Feeling Listless? Here are Some Helpful Tips to Perk Up Your Messages
This issue of the Tipster will share an open secret: Your success starts and ends with your prospect mailing list.
It’s a fact tested and proven repeatedly, that 50% of measurable responses track to the prospect mailing list, 30% track to the specific offer, and 20% track to creative (copy and design). So focus on the largest variable—lists—and instantly perk up the impact of your communications.
A mailing list can be postal addresses, email addresses, or social media contacts. All are valuable resources used to deliver a message to the desired audience.
Whether your message relies on postal mail, email, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, or word-of-mouth, measurable success comes from the ability to put your message in front of those who will respond favorably to your offer by taking the action you have mapped out for them.
No matter how much wordsmithing goes into a beautifully written appeal, how much world-class design enhances the beauty of the offer, how much sweat-equity pushes the communication out through multiple channels…if it’s not received by the right audience, then it’s that tree falling in the forest that no one hears.
It’s that simple, but also that complicated.
Finding Great Lists
Start at your own desk. Every association is, by definition, a group of individuals or organizations with a common purpose and having a formal structure. To conduct ordinary business, each association has a list of active members, usually defined as those who are current in their dues.
The database of active members is your most valuable list, and it needs to be the benchmark used to measure all other lists.
Every association—and this truly means every association—also has former members whose memberships have lapsed or expired, whether accidentally or intentionally. That group of names is the second most valuable list for anyone who needs to promote membership, market the association’s products or services, or invite speakers or registrants for an event. In a recent survey (see MGI’s 2014 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report survey of 865 associations):
- 13% of associations reported that they don’t contact lapsed members
- 10% of associations reported that non-renewers had left the field, industry, or profession—meaning that 90% are prime prospects
So, what this means is you must start with your own database and nurture contact with former members. They already know the organization and should be part of your industry’s ongoing conversation.
Another group of prospects not to be forgotten: all those individuals who buy your products and services and/or attend your conferences and other educational offerings but who are not yet members. Their buying habits may put them on the cusp of membership, ready to join given the right offer.
Find New Names
Association professionals frequently seek new individuals or organizations to participate as members, exhibitors, sponsors, speakers, or purchasers of products and services. One easy resource is to connect with a professional list broker.
A list broker buys (rents) names—at no charge to the association. The broker then mines these lists to find fresh names that are similar to your existing membership and registration databases.
Once you have some fresh/outside names on tap, it’s time to pull out your active member list once again and this time the list will be your benchmark tool. Have your mail house, letter shop, or internal data team de-duplicate (merge/purge) any rental names against your membership file.
- Remove names of existing members, exhibitors, or sponsors to avoid duplicate messages to those already in-the-know and participating
- Eyeball the duplication rate:
- If you don’t find any duplication, then the new list is unlikely to produce good results for you.
- If you find a high duplication rate, then you have found a good match for your kind of names, which is great. It also gives you the opportunity to negotiate a different fee for the list to avoid paying for names already in your database.
Remember to honor the terms on the rental list, which usually are limited to one-time usage—but you will own any responses that arrive back to you by postal mail, email, website, Facebook, or other links.
Remember, list brokers can be long-term partners who take your criteria and then report back on options, whether you need postal addresses, email names, or other media contacts. Use their expertise and inside knowledge of their industry.
Yes, an association can and likely should earn non-dues revenue from careful marketing of the database by a professional list manager.
- List managers sell names on behalf of the list owner
- List brokers buy names for mailers
In many cases, the same person can perform both tasks but there is a different goal. For instance, your association may be the list owner working with a list manager, and therefore your association will receive most of the revenue from marketing the names as a postal or email list.
Most associations that outsource list management do it for one or more of three reasons:
- Shift the burden of work off the shoulders of busy association professionals so staffers can focus on other duties that can’t be outsourced
- Take advantage of the marketing prowess and presence of list professionals
- Comply with CAN-SPAM, CASL, Do Not Mail, and any other pertinent regulations
When an association outsources list management, the association remains an active partner in each transaction, ensuring that the list is provided under terms agreeable to the association. Mailers deemed unacceptable to the association are denied access to the names, while the list manager constantly seeks mailers whose messages will be approved by the association.
There are tax implications whenever an association earns non-dues revenue (UBIT, the unearned business income tax), and your list partner should present options that protect the revenue stream as a tax-exempt royalty payment. That makes every association CFO happy.
MGI is able to customize list management agreements for your individual association to accommodate your fiscal year and other variables. Contact MGI Relationship Director Barbara Armentrout at 703.706.0337 or email her at BArmentrout@MarketingGeneral.com to learn more.