6 Critical Mistakes Association Managers Make
With Their Non-Dues Revenue Programs Now That
Staff Has Been Slashed and
Resources Have Evaporated and ...
How You Can Avoid Them
Mistake #1: Ignoring member feedback and
not understanding members’ needs or your
association’s fundamental mission
According to a recent McKinley Marketing survey of 300
association executives, improving member retention is the #1
priority for associations in 2009.
So, how do you overcome the pitfalls of using costly and ineffective “old ways” of
retaining your members … and start focusing on new ways to achieve better results?
Your first step is to read this white paper and take advantage of four industry experts who
share their secrets. Stop losing members and start overcoming the challenges of engaging
new members … even during our current economic meltdown.
What’s Your Purpose?
What are your members’ most pressing issues? What problems do they need you to help
Get back to the basics and make sure you know (really know) the expectations of your
members and the reasons they’ve chosen “you.” Make sure you fulfill (and understand)
their needs … as well as their expectations.
Remind members you exist for them and are with them for the long term. It’s also
important to be the most credible source for information in your industry — a resource
for your members.
Ask for Feedback … (and never stop asking)
Always be listening! It may
“We conduct a Friday Focus Survey and ask our members
seem obvious, but not only 1 to 3 questions on a topic that’s been on our listserv,” says
do you need to ask for Karen Krzmarzick from ASOA. “We’ve used these surveys
member feedback, you also for benchmarking and have developed a publication for our
need to respond and follow members around the results.”
up on questions, comments
and suggestions … which is just as important as (if not more important than) asking for
• Survey members via email and/or your website to inquire
about their needs Ron Precourt from NTCA
• Conduct surveys on a regular basis says, “Our organization
does a survey every other
• Conduct focus groups – virtual or in person at your year to ask members if
meetings they had $100, how would
• Utilize feedback from event evaluations they spend it?”
• Listen and respond to anecdotal comments
Don’t forget: Sharing feedback is also another great excuse for you to communicate
important information to members.
Battling the Loss of Members
During these tough economic times, while you’re doing more
with less, you still need ways to keep members happy, engaged
and looking to you for answers, solutions and help.
Your first tactic in the battle of member retention is to keep in
front of your members … don’t let them forget about you and
don’t make it easy to put you on the chopping block for cutting
Hear how Karen Krzmarzick
from ASOA is battling
the loss of members
Easy (and Quick) Tactics with Load$ of Value
• Offer a dues payment plan
• Offer a job search service
• Offer trial (e.g., 3 months) or complimentary membership for members in dire
• When it’s time for membership renewal, make your first offer your best offer —
give them the most benefits, save them the most money, etc. Don’t “train” people
to wait until the last minute to renew
• Provide value in your communications, e.g., “tip of the week”
• Offer a newsletter or listserv for members’ direct reports or bosses
Go Beyond Retention … to Engagement
Offer a new member a mentor — a long-time member who can answer their questions,
provide guidance and be your association’s “cheerleader.”
Develop a system for categorizing members’ involvement –
• Track their purchases, webinar and conference attendance, etc.
• Watch their interaction with your social media tools – are they participating on
your blog and listservs? Are they “fans” and “friends” and “followers?”
• Create surveys to elicit even more specific information about their needs
Then USE the information
• Customize your communications based on their interests
• Develop “stop doing” and “do more of” lists based on what your members
perceive to be of value
Mistake #2: Not Maximizing Non-Dues Revenue
Opportunities from Your Annual Conferences and
Offer More Educational Opportunities … Not Less
What’s the main reason your members attend annual conferences
and meetings? Education.
At a time when you’re forced to cut costs and scale back sessions, don’t
lose sight of the hard-core fact that most members attend your annual conference for the
sheer educational value.
You can skip the free morning muffins or use public transportation instead of shuttles,
but do not lose your focus on education. It’s the best way to increase value to your
members … and increase your non-dues revenue.
Making Your Educational Sessions Count More
Make your hard work (and hours of time) pay off with
increased non-dues revenue and greater member satisfaction.
Improve your educational sessions (and skimp on some other
stuff members don’t value as much …)
• Offer continuing education credits and/or credits toward
• Create a ‘kit’ to assist members who need to get
permission from their bosses to attend
• Retain the best and most knowledgeable
top-name speakers “We’ve developed a template for
members to take to their supervisor
• Get people engaged months before the event
with information about our annual
by using listservs and other media … meeting that includes all the benefits
including social media he or she will get out of attending,”
• Hold your events in attractive, yet affordable says Karen Krzmarzick from ASOA.
locations “We’ve even included evaluations
• Conduct focus groups and testimonials for members to
• Go Virtual! Add a web conferencing personalize and take to their boss.”
element such as a webinar of your hottest
topic or top speaker — to include members who aren’t able to travel to your
Mistake #3: Relying exclusively on face-to-face
events to generate non-dues revenue and not
offering a web conferencing option for participants
unable to travel due to budget cuts and time
It should come as no surprise to you that many companies have
imposed restrictions on employees for attending professional
conferences, meetings and seminars.
If you’re an association that relies heavily on annual conferences as
a source of non-dues revenue, you’re probably searching for ways to save your
conferences … and your budget!
Reach Those Who Can’t Travel
Now’s the time to “think outside the box” to find innovative ways to be where your
members are … and where they can afford to be.
The traditional in-person conferences are no longer effective in gaining the non-dues
revenue you’ve hoped for and need.
The reality is: travel budgets have been slashed and employees can’t take time away from
the office. Unfortunately, if you’re like most association managers, you’re under-utilizing
web conferencing technology.
What’s the Solution? Uniting Both Worlds for Maximum Results
The real world and virtual world collide. Use webinars and other web conferencing
solutions to make up for non-dues revenue lost from canceled or poorly attended face-to-
• Webinars = no travel. Offer value to those who can’t travel to face to face
conferences, but don’t want to miss out on all the educational sessions
• Repurpose recordings from face-to-face conferences and turn into saleable
• Think hot topics + hot speakers = successful webinar. Give members who can’t
attend the opportunity to get great content and speakers online.
• Use webinars to complement members’ needs and learning styles
• Offer CE credit
• Offer speakers you would not be able to get at a face to face conference (industry
experts, congressional staff, well-known authors)
• Use streaming technology to simulcast portions of your face-to-face conferences
… especially the sold out and hot-topic sections.
• For international members, offer webinars using speakers from outside the U.S.
and schedule at times that are convenient for this audience
The After-math Counts
One of the biggest marketing mistakes is forgetting to reach back to those who attended
(or those who may not have been able to attend) your events after they’re over.
Kiplinger Washington Editors,
talks about the tactics she
uses to increase
audio conference attendees
Fact: Not Everyone Can Attend Your Live Events
• Promote availability of recordings when you market the live event and continue to
promote after the event
• Remind your members of the value of creating a library of events
• Inspire members to share event information with colleagues
• Sell recordings after events … and earn up to an additional 20 to 30 percent
more non-dues revenue
• Promote recordings using email, direct mail, press releases, social media, etc.
Mistake #4: Using low-bidder technology that provides
substandard audio and video quality for your webinars,
resulting in complaints and refund requests.
The old adage, “You get what you pay for” certainly rings true when it
comes to choosing a web conferencing technology provider.
Have you ever found yourself distracted by barking dogs, rustling papers or robotic,
chopped up voices instead of listening to a speaker (because you can’t hear him or her
anyway) deliver content via a webinar?
Eliminate lost non-dues revenue from poorly executed webinars where members want
their money back. Make sure your ‘word of mouth’ is always positive! Ensure audience
engagement and satisfaction by choosing a reliable web conferencing technology partner.
Get Your Members To Attend More Webinars
(even though they have few training dollars to spend … make it worth their while):
• Choose a reliable and flexible web
conferencing provider that focuses on “Attendance to our webinars fluctuates, but
customer service and can provide with hot topics or niche topics, we get huge
support services … basically everything registration numbers with no pushback on the
cost from members,” says Ron Precourt,
you need for a successful webinar
• Provide high-quality webinars – ‘need-to-know’ topics and the best speakers you
• Use appropriate technology, taking into consideration:
o Is the content visual, requiring PowerPoint slides? Do you require a video
o Your members’ comfort level with and access to technology (e.g., are they
accustomed to attending webinars? Are there firewall or bandwidth issues
at their place of employment?)
o Are you charging a fee and/or is it a high-profile event where attendees’
expectations are higher?
• Read this white paper: 47 Questions Every Senior Association Executive Must
Ask Their Audio/Webinar/Video Conference Provider In Order To Avoid
Making Embarrassing Mistakes
Mistake #5: Relying exclusively on blast email to increase
attendance to non-dues revenue programs and maintain
communications with members
It’s a brave new world out there.
First: You have a multi-generational membership base (from
Baby Boomers to Gen Y’s) with vastly differing communication
styles, expectations and needs.
Second: Once you’ve figured out how your members want to
receive information, you have to compete with thousands — no
wait, millions — of other messages to actually get your members’
And … let’s not forget the gigantic, life-changing, membership-altering array of
communication forms called Social Media.
All of this together means you have to work even harder to get your members to pay
attention to the information you send them. And, as hard as it is to change habits, relying
on email is NOT the most effective or all-inclusive way to communicate (especially if
you want it to be effective) and promote non-dues revenue programs.
Resistance is Futile
It’s time to let go of your inhibitions and start responding to your members’ needs.
The first thing to do is figure out what communication tools your members use … and
then work from there. The second thing to do is remember that it’s important to use many
tools, not just one, to appeal to the varying ages and demographics of your membership.
Yes, it’s still important to use email, but not as a one-size fits all solution.
Popular Alternatives To Blast Email
• Opt-in email alerts based on interests
• RSS feeds
More Easy Tips
• Coordinate communications from your association by using a communications
• Market and promote at face-to-face events, e.g., PowerPoint slides on screens in
conference rooms between breakout sessions; flyers; sample CDs
Never Stop Communicating … and Make It Count
Your members expect to hear from you. Don’t make them guess
what you’re up to or the value you have to offer. When it comes to
communication, more is more.
The more ways you connect and offer valuable information, the more
engaged members become … and the more likely they are to value
your relationship (and not give it up easily).
• Personal interaction via phone call before memberships are due
• Personal email instead of blast email
• Direct and personal responses to listserv comments and emails from an executive
director or manager
• Produce specific messages – phone, email, direct mail “We try to reach subscribers in as
or better yet, all the above for specific constituencies many ways as possible,” says
within your membership (e.g., HR, finance, etc.) – it Deirdre Hackett, from Kiplinger
makes communication more personal … and more Washington Editors. “We use E-
effective zines, RSS feeds, Facebook, Twitter
• Social media sites to engage in conversations and and our political blog where people
help members build a community and network for blog daily about hot issues in D.C.”
sharing information … and solutions.
Mistake #6: Not leveraging staff and resources effectively
Do more with less staff and fewer resources by first looking at the things
you can stop doing:
What Isn’t Adding Value For Your Members?
• Stop printing and mailing your magazines, member and service
directories, etc. – offer them electronically only
• Trim or cut back services your members don’t find value in or
aren’t using anymore
• Eliminate some of the “frills” at your conferences
• Ask them! Survey your members to learn what is most important to them … and
focus exclusively on those things
Focus on “What You Want To Do” and Do More of That
• Find ways to partner with other organizations and leverage resources, e.g., join
forces with a publication that is in the same ‘space’ as your association
• “Repurpose” existing content in new formats – turn a magazine article into a
webinar … turn an email into a blog posting … capture ‘nuggets’ from
conference and webinar recordings and post them as ‘podcasts’ on your website
… turn a member’s question into a poll question to your entire membership
Get more tools and resources (free, must have) to overcome mistakes and start
engaging (and keeping) your members.
Go to http://www.krm.com/event-management-resources.html