Sunday, February 19, 2017

Fat, Dumb and Happy. But How Long?

Complacency—the silent business killer—might finally do in associations.

They've been in free fall since the Great Recession, shedding people and programs left and right, as they watch the membership pool evaporate.

It may be only years until they go the way of pay phones, folding maps, and dot matrix printers.

Association executives' self-interest may be the cause of the failure ("No matter the cost, let's preserve my bloated compensation"). Or perhaps it's the fault of hidebound boards.

Whatever the cause, one place that complacency shines is member on-boarding.

A case in point.

Precisely one month ago today, I joined American Society of Association Executives. Since then, I have received nothing from ASAE but for two lame auto-responses confirming my $470 payment.

Do I feel buyer's remorse? You betcha. I wonder:

  • Does anyone inside ASAE even know I'm a member? 
  • Will I ever be contacted before I receive a renewal invoice in 12 months? 
  • Will I derive a single benefit from ASAE, or are my dues merely a charitable donation? 
  • Why did I ever part with my money? 
  • What am I missing? 
Okay, maybe I'm naive.

In The End of Membership As We Know It, Sarah Sladek writes, “For hundreds of years association memberships have been cut from the same cloth. With few exceptions, people paid dues once a year for access to a full year’s worth of membership."

So maybe my dues payment was simply a toll.

If it was, I've taken the bridge to nowhere.

"Scrappy" for-profits know there are two milestones a new customer must reach:

  • She must sign up for the product. 
  • She must achieve her first success with the product. 
Customer churn occurs when the second milestone is never reached. To minimize churn, for-profits focus on on-boarding. For example:
  • Xero asks new customers to watch a "getting started" video when they sign up 
  • PropserWorks mails new customers a handwritten note 
  • Trill puts cards on its on-boarding website that explain how its product works 
  • Etsy provides a "progress meter" for new customers setting up a shop 
  • Dropbox helps you upload your first file 
It may be too late for association marketers to up their game by mimicking their for-profit peers.

But should they at least feel an urge to learn new tricks, I'd recommend signing up with Chris Brogan.

Meanwhile, I'll work on getting my dues refunded.
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