McKinley’s President and Founding Partner, Jodie Slaughter, FASAE, was asked by the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) to chair a panel, “Ask the Marketing Experts,” at the recent ASAE Annual Meeting, held August 20th through 24th in Los Angeles. Jodie put together a diverse panel of McKinley clients who have fared particularly well during the recent economic contraction, representing both large and small memberships and individual and company members. The panel included Celeste Powers, CAE, Executive Director of the Independent Lubricant Manufacturers Association, Michael Armstrong, Senior Vice President, International Code Council, Bob Doucette, CAE, Deputy Executive Director, Society for Neuroscience and Terry Head, President of the International Association of Movers.
Session attendees were advised that there would be no PowerPoint slides, hand-outs or fixed program. Instead they could raise any question they wanted for the panel to address. For background, the session started with each panel member sharing their experiences over the last 18–24 months and how they have managed to thrive given current pressures. In short, all approached the downturn as an opportunity to look internally – for both assets and inefficiencies – and also to take a hard look at member needs and expectations. Audience members queried about panelists’ abilities to share and get support for cost-cutting recommendations from their leadership bodies. The answer to that was simply put, “by sharing data.”
The audience was also very curious about the use of electronic communications vs. print and getting members’ attention with today’s overload of information. Advice from the panel and chair is to test many approaches and work hard to connect members’ specific interests to the communications they receive. In other words, do not send everything to everyone but maximize available database functionality to connect individuals to the interests that matter to them, and similarly, to not send everything to everyone in one medium but to experiment with different media to see how they perform. For example, do not routinely email blast the same message to everyone and expect them to continue to appreciate emails from the association.
Attendees were also counseled to experiment with a mix of media and to avoid sending the same things via email and print. Rather, to consider the media first before developing designs and content. Discussion also centered on the challenge of retention, exacerbated in tougher economic times. Advice from the panel and Jodie was to separate the idea of retention from renewal and to look at retention as something that begins as soon as the member decides to join. Associations are well served by understanding the motivations that drive membership in first place, so they can ensure the desired experience is delivered. The session included a lot of audience participation, lively and interesting discussion, which lasted longer than the time allotted without anyone seeming to notice.
Jodie would love to take your questions, share more about the ASAE Annual Meeting or hear your insights on marketing associations.