We compared 2019 and 2020 association membership and sponsorship sales for Q2 and saw interesting trends. Take a listen to this week’s episode for observations, implications, and a way forward for association sales.
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Hello and welcome to JP Moery’s Association Hustle Podcast. President of The Moery Company, JP’s mission is to arm today’s associations with insight and strategy to thrive and a progressively complex and competitive business landscape. 21st century associations must move forward with a little bit of hustle and revenue development at their core.
Today I’m going to share observations about the state of association sales, including what is happening in non-dues revenue and membership. These observations are based on things that I’ve noticed from our work selling for associations across the country. The facts and figures that I’m about to share have been pulled from our Salesforce data sets and explained by qualitative observations.
So, let’s get started.
Our sales revenue increased 25% in 2020 over 2019. That’s hard to imagine compared to Q2 2019 to Q2 of 2020. Our total sales work (activities) increased 3%. A 25% increase for the year and Q2 increase is only 3%. We took a little bit of a hit, however, we’re still ahead of last year.
What’s behind those numbers?
For trade association memberships, it took 37 days to close a new member in 2019 and 31 days in 2020. Days to close went down! It took seven activities – phone calls and email – to close a sale both in 2019 and in 2020.
The “won rate” percentage – those who come into the pipeline and we close – was 48% last year in Q2 and 44% in Q2 of this year. To me, that’s fairly consistent.
Here is what we learned from those numbers: there’s been a surge in improved content and thought leadership pushed out by the association and increasing engagement by the association for the industry – webinars, Zooms, calls, etc. – has provided a great platform to raise awareness for the organization with some prospects paying attention for the very first time ever because it’s in a format that they prefer. Accessibility, not only the location but also the cadence of work – with people working from their home office and in a different rhythm than they had before – enabled us to reach more prospects directly than before. However, here’s the most important thing that I’ve learned from this: you have to do the work. These new members aren’t just coming in to your organization on their own. You have to have outbound outreach to take advantage of these inherent opportunities.
Sponsorship numbers are a bit more interesting. Again, we’re comparing Q2 2019 to Q2 2020. It took 46 days to close a sale in 2019 and 48 days in 2020. So, about the same. Average number of activities to close non-dues revenue inventory – such as sponsorships of an exhibit – was five in 2019 and four in 2020. It has always taken less activities to close non-dues inventory than membership because there’s usually a defined date that you’ve got to do it by, right? For example, a sponsor ad must be in by a certain date. The won rate, which is the percentage of closed deals, was 61% in 2019 and was down to 32% in 2020. The change happened in non-dues arena. There are a few reasons why that happened. For one, there were major inventory disruption. Meetings were canceled so those sales closed as a loss. Online meetings were introduced, but they were late and they’re unproven in terms of engagement and the ROI for the sponsor. Budgets were also tightened during this timeframe.
However, here’s where I see some upside in the coming weeks: online platforms are proving to be a good alternative for an in-person meeting. The virtual event space and the digital sponsorship can be maintained for months and continue to deliver value to sponsors after the live portion of the event concludes. It’s no longer just the three days of the in-person event; you can continue promoting your virtual exhibit halls for months after the event because it’s no longer a “one and done” opportunity.
Recently, I spoke with a very well-regarded meetings and event professional who told me that virtual exhibits and engagement with their members was good, however, they continue to get new registration and visitors to the exhibit hall after the meeting concluded. And, in this case, attendance and engagement from a major buyer that had never attended the meeting face-to-face in previous years.
I’m bullish for Q3.
Marketers need to continue to engage your audiences. The best associations will soon come out with a comprehensive sponsorship inventory with as many options as possible for both online and in-person events. It is important for the marketing plan to educate, engage, and make sponsors and exhibitors comfortable with the new inventory. It is also important to inform event attendees about the advantages of participating in new and different ways.
Build out a longer tail for sponsorships. Events are no longer a three-day thing; they can live on virtual event platform for weeks and months with additional promotional opportunities available to drive attendees back to the sponsor. Associations also have the opportunity to deliver better data on page visits, downloads, videos views, and more. Additional ROI is expected by the sponsors because they are not meeting people in the bar or the hallway – the efficiency of which is up for debate – and they are going to need good data to replace anecdotal meetings and relationship building opportunities. Folks, I’ve said this for weeks, this is a transformational opportunity for us not only in sponsorships but also for membership.
Why? The digital approach is a better process. We relied on organizational inertia, such as having a certain number of people renewing annually, with only having to send out an invoice with an 80% success rate.
There’s concern for the remainder of 2020 and increasing fear in 2021. Discretionary budgets will be smaller and we will have to work harder to get those renewals. There will be a reduction in meeting revenue and, in some cases, program will completely evaporate while other programs move online. Attendance, exhibits, and sponsorships will no longer be assumed. You will need outbound communication, education, and sales to bring in and replace your current revenue streams.
Another area of importance is the quality of your data. Conduct a self-diagnosis to make sure that your existing data is good and that you are collecting quality data. This will tie into the ROI that your sponsor is looking for from you going forward.
Lastly, there’s a realization that some associations do not have a true sales operation in place to bring in new business. Associations will need to invest in sales if they want to grow their revenue.
The biggest deciding factor for associations will be separating the good from the great and that separation is going to be obvious. It already is. I’ve said this for weeks and believe it will continue to be the case. My sense is that the people who listen to the Association Hustle Podcast are already buying into this mindset. We’re getting increasingly more enthusiastic about what’s ahead! Thanks for letting me be a part of that journey. I appreciate you listening.
Will you share this podcast with someone else? Grateful for that opportunity.
We hope you enjoyed this edition of JP Moery’s Association Hustle Podcast. We’d love to connect with you. Check out our blog at moerycompany.com and subscribe to our weekly newsletter. You can also connect with JP on LinkedIn and Twitter at @JPMoery, as well as The Moery’s Company’s Instagram and Facebook page. To purchase a copy of JP’s book, Association Hustle: Top Strategies for Association Growth, go to JPMoery.com.
Did you know that we have a dedicated sales team that sells memberships and sponsorships on our association clients’ behalf? Want to learn more? Connect with us by filling out the form below and we’ll get back to you shortly!