Not long ago, suppliers could buy a list of
e-mail addresses, put together an HTML marketing piece and hawk
their products and services quickly and inexpensively to a
targeted audience. That’s changed with the advent of spam
For associations, members’ e-mail addresses are considered
gold. Many suppliers join associations primarily to gain access to
those valuable lists. But overuse has created a backlash. Members
receive too many e-mail messages, and addresses often are used
improperly. As a result, it has become harder for suppliers to use
that handy method of marketing.
For many organizations, the dilemma is how to attract supplier
members while protecting their core members. Just how much contact
information should associations make available in order to keep the
Most association websites have a members-only area that requires a
log-in ID and password. Once there, members interact with others in
chat rooms or exchange dialogue on listservs.
Concerning the names and addresses in the database, the best
practice for associations now is to ensure even members are not
permitted to search for other members or view names and contact
information online. Most organizations have placed themselves in
the middle as a buffer suppliers who want to reach the broad
membership will need to work with the membership marketing group at
Many associations still sell mailing lists just physical
addresses on labels or electronically for one-time use, as long as
the suppliers submit a sample of what they are planning to send. A
growing number of organizations will not provide e-mail
Associations that want to appease supplier members can offer some
choices. For suppliers who want to market to the membership or
audience via e-mail, require that they pay for a preferred or
recognized supplier logo and link on the website, ask them to
sponsor an online newsletter with the associated credit and links,
or take the text of the supplier’s marketing message in both plain
text and HTML formats and send it out from the association.
For the Supplier
Given the above options, how do suppliers get the most for their
First, make sure your website has the capability to track who
visits. Set up a welcome page for the specific mailing, so anyone
who clicks on the link will be tracked. It’s easy to set up
separate pages for each marketing effort, enabling you to gauge the
effectiveness of both your programs and the organization’s
If you don’t have tracking capabilities, then have visitors
fill out a brief profile qualifying them for a drawing before they
enter the site. Keep this short and sweet most of us hate filling
in forms. Remember, the goal is to capture who the visitors are.
Now that you have their information, the next marketing effort can
be more focused.
Make the visitors feel at home. Take them directly to the area
that is of most interest to them, not just your start-up or home
page; the goal is to get them to the relevant information
Once you have their information, it is yours and you can market
as often as you like. But bear in mind, spam filters can quickly
trap your marketing message if you overuse the list you compiled.
Make sure your marketing efforts have value for the recipients and
are not just a means of keeping your name in front of them.
One final rule: Never sell or provide names to another
supplier. If you do, you will violate the trust and confidence of
everyone on the list.
Bob Walters, based in Fort Worth, Texas, is founder of
Phoenix Solutions and developer of MeetingTrak