Time to Get Email Smart

By Tom Baer

Computer with hand sticking outMost associations who market their annual meetings use email as the primary method of reaching out to potential attendees. This is logical, since email is generally much more affordable than other media, and offers a higher ROI than most. But if you are one of these associations, it’s time to ask yourself if that ROI is as good as it could be.
A recent article by Chad White, Research Director at email marketing solutions provider Responsys, suggests email marketers can be divided into two groups: the “Haves” and the “Have-Nots.” What do the “Haves” have? The knowledge, experience, and marketing sense to use the many tools that are available to email marketers to refine their efforts. The “Have-Nots” ignore these helpful tools and send out basic broadcast emails.
White finds that the gap in effectiveness of the two types of emailers is quickly widening. And the annual Email Marketing Industry Census put out by Econsultancy agrees, showing that marketers who use more sophisticated email programs are 32% more likely to see “excellent” or “good” results for their efforts than those who send out broadcast messages.
What are these magic “tools” that can boost your email effectiveness? Techniques like segmentation, personalization, dynamic content, and trigger-based emails. Smart marketers also test subject lines, body copy, images and other elements to learn what their target will respond to best.
Associations often fall into the trap of assuming that emails they send will be effective simply because their email list consists of members who have typically opted-in for communications. But opt-ins still have spam filters, and even if your email gets to their inbox, they are BUSY, so the subject line and the email itself both need to be truly compelling to make sure your message gets through.
Think about how many emails you get each day. How many do you trash without even opening? It’s a safe bet that the marketing-based ones that you read have used some more sophisticated tools to make it past your screen. It’s time your emails did the same.

Searching for Attendees?

Word cloudby Tom Baer

More and more associations have realized times have changed, and are now ready to step up marketing efforts to drive annual meeting attendance back to where it needs to be.  But many are not so savvy when it comes to how to spend dollars that have been shifted to marketing.  Instead of exploring new opportunities, some are still just going with what they know – simply sending out more post cards or conference brochures to the same old tired list.

Time to change the mix.  The first place to add?  Online.  Why?  Because that is the world in which we – and more importantly your potential attendees – now all live.  Remember when people used to fill out and mail in registration forms?  How many do that now?  And if they are registering online, ask yourself, which is likely more effective, a post card where they have to get from their mail to their computer, log on, get to your site and register, or an online ad where they simply click right to your registration page?

So assuming you agree you want to promote your event online, then you have another decision – should you invest in display advertising, search engine marketing, or social media?  The best response would be all three, but that implies you have the budget to do so.  If not, you have to prioritize. 

If this is the case, here’s how you should do so:  1. Search, 2. Facebook, 3. Display.  Search should be your first priority because it offers the best ROI and is therefore more effective for lower budget campaigns.  Aaron Goldman, Chief Marketing Officer at Digital Marketing software company Kenshoo, puts it well: “Search is unique in that it reaches people when they’re in the right mindset. When people search, they’re in between activity on the Web (moving from one site to the next) and actively looking for something. This makes them more open to commercial influence. Display just sits on the perimeter begging to be ignored while consumers engage with the content they’re interested in.”  Admittedly this is a bit of an overstatement regarding ineffectiveness of display – otherwise it would not command more than 60% of internet marketing dollars as it does, but it does illustrate the point.

Facebook shares search’s ability to take advantage of consumers being more “tuned in” to content.  Yes, they are more interested in the “social content” of the page they are looking at, but just being on facebook allows the target to feel you are more in tune with their likes and needs than if your ads are found on non-social sites.  One caveat – if you plan on marketing on facebook, make sure you have a facebook page for your event that potential attendees can visit.

Another great benefit of marketing online is that you can monitor and tweak your campaign as you go, and get a great deal of data to learn from through Google analytics, but that will be the subject of another blog.

Bottom line, if you add online to your marketing mix you should see results.  If you can, invest in all three, but at minimum, test a search campaign before your next event…it will likely provide some of the results you are searching for.

You’ve Come a Long Way……….Baby!

By Max Suzenaar

Can You Guess What year was this photo taken?

Newborn photo

The First Camera Phone Picture

This photo “is credited as the first-ever picture taken and transmitted from a phone, made by technology entrepreneur Phillipe Kahn of his newborn baby daughter Sophie on June 11, 1997, in Santa Cruz, California and sent instantly to 2,000 relations, friends, and associates around the globe. Kahn was a proud papa in more ways than he realized:  not only did the camera phone (and otherwise transmitted digital photography) became an underpinning of the modern phenomenon known as social networking, it became a crucial communication and political tool.”*

It’s hard to believe that it was only 1997! Social Media has taken the business world by storm – ironic in that it is SOCIAL media, not BUSINESS media. Yet, its tentacles have not only crept into corporate America, they have connected the entire world at lightning speed leaving every association and corporation scrambling in its wake feverishly looking for any opportunity to ride the wave.

So how does Social Media pertain to your meetings? Your membership? Yes, Social Media is a necessary channel for your marketing mix – and its future is exciting (albeit difficult to harness with predictability). The bottom line? Social Media does not singularly drive attendance. It can influence and help create a buzz for specific segments of your audience. But with rare exception, it does not drive a call to action to register for your meeting. Yet it is essential to integrate a Social Media Plan into your communications strategy. Learn more about how to link Social Media into your meeting from your friends at MYB.

*Source: “LIFE 100 Photographs That Changed the World” Published by LifeBooks an imprint of Time Home Entertainment, Inc. Copyright 2011

Segment or Not?

Submitted by Sue Castro

Ever wondered what the big deal is about customer segmentation in association meeting marketing?  You sure see it tossed around a lot. But is it really that important?  When done right, YES!

Most associations either avoid it because it’s too complicated, or they don’t know how to identify the segments. 

Identifying your member segments is as simple as analyzing your member database.  I know, that’s easier said than done.  But it provides the basis to communicate appropriately with each of your various member or attendee groups.  Does that matter?  YES!!!  Why? Because it creates a message that is more relevant and thus more likely to be read. 

Group of people

Think of the last time you purchased a book on Amazon.com..  Immediately, Amazon shot back a list of other books that were similar.  By your ordering a particular book, Amazon was able to place you in a segment and marketed to you.  It was likely pertinent to you and you most likely responded positively.  With everyone so taxed for time, it’s simply better to provide information that is relevant to people; not information we think will appeal across a broad audience! 

Segmentation demonstrates you understand your target’s needs and desires.  It also helps you craft a message that is valuable to your audiences; eliminating the need for your target to search around for the information needed.  You are giving it to them in a way that is relevant.  And saving them time. 

Think about what’s in it for your members the next time you communicate to them., They’ll be more responsive because you took the time to communicate to them in their language.  I’ve seen double-digit response rates as a result of segmentation. Try it and you’ll become a believer!