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Your Non-Member List May Need More Help Than You Think

Mountain of paperwork
I got an email the other day from an organization inviting me to their upcoming summit.

I had looked at this organization back in 2010, for my previous role with Greenfield Services Inc. At the time I was interested in obtaining a designation to increase my knowledge and expertise base in project management.

There were two things about this recent email that made me laugh:  First, when I contacted this organization back in 2010, I got a very abrupt response regarding my membership inquiry (something along the lines of “all of the information you need is on our website”…), and so I never joined because no one was interested in talking with me.  The second thing that made me laugh is that this communication arrived two years later – I have not heard from the association since my initial inquiry and now they are reaching out to invite me to a conference?

Yes, at least they are reaching out now – but it is clear that they have not done their research in quite a while to determine who (if anyone) on their non-member list is still worth marketing to.

It may be relatively inexpensive to send a text-only email out to a list of contacts, but at what cost to the association’s image and reputation?  The same goes for the course catalogues I receive offering me courses in Project Management, Employee Engagement, and other Operations functions.  Since these topics applied to my former role, the company sending these to me is wasting a lot of money!   I do not even take them out of the plastic packaging anymore; I just toss them in the recycling bin.

There are several lessons here for associations, but here are my top three:

Know the Statistics:  In working with data cleansing, we’ve estimated that data becomes obsolete at a rate of 30% per year (or more in some cases).  This ratio is very industry dependent, but knowing what your industry or profession’s average turnover is very important.  Your prospective member or conference attendee may still be in the same job function, but what if they transfer departments, or move to different cities/companies?

Do your research:  Whether it is internet research to find if the person is still at the company, or if it is a call that needs to take place to update information, it needs to be done.  No matter what amount of money you are spending on marketing to your non-members, a lot of what is being allocated is being wasted if you cannot keep your list up to date.  We recommend that this is done annually, and that it is consistently planned for in your budgeting process.

Take the Leap:  A prospective member is more likely to provide you with their updated contact information if you demonstrate that you offer them some value.  As an example, if the association I reached out to for my initial inquiry had provided me with the assistance I was looking for, or even bothered to follow up on a regular basis, I would be more likely to have told them by now that I have completely changed roles and as a result am no longer interested.  I may have even given them the name of my replacement.

If you are looking to improve your numbers – whether it is for courses, conferences or membership – you need to know who you are marketing to – and that starts with a clean list (additional tips can be found here).  From there, you can assess the real costs of creating a strategic marketing plan.

What have been your experiences with your non-member list?