The National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD) is the largest membership organization of board directors – over 13,000 strong – that operates as a nonprofit 501(c)(3). NACD’s mission has remained unchanged since its launch in 1977: to support and inspire boards and directors to perform as strategic assets for their enterprises, and to champion the enduring principles of exemplary board leadership.
NACD develops and promotes industry leading member benefits and cutting edge content to both recruit and retain members. When membership is robust, NACD can provide even better content and programs to members, so there is a constant focus on membership growth and retention.
This membership promotion program was developed to support these recruitment efforts.
Public company CEOs, lead directors, audit committee chairman, and nominating/governance chairman throughout the United States. The most important demographic is age, which is heavily skewed to adults over 55.
NACD set one primary and two secondary goals for this campaign:
- Primary Goal: Enroll new full boards as members of NACD; new full board member have an average member lifespan of 6.2 years, so getting a new board signed up is very valuable
- Secondary Goal #1: Maintain communication with boards that are currently engaged in membership discussions with NACD
- Secondary Goal #2: Open communication and start the sales process with boards who are not familiar with NACD
Recruiting new boards is driven by both the NACD marketing and business development teams. NACD’s membership base presents unique challenges in today’s market, including:
- To reach public company CEOs and directors, marketing messages must get beyond one or even two levels of gatekeepers
- Public company CEOs and directors rarely engage in social media activities
- Traditional print and online advertising in mainstream business publications is too expensive
- All materials directed at this target audience must be professionalism, elegant, and acknowledge that the target member has tremendous demands on his/her time
- With average NACD membership pricing at around $4,000 per year, the decision to join is made in collaboration with the company’s executive team, which can cause delays due to inaction and scheduling challenges
- Marketing messages that include fear, or imply that a board/management are inadequate, or “need help” are not effective with this target audience
Methods and Strategies
NACD and ENC Strategy worked together to come up with a unique direct mail campaign designed to make its way through a gatekeeper, provide valuable thought leadership content, and entice quick decision-making with a special limited-time savings of 20% on NACD Full Board Membership.
The decision to use direct mail was based on previous testing of both the offer and the mailing list. The message was very positive, and reinforced in the direct mail assets.
ENC designed a special box mailer that included the following components, shrink wrapped so that the target member can immediately see what’s inside:
- A slipcase in NACD’s corporate color with an enticing question: “How do you turn a qualified board into a recognized board?” A white silky ribbon extended out of the box.
- The interior box cover, which answered the question with NACD’s logo and tagline, mixed with an appeal to the target’s commitment to excellence: “By demonstrating your commitment to exemplary board leadership. NACDonline.org/Join“
- The box interior, which included a special 20% savings (valid only for one month) and a high-end booklet featuring proprietary insights from the 2012-2013 NACD Public Company Governance Survey. The booklet nested in a well, and could be easily removed by lifting the ribbon. ENC worked the NACD research team to extract key report information, and incorporated member testimonials and key reasons to join NACD through the booklet.
The box and the booklet were all treated with a soft touch aqueous coating, which has a unique suede-like feel. ENC’s designs have incorporated this coating on other printed materials as a brand standard for NACD, so this mailing maintained a brand consistency for the target audience.
While it may be surprising that saving money is a strong call-to-action for this upscale target audience, previous tests supported the packaging of this savings with an expiration date to get the membership decision made quickly. NACD continues to use this strategy on a bi-annual basis to drive new memberships.
The NACD business development team actively supported this campaign by following up with each target to discuss the offer, the content, and offer any personalized support needed to support a membership decision. NACD found that this promotion advanced conversations with targeted boards, and actively moved many boards to a membership decision.
NACD mailed 3,500 packages at a cost of approximately $21 per package (total investment of $73,301 for creative, printing, and postage costs).
As of May 2013, new expected lifetime membership revenue DIRECTLY attributed to the mailing was $625,890 over a 6 year period.
There is an additional $93,000 in lifetime member value for pending target boards.
The inclusion of thought leadership materials, rather than a simple listing of membership benefits, provided a good reason for the NACD business development team to follow up and engage with targets. The mailer also supported ongoing sales efforts that keep the conversation going with NACD.
The package enhanced the brand image of NACD among targeted boards and CEOs.