7 Overlooked Money-Making Strategies

Is more money going out than is coming in? Are you looking to raise dues because of a budget deficit? Are staff working harder than they have to in order to meet their goals?

Instead of obsessing over new sources of non-dues revenue, try focusing on optimizing the channels you already have.

Nearly every association I encounter is not leveraging its existing resources in a way that serves members’ best interests, because of stale thinking, unclear job descriptions, and outdated processes.

If you are fed up with not being able to meet your budget, are experiencing a lack of participation, and are ready to think outside the box, then take special note of these seven overlooked money-making strategies for your association.

1. The Up-Sell

I just bought a new iPhone 5. The least expensive model was $199 with a two-year contract, but the sales clerk helped me realize that I really needed 32GB of storage instead of the 16GB the phone came with. I knew I was being up-sold, but it made sense, so I did it.

How can you sell upgrades or additions to your services? Tiered-ticketed events, bundled offerings, and VIP concierge services are some possibilities. For example, a St. Louis Cardinals baseball game has different prices for different seats. Some come with food; some don’t. Some offer great views; others . . . not so much.

Stop thinking of your members as a school of fish. Some are whales and some are tuna—they have individual likes, needs, and wants. Up-sell to their appetites. For example, an education class can be sold as packages that include or don’t include audio, video, and e-mail auto-responders that reinforce the learning objectives. Add more value, and you can command a higher investment from your members.

Members who expect more from the association can upgrade their membership to the VIP concierge, giving them priority technical support, red-carpet treatment at special events, and additional ancillary services. New members might not be able to afford this, but that’s okay because you’re offering them a separate, reasonably priced option.

2. Mobile Sales Pages

Have you ever tried to view your association Web page from a mobile device? If members cannot read what you’re selling, then the communication becomes irrelevant.

What value propositions are you trying to sell? Make a list and ensure that whether you’re trying to sell a ticket to an event or get members to pay dues online, the sales page is mobile friendly. You can outsource a low-cost Web developer to create these mobile sales pages for each offering, or, if you’re using Wordpress, you can add a plug-in that has existing templates.

If your mobile sales page isn’t integrated with a mobile payment gateway system, you’re defeating the purpose of having a mobile sales page. Ensure that whatever payment processing system you use will make it easy for users to enter their credit card information quickly, without having to pan and zoom the screen to make the purchase.

3. Leveraging Education

Class attendance is down at most associations but that doesn’t mean your class revenue has to be. Take, for example, the average three-hour class that includes:

  • A video recording of the presenter or the slides with audio
  • An audio file separated from the video
  • A transcript of the audio as a PDF
  • A digital handout as a PDF, Web page, mind map, etc.

Leverage your education offerings by making them available in multiple digitized formats that are mobile friendly and you can sell content on demand to members, brokers, or real estate schools for a premium. Don’t worry, you’re not nickel-and-diming your members by charging $5 for a PDF; you’re unbundling programs and services to give members more choices.

4. Affiliate Marketing

Where do your members spend their money? Some companies are willing to pay between 5 percent and 25 percent for a customer if you enroll in their affiliate program and can demonstrate a sizeable amount of online traffic and purchases. Furthermore, these companies can also prove to be good prospects for your association as affiliate members, sponsors, and advertisers. So how do you get started?

Make a list of all the services, products, and tools members use every single day, or that would appear on their expense report. This list should include contact names, addresses, phone numbers, e-mails, etc., stored in a customer-relationship management system (e.g. Microsoft Outlook). Survey membership to see which companies to focus on first.

Create a campaign to demonstrate the value of buying through the association communication channels. A campaign could consist of a video sales letter, squeeze page, auto-responders, banner advertising, etc., that could be delivered across multiple media. Integrate the affiliate marketing campaign into existing communication channels, track progress, and improve the campaign.

5. The Cross-Sell

When members pull out their credit cards, enter their information, and clicks “submit” to enroll in an online educational event, what is the next Web page they see? If you said “confirmation page” or “home page,” you’re leaving money on the table. With their personal information input, and financial commitment to their career at the ready, this is the perfect opportunity to cross-sell another event, product, or service. After all, someone who enrolls in a business planning class might also enroll in a technology class or marketing class—especially if you package them together for a discount. Simply change the “thank-you” page URL on the payment gateway system to direct the member to a similar offering or sales page that might interest them.

Just look at Amazon.com. Transactions on the juggernaut’s Web site are followed with images of recommended products and items you recently viewed. Plus, with the free shipping offer for orders over $25, who hasn’t gone back to find something to add to the basket to push it over the limit? Connect the dots for members, and staff won’t have to work so hard to sell ­existing products and services.

6. Widgets

Do you want to have an online store but don’t have the time, money, or energy to run one? If you said yes, then look at Web site widgets.

Amazon.com allows you to become a reseller of just about anything that can be sold on the Internet and earn a commission. After you sign up to become an affiliate of Amazon.com, create a widget for different categories of products, such as technology, office supplies, and tools. Then begin adding the widgets to pages on your association Web site and start marketing the products you know your members already buy online to earn extra nondues revenue.

HouseLogic has a widget you can put on your Web site to automatically update consumer-specific information when new information is available (without having to recode every time a change is made). Real Estate Radio has a similar widget, but for audio podcasts.

7. Online Book Publishing

Two things your association has in abundance are expertise and data; leverage these by selling them online. After watching a simple video on YouTube, you can learn how to turn a Microsoft Word document into a saleable book on Amazon.com (or Apple iBooks) with little overhead. Start leveraging your intellectual property and you’ll bring in income from nonmembers in addition to members.

The book or PDF available for download on Amazon.com can be used not only to educate but also to reinforce political advocacy issues; cross-sell existing services or products; promote members; and enhance the association’s image in the community.

For a moment, imagine that you’re a Missouri homebuyer on Amazon.com. Type “St. Louis real estate” in the book search box. Up pop some general home-buying books, but then, in the fifth place down, there’s a copy of the St. Louis Real Estate Board, 1949 Year Book. Odd, but think of the marketing potential if an ­association-published book, such as Guide to Buying a Home in St. Louis or a Guide to Finding a REALTOR® in St. Louis took up that premium spot.

Check out the California Association of REALTORS®’ Guide to the California Residential Purchase Agreement that it sells on Apple iBooks for $19.99. Amazon.com e-book sales are expected to triple in 2013. Plus, Apple and Amazon.com are the two companies that hold the largest amount of credit card data in the world. What does that mean for you? Generally, people are more inclined to make purchases from sites where they do not have to re-enter their credit card information. So, if someone is already buying some music on iTunes or moving boxes on Amazon.com and your e-book is right there, the only thing between you and some nondues revenue is the click of a mouse.

These seven overlooked tools boil down to one cardinal rule: Take the time to walk a mile—or make a click—in your members’ and consumers’ shoes. Recognize that fulfilling their wants and needs can make the difference between a budget deficit or a budget surplus. If you are serious about making more money for your association, adopt a new approach.

Doug Devitre is an association management consultant and author of It’s Either Now or Never and the REALTOR® Association Social Media Performance Guide. Watch his free webinar on how to right-size your association at http://bit.ly/aemagic.



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