Woo hoo! We won!

I just received news that my newspaper at the American Nurses Association, The American Nurse, has won a 2012 Association Media & Publishing Excel Award. We received a bronze award in the Newspapers: Feature Article, more than 50,000 category, and we are thrilled! It’s great to see that your hard work has been appreciated by your peers.

I would urge all association media professionals to join AM&P and volunteer to judge the Excel awards next year, as well. Brian Davis, of the American Health Lawyers Association, sums up why it’s so important and beneficial to judge in this great Blurb blog post.

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Tablet users like to spend $$$

This report from Adobe studying 16.2 billion transactions over the 2011 holiday season is worth noting. The report found that tablet users were inclined to spend more money per sale than either smartphone or traditional online shoppers. And not just by a little.

As far as the numbers go, tablet users spent 50% more than smartphone users and 20% more than traditional users. As Jimmy Fallon might say, “Who doesn’t want 50% more cash?”

The study concludes that the demographic profiles of those who favor tablet use (18-24 y.o. males with higher than average incomes), as well as the tablet user experience itself (used more on weekends, at home, so more time to shop) could be the reason for the significant lead in amount purchased.

So what can association managers take from this? Well, for one thing, it underscores the pressing need to have a multi-platform approach to selling and marketing products and services. It should go without saying by now, but it’s no longer enough to simply have a static website on your association site where shoppers can go to buy products.

As this report seems to show, the biggest potential ROI can come from tablet users. However, since tablet users still represent only around 4% of all online visits, a robust user experience across all platforms, including tablets–which by their nature provide a unique, new way to interact with your potential customers–is essential.

Is your association a thumbsucker?

This article about thumbsucking on Psychology Today‘s site struck me as a really good analogy for many associations that are attempting to give up old, broken down programs and products.

For example, the article’s Lesson #1 states that when addictions begin, they serve a purpose, and that purpose may morph over time into something that has lost its usefulness or its value proposition.

Does that–or does that not–sound a lot like the specialized newsletter your association still produces, even though the circulation is now at 100 and the board member who insisted upon its creation has been retired for 15 years?

I thought so.

Time to break some habits around here. The downside, as Lesson #5 tells us, is that quitting “entrenched” habits is very difficult. I don’t think anyone involved in association management would dispute this. The battles one must fight to destroy the “we’ve always done it this way” monster are, to put it mildly, outrageous at times. Luckily, with patience and perseverance, you can overcome these imagined obstacles.

That or your association’s teeth are going to be severely messed up.

So many images, so little money

Finding good, free images for association use can be expensive. Luckily, our production budgets have increased substantially in the last five years to…wait a minute…uh, that has actually not happened at all. Nope, in reality, association media professionals are tasked with creating cutting edge, snappy media designs on budgets that seem to be ever tighter. A dilemma, yes, but not an insurmountable one.

I just wrote an article for the Association Media and Publishing blog, blurb, that outlines three ways to procure or create free images that might just bridge the gap between want and need when it comes to visual goodies.  You can check it out at the blurb site here.

Upending the dominant paradigm…one frame at a time

So I’ve been a fan of Warby Parker since last November, when I saw a new product announcement (ad) in a copy of my wife’s Vanity Fair magazine. I remember thinking that there was zero probability that it was possible for them to sell me a hip pair of retro-cool glasses for $95.

This is why I don’t gamble.

Turns out that you can, indeed, get a brand new pair of nerd-chic glasses by mail for under a hundred spot, and Warby Parker will donate another pair to charity, to boot. The whole experience exudes trendster cred (which could be a good thing or a bad thing, of course), but one thing that’s clear is that they have hit the sweet spot when it comes to identifying an unexploited niche market and making it their own.

The Warby Parker founders realized that almost all glasses were sold by a few giant corporations that were artificially jacking up prices due to limited competition. Recognizing a need and an opening to redefine the market by offering glasses not as a medical device, but as a fashion accessory…and pricing them accordingly…paid big dividends.

Further, they used cool online marketing campaigns and saavy Web 2.0 merchandizing to build a following, not just a customer base. For example, potential customers are urged to post pictures of themselves trying on sample frames (which the company mails to your home–for free) and post them to the Warby Parker Facebook page so other customers can chime in and help you decide which is right for you. This type of personalized, interactive try-on process increases the potential customers’ psychological affinity to the “Warby Parker club.” Suddenly, the potential customer feels inclusion into a perceived peer group of cool trendsetters. It is a type of brand indoctrination, and one that works (see my photo at the top left of this page for proof).

So what can associations learn from this? One, careful examination of mature markets can expose new opportunities created when traditional ways of doing business do not take advantage of new technology. Two, you will increase members’ or potential members’ likelihood of purchase follow-through if you are able to “bring them into the fold,” psychologically. And three: Ensuring that your brand image fits your target market segment like a pair of cute eyeglasses doesn’t hurt, either.

Here are an inc article and video about how Warby Parker got it right.

Netflix: A Case Study in How NOT to Do PR

Netflix just can’t seem to get it in their collective noggins that you should not promise products and keep backing out of them.

On the heels of the much-publicized–and widely scoffed at–price hike and Qwikster fiascos (for more info on the Qwikster PR disaster, check out this post at Slate), Netflix seems to have abandoned another promised product line: game rentals.

Not adding game rentals is not the disaster here, although it will no doubt be a disappointment to many Netflix customers. The real issue is that Netflix is running the very real risk of becoming the firm that cried wolf. Whatever credibility it had regained in the months since the prior debacles will be further eroded by another promise gone begging.

The lesson for association PR managers in all this? It’s a classic, actually: under promise, over deliver. Publicizing a service or a product to members and then retracting it is much more damaging than simply waiting until the product is assured of implementation. In some cases, and especially if you are trying to recover from a prior “retraction problem,” it’s better to take a wait and see approach than to rush something out that you might have to renege on.

Here’s the HuffPost story talking about the game rental change in direction. Enjoy some Schadenfreude with your morning coffee.

Who’s Driving Your Plane? Thoughts On Customer-Driven Products

I recently participated in a LinkedIn group discussion on strategies for branding/repurposing content that centered on a key concept that many association managers and volunteer leaders seem to miss: You must let customers, not producers, define the association’s product offerings.

The original poster related that his organization’s attempt at content aggregation and reselling was not as successful as they had hoped. In his view, the product failed because the senior management curated the content into bundles that they thought would best benefit the end users. He felt that it would be preferable to let the customer pick and choose the content in his or her bundle.

This is absolutely correct for most products, in my view. And especially so for content bundles that can be easily aggregated according to customer preference.

We are living in a world where technology has enabled customers to tailor their purchases to closely fit their individual needs to the letter. Sites like Amazon.com have acclimated us to a way of buying that incorporates unlimited “mix and match,” to its great success. Associations will need to follow this model to maximize their revenue, especially in terms of non-dues revenue-generating products.

Like it or not, associations directly compete for information share and customer dollars with giant product clearinghouses like Amazon.com. The only way to do this successfully is to listen carefully to the needs and wants of the customers and let them drive the purchasing decisions for your organization’s unique products. In this case, being a facilitator, not a curator, will reap benefits.

If you’re interested in the thread that started this, you can check it out at LinkedIn’s Association Media and Publishing discussion page.