Wednesday, January 13, 2016

What defines a employee engagement may well define member engagement, too.

Who doesn't like penguins?

In preparation for my webinar in February and my session at GreatIdeas! in March, both of which are on enhancing member engagement, I read a great article in Inc. Magazine entitled "13 Quotes That Define Employee Engagement." When reading it I realized that this could well be used to define member engagement as well. In fact, as we as an industry explore alternative membership models I would put forth that a the "employees" of an organization are "members" of that organization and the motivational elements are very similar if not the same.

Following are a few of the quotes and an idea or two on what that looks like with membership.

1) Stimulate Personal Investment!   "When people are financially invested, they want a return. When people are emotionally invested, they want to contribute."--Simon Sinek. One form of "personal investment" could be volunteering. When members volunteer they become emotionally invested in the organization as well. Promote volunteering, even a simple afternoon's bit of work, and you'll help your member get more out of the association as well as increase the potential for their renewing their membership. WIN WIN!!

2) "The only way to do great work is to love what you do."--Steve Jobs. Again, when someone volunteers they get a chance to see what they do from a different perspective -- a possible "paradigm shift" as per Covey. This might help them enjoy their career even more. Education and Training offers members a chance to increase their Personal ROI by enhancing their opportunity to assume more responsibility, make more money, or simply have more leisure time because they can do their tasks faster. While neither of these guarantee that the member will "love" your association, but I hope they'll feel a bit "warmer" towards you.

3) "The way your employees feel is the way your customers will feel. And if your employees don't feel valued, neither will your customers."--Sybil F. Stershic. We all value our members. But do you tell them that? Do you show them that? Include in your regular communications a few member testimonials about the association. Always clearly explain how a service, conference, product, etc. (feature) benefits the member. Don't assume that they know. "Networking" is not a benefit (and it barely describes a "feature"). You must describe what the member will get for participating.

4) "Research indicates that workers have three prime needs: Interesting work, recognition for doing a good job, and being let in on things that are going on in the company."--Zig Ziglar. These are the same for members. You can easily define the value of membership by how the features can be used by the member to realize the benefit.

5) "The simple act of paying positive attention to people has a great deal to do with productivity.--Tom Peters. Members have the same needs. The trick is to understand how they define "Interesting..." "Recognition..." and "Being let it..." So ask them! Listen to what they say and watch what they do through qualitative research; quantitative research; reports on products purchased, events attended; data-analytics and modeling of your member database to see trends and understand what's driving them. Then use this information to develop a strategy for the association that helps make the association interesting, where members feel recognized for their work and they feel informed on what the association is doing and where it is going.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The 2014 Community Benchmarking Report: MGI and HigherLogic Partner to Publish the First Comprehensive Look at Online Communities

MGI and HigherLogic partnered to publish The 2014 Community Benchmarking Report, the first comprehensive review of over 250 active communities to begin determining how to best analyze the impact of online communities as a strategic and tactical marketing and communication channel to members and stakeholders.

MGI performed all of the data analytics on the data sets provided by HL, running hundreds of scenarios to ultimately determine preliminary models by association size.  Outline within the report you'll:

  • Learn new ways to measure engagement and benchmark your association with the Composite Engagement Score (CES)
  • Discover best practices and key findings that can improve your online community performance
  • Master new engagement metrics to find community trends and opportunities
  • See what the highest scoring associations are doing to grow engagement

If you'd like to discuss how your association may benefit from the report, or would like a copy of the report please contact me at or (703) 706-0358.

Monday, November 24, 2014

A New Instructional Video of Calculating Membership Metrics.

I created an instructional video entitled "Membership Metrics: Calculating Response Rates" as a demonstration to leadership that video can be an effective tool to drive engagement and boost awareness of not only the organization but also the value that we can provide to our clients and members.

If you missed it, here is the link.  My son, Mac, who is a technology wizard and an artist in his own right, provided the camera and editing work that you'll see.

I hope you enjoy it!

If you have any questions concerning the content of the video, would like me to speak to your membership committee or BOD on membership, or have questions concerning your membership acquisition/engagement/retention programs, please contact me at or (703) 706-0358.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Membership Pricing Models: Value Based Pricing and the Van Westendorp Price Sensitivity Meter

In recent months many of my clients and friends have asked me about pricing strategy. Therefore, I thought I would share a basic definition of Value-Based pricing and one tool that I've used to determine a pricing model, the Van Westendorp Price Sensitivity Meter.

Value-based pricing (also value optimized pricing) is a pricing strategy most often used for products sold on emotions, where prices are set based upon the customer or member’s perceived value of the product or service. Used correctly, it will improve profitability (as you maximizing the price) without having a negative impact on sales volumes.

Most often, primary research methods (surveys) are employed to gain customer insights, identifying the value a customer attributes to a product or a service. Purchase intent, win/loss analysis and financial value measurement are examples of basic research methods that can unearth customer insights during the pricing process. The results of such surveys often depict a customer's 'willingness to pay.'

The principal difficulty is that the willingness of the customer to pay a certain price differs between customers, between countries, even for the same customer in different settings (depending on his actual and present needs), so that a true value-based pricing at all times is impossible. This is why data-collection employs the use of “open-ended questions,” allowing the researcher freedom to identify “price ranges” based upon response clustering (which aids in determination of statistical significance in analysis).  

Long term, by definition, prices based on value-based pricing are always higher or equal to the prices derived from cost-based pricing (if they were lower, it would mean that the actual value perceived by the customer is lower than the costs of producing the good plus a profit margin, meaning that companies would not be interested to produce and sell at that price in the long term).

The framework that I am most familiar with for determining pricing is the... 

Van Westendorp Price Sensitivity Meter.

The traditional PSM (Price Sensitivity Meter) approach asks four price-related questions, which are then evaluated as a series of four cumulative distributions, one distribution for each question. The standard question formats can vary, but generally take the following form:
  • At what price would you consider the product to be so expensive that you would not consider buying it? (Too expensive)
  • At what price would you consider the product to be priced so low that you would feel the quality couldn’t be very good? (Too cheap)
  • At what price would you consider the product starting to get expensive, so that it is not out of the question, but you would have to give some thought to buying it? (Expensive/High Side)
  • At what price would you consider the product to be a bargain—a great buy for the money? (Cheap/Good Value)

The cumulative frequencies are then plotted. Note that the standard method requires that two of the four cumulative frequencies must be inverted in order to have the possibility of four intersecting points (usually the cumulative frequencies for "too cheap" and "cheap" are inverted for analysis).


A common description of the point where the "too cheap" and "expensive" lines cross is  the "point of marginal cheapness" or PMC (the lower point of the price range). Similarly, the intersection of the "too expensive" and "cheap" lines, sometimes described as the "point of marginal expensiveness" or PME, can be viewed as the upper bound of an acceptable price range. 

Intersections where there is generally more agreement is the point at which the "expensive" line crosses the "cheap" line. This is described as the "indifference price point" or IPP. The IPP refers to the price at which an equal number of respondents rate the price point as either "cheap" or "expensive".

Finally, the "optimal price point" (OPP) is found at the point where the "too cheap" and "too expensive" lines intersect. This is the point at which an equal number of respondents describe the price as exceeding either their upper or lower limits. Optimal in this sense refers to the fact that there is an equal trade-off in extreme sensitivities to the price at both ends of the price spectrum.

Here are some examples of the output and how to read it.

Good luck and please feel free to contact me ( or 703.706.0358) if I can be of any assistance.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Business Intelligence for Association and Membership Marketers: An Icy Experience!

An association's market is a lot like an ice-burg!

While for many associations the overall size of their market and the basic responsibilities and needs of their members appears to remain the same, like an ice burg where over 90% of its volume and mass is underwater, there is a great deal more going on under the water than is easily seen with a casual glance.

The association leaders who understand and appreciate this are the ones who will keep their association from running aground on the unseen ice.

During this period of strategic planning and budget development, many of you are looking to better understand your membership, prospective members and stakeholders by performing a “Market Assessment.”

A market assessment has an important role to play in your strategic planning as it helps us understand the size and number of potential members and customers so we can set realistic goals for revenue and market share; and, the “market needs” which helps determine product development and marketing.

Breaking this down to its elementary components, we are seeking information in the following in the following three areas:

Target Market and Market Trends
  • Detail the size of the market broken out by segment/region.
  • Estimate potential growth and determine if the market is stable/mature/growing/shrinking.
  • Identify major factors driving growth and any restraints or risks.

Members, Customers and Sales
  • Identify/classify potential members/customers

  • Assess competition per:
    • Features of membership and other products
    • Types of members and customers
    • Who buys what, when?
    •  Trends
    • Pricing
  • Review advantages and disadvantages of these products/services in relation to satisfying member and customer needs
  • Review the unique value proposition for your membership and products verses the competition
  • Discuss if our membership and products address current market issues in the short or long term.

The tools to collect the data necessary to answer these questions fall into three areas:

Primary research - any type of research that you go out and collect yourself.  It is discussed in terms of being:
  • Quantitative – used to determine the relationship between one thing and another and helps identify causality by isolating a number of variables and looking at the relationships between them (statistical significance). Usually use surveys to collect this information.
  • Qualitative – is directional, aimed at providing a general description of a population, identifying overarching trends and exploring issues. It is often used to assist researchers in designing the questions used in a survey for a quantitative study. Tools usually used for this type of research include online focus groups, executive interviews and trade-show intercepts.

Secondary research - the systematic review and summary, collation and/or synthesis of existing research. Sources include academic papers, economic reports, trade publications, previous studies, etc.

Data-analytics  – at its simplest definition is the discovery and communication of meaningful patterns in data.  Using your internal database of member and customer transactions (both financial as well as social), analysis of the relationships between key data-elements within your database can turn it into a relevant source of business intelligence identifying, developing and possibly creating new strategic opportunities for the association.  The tools used to accomplish this are usually include descriptive statistics, exploratory data analysis, confirmatory data analysis and predictive analytics.

If you have any questions concerning your current membership marketing program, how research and data-analytics might help you improve the impact of your program, or how to best present your plan to leadership, please contact me, Erik Schonher, at 703.706.0358 and


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Tactical Planning: Outlining a Successful Online Awareness Plan Using Lead Generation Techniques

The goal of this post is to provide a "schema" for a basic online awareness program. This is not intended to be the "end-all-of-be-all" for online promotions. Please don't go there. More importantly, it's to simply provide an overview based upon a number of different programs that I've designed or participated in designing. Also, I want to thank Todd Michaels for his time and talent and expertise.

Use of lead generation techniques to drive member engagement is nothing new. Key to the success of the program is:
  1. Set appropriate expectations and quantifiable goals.
  2. Be sure that the offer IS compelling to the prospect.
  3. Clearly establish what you want the prospect to do in each phase of the program.
  4. Provide quality content in every step of the process.
  5. Be consistent in your presentation and content.
  6. Monitor and track response rates.
Sample Program:  Client is launching a new website and they are looking to drive engagement.

Stated Goal: To drive awareness of the new website and encourage engagement, over the next 3 months we will use targeted online advertising and search to entice prospects from each of the target markets to visit and download materials that are available through the new website. Success will be measured by the number of downloads of Materials by each segment.
Therefore, we will collect:
  1. First and last name
  2. Title
  3. Company/Association
  4. email mail address
Therefore, to analyze the results we will track the following by each market segment:
  1. Number of ad presentations by version and by placement
  2. Click-thrus by ad version and by placement
  3. Time spent on the landing page
  4. Request completions
  5. Total Downloads
  6. Opens for each of the follow up emails
  7. Number of conversions
Step 1: Understand the online behavior of your target markets using keyword and social monitoring tools to identify key topics and content within target audience.

Step 2: Identify offers that are compelling to the target market(s). I usually end up using a whitepaper as the content is easily available through my client and the actual product is inexpensive to create. Be sure that your creative is in line with your brand and is written in such a way as to entice your audience. You'll end up testing the creative so be prepared to see some work and some just flop.

Step 3: Select the online media and place the ads accordingly. This must be monitored daily and revised as needed.

Step 4: Create the Landing Page. Again, consistent in your brand and visually enticing. Include messaging that tells the prospect about the premium. You still must sell it.  Be clear as to what the prospect must do in order to receive the premium. Don't hide it. Don't be illusive. Clear and simple. 

Once down loaded, send the prospect a "thank you" and then send 3 to 5 follow up emails to entice them to explore the website and your association. (be sure to track this activity)

Each email should offer the prospect links to pertinent information on the website with the goal of their engaging with the website and enhancing their personal experience. In case they are not members, be sure that there is a link to the join-page.

Step 5: From the landing page send them directly to the new website.

I hope that you found this useful. If you have any questions please feel free to contact me at 703.706.0358 or 

Monday, May 5, 2014

What are the Most Effective Marketing Channels for Associations? Find out what the 2014 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report says...

Individual Member
(n = 380)
Most Effective 
Word-of-mouth recommendations
Direct mail
(n = 244)
Most Effective 
Word-of-mouth recommendations
Personal sales calls
(n = 227)
Most Effective 
Word-of-mouth recommendations
Promotion to/at your own conferences/ trade shows
The 2014 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report continues to provide a very interesting picture of the changes that we're seeing in membership marketing.

While "Word of Mouth" continues to be included in the "Top Three" category, it is interesting to note the changes noticed in the the other two slots.

"I'm Baaaack." Direct Mail - A Proven Performer
Direct Mail returns to the Top Three for IMOs. While it seemed to fall out of favor last year, its interesting to note the trend within our industry back to print media. I guess the pendulum swings both ways. Its our experience that direct mail is an important channel for direct response marketing given its ability to deliver an individualized offer to a targeted prospects within a market and then effectively track the responses.

While the "Association Website" seems to have dropped out from this list, there is no question in anybody's mind that your website remains to be, in essence, your "office receptionist" as anybody who has a question about what you do and how you do it researches your website first before making a call.

The 2014 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report will be available on June 17, 2014, at the ASAE MMCC where I will be speaking. If you'd like me to save a copy for you, please let me know.

If you have any questions in regard to my services as a consultant, or the services provided by MGI, please feel free to contact me via email at