Tipping points, evangelists, sneezers, mavens, etc.
I started to add my 2 cents to Jason's excellent post below as a comment, but it got too involved.
I put myself in Jason's camp: I'm not such a big believer in associations and traditional marketing. I've often wondered what would happen if the 50-gazillion dollar flashy 500-page annual meeting brochure were replaced with three reminder postcards? Could you take the money saved and plow it into other efforts, efforts that would build WOM marketing?
One of the first articles I researched and wrote when I came to GWSAE (that's premerger, folks) was on Seth Godin's Ideavirus. I liked that article a lot, I think as much because I got to use the word phlegmatic, and it had always been an ambition of mine to use the word phlegm in my professional writing without it being a huge stretch. (Tee hee, see how I did it again?)
One of my line of questions to Godin was going to be on how associations as a perfect for cultivating what he called the sneezers (those early adopters that spread the ideavirusâ€”McConnell and Huba called them evangelists; Gladwell called them mavens). I mean, unlike for-profit businesses in a sea of marketing chatter, association members chose to be members. They chose to associate. Shouldn't ideas spread fast in such an environment. No, not really, he said. He didn't think associations had much of an advantage.
He killed my line of questioning. To this day I disagree with himâ€”mostly. Associations should have an advantage. (Here's where you can groan appropriately) but because we're busy measuring the number of members and the number of butts in seats, we don't try to develop measures that will tell us who our sneezers/mavens/evangelists are. We go by reputation and our own knowledge instead, and subsequently we must miss gobs of potential sneezers who slip through the cracks.
Of course, the next step is figuring out what sorts of things will make these people feel special so that they want to continue to come back again and again. But that's another post for another time. (And apologies for all the Godin from me today.)