Marketing Through Associations

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?2004 Jeffrey Dobkin

If you're in direct marketing, you're continually looking for new list sources - everybody's tired of mailing to the same lists. If you're not in direct marketing and thinking about putting a mailing together, here's something a little different: take a look at marketing through associations.

Why would anyone ever market to associations? They're great targets: try sending a press release to an association's publication - whether it's a newsletter or a magazine. Why, 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 who 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 over 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're an affinity marketer - and you'd like 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'd like the National Electrical Contractors Association - with 80 people on staff, and a budget of $10 to $25 million to support their 4,000 member firms that comprise 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'd definitely market through associations if you're part of the hospitality industry and would like to arrange a convention - complete with hotel rooms, ballrooms, and services for the complete screaming regime of whoever shows up - of the 2,300,000 members of the National Education Association of the United States. Or go for a smaller piece of their $100,000,000 budget - give or take a few million - get hired as a speaker or on-site entertainment, or snag some of the the association's printing business. Association lists work for all the above. 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.

Quite frankly, I realize 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 short cut - 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 who belong to the Biscuit and Cracker Distributors Association, a reference book showing detailed information about their association may be just your cup of tea. You'll find their address - along with their association size, annual budget, history, newsletter and publication detail, meeting and convention dates, website, email address, and their 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. (; 888-265-0600, fax 410-810-0911) along with its companion, the State and Regional Associations of the U.S. 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 U.S. 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 Columbia Books directories is cross-referenced by association index, subject index (500 subjects/alpha), also by budget index, geographic index, executive index, and acronym name index. Association management companies are also shown. All of their data is available on disk. These two reference tools fit in your briefcase, and make surprisingly great reading, if - like me - you're a marketer and have no other life outside of marketing and occasionally watching cat- dog on TV (ask your kids!).

Association lists and data are also available in the Encyclopedia of Associations by The Gale Group (800-877-GALE) on disk, CD, and on- line through Lexis-Nexis. This hardbound, three-volume set ($505) is the motherload of associations - showing detailed information on more than 23,000 local, state, national, and international associations. Gale says that seven out of every ten 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 which-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 (VCMA), or the 10 members of the Holy Innocents Reparation Committee with equal ease.

Another great resource of associations is The Associations Yellow Book from Leadership Directories. While it doesn't 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're 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. 1,036 associations with Internet sites are included.

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 10 logical sections: 1. Name and communications information 2. Description (association mission, number of members, number of full-time employees, operating budget) 3. Chief Staff Executive - which uniquely enough provides a photo of the executive director printed in the directory along with his or her background information 4.?Officers and Management - including direct-dial phone and fax numbers and e-mail addresses 5. Government affairs office and phone 6. Committees 7.?Foundations - research, education, fundraising and contacts 8. Branches 9.Publications including editors, frequency, and content 10. Board 11.?Meetings - conferences, seminars, dates and locations and 12. 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 full page and one-quarter 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 email addresses, but the listing also contains the names and affiliation of each of their 23 board members. Even the receptionist gets her name mentioned with her phone number. So if you're looking for the person who just handles the conventions, or the publications, you can write or call directly to him.

The clean layout and extensive coverage in each listing (plus all those photos that we think are a nice visual touch) make this excellent reference tool one of the favorites around our offices. I can assure you it's heavily used, and we recommend it.

The Associations Yellow Book is available from Leadership Directories, Inc., 104 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY. 10011; Telephone 212/627-4140, Fax 212/645-0931; web address: Published semi-annually, the subscription cost is $245 for two issues. Additional subscriptions to the same address are $172. Subscriptions include access to their Internet association database which is updated daily.

Marketing to - or through - associations may turn out to be a key component of your campaign; don't 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 may 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 - might as well have them educate their members about your products and services.


Bio - Jeffrey Dobkin is the author of the incredible 400-page marketing manual How To Market a Product for Under $500 ($29.95 +$4). To place an order, or to speak with Mr. Dobkin call 610/642-1000. Fax 610/ 642-6832. Visit him at for more articles.

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