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BI Case Study: National Association of College and University Business Officers

This is the second of four case studies on how associations are using business intelligence, about which I presented at a recent ASAE conference. There are a lot of details to these case studies, but since this is a blog, I’m going to keep this at a high level.

When Steve Doran arrived at NACUBO, he learned that NACUBO was investing about $19,000 per conference to sell 400 registrations. With a background in direct mail marketing, Steve felt confident he could lower that investment and still fill the 400 seats. Using data that Steve gathered from multiple sources within NACUBO, he was able to reduce his direct mail investment to around $3,000, while still filling all the seats. That was a direct reduction of costs of nearly 85%! So how did he do it?

In a nutshell, Steve developed a five-tiered system that classified his customer base (by organization) by their level of engagement. Using data points from 12 different areas within NACUBO (e.g., attendance at the NACUBO annual meeting, listservers, and benchmarking studies), Steve weighted each of these points of participation and created a total score for each organization. The results were pretty remarkable. Steve determined that of his 10,000+ universe of organizations, more than half were not participating at any appreciable level. Yet up to this point, NACUBO continued to market to them as if they were good buyers.

As a smart marketer, Steve knew that this was the first group to eliminate from future mailings. And while Steve met with some resistance (“What do you mean we’re not going to market to everyone?”), the results certainly speak for themselves. As noted above, NACUBO has cut their marketing expenses by more than 85%, a net savings of over $75,000 in the first year of this program.

I should note here that Steve did not use any fancy business intelligence software beyond an Access database that he built himself. And all of the data he used was pulled from sources within NACUBO.

What I’m most impressed with about this case study is that Steve did this without any fancy software, and he was able to convince the powers that be that marketing to everyone in the same manner was costly and ineffective. By determining who his best customers are, Steve was able to cut his costs and increase his marketing effectiveness.

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National Association of Life Brokerage Agencies

“Wes was able to come in and offer tangible, relevant advice that made us more productive immediately. I value his understanding of databases but more so, his understanding of how nonprofits work. There was no lost time educating him about how membership organizations are “different.” Wes recommended changes in processes as well as tips and tricks that were easy to implement made an immediate positive impact.”

Mary Pat Paris, Executive Director
International Registration Plan

Mary Pat Paris
International Registration Plan

“This is the second database implementation we’ve done since I have been at Western Arts Alliance (WAA). The first I did on my own. This time we engaged Wes Trochlil as our database planning consultant. Let me tell you, this process is a whole lot easier having Wes on your team! For a small association like WAA, it’s tempting for board and EDs to question the justification and expense of a database planning consultant. But it’s the small associations that need Effective Database Management the most. Wes strengthened our planning process, clarified our needs requirements, helped us steer around solutions that couldn’t meet our objectives, and saved us money in the long haul.”

Tim Wilson, Executive Director
Western Arts Alliance

Tim Wilson
Western Arts Alliance
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