Making money in the association
world is not equivalent to selling your soul. Here’s how some of your
colleagues are boosting sales and revenue in harmony with their organization’s
missions and goals.
By Abby Puchner
The association industry is experiencing a period in
which generating revenue is becoming increasingly difficult. In 2013, experts
predict a 7.8 percent decline in association publishing ad revenue, according
to Steve Schanz, executive vice president for Fox Associates. To leverage this,
he told attendees at Association Media & Publishing’s recent Business of
Association Publishing Conference in Chicago that it’s important for organizations
to explore more creative ways for generating revenue during periods of
Schanz then introduced three content
leaders, including Jerry Stoeckigt, executive director of sales for the
American Hospital Association, who explained that it’s common, as creative
people, to feel like accepting advertising revenue is a way of "selling your
soul.” But association publishing professionals must get past that point, he
says, and face that advertising revenue plays an important role in the industry
— even accepting that it adds value to members. "Don’t go straight to ‘we can’t
do that,’” he says.
He explained that "not all
advertising is created equal,” detailing the benefits and drawbacks of the most
common types of advertising, including print, online publications, websites,
sponsorships, custom media, and social publishing. Unlike the common perception
from members of the media that print is sure to completely collapse in the near
future, Stoeckigt says the medium is still "very viable” and will be around for
years. He adds that if a good print product already exists, it’s easy to repurpose
it for online use—and every organization should.
For sponsorship and custom-publishing
opportunities, Stoeckigt recommends using white papers, hardcover inserts, hardcard
flaps, comprehensive, easy-to-navigate education centers, custom surveys,
benchmarking information, and custom newsletters. No matter the presentation,
though, he reminded attendees that the most important element remains the
content. "If it’s right, advertisers will definitely pick up the tab for that,”
Co-speaker Sean Soth, president of
Adaptive Media Networks Inc. and owner of Hi-Fidelity Media Inc., started by differentiating between "sales” and
"revenue.” The former is a "dirty word,” he says. People cringe at it. "Revenue
is what we want our sales to become,” he explains. He encouraged focusing on the
organization’s unique selling point—and not letting go. "Everyone has something
unique to share,” he says. "Every industry has great tales to tell to get
First, step back and analyze your
current assets, Soth advises:
- How are they positioned?
- What is the most successful tool in
your publication portfolio and why?
- Are there opportunities to "freshen
up” what you already have?
On the flipside, he says, it’s also important to understand
what a sales cycle looks like and see things from an advertiser’s point of
view. The ideal situation is to match what advertisers are trying to accomplish
with your goals. "We’re here to remain revenue-relevant,” he says. "We have to
understand what advertisers are trying to do.” To do this, Soth says it’s best
to work backwards by starting with what your advertisers and members want.
Dan Goldberg, director of marketing and
communications at Turnaround Management Association, rounded out the
presentation by discussing recent changes he made to increase revenue in TMA’s
journal-publishing environment. The biggest was creating a digital copy of his
organization’s journal. "This opens up a lot more advertising options,” he says.
The move also means a larger audience— members as well as nonmembers. Goldberg
also discussed the success his organization had transitioning to a third-party
sales team experienced in association sales, which streamlined the process and
allowed his organization to meet 123 percent of its 2012 annual conference
For a few of TMA’s conferences, Goldberg shared how
he reduced costs by adding a mobile app that served as the primary content
resource versus printing program books. He also recommends selling sponsorships
to appear in the weekly member e-newsletter, as well as partnership packages
that bundle advertising and sponsorship opportunities. "This is great for us as
well as our partner’s marketing plan,” he says, adding that journal advertising
revenue increased immediately.
Abby Puchner is editorial
assistant for the Million Dollar Round Table. Association Media &
Publishing thanks her for volunteering to cover this event for our members who
were unable to attend.