Marketing Through Associations

©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

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

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

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.


Comments are closed.