I’ve had the good fortune to work for and with associations my entire professional career. So it’s fair to say I understand and value association membership. That’s why I’m a card-carrying member of several professional societies. And while I join these organizations for very specific reasons (with very specific goals and outcomes in mind), it’s clear to me that at least one of them has no idea who I am.
Most of us have at least two email accounts that we check on a fairly regular basis, each receiving dozens (if not hundreds) of emails a day. That’s a lot to read and process. Recently, among a flurry of other emails (some important and some not) I received a communication inviting me to sponsor an upcoming event. There were a number of issues, however, with this specific ask:
- My consulting practice doesn’t align with the vendor categories they’re seeking for this event.
- The language that was used to describe sponsor ROI was both vague and unremarkable.
- The event topic is not relevant to my company’s mission.
- The list of sponsorship opportunities were presented as a menu rather than as a customized recommendation within my budget capabilities.
- Some of the benefits (e.g., complimentary registrations) were unusable given my company’s size limitations.
What it comes down to is this: the opportunity was not vetted for me. Unfortunately, this is not uncommon for this particular association. But I believe that similar practices occur in our organizations on a daily basis, as well. While we don’t intend to spam our members, these emails—poorly disguised as member outreach and relationship-building—are nothing more than disruptive commercial messages.
Every couple of days I receive similarly ineffective communications that do not align with my company’s goals and objectives. Is this because two years ago I crossed the aisle from association staff to industry partner? Is the assumption that I’m hoarding bags of money like Ebenezer Scrooge? More importantly, is this the way we treat our suppliers – like bottomless piggy banks?
Or do association staff have a similar experience, replacing sponsorship inquiries with countless invitations to attend the latest and greatest professional development conferences that don’t align with their interest areas?
Assuming we can all agree this is a problem, let’s reflect for a moment on the solution. What can you do today to ensure you’re not spamming your members? Following are just a sampling of ideas:
- Have a volunteer read and comment on major solicitation communications before they’re distributed.
- Slow down and don’t just get something out for the sake of checking an item off your to-do list.
- Mass customize your emails and other communications – gather more data about your members either in person or by survey and ensure they’re receiving opportunities that align with their individual needs and interests.
- Deliberately schedule emails internally to ensure members are receiving only a certain number of communications a day/week/month.
- Always include an opt-out option when sending mass emails.
- Add a staff person to the distribution list to ensure quality control; this person should monitor communications with the member experience in mind and raise any concerns to improve future practice.
- Know the preferred delivery methods of your members and send communications in that way, even if this means sending fewer pieces in several different formats.
- Write compelling communications that clearly spell out your value proposition and give both members and sponsors the information they need to make informed decisions.
- Strike a careful balance when crafting communications between professional and playful; use a voice that appeals to your target audience and fits the intended goals and objectives of the message.
- Avoid faux personalization (e.g., masquerading an email with a mail merged name block as a personalized email). If the body of the email is too generic it will only undermine your message and the organization’s integrity.
- Don’t underestimate the power of brevity.
- Demonstrate ROI with post-event surveys, satisfaction/reach statistics and personal testimonials.
The bottom line is this: stop spamming your members. They’ll thank you for it. They only have so much time, money and patience – and would rather receive a few, hand-selected opportunities than every single communication your organization writes. It demonstrates you understand the uniqueness of each organization and increases your likelihood of a sale.
And, for the record, this goes for just about everything. My example specifically references sponsorship opportunities; however, we could just as easily have been talking about conference registrations. So, my question to you is this: Are you spamming your members? What policies have you instituted to stop or curtail this practice? What other effective marketing techniques might you add to this list?