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Associations, Donít Cannibalize Your Advertisers - 10/22/2014 -


Associations, Donít Cannibalize Your Advertisers

Are different departments in your association pitching the same advertiser for various products at the same time? Hereís how to avoid problems through more careful internal coordination and communication.

By JT Hroncich

They are the hunted: Companies that market to your associationís membership, that is. Within a short span of time, your association may approach a single prospect with a host of opportunities:

  • Association publishers may offer print and digital advertisements.
  • Conference promoters may try to sell a company an exhibition table.
  • The associationís education team may pitch sponsorship opportunities.

While each can drive revenue for an association, they also have the potential to pull resources and dollars away from one another and to exhaust the interest and goodwill of the prospect. This is the concept of cannibalization.

Donít let the fear of cannibalizing your advertisers gnaw at you. Instead, learn how to avoid problems through careful coordination and communication.

1. Focus on win-win. Inherent in an advertising relationship is the idea that your association is providing value. When an advertiser begins to feel as though it isn't receiving a fair value, the advertiser may begin to doubt the whole relationship.

Ad sales management should be focused on what serves both the advertiser and the organization best. This concept should be at the core of every engagement, pitch, and implementation. Association publishers should offer advertising packages that will provide the right ROI; sponsorships should get companies the attention that they expect;and so on.

Ensuring that there is value in every offer to an advertiser is not just a good way to keep faith with these companies. Itís also a much easier path to expanding their marketing spend with your entire organization.

2. Plan strategically. Your advertising sales strategy should be part of an overall association strategy. The different teams that make up your association ó membership, events, publications, and so forth ó should work together to develop a shared understanding of the priorities.

Together, you can:

  • Establish the goals that you want to achieve individually.
  • Look for ways that these goals support one another.
  • Choose targets that can benefit from several of the marketing opportunities your association offers.
  • Decide when and how to pursue prospects.

Association publishers that collaborate with other internal teams often learn information that can help them with ad sales. For example, they might offer a conference ad package for a print publication that launches shortly before a big association event. This combines publication and conference opportunities in a way that adds greater value than the sum of their parts.

3. Use a single voice. When an ad sales team speaks with a potential advertiser, it should be able to represent other areas of the organization. This doesn't necessarily mean that the ad sales team becomes responsible for selling conference sponsorships. However, it should be capable of laying the groundwork so that the advertiser is aware of this opportunity.

Speaking in one voice for the organization requires some preparation. An ad sales team needs to be familiar withall areas of the organization, and this preparation often takes place behind the scenes with internal meetings, ongoing updates, and cross-functional groups.

While there is some effort involved, taking these measures can grow revenue for the organization and ensure that advertisers view the association as well-organized and professional ó and this is what leads to an increased ad buy.

4. Offer complimentary exposure. Despite an association publisherís best efforts, advertisers may eventually feel nickeled and dimed, especially if they are asked to pay for a host of additional marketing opportunities when they've already invested a lot.

An advertising sales team needs to balance its selling activities with other non-dues revenue.  

After developing a strategy as described above, the team should know what it can afford to give away to maintain or restore goodwill.This might be a free banner advertisement, a complimentary sponsorship, or a mention during a membership event.

Whatever your ad sales team chooses, it should offer items that are free, impactful, and affordable to your organization. Then, the team should do it frequently enough to make the relationship feel more mutually beneficial to your advertisers. An investment like this can save your skin in the long run.

JT Hroncich is president of AdBoom Advertising.


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