Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Are you spamming? CASL & Association Implications

Association Executives should be getting ready to ensure that their email communications are compliant with the impending Anti-Spam Legislation; and getting your email communications practices in line with the law should be a priority now - before the law is formally in place.

Why?  Because of the simplest ways to ensure that consent was obtained is to get it started by email - which you will not be able to do with a good portion of your community after the law is in effect.

What are some of the top things to think about when preparing for CASL?  Here are our recommendations:

  • In terms of the legislation, "commercial" is defined as the content of the message; or “ any electronic message that encourages participation in a commercial activity – whether or not there is profit”,  and not the sender of the message.  When assessing your communication material, please include all email messages that include some form of commercial activity.
  • Recipients must give consent to receive commercial emails. 
  • There are two forms of consent: "Implied" is considered to be assumed consent based on past relationships within the last two years.  These at this time can be considered your members.  "Express" consent is considered to be the primary type of consent that you should be looking to obtain, and is where the contact (in this case, non-members, or other stakeholders), have provided you with their consent verbally or in writing to receive commercial email messages from you. Express consent is valid until the recipient has unsubscribed from your communication.
  • Going forward, organizations should ensure that your CRM is capable of saving the following information:  communication preferences for members, non-members and other stakeholders (including sponsors and exhibitors), a field indicating whether implied or express consent has been obtained; and a date field to store the date that consent was obtained.
  • CASL applies to any commercial electronic message (email) that updates a contact on new information on the organization, promotes a product or service, invites a contact to a conference or event, invites your community of partners to sponsor or exhibit, etc.

It is recommended to all organizations to get started NOW, and save the organization time and resources in the future.

For more information, please consult www.fightspam.gc.ca

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Not all attrition is created equal

You’ll sometimes hear people point out that 10% annual attrition means you are replacing 30% of your membership every 3 years (assuming you’re keeping the membership levels up).

It’s a pretty galvanizing statement, and handy as a rule of thumb. But the problem is, it’s not true.

Well, it’s true if you’re talking about the number of members you have to recruit. But it’s not true if you’re talking about your overall membership base, unless your membership is homogenous. Which most aren’t. Sometimes a 10% churn rate after 3 years can mean you still have 90% of the people you started with.

Let me illustrate. To keep things simple, let’s assume we’re talking about organizations that can replace any members they lose, but keep membership flat overall.

In Association ABC, the members are indeed homogenous. Any member is equally likely to leave as any other. Imagine it as 10 people entering a room together in Year Zero. In Year One, someone leaves, and is replaced. In Year Two, a different person leaves, and is replaced. Same thing in Year Three. The comparison between the membership in that 3-year time span would look like this:

As you can see, within 3 years, the organization only has 70% of the members it began that timeframe with. A full 30% are new within 3 years. 

Now, let’s look at another organization Association XYZ. In this one, for simplicity’s sake, there are two segments – Loyalists, and Shoppers. In Year Zero, 9Loyalists, and 1 Shopper. 

In Year One, the Shopper leaves to go look elsewhere. Now, let’s imagine they’re replaced by another Shopper. 

In Year Two, the Shopper again is the one who leaves, replaced again by a Shopper. 

In Year Three, again it’s the Shopper who leaves. 

And here’s what the changes in the membership over the three-year timespan will look like:

In this case, new members are only 10% of the total, even though both organizations have had to bring in the same number of new members over this period and had the same attrition rate of 10% per year.  

To be sure, these are highly simplified examples. But what I would argue they illustrate is that to understand attrition, you also need an understanding of segmentation, and the loyalty of different segments, because they will lead you to different conclusions and different actions. 

People are not equally likely to leave the organization. People have different levels of commitment to the industry, to the profession, to professional life at all. People move out of the province or country, chuck it all to buy a winery in the South of France (or Prince Edward County), get a different job that’s relevant to the association, or sell their business to a consolidator. And some leave because of the association itself – political differences, service issues, lack of membership value that speaks to them and their aspirations. 

Some do nothing of the sort, and simply stay put. 

The questions you need to answer include what factors make someone more likely to leave? To stay? What type of member is most likely to indicate high loyalty to the organization on their member needs assessment survey? What type of member signals an intention to leave the industry entirely within 5 years? What parameters matter: age, duration of membership, seniority in the field, geography (provincial? urban/rural? in the same city as a local office?), level of education, involvement with the organization, attendance at the conference in the past 3 years? 

It’s also relevant to compare your membership attrition rates with rates in the industry altogether. A certain percentage of people enters and leaves a field in a given year. Do your rates match that? Are they higher, or lower? What do you want them to be? 

Without a good idea of what makes your members tick, and how they are different from each other, it’s very difficult to interpret data on attrition. It’s important to keep an eye on it, but also to remember that not all attrition is created equal. 

Meredith Low provided this guest post.  She is a management consultant, focusing on helping organizations and companies understand how, when, and where to grow in the context of fast-changing environments. Her work with associations includes leading strategic and tactical planning, performing assessments to position conferences and meetings for growth and durability, and assessing the needs of members and other stakeholders.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

David Coletto on engaging younger generations

Millennial Members – We’ll Come to You

It’s easy to overlook things about this generation when you’re not connected to anyone from this age group. If you try to think about what an average day is like for a Canadian Millennial you will probably think about someone who you know from this age group, maybe your son or daughter or niece or nephew, a neighbour’s kid or a new employee at work.

Your perception, the way you imagine, an average day for this person might be close to accurate. But the most important to think about is that people in this age group are all over the map when it comes to life stage. You might understand those kids who walk past your house on their way to high school every morning. But this is a completely different life than those who are just a few years older and living on campus in university. And completely different from those who are only a few years older than that who are looking for their first job in their field and thinking about saving up for a house or car.

Some are studying, some are working full time, some are working part time, some are having children of their own and some are still living in their parents’ basements. 

We consider all those born between the years of 1980 and 2000 to be Millennials or members of Generation Y. This is the key group of young people that organizations are aiming to target today as they seek to develop their careers and follow their passions.

For associations, Millennials represent the next wave of members, conference attendees or donors, leaving them to ask two important questions; Who am I looking for? And how do I reach them?

Abacus Data’s Canadian Millennial Research Practice has developed a proprietary segmentation model of the different personality and life style clusters that fall within this generation. The Stampeders are one of the six segments; made up of younger males who want it all – they are athletic, career-oriented and they are always the first to get the newest technology and learn the newest trend. On the other hand the Pacers, another group made up mostly of male Millennials are content to stay at home and would rather be surfing the net or playing video games than going out.

It is important for the organization to really understand who they’re looking for before they think about how to reach them and interact with them.

Association members who are Pacers might not want to go to ten networking pub events this year. They might rather participate in an online forum. If you’re seeking out those in the Stampeders group then a well-planned, invite-only networking event would likely be more appealing.
As young people operating in a social-media world, Millennials are always looking to define themselves. They will seek out hobbies and interests, additional education, books, films, video games, Facebook statuses that help them to define their personal brand.

Sarah Sladek’s book, the End of Membership As We Know it: Building the Fortune-Flipping, Must-Have Association of the Next Century talks about carving out your niche, showing the benefits of membership and focusing on member ROI instead of program ROI.

We think this is good advice. How do we know? Well for one, we are all Millennials. But second, Millennials are unlike any generation before. Think of us as one huge group (24% of the Canadian population) who spent most of our lives in some institutionalized environment (day care to post-secondary) receiving constant feedback and being told that we can achieve anything. Only to find out that all our dreams can’t come true even though we have 500 friends on Facebook.

We love customization, think we are all special (because you told us we were), and have adopted personal brands.

So how does your association deal with us? Here are three tips:

Carve out your Niche

If your organization has figured out who it is you’re looking for the next step is easy; let the Millennials come to you. Usually people in this age group will do their research ahead of time. If you articulate the benefits of your organization, in a way that is authentic, they will find out themselves if you are what they’re looking for and they’ll find you.

Who’s going to be there? Is it my scene? Is it a better way to spend my time than hanging out at home or with friends or seeing a movie?  Is it better than the other place?

If you can help those in your Millennial target to answer some of these questions easier – with photos, social media interaction, a simple website then you help them to understand that the organization will fit in with their personal brand.

Show the benefits of Membership

From our 2012 study we know that the Millennial generation is interested in opportunities for education and networking. Most notably they are seeking opportunities for mentorship at a much higher rate than older generations.

Understand your target and understand what they’re looking for from your association. When you understand what the target group is looking for, then you can better communicate the benefits your association provides them.

Consider the results from a survey we conducted last year when we asked Canadians who are employed to rank possible benefits of joining an association. 29 % ranked skills and education first, followed by network.

But when we compare results between Millennials and older generations we can tell that there are differing expectations. The Millennials are far more interested in education and far less interested in networking events.

This is probably because we have extensive networks of our own through online connections to basically everyone we’ve ever met. Instead we value opportunities for real mentorship and ways to help us develop our own leadership skills.

The chart below shows which of the possible association benefits Millennials value most (and least).

Focus on member ROI instead of program ROI

The third most important thing that will help you let the Millennials come to you is to enable your current Millennial members to promote the organization among their own groups of friends and networks.

By allowing them to share events and news about the organization on their own social media networks, they can directly emphasize the activities they are participating in and the cool things they’re learning about as a member.

Again, it is essential that you understand the target because different segment groups will have different interests and seek to share about different things in different ways, online and in person, on campus or at work.


It won’t be easy getting Millennials to join and participate in your association, but the survival of the organization likely depends on it.

Get to know your members, target services and messages to them based on their preferences AND personalities and deliver what you promise. Research this generation, and research who it is that your organization is looking to attract.

Abacus Data’s Canadian Millennial Research Practice

To succeed, organizations need to understand and engage this generation.

Our company practice was founded to help marketers and policy drivers understand where to start when it comes to engaging the Millennial generation.

Gen Y, or those in their teens, 20’s and early 30’s today are an elusive group when it comes to tracking and traditional market research methods. We found it necessary to expand and innovate recruitment, messaging and the channels used to measure Millennial opinions and find feedback.

Our Millennial research team sets out to find who you’re looking for and ask them the right questions, the right way to optimize your campaign efforts.

David Coletto, PhD is CEO of Abacus Data, a full service market research firm with offices in Ottawa and Toronto specializing in public affairs, association, and consumer research.