Member needs, wants and desires – and how they (should) impact your marketing efforts

Full disclosure: I’m not a marketing professional. But that’s not to say I haven’t written plenty of interesting copy or designed plenty of successful print and web-based collateral in my time. (Once in a while, I’ve even had the occasion to impress myself!) And, over the years, I believe I’ve become savvier, more member-focused and more results-oriented when it comes to marketing a new program or signature event to a designated audience.

It starts with knowing your audience and framing a message that speaks to the shared needs, wants and desires of this target group (while at the same time remembering that this group comprises individuals with distinct attributes/demographics). Ultimately, it is these individuals who will approach your marketing materials with their own unique set of circumstances, experiences and lenses, thus informing their specific response to your promotional piece.

In my opinion, “good marketing” attempts to outline real deliverables that will be gained as a result of having participated in your next big program or event. These deliverables—either tangible or more theoretical—promise in some way to improve life for your members (and, ultimately, for those individuals who use their products or services). I feel strongly that it’s important to consider both constituent groups when developing a successful marketing strategy.

Now, to my point (and I’ve been stewing on this topic for a couple of months now). Like many of you (I’m sure), I receive a dozen or so e-mails a day from various clothing and accessory retailers trying their best to sell me the latest and greatest when it comes to suits, ties, jeans, jackets (but not jean jackets, please), watches and more. For you, the categories likely vary depending on where it is you frequent most.

One company, in particular, continues to puzzle me when it comes to their marketing efforts.

Fossil, founded in 1984, claims to be “the first American brand to bring value and style to the watch category.” And, over the years, I’ve definitely purchased my fair share of watches from this budget-friendly alternative to the more costly watch brands I can only afford in my dreams. Lately, however, I’ve noticed an important marketing flaw in this international brand: The weekly e-mails I receive feature only women’s products.

For the last couple of months, in particular, my in-box has been filled (by-and-large) with pictures of totes, cosmetic bags, handbags, women’s watches and more. Only on the very rare occasion have I actually been presented with a sleek men’s watch.

In an age of mass customization, this seems a bit behind the times (pedestrian, even). Surely my impression of the brand has been impacted by this messaging flaw. While I know I could—at any time—click on one simple, hyperlinked word—Men—and be transported back to Fossil’s website where I’d be free to scan and select from dozens if not hundreds of products, that’s not the point.

While I know the website will always be there—and I certainly don’t need an invitation or a weekly reminder to prompt a visit—I generally engage in “website shopping” when I’m looking for something specific for myself or for a gift. I would call this “active shopping.” More passive or “impulsive shopping” is best encouraged—at least for me—by these weekly e-mail messages. And if no products of interest are featured for me, the likelihood of me (and just about anyone else for that matter) impulsively shopping is significantly reduced (if not eliminated altogether).

Let’s consider what’s happening here for just a moment. For starters, I’ve not been presented with products that speak to my needs, wants or desires. This impacts not only my decision—in that moment—to read or delete that e-mail, but it—at least in some small way—impacts my long-term confidence in and loyalty to the organization’s brand. If they don’t know me or they don’t get me, then why should I shop with them? When it comes to the next message that dons my inbox, I might be a bit less likely to even open it.

This is true of our members, as well. Stop for a moment and consider the last marketing piece your organization disseminated. (A few rhetorical questions to get you thinking…) Did it speak to the needs, wants or desires of your members? Did it consider the need of their constituents? Did it assume that each individual member needed, wanted or desired exactly the same thing or did it leave some room for diversity of thought and opinion? What could have been changed to make this piece more effective?

As an education professional that is extremely passionate about professional development, I urge you to build print and web-based collateral that focuses on learning and community. Identify how your members will grow and develop as a result of your learning/networking opportunity, and how that change will positively ripple into the community (think: pay it forward, especially as it relates to those individuals benefiting from the products and services your members provide). And maybe then will you see more results (e.g., higher open rates, increased registration) from your marketing efforts.

So, my question to you is this: What other marketing “rules” or “recommendations” would you add to my list? What strategies have you found most effective when it comes to marketing a new program or signature event to your members? What strategies have you found less effective? What new or innovative social media strategies are you employing this year to breathe new life into your marketing “experience”?

2 Responses to “Member needs, wants and desires – and how they (should) impact your marketing efforts”

  1. January 20, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    You’re list is right on track in that people like customized messages and are interested in deliverables. However, they don’t want to know just the “what;” they want to know “what for.” What is going to be the outcome for them? I recommend highlighting desired benefits and outcomes too. People don’t just want a laundry list of items just as you didn’t want to just see the all the products from Fossil. What you’re really looking for are the benefits for you and your lifestyle. The same is true for association members. Let’s say you’re launching a new advocacy effort. What’s the bottom line? The bottom line is that you could save the average organization paying payroll taxes in your state X millions of dollars per year. Now you’re talking about the benefits which are meaningful to them. Similarly, if you’re promoting a new healthcare association group pool that’s going to save them 10 to 25 percent on their healthcare, then more than just promoting the existence of the program, you need to identify and promote these benefits.

  2. January 23, 2012 at 1:43 pm

    Annie, thanks for the comment – and great distinction! You’re totally right. Just promoting a product or service isn’t enough to convert interest into sales (as in the case of Fossil, and just about any other clothing or accessory company sending a daily e-mail alerting the masses of a new sale or product line). Especially in a hyper-competitive market, associations must also have a pulse on the benefits of these products and services. (And not just from a staff or board perspective, but from the perspective of their members and prospective members, too.)

    Your thoughts actually remind me of a recent article I read titled, “How Nonprofits Make Data Fun and Informative” (http://linkd.in/z6yFHB). Essentially, Matthew Scharpnick argues that data, statistics, numbers and percentages don’t appeal to our sense of compassion (and, quite frankly, are boring); however, digestible and compelling ways to show quantitative outcomes exist in the form of graphical representations known as infographics. Infographics can help associations weave anecdotes and rock-solid evidence into beautiful stories that appeal to both the head and the heart (a win-win for any association seeking buy-in related to a new product launch or, more broadly, membership growth).

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meet aaron

Association learning strategist & meetings coach. Founder & president of Event Garde. Passionate about cooking, running, blogging, old homes, unclehood & pet parenting (thanks to Lillie the pup).

meet kristen

Writer, editor, public relations professional. Digital content manager. Proud mom of three. Total word geek. Spartan for life.

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