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May 11, 2007

The American Marketing Association doesn't get it

Hello Kitty as a spam musubi
Originally uploaded by janine *^_^*.

One of my regular watering holes on the web is Jake McKee's blog, Recently he's been ranting a little bit about the American Marketing Association, and as an association guy, I've found his comments pretty interesting. Here's his story:

Deciding to make it a personal mission to reform traditional marketers and evangelize them into the kingdom of word of mouth, social media and the like, Jake attends a few AMA events (presumably his local chapter) and then joins the AMA (national). Here's a guy with tremendous expertise about cutting-edge marketing techniques who wants to help. The story takes a turn for the worse here.

Jake complains that within the first two months of his AMA membership, his engagement to marketing ratio is 0:45. Nearly 50 advertising emails and not a single personal email or phone call from the organization in the space of two months. In his April 30 Clue Implementation Unit podcast, he calls it spamming. The FTC probably won't bring up AMA on CAN-SPAM charges, but it's quite obvious that Jake considers the AMA's activities as spamming, and he can't be the only one.

All of this adds up to quite an adroit demonstration in cluelessness from the organization that is supposed to be advancing the marketing profession, says Jake. (Reminds me a little of the Media Bloggers Association's lack of comments on this post) And the worst part is, nobody from AMA's national office has made contact with him yet. Knowing his reputation, I think Jake would have posted an update if they had.

Here's where this blog post gets weird. I have to sympathise a little with the AMA. One of the first lessons I learned in association management was: relentless email marketing pays. It still does, at least in the short term. At my first association job, we used to email members weekly about upcoming annual conventions, because every time we did, we made mad money. Sure we got complaints, but we were willing to deal with them for a quick and easy $50,000. And members seemed to put up with the inconvenience. Jake is living proof that maybe they're not so willing anymore.

Times have changed. This is a perfect example of the way we've always done it. It's time for us to change too. I wonder what Jake's advice to AMA would be. Here are some processes I'm thinking about as a result of reading about and listening to his experience:

  • Hand-written notes to new members go out same day they join.
  • Accelerate schedule for phone calls to new members.
  • Three month moratorium on sending marketing email to new members.
Oh, and here's a related post from Wes that hits close to home.



Carolina Event Planning said...

Ran across your blog when looking for marketing consulting info. Great insight and well written. Thanks for sharing.


wtrochlil said...

Ben, I think your first two ideas for new members are right on, but I think you're over-correcting with the third one. Among other things, I join associations for what they have to offer me. If you forgo marketing to new members for the first three months entirely, you're essentially saying "Thanks for joining, see you in 90 days." A better approach would be to TARGET those initial communications. Better yet, target ALL of your communications. This means you need to know something about your members, even your new members. But don't stop talking to them in the mistaken belief that they don't want to hear from you. They want to hear what THEY want to hear. Figure out what that is, and talk to them about it.

Ben Martin, CAE said...

@wes: yeah, was kinda thinking you wouldn't want to stop advertising, say, education to people who identified continuing ed as a major reason they joined the assn.

Ed said...

To the commenter who suggests targeting better; it is a rare association that has the budget to accurately maintain their database.

As a member of the AMA they *do* in my opinion send too much email. I then set up a rule to move it and now I miss important meetings because of a self-defense over generalization. But what choice do I have?

I say yes - target. But then use some common sense to reduce the signal to noise ratio.

wtrochlil said...

Ed said "it is a rare association that has the budget to accurately maintain their database."

Whose fault is that? My best clients make sure they've got plenty of budget to maintain an accurate database; and they get results for that investment.

Associations consistently sell themselves short on the value of maintaining a good database. The AMA and ASAE prove it every day (unfortunately).