Association Management

Customize Your Online Product Marketing, Association Style

By Dan Seligson • November 5, 2012

As most association membership and marketing teams know, the simplest way to start structuring an online marketing plan is to look at the product mix you want to sell. This is simple in theory, but not so easy to execute in the real world.

You want to be strategic about the variety of products that you are placing online, especially regarding your ability to win new customers.

The world of online customer acquisition is a risky one. Typically, the biggest obstacle for new customers is that they don’t feel safe buying from you. If you don’t play the game correctly, you could end up spending a lot of money and seeing no return on your investment. Choosing the right product mix can help overcome this risk.

  • One of the biggest obstacles for new customers and members is that they don’t feel safe engaging with you.
  • There is no one-size-fits-all offer for everyone who visits your site. You need to be strategic about how you customize.
  • Asking members to join should be the final step in the engagement process—not your first step.

The sample

When I started my career, I did an engagement for a Fortune 50 company selling products that are in every supermarket in the country. My boss handed me a ream of computer paper with the sales data going back 3 years for every one of those supermarkets. I also got a few floppy disks (yes, it was that long ago) of the same data. “Find the story,” he said and walked out.

After three red-eyed days, I had run the numbers, reviewed the trends, sliced and diced the data, and found the story: Detroit.

Detroit sales had doubled over a three-week period two years earlier. What had happened? After a few phone calls, we got the answer. They had run a sampling promotion in a few Detroit neighborhoods. At the same time, they had also launched a $5 million dollar TV advertising campaign nationwide, but the only uptick in sales was in Detroit. Our recommendation? Sample more.


Sampling works. Be brave, and give something away online. Especially if, like most associations, you trade-in information, online there will be no cost of goods and no cost of delivery.

What do you get in return? A buyer. They may not have paid you money, but they have registered with your site, given you an email, and consumed your product. They are a buyer.

Build the relationship

Now you can graduate them into a paying customer (i.e., a member). Offer a $5 product, a $30 product, and then a year membership. Graduate them up the ladder of relationship.

Segment your customers and members: After a while, you will have a range of customers who are at different stages of the relationship. Group them into segments. There are lots of ways to do this, but you only have to think about a few:

  1. Recency: How recently did the customer “buy” from you? Reasonable buckets would be 0-6 months, 6-12 months, and 12-plus months.
  2. Frequency: How often have they purchased from you? Once, two or three times and three or more times are good segmentation buckets.
  3. Monetary Value: How much have they spent with you? This depends on your business, but typically you might see $0 to 50, $50 to $150, and $150-plus as buckets.

As you start, keep it simple. You can begin with recency: People who bought from you recently are typically the easiest sell. Offer your most recent buyers some new products. Let them know what you have, and show off the product features and benefits.

Next, you have your disconnected group: They haven’t bought from you in 6 months. Maybe you need to offer them a discount or a special bonus product if they buy.

Finally, you have your reactivate segment. These people haven’t bought in more than a year. How do you get them engaged again? You could offer a 2-for-1 or more aggressive promotion.


We’ve all let a membership or subscription lapse and gotten those increasingly attractive offers as time goes by. Now you know why. Using email, you can do the same thing on your website, because it works. But it all starts with the right product mix, one that allows people to get engaged and increased their level of engagement with you.

About The Author

Dan Seligson, CEO of Conversion Rate Marketing, is president of the Marketing Committee for the Kellogg Graduate School Alumni Association in New York and past president of the Association of Internet Marketing Professionals.