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Marketing Through Associations

If you are in direct marketing, you are constantly looking for new list sources — everybody is tired of mailing to the same lists. If you are not in direct marketing and are thinking about putting a mailing together, here is something a little different: Take a look at marketing through associations.

Why would anyone market to associations? They are great targets: Send a press release to an association's publication, whether it is a newsletter or a magazine. You can alert an entire industry of your products or services with one or two well-placed news releases.

Since the magazines and newsletters of associations are not the mainstream prospecting tools of most marketers that market through more traditional channels, association publications receive just a fraction of the press releases and promotional articles that go to major publishers. Yet the comprehensive lists of more than 23,000 associations go astonishingly deep in most major and minor markets. In addition, association publications are usually well-regarded and lend excellent credibility to the firms that get ink in their house publications.

Why else would you market through associations? Maybe you are an affinity marketer and want to have the 96,000 members of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association apply for the special trial rate of your new credit card. Or maybe you want the National Electrical Contractors Association — with 80 people on staff and a budget of $10 million to $25 million to support its 4,000 member firms that belong to 118 local chapters [along with the entire personnel of each member firm] — to apply for your new phone service. Associations can deliver thousands of their members — new customers for you — with a just a few contacts and a modest budget.

You would definitely market through associations if you are in the hospitality industry and want to arrange a convention — complete with hotel rooms, ballrooms and services for the complete screaming regime of whomever shows up — of the 2.3 million members of the National Education Association of the United States. Or go for a smaller piece of its $100 million budget — give or take a few million — and get hired as a speaker or on-site entertainment or snag some of the association's printing business. Associations are key targets for the entire hospitality industry sales force: hotels, convention space, caterers, promotional products, printed material, ballrooms, ground services and on-site entertainment, to name a few.

Frankly, the big organizations are not for everyone. Not everyone is looking for the big numbers, even in lists. Some people are just looking for a shortcut — an entry wedge into an industry at the top level. For this purpose, association lists are also useful in marketing to the elite leaders of select industries.

For example: If you wanted to get in bed with all of the 53 companies that belong to the Biscuit and Cracker Distributors Association, a reference book showing detailed information about the association may be just your cup of tea. You will find its address — along with its association size, annual budget, history, newsletter and publication detail, meeting and convention dates, Web site, e-mail address and its executive director's name — on page 179 of the National Trade and Professional Associations of the United States directory.

The 828-page National Trade and Professional Associations of the United States ($99) reference tool lists 7,600 associations, and is published annually by Columbia Books Inc. (www.columbiabooks.com; 888/265-0600; fax: 410/810-0911) along with its companion, the State and Regional Associations of the United States directory ($79). The state and regional association guide is particularly useful if you are targeting specific geographic areas and want access to top local association contacts not included in the national book. The State and Regional Associations of the United States directory also has a higher percentage of association managers who, while managing multiple associations, cross many industry lines when sourcing vendors or affinity marketers.

Information in both directories is cross-referenced by association index, subject index (500 subjects/alphabetical), budget index, geographic index, executive index and acronym name index. Association management companies are also shown. All of their data are available on disk. These two reference tools fit in your briefcase and make surprisingly great reading — if you are a marketer and have no other life outside marketing.

Association lists and data are also available in the Encyclopedia of Associations by The Gale Group (800/877-GALE) on disk, compact disc and online through Lexis-Nexis. This hardbound, three-volume set ($505) is the mother lode of associations, showing detailed information on more than 23,000 local, state, national and international associations. According to Gale, seven of every 10 Americans belong to an association, and now I believe it: They all show up here in this extensive directory set.

Referenced and cross-referenced in every way possible, you can reach the 30,000 members of Retinitis Pigmentosa International, the 200 members of the 1954 Buick Skylark Club, the 20 members of the Vacuum Cleaner Manufacturers Association or the 10 members of the Holy Innocents Reparation Committee with equal ease. Another great resource is The Associations Yellow Book from Leadership Directories. While it does not have the number of associations found in Gale's Encyclopedia of Associations, it has an exceptional depth of information about the top thousand or so associations, arranged and presented in an attractive and logical manner. So if you are looking for the top players in the association field, this resource tool may be just what your doctor ordered.

The Associations Yellow Book is 1,400-plus pages and profiles 1,045 of the leading U.S. trade and professional associations. Included within these profiles are 42,159 officers, staff and board members, 263 political action committees, 437 foundations and 725 branch offices. Included are 1,036 associations with Internet sites.

To be listed in The Associations Yellow Book, associations must operate on a national level and have annual operating budgets of at least $2 million. Each listing is broken down into 12 logical sections: name and communications information; description (association mission, number of members, number of full-time employees, operating budget); chief staff executive — which uniquely provides a photograph of the executive director printed in the directory along with his background information; officers and management, including direct-dial phone and fax numbers and e-mail addresses; government affairs office and phone; committees; foundations — research, education, fundraising and contacts; branches; publications, including editors, frequency and content; board; meetings — conferences, seminars, dates and locations; and mailing list availability and contact.

The listings in The Associations Yellow Book are supplemented by eight indexes: industry; geographical — alphabetically by state; budget — alphabetically within five budget classifications; political action committee; foundation; personnel — all names are listed alphabetically; acronym; and master index of associations.

One of the most outstanding features of this easy-to-use directory is the quality and depth of information about each association. For example, the 1 1/4-page listing for the International Association for Management Education shows not only the 18 officers and management personnel with their individual direct-dial phone numbers and extensions, their affiliations, education and e-mail addresses, but it also contains the names and affiliation of each of its 23 board members. Even the receptionist gets her name mentioned with her phone number. So if you are looking for the person who just handles the conventions or the publications, you can write or call that person directly.

The clean layout and extensive coverage in each listing (plus all those photos that add a nice visual touch) make this an excellent reference tool.

The Associations Yellow Book is available from Leadership Directories Inc., 104 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10011; telephone: 212/627-4140; fax: 212/645-0931; Web address: www.leadershipdirectories.com. Published semiannually, the subscription cost is $245 for two issues. Additional subscriptions to the same address are $172. Subscriptions include access to its Internet association database, which is updated daily.

Marketing to or through associations may turn out to be a key component of your campaign; do not overlook these great resources for their membership lists or for opportunities for joint ventures in affinity marketing.

Association directors represent key players who are in charge and in tune with virtually any industry, so they make great resources if you need information. Sometimes mailing or faxing a few simple questions to an association headquarters can produce more information faster than an entire year of researching books or reading trade periodicals. The foremost goal of most associations is to educate their members, so you might as well have them educate their members about your products and services.

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