

1. Jean Murray, About.com Guide, US Business Law/Taxes

The Number One Mistake in Membership Marketing

Perhaps the number one mistake in membership marketing is not conducting marketing tests in each promotion. By not testing, organizations sub-optimize the effectiveness of their marketing.

My colleague, Jeremy Griffin, and one of our clients presented a case for market testing at the just concluded ASAE Great Ideas Conference. The presentation highlights the power of incorporating marketing tests in membership marketing promotions and details high leverage testing opportunities.

Here it is. I hope you find it useful.

When Cutting the Budget is No Longer the Answer

What a difference a year can make. On March 5, 2009 the Dow Jones hit a low of 6,594.44 and gloom abounded. Today the economy is still struggling, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.  

If the number of calls and inquiries that I am getting are any indication, then I think many membership organizations have realized that they have cut all of the expenses that they can. The only option now for fiscal health is to grow revenue.

A recent article in Industry Week by Cory VanBuskirk echoes this perspective.

“Here's the good news:” he writes, “So far, you've been able to survive one of the worst economic downturns in American history. Before you congratulate yourself, you need to face the bad news. The very things that have enabled you to survive will cause your downfall if you don't shift into growth mode now.”1

VanBuskirk goes on to say, “If you're going to make a successful shift back into growth mode, you have to retool the organization for driving revenue vs. saving money. It's time to realign people from efficiency to customer-driven effectiveness. Don't underestimate the differences between these two approaches. Resources, talent and priorities must flow toward revenue drivers.”2

Have you and your organization made the shift from cost cutting to growth? If you are ready to start growing, here are some tips on where to start.

• Do not judge the health of membership by your renewal rates. Renewals are a lagging indicator for membership in this economy. Judge your economic situation based on new member input.

• Get the jump on adding new members. Just like you, prospective members are looking for a resource to leverage their own growth. Almost everyone I speak with is seeing improvement in membership acquisition right now. In fact, acquisition is actually producing comparatively better results than renewals for most membership organizations.

• Reach out to the members who left your organization during the recession and see if they are ready to come back. They need to grow just as much as you do.

• Grab talent now while it is available. Whether this means adding key staff or bringing on consultants, now is a great time to leverage top people resources to get momentum going in the right direction.

Please feel free to add any tips you might have in the comments section.

1. How to Survive Your Survival: The keys to successfully shifting into growth mode, Cory VanBuskirk, CVB Consulting Group, Industry Week March 10, 2010.

2. Ibid.

Testing a Free Trial Membership Acquisition Program

There is a long history of using free trial offers in membership marketing. In essence a free trial offer substitutes providing member services for marketing efforts. It is an attempt to have the product sell itself.

I thought that I would highlight four basic methods that I have used or observed others use to bump up membership returns using trials. By doing some quick calculations, you can determine if one of these methods might be good to try.

1. Opt-in Trial: This method is perhaps the most common in membership marketing. The option features and initial promotion to prospects and asks them to accept a membership trial. Upon acceptance, the respondent receives membership for a specified period of time and additional promotions requesting that he or she join. Depending on the quality of the list, the initial response can be between three and five percent. The final conversion can be about 30 percent. The advantage is that you are only providing free services to a low number of prospective members who request the trial and converting a larger portion of them.

2. Force Free Trial: This method provides a free-trial to a qualified audience that did not specifically ask for the trial. It may be a list that you have compiled or that is supplied to you by some other source like current members. Services are provided to these prospective members for a period of time and then these prospects are asked to convert to a paid status. The final conversion rate from a well qualified list can be about 10 percent. One challenge to this method is that you are providing services to a much larger group with a proportionately lower level of payment because they never directly requested the membership trial.

3. No-Obligation Trial: Like the opt-in trial, this method gives a prospective member the choice to ask for benefits. But there is one key difference. When a prospect agrees to this trial, he or she also agrees to allow the organization to invoice them for the membership. The respondent has the choice to pay an invoice or write “cancel” on the invoice and owe nothing. Getting permission to invoice can dramatically increase the final paid rate especially if the prospective member can submit the invoice for company payment. The initial response to this type of offer can be one to three percent. However, the final payment rate can be as high as 50 percent.

4. Negative Option Free Trial: This is a method that I have not used, but it is becoming increasingly common. Under this method, when a free trial is accepted, the respondent provides their credit card information and has a limited period of time to evaluate the membership. If the trial is cancelled by the respondent, there is not charge. However, if no notice is given then the respondents credit card is charged for the membership.

In the March 2010 edition of ASAE’s Membership Developments newsletter, Karen Krzmarzick, CAE, the Executive Director, of the American Society of Ophthalmic Administrators (ASOA) reported on her success with one free trial method. By my definition, ASOA tried both a force free trial and opt-in trial approach.

For the force free trial, ASOA “sent individual emails out to each physician member of ASCRS [a partnering organization] asking for the name of physician's practice administrator. These individuals where then automatically signed up for the free trial program. “

Also, as an opt-in approach, ASOA said that they “placed ads on our website and promoted the program through business-reply cards in industry magazines.”1

ASOA was encouraged by the outcome. Overall membership is growing. They reported 700 current free trial participants and a conversion rate of 11 percent to membership.

However, what works for one organization may not work for another. If an organization has a large potential market and a low dues rate, for example, the force free trial may be far too expensive to deploy. On the other hand, in a small niche market, getting only 3 percent of the market to try a free trial may not produce the volume of new members needed to grow. 

Here is the bottom line, always run the numbers for your particular situation before launching a new membership marketing initiative.

1. ASAE Membership Developments, March 5, 2010, http://www.asaecenter.org/files/images/sectionnewsletters/md0310.pdf

Last Chance to Participate

We are closing the questionnaire for the 2010 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Survey. But before we do, I wanted to give you one last chance to participate.

This is the second year we are conducting this research. And by completing the survey, you will receive a free copy of the final report. The report will include a trend analysis of what has changed over the past year and highlight key data on what associations are doing in membership marketing and what practices correlate with better renewals and more members.

Please take a moment now to complete the survey. It should only take 10 minutes.

You can participate using this survey link.

2010 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Survey: Please Participate

We have just launched the questionnaire for the 2010 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Survey and I want to invite each of you who work for a membership organization to participate.

As you may recall, last year, our survey provided critical comparative data on how organizations recruit members, engage new members and renew their members. This year the report will add trend analysis and segment membership organizations by industry.

The survey gives you a chance to benchmark your organization against nearly 500 other associations.

You can participate using this survey link.

To thank you for your participation in this best practices research project, I will send you a copy of the final report from this study. No specific responses will be reported from any individual or association without your specific written consent. Your participation is much appreciated.

How to Calculate where your Membership is Headed

Last month was really busy. I met with many organizations who are looking for help after a distressing 2009. And some of them do not realize just how much trouble they may be in going forward.

When I meet with groups, I use a simple method to calculate where their membership is headed given their current metrics. It is called a Steady State Analysis.

Using your current data, you can also do this analysis to see what the ultimate equilibrium of your association membership count will be. You can also use the analysis to model where it might be if you add more new members or have higher renewals.

To do the calculation, you only need two numbers; your renewal rate and your total new member input from the past year. Here is how it works. You take your new member input from the past year and divide it by your lapse rate presented as a decimal. So if your renewal rate is 80%, then your lapse rate is 20% or .20.

For example, 20,000 New Member Input / .25 Lapse Rate = 80,000 Steady State Total Membership.

Here is the formula: Annual New Member Input / Reciprocal of Renewal Rate (or Lapse Rate) Shown as a Decimal = Total Membership Steady State.

Here are three examples of how you can project your future membership.

• A 75% renewal rate and 8,000 new members per year will result in a steady state membership of 32,000 members
• An 85% renewal rate and 2,000 new members per year will result in a steady state membership of 13,333 members
• An 80% renewal rate with 5,000 new members per year will result in a steady state membership of 25,000 members

One other thought to consider. From my personal observation, the organizations that I am seeing in the most distress are those that pulled back from marketing this past year. Groups that continued to aggressively market membership actually came through the year in much better shape. This confirms some of the research that we shared at the start of this recession.

Is your SEO Really Optimized?

Do you think that your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is doing great? Well it may not be doing as well as it appears to you.

I missed this news around the holidays, but amidst Google’s China news, they also announced that they were moving everyone to personalized search results.

As they noted on their blog, “Today we're helping people get better search results by extending Personalized Search to signed-out users worldwide, and in more than forty languages. Now when you search using Google, we will be able to better provide you with the most relevant results possible.” In the past, Google only offered personalized search to signed in users.

This might be great for you if you frequently look for certain topics. But it can really fool you if you are trying to monitor the SEO of your site. If your site comes up first every time when you search on key words, it does not mean that it is happening for anyone else. Personalized search may cause your site to come up first because that is what you have clicked on in the past. But for someone else, it your site may show up much lower on the page. 

There is a way to disconnect personalized search. Here is the link to learn how to do that.

The bottom line is that with a Google search what you see is not what others may get.

The Pathway to being a Remarkable Association

Next week, I have the opportunity to do a presentation taking a look at the future of associations. I will start the talk by reviewing the past. Specifically, I am going over the findings of ASAE and The Center in 7 Measures of Success: What Remarkable Associations Do that Other Don’t.

As you may recall, this book resulted from a thorough study under the guidance of Jim Collins (Good to Great) comparing 18 matched associations. “The project’s value lies in discerning the often subtle differences between two well-matched organizations – what one association did or didn’t do to give it a performance or financial edge on its counterpart” (page 8).

I think the findings of this study are as valid today as they were in 2006 when the book was published. Here is a short review of the Measures of Success.

1. A Customer Service Culture -- “Remarkable associations build their structures, processes, and interactions – their entire culture – around assessing and fulfilling members’ needs and expectations” (page 24).

Customer service goes beyond customer satisfaction. In fact, we do not even ask customer satisfaction questions on surveys because we find that lapsed member report virtually the same level of satisfaction as current members.

2. Alignment of Products and Services with Mission -- “Remarkable associations speak passionately about fulfilling their mission and constantly test their ideas for products against that mission, using it as a touchstone for everything they do. . . To find the right mix of products . . . remarkable associations engage in experimentation” (page 28).

The goal for an association is to become an indispensible resource for a member. I think this comes from focusing on the three drivers of engagement, vision, reward, and relationship.

3. Data-Driven Strategies -- “If there is one phrase that sets remarkable associations apart from their counterparts, it’s ‘data, data, data.’ They gather information, analyze it, and then use it to become even better” (page 38).

As an example, just in the area of membership recruitment, testing and then analyzing data can commonly improve performance as follows:

• List tests – Can impact response by 500 percent.
• Offer tests – Can impact response by 200 percent.
• Creative tests – Can impact response by 100 percent.

4. Dialogue and Engagement -- “Many with the study group would no doubt echo the employee at the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) who said, ‘We all discuss decisions openly with each other. We have a desire to collaborate with each other, and we do it in mission-driven ways” (page 44).

SHRM membership is reported to have grown by from 36,000 in 1992 to over 250,000 today. Need I say more?

5. CEO as a Broker of Ideas -- “While CEOs may be visionary leaders, what’s more important is their ability to facilitate visionary thinking throughout the organization” (page 49).

We are in a knowledge economy. The organizations and clients that I have seen thrive have a culture of ideas. Ideas are the currency in the organization.

6. Organizational Adaptability -- “Our data confirmed that no organization – regardless of how remarkable it is – can predict change with full accuracy and therefore be on target with its response . . . Our data indicate that remarkable organizations do not panic . . . They maintain a clear understanding of their core purpose” (page 58-59).

Remarkably through this recession, we have seen a consistent trend that organizations that stayed in the market and continued to reach out to prospective members came through the past year in good shape.

7. Alliance Building -- “[Remarkable associations are] secure in who they are and what they bring to the table, these associations communicate clear expectations for each specific partnership and do not hesitate to walk away if a win-win situation does not materialize. But they’re also willing to admit what they can’t do on their own.”

Everyone wants to partner with successful organizations. Be sure to look in the mirror before you propose an alliance.