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January 31, 2008

January 2008 Blog Watchdog focuses on the association membership experience

Welcome to the first Blog Watchdog of 2008. As with the last edition, this month's Blog Watchdog report focuses on themes covered in a chapter in ASAE & The Center's new book, Membership Essentials. The chapter, The Member Experience, is co-authored by the Managing Director of McKinley Marketing's Chicago office, Sheri Jacobs, CAE, and the Director of Member Experience & Conferences at the Humane Society of the US, Sara Miller, CAE. As always, the full disclosure not-so-fine print: I'm a paid freelance writer for McKinley Marketing. Don't forget to subscribe to McKinley Matters to get this column and others from McKinley.

The experience that members have with your association isn't limited to just meetings, phone calls to your offices, or visits to your website. It also extends every piece of direct mail that they receive. Ben McConnell at Church of the Customer recently weighed all of the catalogs he received during the holiday shopping season and came up with an astonishing 21 pounds of unsolicited paper shoved into his mailbox. And he transfers this experience to the entire industry. With the association community's focus on social responsibility and new research findings which indicate that members transfer their distinct association experiences to all associations, are your association's marketing efforts helping the industry to improve its' members experience?

For far too many members, one of the few experiences they have with their association in a year is the annual dues payment. Ordinarily, I avoid linking to my own blog entries in Blog Watchdog, but something I wrote recently at Certified Association Executive seems especially relevant for this edition. A debate is raging over whether or not associations should announce dues increases to members. Recent research shows that not announcing dues increases tends to yield a higher retention rate. But is there a cost in member experience?

From blogging, to commenting, to developing social networking sites, the use of social media as a marketing tool is becoming more common by the minute. Social networking sites could be considered the internet's most potent experiential marketing medium: they allow your members to experience the community aspects of your association without leaving their desks. Buzz Canuck, a Canadian social media blog, outlines more than twenty useful tips for those who aspire to develop online communities or social networking sites for their market.

Some associations are less technology savvy than their members, and some are far more. If your association is one of the latter, and you're frustrated by your inability to explain RSS, blogs or wikis to your members in a way that ensures that they "get it," take a look at the CommonCraft show. In five minutes or less they explain technologies in plain English. If your association has a blog, you should consider embedding the Blogs in Plain English and RSS in Plain English videos into the prevalent "About this blog" page.

As always, if you have feedback or a tip for Ben, e-mail him at bkmcae at gmail dot com.

2 comments:

Tony Rossell said...

Ben -- If any of your readers want a copy of the Dues Increase Survey that has generated all of this debate, let me know and I would be happy to send it to them. The research was based on detailed responses from 324 association executives. Tony

Bill said...

Ben -- Enjoyed the 3 minute blog in Plain English, thanks for sharing it. Bill