Going Postal

By Max Suzenaar

If anyone would have told me that I would be citing the United States Post Office as an innovative example of “new think”, my retort would have been that they were moreTime Post Office Article likely that I would “go postal” first. However, I was struck by a recent article in Time Magazine that exemplifies MYB’s philosophy of “new think” and involved the US Post Office. Entitled “Reinventing the Post Office”, TIME gathered outside-the-mailbox ideas from economists, bloggers, overseas postal workers and more and surfaced six surprising ways to survive in today’s age of digital communications.

Not unlike associations and DMOs, even longstanding corporations are finding it imperative to look at their business model with a fresh and innovative perspective in this era of “new normal”. According to recent press, the best idea generated internally at the USPS was to eliminate weekend service. That’s cost containment, not innovation – like cutting a coffee break at your Annual Meeting vs. identifying new ways to engage your members and increase value. However, widening the lens and inviting “outside” perspectives resulted in incredibly innovative and viable solutions such as turning postal trucks into roving labs to gather vital information on weather patterns and air pollution levels and offering basic financial services like credit cards and mortgages thru the USPS (as is done in Europe).

Sometimes it just takes a different perspective to cultivate “new think”. So reach out to your members, create a dialogue with your sponsors or engage an agency like MYB and don’t be afraid to let someone from outside put their stamp on your business.

Stop Showing Them What They Don’t Want to See

Exasperated manby Tom Baer

Bob Garfield, long-time marketing and media reporter for Advertising Age magazine recently wrote an article about the commonly mistaken mindset many marketers have about using social media.  His article was really geared toward consumer marketers, but the idea behind it is extremely relevant for those of us who market meetings and events as well, so it seems well worth noting here.

The key message is clearly stated in his headline, “Social Media is About Cultivating Community, not Corralling Cattle.”  He feels, and I agree that while most marketers these days are smart enough to realize they need to include social media in their marketing mix, they still view it the same as any other media they use to help drive sales to the bottom line.

While the ultimate goal of any marketing is to drive sales, social media MUST be looked upon and handled differently if it is to help with that bottom line goal.  Too many marketers fall into the trap of approaching social media with the “advertiser” mindset – talk enough about my features, benefits, and brand to get the target to buy.  So their social media efforts are full of features, benefits and brand.  What happens?  Their target gets quickly turned off and wants nothing to do with them anymore.

The goal of your social media effort needs to be building a community, not selling a product, service, or meeting.  They already know you and are interested in you or they would not be following you.  Provide content that is valuable, engaging and interesting to them.  Content they want to share with others – that’s how you build community.  Content like relevant news, polls, contests, pictures and videos.

Then you won’t have to use your social media to sell, because your followers will do it for you.

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.

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!

Give It To Me Straight

Submitted by Katie Callahan-Giobbi

In our work with non-profits, I frequently have the chance to talk about member value with our association customers. What value are they creating and delivering to their members? Logic tells me that “member value” is just that…what your members value. How do we know what they value? We ask them. It really is that simple. I suppose human nature makes us hesitant to ask pointed questions, perhaps because we’re afraid of what the answer might be. Maybe we think we know better? Either way, I have come to appreciate that the only right answer…is theirs.

surveyI have been amazed at the number of non-profits who haven’t surveyed their members in years. In some cases, many years. As we change our offerings, re-engineer our conferences or add new services, doesn’t it make sense to ask your membership if it’s something they value (and will pay for)? Our world is changing too quickly and our members have more online education and resources available to them than ever before. Social media is capturing their interactions and allowing for valuable connections to be made seamlessly on a daily basis. What do they really value?

 Surveying your members needs to be done properly but it doesn’t have to be overly complicated. Most important – ask the right questions. Questions that uncover their needs and wants as well as questions that are actionable. Most associations have member contact information at their fingertips. Of course you can outsource your survey, but you can also use an online survey tool like Survey Monkey. If so, you will need to analyze the results on your own. However you choose to go about it and assuming it is done properly, the results will likely pay for themselves in increased member retention, new revenue opportunities and more engaged members.

 Be smart. Ask. And really listen.