The Threat to Association Shows

Association-owned trade shows are under threat, Bob James says on EVENT, the blog of the Center for Exhibition Industry Research.

Proprietary shows—events hosted by corporations for their customers, prospects, partners and the media—are steadily luring exhibitors from association shows.

The roaring success of proprietary shows like Adobe MAX, Cisco Live, Dell EMC World, and Dreamforce prove they work—and may represent the next wave of "must-attend" events.

Other event industry-watchers, like AGS Expo Services’ Evan Garvey, agree.

You can read Bob's entire post here.

How Can Associations Catch Up?

According to David James, "multichannel marketing is eluding associations."

A new survey by the Association Research Board reveals that associations favor email over other marketing channels, including direct mail, telemarketing, and social media.

The survey found that 62% of associations rely on email to market products and services. Only 27% use direct mail; and only 12% use telemarketing.

The survey also found that only 18% of associations use some additional channels to market products and services, including social media and face-to-face.

“Associations are oblivious to the massive shift in members' buying habits that's underway," David says.

"They're failing to use the many channels members use, and to understand how members move from one channel to another."

By favoring email over other marketing channels, David says, "Associations are plagued by low inbox rates, dismal email response, and over-digitalized members."

How can associations catch up?

Associations need to go all-in on multichannel to catch up with changes in members' buying habits, David says.

First, they need to recognize that the audiences for their goods and services have expanded. Businesses have become more collaborative in the past decade. Hierarchical structures and decision-making have given way to "flat" organizations that resemble networks. Multi-member buying teams, comprising a diversity of job functions and seniority levels, now make all the buying decisions. Often these teams are temporary. So, there's no longer a single point of contact, or a single demographic, you can target. The contacts are many, diverse, and temporary.

With an increase in decision-makers comes longer purchase cycles, greater scrutiny, and higher expectations. Your messages have to survive months for your offering to be considered.

Meanwhile the start-up sector is exploding, bringing another new mindset to B2B buying. Decisions are personal and decision-makers consider how purchases reflect on their brand and values.

And decision-makers are no longer largely Boomers. They aren't even Gen Xers. Your buyers are Millennials.

Next, associations have to learn how to speak to larger, more diverse audiences.

You need, among other things, to personalize messages for specific people in specific environments. You also need to reach them across multiple devices and channels. And, while B2B audiences seem to be "always on," there are in fact certain days, times and places where you can engage them more reliably. Pinning these down is important. You'll often find audiences checking the daily news on their phones first thing mornings; viewing personal and lifestyle content on a desktop over their lunch breaks; and eyeballing social media accounts on a tablet or laptop during he evenings.

Lastly, associations have to discover content marketing.

More precisely, they have to learn what content works, and what content doesn't.

Traditional association marketing content is long, dry, and product-focused. But because decision-making has expanded and audiences grown more diverse, traditional content could well be backfiring.

A mix of non-traditional content makes better sense. Blog posts, articles, podcasts, videos, webinars and short-form content (such as direct mail and social media postcards) can be much more engaging and accessible, especially at the early stages of the buying cycle. You can use these formats to provide insights and trends instead of nitty-gritty details; and do so in a more digestible, friendly, and entertaining way. By being a little less talkative, serious, and self-absorbed, and a little more humane, you can cut through the clutter of sales messages that are engulfing today's super-busy buyers.

5 Signs You Need to Change Marketing Tactics

  • Sponsors and advertisers never return your calls, even by mistake

  • Pocket Fisherman® may be the largest exhibitor at your next show

  • Your alpha audience gets smaller by the hour

  • Your inbox rates are thinning faster than your hair

  • Every chance he gets, your nephew tells you to invest your entire marketing budget in Facebook—and you're starting to believe him

  • It's time to change.

    Bob and David James specialize in helping niche publishers, event producers and associations reach and engage their customers:

  • Sell more—and bigger—advertising bundles

  • Attract new, deep-pocket advertisers, sponsors and exhibitors

  • Capture Millennials' attention and lure new niche audiences

  • Break through the noise and boost response rates

  • Get a better ROI from marketing.

    We've seen your situation from every side... association, publisher, organizer, agency, advertiser, sponsor, exhibitor, and supplier.

    With experience like that, we can help you to pinpoint issues, apply solutions, and get the results you want to achieve.

    What are you waiting for? Call us at 202 810.9568.

    Nonprofit E-Mail Marketers: Are You Partying or Panicking?

    You should do a bit of both. According to M+R's Benchmarks 2017 :

  • Total online giving grew by 14% since 2015, with email generating 26 cents of every dollar.

  • Email lists grew by 10%; email volume, by 10% as well. The average subscriber received 69 email messages in 2016.

  • Email metrics flagged, however. Open rates dropped by 7%, to just under 15%.

  • Response rates dropped by 8%, to just .05%. A nonprofit had to land 2,000 fundraising emails in inboxes in order to generate a single donation.

  • "The truth is that technology, tastes, and audiences change, and change is not uniform," the report concludes.

    "For many nonprofits, online programs are relatively mature. They’re essential, and still growing, but perhaps aren’t seeing the dramatic advances they once did. These nonprofits might increasingly turn to new platforms and nuanced strategies—like digital advertising and website optimization—to make the most of their online programs.

    “You can’t keep playing the same old tunes if you want to stay at the top of the charts."

    Survey: E-Mail Associations’ Preferred Marketing Channel

    A new survey by the Association Research Board reveals associations favor email over other marketing channels, including direct mail, telemarketing, and social media.

    In addition to a reluctance to capitalize on other channels, the survey shows associations have a fondness for “DIY” marketing.

    The findings are based on Quarter 1 2017 poll completed by 100 association executives.

    The survey found that 62% of associations rely on email to market products and services. Only 27% use direct mail; and only 12% use telemarketing.

    The survey also found that 18% of associations use some additional channels to market products and services, including social media and face-to-face.

    In addition, the survey revealed that associations are over-reliant on their “house lists.” Only 25% ever rent or buy outside lists; 75% never do.

    Associations, in addition, essentially practice “DIY marketing.”

    The survey found that 47% of associations do not outsource any marketing services. Fewer than 10% outsource marketing research, marketing strategy, list management, email marketing, telemarketing, digital advertising, or social media. Only 38% outsource creative services and graphic design; and 16% outsource direct mail.

    Associations are missing out, big league.

    Low inbox rates, dismal email response, and over-digitalized members are only half the problem associations face. The other half is "list fatigue."

    If you’re not constantly augmenting your list with fresh names, you’re not going to grow. And if you’re not growing, you’re probably shrinking.

    Associations’ problems are compounded by a dependence on staff for marketing.

    Staff may understand members’ needs and preferences, but they’re apt to be close-minded toward marketing channels they haven’t tried—despite the declining performance of email.

    We live in different times.

    Maybe it’s time to try something different.

    Introducing PLAYBOOK

    Exhibitors spend vast sums on trade shows, often for little return.

    Now that's ancient history.

    Our proprietary trade show lead-gen system, PLAYBOOK, can help deliver real ROI against exhibitors' expenses.

    PLAYBOOK is a six-part, lead-gen system that takes the uncertainty out of exhibiting, by assuring exhibitors ready-to-buy leads.

    It’s designed to drive highly-qualified traffic; engage prospects through gamification; identify ready-to-buy leads; and provide valuable, actionable business intelligence.

    Best of all, PLAYBOOK provides trade show organizers additional revenue.

    Here's how it works:


    We clean and standardize show management’s attendee registration list, appending business intelligence to every record (data like company size, credit score, technology spend, SIC, etc.).


    We send a customized, jumbo, pre-show postcard to all prospects selected by the exhibitor. The postcard drives traffic to the exhibitor's booth by offering attendees the chance to play a cool trivia game and win prizes.


    We send three, customized, pre-show emails to every prospect. Each seeks to drive appointments and traffic to the booth.


    We complete outbound, pre-show in-person telephone calls with every prospect. The calls are used to collect additional business intelligence, pre-qualify visitors and set in-booth appointments, if desired. We also provide weekly progress reports, so the exhibitor can predict the campaign's likely outcome and plan for booth staffing.


    Attendees download our trivia game app to play and win. All trivia questions reinforce the exhibitor's brand or product message. Booth staff act as game hosts, driving face-to-face interaction with all attendees, and game scores are displayed on a real-time leaderboard in the booth. The trivia game app integrates with your show app, and with all lead retrieval systems.


    Within five days, we make post-show telephone calls to all leads captured during the show. We capture additional business intelligence, including product interest, purchase intent, purchase authority, purchase committee members’ names and titles, budget, timeframe, marketing content needs and preferences for follow-up. Leads are divided into three sets, based on lead-time to purchase and further divided into three categories, Hot, Warm and Cold. Leads are streamed to the exhibitor weekly for analysis, assignment and follow-up. All data can be easily uploaded into a CRM.

    Call 202 641.5131 to learn more about PLAYBOOK or to request a brochure. Learn how your can produce better return for your exhibitors, and put extra money in your coffers.

    PS: For more thoughts on gamification, go here.

    Got the Non-Dues Revenue Blues?

    Association Research Board's Q4 2016 Survey shows only one in four association executives describes her revenue-generating activities as “highly successful.”

    With membership and dues revenue dwindling by the day, why do most association executives accept lackluster results from non-dues revenue-generation programs?

    Writing for Associations Now, Katie Bascuas says it's in large part because association execs worry about loss of non-profit status. They worry that straying afield of the association's mission might bring down the wrath of the IRS.

    But that worry's misplaced, as case studies prove. It hasn't deterred:

    AARP, which hawks health, life and auto insurance plans, and now runs a full-service marketing agency, Influent50.

    American Nurses Association, which runs a lucrative medical publishing operation.

    PMMI, which recently purchased a trade publishing house and now produces magazines and journals for the packaging industry.

    Career centers and licensing programs are some of the other non-dues-generation activities associations are embracing, Bascuas says.

    But the challenge association execs face is "convincing staff and leadership to try a new approach."

    Association execs do themselves no favor when they neglect to discuss non-dues revenue with their boards.

    As the Association Research Board's survey shows, one in four executives never discusses non-dues revenue-generation with her board.

    Do Your Emails Scream "Unsubscribe?"

    Are you begging prospects to unsubscribe?

    Maybe you're guilty of one or more of these seven wrongs (nobody's perfect, after all). Any one will cause prospects to unsubscribe:

    Wrong writer

    Does your email read like spam? Your cliché-loving, click-baiting copywriter is the culprit. Replace her with a practiced B2B direct marketer.

    Wrong design

    Half of B2B emails are opened on the run. Do yours look funky on phones? Do you design emails as if prospects will open them on their desktops and laptops? Don't.

    Wrong graphic

    Poster-like emails are the pits. Prospects can't read them (even with "allow images" turned on) and phones choke when downloading them. Avoid posterish images; ugly, outdated ones, too.

    Wrong message

    Are you peddling all the time? Try educating and entertaining more often. Like 80% of the time.

    Wrong product

    Are you romancing someone who's just not that into you (or who once was, but is no longer)? Try personalizing your messages (not just inserting "Dear Andy," but pairing prospect with product).

    Wrong cadence

    Are you sending too many emails? Overkill is Reason Number 2 prospects unsubscribe, says CIO Magazine. You can double your leads by sending no more often than once every two weeks.

    Wrong prospect

    Reason Number 1 prospects unsubscribe? They never subscribed in the first place (or forget they did). Communicate your opt-in and name-use policies clearly. And shun "web scrapers" offering rented names. We can help with that. Contact us at

    Want to Improve Email Deliverability? Try Fixing and Warming.

    Email marketers of every stripe report rapidly declining inbox rates.

    You can point a finger at the ISPs, who are blocking your blasts, but they're only trying to crack down on those hundreds of creepy spammers.

    Besides "spraying and praying," what can you do?

    Why not try "fixing and warming?"

    Fix your list

    The single-best thing you can do to improve deliverability is to fix your list.

    Repeat after me: The single-best thing you can do to improve deliverability is to fix your list.


    ISPs distrust emailers―even honest ones―who send messages to broken lists.

    Ask yourself, When was my list last repaired?

    Does it have lots of abandoned or dormant addresses? Purchased addresses? Fake addresses? Mistyped addresses? Malicious addresses? Or "spam-trap" addresses?

    Does your audience engage with your messages? Do you have acceptable open and click-through rates? Or does your audience ignore your messages, because they have lost interest in you or think your messages are spam-like?

    Does a large portion of your audience complain about your emails? Have opt-outs and suppressions been removed from your list?

    Like needing a tetanus shot, if you can't remember the last time your list was fixed, you need to fix it .

    Warm your IP

    If you send a ton of emails every month (millions). you may want to begin to send them from a dedicated―versus a shared―IP address.

    If so, you should first try a little "IP warming," says IBM's David Fisher.

    IP warming―dribbling, instead of blasting, emails three times a week from your IP address over a six-week period―earns ISPs' trust, Fisher says.

    Successful IP warming still demands a clean list, Fisher says.

    And don't try to fake out the ISPs.

    If you successfully warm them to your IP address by using only engaged recipients, then add lots of unresponsive or suspect addresses, you'll find yourself blocked.

    "It’s ideal to be transparent with the data you’re using from the outset, so you can confront issues and respond to them early in the process rather than have it hit you later, perhaps during a peak trading period," Fisher says.