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Why Smart Advertisers Choose Associations - 8/27/2013 -

Why Smart Advertisers Choose Associations

Here’s how to debunk the myth that consumer publications are better advertising vehicles than association publications.

By Scott Oser

During my almost 20-year career, I have been fortunate to work for — and with — both for-profit and association publications. Throughout this time, I have often heard that it is not as easy to sell ads in association publications as it is in consumer publications. Over the last seven years, as I have focused on selling advertising almost exclusively in association publications, I have learned that simply is not the case.

Here are a few reasons some people believe that association publications are not as valuable as consumer publications:

  • The majority of readers do not make a commitment to the magazine; they are receiving it as a member benefit because they are a member of the association.
  • Association publications are typically not audited, so an advertiser or an ad agency cannot easily compare an association publication to a consumer publication that is audited.
  • Associations often do not have as many readers as consumer publications.

At face value, these are all good reasons that it is smarter for an advertiser to put their ad dollars toward a consumer publication as compared to an association publication. The good news for association publishers is that there are even more reasons why an association publication is a great advertising choice:

  1. Associations keep their members. According to ASAE, the average association annual member-renewal rate is 80 percent . That means that advertisers are able to consistently reach the same individuals multiple times over multiple years if they advertise regularly over time. All marketers know that staying in front of potential customers is important. This consistency is almost guaranteed when working with associations.
  2. Associations can be small, but they are targeted. Most associations and association publications are built around an industry or a mission that members support or believe in. This basically guarantees that the individuals who are receiving the publication are similar in need and focus. Targeting is important in advertising, and if you are able to reach an audience that is almost totally made up of the type of individual you are trying to reach, it will increase the likelihood of success.
  3. Associations are communities of engaged members. Associations are putting more and more time and money into engaging their member community. They are giving members ways to communicate and even share information about products and services they use and like. With these engagement mechanisms already in place, companies that consistently advertise and do a good job of getting members to talk about their product or service to the larger community will see word of mouth about their offerings progress faster than they may see in a consumer environment.
  4. Associations are trusted. As nonprofit organizations, associations are looked at with a level of respect and trust that for-profit entities often are not. A company that advertises in an association publication benefits from the perception of trust as well. Members also trust the association to provide them with the right information, products, and services, so companies that advertise in association publications may receive a more positive perception than they would if the ad were placed in a consumer publication.
  5. Association members pay a good amount for dues. It is true that association members typically do not pay for their publication directly like a consumer would for a magazine. That said, members are making a choice to join the association and are typically paying a dues amount that is higher than the ever-shrinking price of a consumer magazine. Additionally, many consumer publications are controlled (qualified subscribers receive a free subscription) where a subscriber doesn’t pay anything for their subscription.

Selling advertising in an association publication is not an easy thing to do. However, if you educate your advertisers and potential advertisers to the benefits you bring to the table, it will be much easier. There are many benefits to advertising in an association publication — we just have to make them known.

Scott D. Oser is president of Scott Oser Associates.


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