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The Engaging #Association Summit


The Engaging Association Summit

Alexandria, ON, February 26, 2014 – On July 24-25, 2014 Greenfield Services will have its first major event for association executives.  The Engaging Association Summit will take place in Ottawa, ON, and will provide the opportunity for a true exchange of ideas for a new generation of association to succeed, grow and prosper.

Your Engaging Association Summit hosts;
Doreen Ashton Wagner & Meagan Rockett
“The team at Greenfield Services has attended several industry events since the company’s start in 1998.  In the last few years, we’ve noticed a disconnect between the learning opportunities available to association executives and what these executives are looking for in professional development”, says Doreen Ashton Wagner, Greenfield’s Chief Strategist.

“We want to move away from conferences attracting delegates with big-name speakers, session titles and standard networking opportunities.  The inspiration of the event came from wanting to provide a forum to exchange top-level ideas and practical advice; content that association professionals can take back to their organizations and put into action once the summit is over,” added Meagan Rockett; Director, Client Solutions.

The Engaging Association Summit is an event co-created with association executives, from senior levels to entry-level young professional.  So far we have heard that:

  • The Summit should provide attendees with the opportunity to learn and share experiences beyond heard from consultants and suppliers.  Peer-driven content, with support from industry experts is expected.
  • The Summit should be appropriate in length, should not take too much time away from the office.
  • The Summit should allow for fresh, alternative formats that enhance the learning experience.
  • Association Executives are the main drivers of this summit, and therefore, a limited number of salespeople or industry supplier will be admitted.

We are committed to providing the industry with just that, and look forward to being part of the change!

For more information please contact:
Meagan Rockett
Director, Client Solutions
Greenfield Services Inc.

Greenfield Services Inc. is a full service marketing firm dedicated to the needs of professional and trade associations.  We produce the Pulse Report, an annual contribution to research on Membership Marketing & Engagement practices in Canada.  Areas of expertise include Membership Marketing, Membership Engagement, Sponsorship & Exhibit Sales and Event Marketing.  To learn more about the summit, or to sign up for updates, please click here.

5 Marketing Tips for the New Year

It might be February already, but there’s still time to think about what you’re going to do that’s new, fresh and exciting in the New Year when it comes to marketing.

The following are 5 marketing trends that you should take into serious consideration (and implementation) when it comes to your organization’s marketing this year:

1. Engage on an emotional level with your audience

It’s not about you, it’s about them. Seriously. Your customers are only in it for one thing–themselves. And this isn’t a bad thing. Whether you sell a good, a service or membership, you should want your audience thinking about themselves; this is how they will engage.

Your challenge this year? Think outside the box in terms of what you can offer your customers, members or audience when it comes to  personalized support, products and experiences. Pay attention to big data to help you figure out just what your customers want. Heck, any data is going to help you boost engagement and figure out what triggers emotional responses from your audience.

Track whatever you can and use this information on a routine basis to make informed business decisions. Get personal. Get emotional. Your customers will appreciate it.

2. Content marketing. It’s a must.

It’s no longer good enough to just be “on” social media or to have set up a blog (that might not be updated on a regular basis).  Content marketing is a must and need to be incorporated into your organization’s entire marketing strategy (check out some of my tips to get started here).

2014 will also see changes in terms of paid and earned media. Organic content is great, but think about setting aside some of your marketing dollars for digital advertising and promoted posts when it comes to your content marketing strategy. A solid mix of organic and paid content will push you to the frontline and only add to continued brand recognition for your organization.

Think beyond the likes. What makes your organization different? How can you be more creative? How will you truly appeal to your customers? This year, your content needs to be about engagement, conversions, originality and consistency.

3. Combine traditional and digital marketing. Think teamwork.

Digital marketing, traditional marketing, sales, brand marketing–whatever you want to call these pieces, they need to work together. Your entire organization needs to not only understand your overall business goals, but what the sales and marketing goals are–regardless of the channels being used.

In addition, everything you do should be tied to digital. It’s fine if you need to keep your printed brochure, but edit it in terms of online content. Is there a mention of social media? Do you make it easy for your readers to find you other places online? And when people do find you online, do you have a means to track where they came from?

Always be thinking about integration. Your team. Your brand message. Your channels.

4. Get mobile.

Mobile marketing is here to stay. All organizations need to think about how and when their customers access information online (hint: it has to do with tablets and smartphones) and produce content that supports the “always on” mentality. Mobile makes up the majority of email open rates (so even if you finally got that business e-newsletter going, you now have to make sure it’s primed for mobile viewing…is it?)

Responsive website design. Text messaging. Easy share options. Social networking widgets. Visual content. All of these pieces should work together to create engaging experiences that showcase your brand in its best light while, at the same time, making it as easy as possible for the consumer.

5. Multiple paths to purchase

There is no longer a flat sales funnel. Your organization must really think about multiple points of entry and strategize your marketing according to this. Think emotional engagement. Think outside the funnel.

The purchase funnel we all learned in Sales and Marketing 101 is no longer. The way for brands to communicate on an emotional level and provide value to customers is to choose the right (multiple) platforms and engage on the customers’ levels. What they want. What they need. How they connect.

And because of this, there is no one direct path to purchase. There is no one ultimate tool that persuades a purchase.

All of a company’s efforts–traditional and digital–solidify additional connections and emotions that lead to engagement, trust and ultimately, the sale. It truly is a multi-path-to-purchase cycle. There is nothing flat about it.

This is what your leadership must understand. This is how you will engage your C-suite and get them on board with everything you need to be doing in 2014 and beyond.

Are you ready?

This guest post was submitted by Melissa Harrison, founder and CEO of Allee Creative, LLC, a content marketing and branding firm in the Twin Cities. Melissa has more than a decade of experience in content management and strategy, branding and design, working with organizations to build strategic social media and online content strategies. Listed as one of the “Top 36 Content Marketers Who Rock” by TopRank and Content Marketing Institute, Melissa believes that organizations must adapt to what customers want, which includes using social media and creative online content to provide relevant, consistent information, in order to survive.

Melissa is also a four-time recipient of the Hermes Creative Award and a regular speaker on the topics of branding, content strategy and social media. Melissa is also certified by Google Analytics Academy in Digital Analytics Fundamentals. Follow Melissa on Twitter.

Etiquette for Tradeshow Organizers, Exhibitors and Attendees

Many association executives we talk to are worried about the future of their exhibitions.  Exhibiting is never inexpensive for vendors, and their expectations are forever rising.  This is a the same time buyers are pressed for time, so show average show attendance is often stagnant or declining.

Which is probably why many show organizers, in the meetings industry and other sectors, have moved to a hosted buyer/appointment-setting model.  But for some associations this model is either too labour-intensive or impractical due to the length of the exposition.

Perhaps the answer rests with improving the overall experience on the exhibitor and attendee side.  Based instances witnessed first hand at a recent tradeshow, here are a few suggestions we humbly submit could enhance your business-to-business expo:

  1. Educate your exhibitors!  This is where we envision a CODE OF CONDUCT.  A pledge that each exhibitor would be asked to uphold, sign or swear to.  We mean it.  You need to spell out, otherwise this happens:
    • Exhibitors picking up a giveaway or signing up for prizes at other booths:  OK there might be instances when exhibitors have business for one another.  But what we saw just reeked of unethical, boorish behaviour.  Even if you have purposefully stopped by to say hello, do not drop your business card in, or fill out a ballot.  You are likely NOT the exhibitors target market, and you may win a prize that would have been better suited to an attendee.  And someone please tell these poor, misguided souls that most savvy exhibitors weed through their ballots or cards before they draw for the prize.  Don’t waste our time, your time and the exhibitor's investment.
    • Exhibitors exhibiting uninviting behaviour:  Exhibitors that are obviously texting, answering emails, or on their personal social media sites are NOT engaging.  If my boss saw me on my phone and not standing in front of our booth with a smile on my face inviting people to chat with me, I would be reprimanded.  Big time.  It is BASIC etiquette, and should NOT be tolerated.  I challenge show exhibitors to take this to the next level: enlist the help of your committee, and select few attendees or even students to "police" your tradeshow floor and report offenders.  You might just be doing a big favour to the exhibit decision-maker by alerting them to less-than-inviting booth behaviour by their staff!
  2. Tell your exhibitors what to do & what to expect.  Exhibitors should EXHIBIT.  Sounds like a no-brainer, doesn't it?  Unfortunately, recently a Greenfield rep was on the floor at a tradeshow, walking the aisle, taking pictures and gathering quotes for the association's social media efforts.  But an astounding number of exhibitors did not want their picture taken!  How engaging is a shot of an empty booth?  Attendees and non-attendees want to see people hamming it up, inviting them to come visit.  We didn't think it was that strange a concept, but clearly exhibitors need to be educated about these things.  
  3. Teach exhibitors how to be personal with any pre or post-show communication:  We've written about how an avalanche of misguided pre-show emails will harm your show.  And after the show, please advise exhibitors to STOP sending generic emails or requests to connect via social media to everyone that showed up.  Again, exhibitors need to understanding this is not putting their best foot forward.  Tell them this says that customers will have a generic experience if they do business with them.  As a show organizers, the better your exhibitors are, the more attendees you will attract.

The job of a tradeshow organizer is already a tough one, and I can relate to those who lament the fact the above points are what the exhibitors' PARENTS should have taught them... We get that.  Remember though that any uninviting behaviour by any exhibitor can be a turnoff for the attendee.  And then we ALL lose, in the long run...

Advice for Emerging Professionals

Like many of you who may be reading this post I fell into association management. My career started when I was 22 years old and I was lucky enough to be hired by an association executive who was also a wonderful mentor.  I have learned a lot of lessons and here are my top five hints for those of you who are embarking on this awesome career journey.

1. Learn about the history of associations.

This seems like “just a job,” and in some respects it is. Meetings, phone calls, emails can lead you to believe that associations are just another “company.” However, they aren’t. Associations have a long and unique history within the political system in the United States.  They are the embodiment of our rights to freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of the press. We have a long, legal tradition underpinning our activities.  Our ability to influence the political system for both good and bad is immense. I am proud to have taken part as a bit player in the bigger game called “democracy.”

2. Do not take your eye off of societal changes.

Due to pressed budgets, small staffs and challenges within the specific industries or professions we represent it is extremely easy to become myopic and to take our gaze off of the larger society that we function within. This type of intense focus on our internal realities can help us mobilize and get things done, but it can also blind us to larger opportunities that are on the horizon for our members. Changes in science, technology, values and even pop culture are continual and our adaptation to these new modalities is one of the most important keys to our longevity and success.

3. Use the “royal we.”

The best piece of advice I ever got was, “Stop saying ‘I think…’”  The intent wasn’t to get me to stop thinking for myself, but to get me to embrace the fact that my job wasn’t about “me,” it was about “us.”  Changing my thinking from being “an individual actor” to “a part of the collective” was critical in my professional development.  It changed everything about how I talk, to how I think about the system as a whole and what it will and will not respond to. I still say, “I think…” but I’m very strategic about it.  When I use the term, “I think…” I always end with, “what do you think?” or “does that resonate with you, am I off base?”

4. Stuff envelopes.

Never, ever pass up an opportunity to do something mind-deadening and soul-crushing. Over my career I tried to never say no.  Jumping from a low level director position, directly into the executives chair should not be your goal.  Your goal should be to do everything you possibly can in every department someone will let you into. The crappiest data entry, newsletter production, running 5,000 individual invitations off of a laser printer (yeah, I don’t really recommend that one – thank GOD we had some fans in the office to prevent it from bursting into flames), whatever crazy task comes your way.  The reason is, when you are the executive you know exactly how long it takes to stuff 5,000 envelopes.  Not only will it help you allocate tasks, and push back to the board when they start overloading your staff, it will also help you recognize stellar staff performance. (You will also know when someone is goldbricking because you KNOW some task shouldn’t have taken that long.)

5. We are all emerging professionals.

This is a real profession.  It is a unique and fascinating environment. However, the learning never stops. I still consider myself an emerging professional even after all of these years. I am continually learning from my peers and honing my craft. This, like the “legal practice” or “medical practice,” is a practice. I can learn as much from someone who has only been in this profession for two years as someone who has been around for twenty-five. Get your certifications – CAE, CMM, CMP, IOM (whichever ones apply to you) and establish yourself as a player.  But then don’t stop playing. There is exciting stuff just around the corner every single day.  Emerge and keep emerging.  We are all in this together.

Shelly Alcorn, CAE is obsessed with the idea that associations can make a significant difference in the world around us. Her consulting is focused on removing barriers, increasing participation and doing things that matter. She blogs at Association Subculture and is the host for the Association Forecast Show. She also travels and speaks on how things in our everyday lives, like video games and popular culture - impact our ability to lead in the workplace. These ain't your grandma's keynotes. Just sayin....

Member Recruitment Gone Wrong

On January 6th, a professional association in the scientific industry sent a direct mail piece to recruit new members.  The offer was actually quite good – before the deadline, you could join the association at 50% off the membership fee, with a free conference registration.  Since they are an organization offering corporate memberships, the savings were potentially over $2,000.  The piece was designed well, and captured attention.

Unfortunately, they either purchased a list from an online source, or have had this list for quite some time, and never removed records that did not have potential.  Why?

  • First off, my colleague got the offer.  Not only does our company have no potential for membership, but we also never would have as individuals in our past careers.  The direct mail piece was addressed to my colleague who spent her career in hospitality sales & marketing.  
  • Our contact information was not correctly inputted, with minor spelling mistakes in our company name, and her last name was WAY off.  
  • On top of all of this, we received this on January 6th, and as of today, there has been no follow up.  

I cringe at the thought of how many people they mailed this to, addressing it to the wrong people, the wrong company type for their target market, and the investment spent to print pieces being sent to a really bad list.  Not to mention the fact that the lack of follow up does not really make a prospect believe you want their business.  It comes across as junk!

Why would any professional organization risk being seen in this light?  It sounds like desperation marketing...

What could be done differently to boost your ROI on recruitment efforts?

  • Create a Unique Strategy:  What we are finding (and have found for years) is that not only does it take a unique strategy and marketing plan to get the return you want on any recruitment efforts, that the quality of the data you have on non-members is as crucial to your efforts as the beauty of the marketing piece.  This mailing was appealing, but was likely driven by the same type of marketing plan geared towards current members.  When it is time for renewal, they send a notice.  Little follow up is done, and membership numbers remain relatively the same, or drop as a result.
  • Work from a Clean List:  B2B research has shown that in any given year, data can become obsolete at a rate of 30% per year or more.  The ratio really depends on your member demographic.  For example, in the hotel industry, sales & marketing managers can change properties quite frequently, even multiple times per year.  However, if they are physicians, perhaps their turn-over ratio is not as significant.  No matter the turn-over rate in your industry, a clean list is a smart first step to any and all marketing programs.  
  • Follow Up!:  Sigh….It always amazes me that those spending thousands of dollars creating a really smart, visually appealing piece with a clear call to action, that contains contact information of not only the association, but the member services representative, and they literally did nothing to help build the relationship afterwards.

How do your recruitment efforts differ from other marketing?  Have you built in the right strategy to increase your ROI?

Why It Is Not Enough To Know Why Members Join

Amanda Kaiser helps associations stay relevant by deeply understanding member challenges, needs and wants.  You can find more of her articles about member research, member experience and member insights at

“What do you think is the top reason members join?” is a critical question asked in membership benchmarking surveys but the ranked answers may be inaccurate. The question asks association professionals to report why they think members join which may not necessarily actually be why members join.

Meagan Rockett beautifully illustrates this in an earlier post when she questions a big swing in the results in the 2013 Pulse Report. Education, as the reason to join dropped significantly and Meagan says, “If associations are listening to the tone of the times, rather than the needs of their members, and positioning themselves accordingly, they may be missing an opportunity to boost member engagement and retention.”

Knowing why members join is crucial for developing great marketing and innovation. This question can’t be left to a benchmarking study to answer for you. And the one or two word answers your members gave you do not help either. What you need to know is the motivation and emotion behind why your members join.

Know their motivation

When you ask a member why they joined they are likely to give you a quick answer: “for networking”, “to have access to professional development”, or “to receive industry data”. You need to find out the why behind the why; what is their motivation behind joining?

A member says the #1 reason they joined is to go to the conference. Now it is up to you to determine the motivation behind their need to go to the conference. Did their boss tell them to register? Are they new to the profession? Are they struggling with a problem and they hope to meet someone who successfully found a solution? Do you see how knowing member’s motivations can help you craft a better message or alter the session subject matter to better meet your member’s needs?

See the emotion

With almost all purchases there is an emotional reason that drives the purchase and the same holds true for joining an association. You should know how your members feel when they join. Are they thrilled at the opportunities for being a part of your organization? Do they feel uncertain that joining will meet their needs? Are they hopeful that joining will help them solve a problem? Understanding the underlying emotion helps you fix flaws and fine tune the member experience.

Knowing that “networking” or “education” as the reason to join is not enough. When you know why they join, their motivation to join and the emotions surrounding joining you can develop strategies that unquestionably meet your member’s needs.

Canada's Anti-Spam Law Comes Into Effect July 1... Now What?

You may have heard that Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) will take effect on July 1st, 2014.  Now that the government has announced the date by which sanctions begin, associations need to assess how it applies to them, and what to do about it.

The best advice that I can give to those who are not sure where to start is to think strategically, and start from the beginning, so you are not scrambling close to the deadline to ensure that you have tracked everything correctly.

What is CASL?

This legislation applies to any commercial electronic message that promotes your organization or even just informs recipients. Examples include emails or texts that:

  • Promote a product or service;
  • Invite recipients to sponsor, attend or exhibit at a conference or event;
  • Solicit a prospect to join your organization.

Not only do you have to be careful about what you are sending, but you have to be careful about who you are sending it to.  That's because the law says you can only send an electronic message if you have the recipient's consent first:

  • Express consent is the communication agreement you have with an individual member, exhibitor, or sponsor. If these contacts have bought or something from your association in the last two years, they are deemed to have explicitly agreed to receive electronic communication from you.  Any recipients whose last transaction is more than two years ago must be contacted for express consent.
  • Implied consent on the other hand is a tentative agreement between you and a prospective member or other stakeholder.  They may have attended an information session, or dropped a business card off at your booth at a tradeshow.  This agreement has an expiry date, which after July 1st, 2014, is just six months from the date of the initial contact.  After six months, if you don't have express consent, you must stop communication.

Obtaining Consent:  Get express consent wherever possible, and once you have it, have the mechanisms in place to confirm, and obtain communication interests and preferences.

Managing Information in Your Database:  In the event of a complaint, you will have to provide the data to back up your claim of consent.  Ensure that your CRM is capable of keeping a field to indicate whether consent was express or implied, and the date it was obtained, along with any other information relating to the recipient's preferences.

Identification and Ongoing Communication Requirements:  Ensure that your messages contain the correct contact information required by the legislation, whether it is sent by you or your third party provider.
Unsubscribes and Revoking Consent:  If a recipient of your messages wants to revoke consent (i.e. wants to unsubscribe), the process to do so must be easy and clearly laid out.  To ensure that the process is seamless, we recommend ensuring that your email marketing software is connected to your CRM.

For more information on the Anti-Spam Legislation, please visit, or download our Tips and Best Practices for Associations on preparing for CASL.