MGI Tipster Volume 1, Issue 3

Do you know…the first formula of a membership program?


Last week, while on the train going from Washington, DC, to New York City with a colleague,we reviewed a presentation that I was to make to a new client. After all was said and done,my colleague reintroduced me to the value of a ‘good first impression.’ He asked me,’What is the magic code in a membership program that unlocks a prospective member’s hesitancy or reinforces a current member’s decision to join in the first place?’ I must have looked puzzled, as if I had an empty bubble over my head. He smiled knowingly and said ‘…4 26 AAA.’ ‘Huh?’ I remarked. He repeated, in a slow and perhaps too patient manner, ‘4…26…AAA.’ ‘When you first meet someone,’ he continued, ‘it takes 4 seconds to say hello and shake hands. Then, during the next 26 seconds, that person is evaluating your Appearance,Action and Attitude.’ (In their book ‘How Full Is Your Bucket? Positive Strategies for Work and Life,’Tom Rath and Donald O. Clifton point out that interactions between people are usually either positive or negative, and rarely ever neutral. Some may add to this by saying that there are no neutral interactions since you lost the opportunity to make it positive.)

What does AAA mean? He explained: ‘Appearance is obvious—how you look. Suit or no suit. Shaved or not shaved. Shoes or sandals. But Action and Attitude are a bit more elusive. Action, like how hard you squeeze and shake their hand. And Attitude, did you seem condescending? Did you look them in the eye? That sort of thing.’ As a strategist and one-time salesman, I’ve always respected the importance of making a good first impression. Deals can be made within the first 30 seconds of meeting someone. But then I expanded my thoughts about how this ‘simple little truth’ applies to every channel of membership marketing. From the location, signage, and displays used at a conference or seminar, to the copy, offer, and layout of a direct mail piece, to the layout, engagement, and navigability of a website.

Now, is it 30 seconds with every channel and for every association? Possibly not. Engineers may have a different tolerance than school teachers. A direct mail piece may have 22 seconds while a website only has 10. But the framework is still the same…you only have so much time to make a good first impression. Great for Prospects…What about My Current Members? You may ask,’But what about my current members?’ I would argue that every time your members interact with your association, whether it is through direct mail, at a trade show or seminar, at networking events or on the Internet—on whatever level—in the spirit of service, you would want to exceed this goal: always provide better service and surpass their expectations. Call your MGI consultant today to do a 4-26-AAA evaluation on your association’s membership marketing plan.

The End of the Story: My colleague and I made the presentation in New York, and we are awaiting our potential client’s response. A story to be continued… Tell Us What You’d Like to Know…That’s right, we’re trying something new. To be more responsive to our readers’ needs and cover areas of interest to you, e-mail the Tipster editors with your ideas* for the next Tipster issue at If your idea is selected, you’ll immediately become a member of the Tipster Editor’s Club (TEC) and you’ll receive:

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