Immediate Actions For An Economic Meltdown

October 20, 2008

The pressure to reduce spending to save cash will be immense. Rather than wait for the mandate to cut marketing dollars, take these proactive steps.

Creative Strategy
Ensure that you have an effective message. An effective message is relevant, focused, and contains no distractions that are sometimes called “creative license.” Your market is searching for an unadorned reason to join your club. Give it to them as clearly and directly as possible.

By fine-tuning your message, you should be able to reduce media dollars. For example, if you can make your message 20% more powerful, you can reduce media by up to 20% and stay even. Though highly subjective, this can be a major source of freeing-up funds.

Print Production
Identify areas in which to reduce print production costs, such as paper size, weight and coatings for direct mailings and other printed materials. Combine production runs for multiple events. Avoid the trap of over-ordering to drive down the cost per piece; unused inventory is a total waste of funds.

Digital Efficiencies
Consider more email communication and fewer mailings.

Re-Balance Your Member Activities to Personal Communication
Acquiring new members is expensive and can consume significant marketing dollars. In an economic meltdown, your most productive strategy may be to minimize member attrition.  One of the best ways to retain members is to talk to them personally- recognize their importance to the club, appreciate their support, and find new ways to take care for them that cannot be found anywhere else.

You have probably heard the marketing “wisdom” that marketing spending should never be cut during a slowdown.  This may or may not be accurate, and marketing professionals should be prepared to argue the merits of spending during weak periods. However, the business reality is that it often does get cut, whether you believe it should or should not.  So, don’t fall on your sword over maintaining spending; support it if is justified, but, more importantly, help your club find the solution it thinks is best. Identifying ways to cut costs is one of these.

Taking this step will yield this benefit – you will be seen as a problem-solver who rises above departmental myopia, and this will help you to be invited into the Boardroom more often.

How are you coping with the economic meltdown? How are you saving marketing funds?


Why your club may need two marketing and membership committees.

October 1, 2008

Marketing and membership committees tend to have a short-term focus and to rely on the skill sets and experience on hand, which may not be adequate to optimize performance. Additionally, lead times to define, budget, and implement critical projects may be excessive. The end result is a program that is reactive, untimely, and sub-optimal. In the volatile economic environment we are now experiencing, this status quo seriously undermines the capability to reach membership and revenue goals.
Alas, this situation may not change. What can change, however, is to add a new committee of selected individuals charged with the long-term health of member development. This new committee would be independent of the existing committee, should have professional assistance or presence, and should be free to make its own assumptions, develop its own strategies, and recommend and spend its own budget.
This new long-range marketing and membership committee should focus on at least these three areas:
1.    Understanding the changing wants and needs of members and potential members.
2.    Developing a communication and awareness program based on the current and developing ways people stay informed.
3.    Committing to higher levels of member retention.
Inherent in these three areas is the need for research, testing, and member monitoring. The standards must include objectivity and professionalism.
Starting a new, long-range marketing and membership committee will not address current issues, BUT it can cause a major shift in thinking that can result in better actions in the short-term.

Social Networks – An Introduction To Opportunity

August 30, 2008

Social networks can be the newest marketing tool, especially for unlikely organizations like private clubs and associations. This article is an introduction to this new phenomenon. It explores the definition of social networks, its basic functions, size and growth, and its segments. It summarizes the most popular social networking sites; My Space, Facebook, LinkedIn,, Digg, Technorati, and You Tube. There’s even a section on how to get your organization to seriously consider social networking. Use it as a primer to get everyone on the same page of this significant marketing development.

Marketing: Intuitive or Counter-Intuitive?

July 21, 2008

Is marketing intuitive, counter-intuitive, or a combination of both? Tony Rossell and I recently discussed this issue, and you may find our thoughts beneficial to the quality of the decision-making you are involved in.

The context of the discussion was a common problem we both face, and that is how to convince non-marketing decision-makers that they may not have all the answers to their marketing problems.

Both of us have encountered individuals who base decisions on their unique personal experience. We’ll call this the intuitive side of marketing.

Both Tony and I agree that much of marketing is intuitive. For example, some of the savviest marketers are street vendors. They know about location, product relevance, promotion, competitive pricing, and so on.

We also know that much of marketing is not intuitive. How much is counter-intuitive, and what impact does counter-intuitive marketing have on the outcome of decision-making?

Tony suggested that as much as 20% of marketing is counter-intuitive. I took a different perspective and suggested that most non-professionals believe that 95% is intuitive, and the remaining percentage is irrelevant. Regardless of the percentages, the key point is that non-marketing decision-makers don’t know what they don’t know; they don’t know that there is more to marketing than their own experience.

Marketing intuition comes from a sense that what one experiences in the world is what the world experiences, and that what persuades you will naturally persuade others. The subjective is imbued with qualities of the objective. However, as we all know, different people can perceive the same experience in different ways, or have radically different experiences.

Counter-intuitive marketing may mean the difference between successful and non-successful decisions, or more vs. less effective actions. Whether it’s 20%, 5% or some other number, this counter-intuitive piece may be the most important piece to solving a marketing problem.

What are the signs for effective counter-intuitive marketing? Here are three dimensions to consider:

1. Facts matter. Gather facts, convert them to knowledge and market intelligence. Use them to improve decision-making.
2. Strategic disciplines matter. Use strategic disciplines to guide the development of your plans and recommendations.
3. Broad experience matters. Professionally acquired experience can edify, lead to unexpected solutions, and serve as brakes and red flags to intuitive marketing missteps.

What is your experience with intuitive and counter-intuitive marketing?

Membership Fault Lines

June 25, 2008

As I review a history of projects that I’ve conducted for various clients, I find that one of the most frequent obstacles to success is failing to understand the critical mass of a business solution; how to match desired results with the effort (time, money, and resources) required to obtain them.

This is where the idea of fault lines may be helpful. Borrowing selective parts of the Wikipedia definition, let’s think of membership fault lines as where significant movement in member acquisition may occur. Generally, large movement won’t occur with small amounts of marketing “pressure” or effort. This is especially true in situations where negative trends must be reversed.

One reason why clubs (and this holds true for any organization) may fail to recognize these fault lines is that they focus on tactics rather than strategies. For example, a club my initiate a direct mail campaign or a website redesign with the hope of attracting new members. While these tactics may help, they lack the power of focus that only a well thought out strategy can provide (a discussion for a later time). A very simplified strategy would first answer the questions, “Where can we best employ our strengths, and what will it take to gain the awareness of a sufficient number of prospects so that we can expect to attract 10% new members?” The strategic process would then involve a series of objectives, strategies, and tactics which would yield an action plan that may involve direct mail and web redesign, or something else.

The key point is to correctly recognize where membership fault lines exist, and what it will take to “move the earth” and improve your membership numbers. Small efforts or efforts that don’t cross into the next membership fault zone are doomed to failure.

Is the idea of “fault lines” clear and helpful? Please let me know.

Testing Under Fire

June 18, 2008

In a recent post, Tony Rossell cites an organization that chose to continue aggressive membership development despite disappointing results from a direct mail test. As Tony points out, however, there were “golden nuggets” to mine, and the organization found favorable directions to continue to explore. Personally, I’ve never met a test I didn’t like (provided it was properly developed, executed, and analyzed). So, I believe that there is a valuable lesson to be learned. To learn how this may benefit your organization, read the entire post here.

Outbound vs. Inbound: And the winner is…

May 30, 2008

I am an outbound traditionalist who has gotten inbound religion. Logic tells me that the vast majority of marketing plans should contain some balance of both. I find, however, only articles and posts that are 100% pure inbound. Somewhere, from a highly popular blogger, I read a cautionary post. It warned that the inbound world composes only a very small nucleus of the total marketing world, and that we must be careful that the voices praising SEM et al are not the entire marketing choir, by far. 

How do you determine the correct balance of marketing mix elements? 

Solution Paths: How to Find Effective Solutions

May 14, 2008

In solving problems, it is becoming increasingly apparent to me that there is more to know (more alternatives) and less time to implement a solution. How can you be an effective marketing manager under these circumstances?

I believe the answer is two-fold. First, we need to identify what information and skills we want at our immediate command, to implement without hesitation. Second, we need to identify paths to solutions that can be accessed immediately, so that a solution may be found in the shortest possible time. I call these “solution paths.”

Solutions paths are more than search queries. They include resources that are most likely to contain answers, or point to answers, such as marketing websites; they include feeds that accumulate “future answers”-responses to hypothetical problems; and they include a sequence of thinking through a problem to identify high probability solutions, such as strategic vs. tactical, immediate vs. long-term, and rational vs. emotional.

I will be talking about solution paths at the Professional Club Marketing Association National Conference in Nashville, and would like your thoughts on how you respond to the need to know more.

What You Must Know-What You Can Search

May 7, 2008

As a Marketing Director or General Manager of a club or association, what must you know about marketing and what can you leave for search?

The inspiration for this question is none other than Sherlock Holmes in The Five Orange Pips by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. He is talking to Dr. Watson when he says, “…a man should keep his little brain attic stocked with all the furniture that he is likely to use, and the rest he can put away in the lumber room of his library, where he can get it if he wants it.”

We are experiencing an explosion of information and an explosion of information delivery vehicles. Somewhere lies the answers to the most pressing problems, but where? Are those answers in our minds, or must we search for them?

What is it that the Marketing Director or GM must absolutely know about marketing – be master of – in his or her position?

Growth. Growth. Growth

May 2, 2008

I recently read a quotation used by Tony Rossell in his Membership Marketing Blog entitled, “You Gotta Have Growth!” It reads:

“Managing your size is not the solution to competitive pressure. Growth is. It is the magic elixir that cures almost every business ill. No other kind of ‘fix’ delivers its transformative power” (Jack and Suzy Welch, When Growth is the Only Solution).

He asks, “Is this wishful thinking in today’s economy or do you agree with this?”

My response, in part, was this: “I also believe in the absolute imperative of growth. Let me share a related experience. As the chair of the Marketing and Membership Committee of The Yale Club of NYC, and as a board member, I focused 95% of my efforts on sustaining 2-3% real growth/year. I could have easily been distracted by typical club projects, but my experience in the restaurant industry (where real growth is necessary to stay alive) kept me focused. We produced 3+% annually over the last four years, which means incremental members of 300+ per year.”

What are your thoughts?