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Old 08-10-2004   #1
dannysullivan
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Should SEMPO Simplify Memberships?

Currently, SEMPO has five different levels of membership. My understanding is that the different levels emerged as a compromise between trying to raise money for the group yet being as inclusive as possible. Thus, people could pay a lot to be a "Circle" member and get certain benefits, while others could pay relatively little and still be involved in the organization.

Unfortunately, the existence of a top tier has lead to some accusations of elitism. I've suggested one solution of having only individual and corporate memberships to help solve this.

Quote:
I think it would be an excellent idea to have only lower-cost individual memberships (say $150) plus slightly higher-cost corportate memberships (say $300-$500) to help eliminate the concern over elitism.
Others have suggested similar solutions or push for the idea of having just one, such as ihelpyou recently:

Quote:
Yes, the board thing changed quickly is good. Lower-cost fee is very good as well. But having a higher fee just because you are a corporation does not seem like a good idea. One fee per person is what it should be. Some corps are still only one or two man operations so by charging a fee of 3 to 500 for a corp would still keep out many businesses. Not only that, but you still would have a two tiered system in place. I feel this tiered system has been the brunt of most of the problems from day one. They have tried to 'think up' of more and more benefits for Circle members because of this type of system. This has led to the promotion of members, etc, and is not something a non-profit should be doing.
I threw out the individual/corporate option because I've seen it work in other organizations I've been involved with as a journalist.

For example, I used to be a member of the Society Of Newspaper Design -- an individual member. That gave me a say in the group and the ability to participate in individual awards categories, receive information like a newsletter direct to me, have me listed in the member's directory and so on. However, my newspaper was also a corporate member (if I recall correctly). They had different needs from me.

If you only have one type of membership, I think it's too inflexible. I think people within a company may want a direct relationship with SEMPO -- especially given people do move from company to company. As an individual, I might want to be listed as a member so that companies I don't work for may be able to find me and perhaps headhunt me. But companies themselves may also want to be represented as companies.

Thoughts on this idea -- or any thoughts in general on how the membership levels should be changed, if at all?
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Old 08-10-2004   #2
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Let me start off with saying that I never ran an organization like this and I really have no idea how to make it work. I do not know what the other orgs do out there. I like the idea of individual and corporate level membership. But I have seen orgs that do multi tier levels for both individual levels and corporate levels (not sure how they differentiate the tiers). I know one person who runs a mid size non profit organization. I will try to get them to stop by and add to this.
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Old 08-10-2004   #3
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I would say the organization really needs to focus on what its goals are and communicate that articulately to their members and prospective members before they try to decide on other issues such as this one.
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Old 08-10-2004   #4
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I think the individual and corporate idea you mentioned, Danny, may be a good idea. Anything that reduces the cost of membership as they have it now would be better IMO.

I thought it was amazing that they would charge $5000 in the first place to be a top level member when the organization is so new. Then I heard that some of the Circle members didn't even pay the $5k. Don't know if that is true or not but if it is, it is not fair.
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Old 08-10-2004   #5
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Then I heard that some of the Circle members didn't even pay the $5k. Don't know if that is true or not but if it is, it is not fair.
My understanding is that this is only true of SEMPO's Board Of Directors. I think they were all given automatic Circle status in return for the work they do as board members. Some have felt that unfair. Andy Beal was one of the first to raise this way back in September 2003. I think various members of SEMPO's board responded to these concerns on various search forums, but I don't have links to those handy off hand.
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Old 08-10-2004   #6
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I like the individual/corporate approach too.

The existing circle thing does tend to create the impression of an elitist priveledged tier. The 'join' page makes the mistake of highlighting the link from the homepage as a primary benefit of circle membership.

http://www.sempo.org/sempo-membership-information.php

Anyway, much of this stuff was brought up ages ago, and sadly wasn't addressed then.

If there weren't a zillion and 2 other outstanding issues then I might consider some form of individual membership.

I won't repeat what's been done to death, other than to say that 5k shouldn't be able to buy legitimacy and respectability, and like it or not, in the eyes of the uninformed, that's exactly the impression that a non profit organisation set up to raise SEM awareness could well create.

Im not saying that any of those circle guys are anything other than beyond reproach, but in its current form the door is open, and waiting for a TP type scenario, whereby nothing but lasting damage would be inflicted.

Then where would we be? Looking stupid for starters.

We need to hear some SEMpo board noises, the silence is deafening, without getting personal and accusatory, its difficult to understand why they aren't engaging with the community that they seek to promote.

Last edited by robwatts : 08-10-2004 at 03:57 PM. Reason: unnecessary repetition
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Old 08-10-2004   #7
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From my conference call, they indicated that they are not allowed to participate on forums.
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Old 08-10-2004   #8
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Really beth? How odd.

I must say, I find the 'not allowed' part a tad amusing.

Funny really, you'd think that some might express a view or 2 in at least a personal capacity. Actually, no, wait thats hog wash.

BC has participated in fora in her official capacity of SEMPO president on more than one occassion.

Why the sudden volte face? Perhaps its a simple distance mech - disassociation even, I can understand that.
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Old 08-10-2004   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bethabernathy
From my conference call, they indicated that they are not allowed to participate on forums.
I think that is just bad marketing and communication, but it could be ok if they had other feedback loops like a forum or blog.

>should SEMPO simplify membership

yes.
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Old 08-10-2004   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dannysullivan
I think it would be an excellent idea to have only lower-cost individual memberships (say $150) plus slightly higher-cost corportate memberships (say $300-$500) to help eliminate the concern over elitism.
I think this would be a good way to go, should be more manageable cost-wise for small shop SEO's.
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Old 08-10-2004   #11
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Should SEMPO Simplify Memberships?
Not to be a pedant, but simplification isn't the issue. What is needed is a complete rethink as to what membership means, in both directions. Put bluntly, how can an organisation serve an industry as a whole, heck even its own membership as a whole, if certain members recieve higher billing than others?

A big problem with SEMPO, and this has existed since day dot, is that the why join page, the equivalent of a pre-sales page on usual websites, http://www.sempo.org/sempo-membership-information.php, lists benefits that vary based upon membership. More links, different SEMPO logo's companies have the right to use, Discounts on Members-Only Paid Research Materials, heck even Advertising opportunities at SEMPO educational seminars (just noticed that one, and hmmmm).

With membership in SEMPO offering varying degrees of opportunity to promote individual companies / firms / individuals seems to indicate, at least to me, that membership is about promoting one's own business, rather than the industry or membership as a whole.

I can see how this approach may have appeared to be the best approach at the start, but that doesn't make it the best strategy for the future, especially if a greater volume of members is the goal.

As an alternate means of raising funds in teh future, perhaps SEMPO can offer companies the opportunity to sponsor specific research. This may be a more effective, and transparent, means of raising such funds, without the need to segregate members.
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Old 08-10-2004   #12
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SEO Forums are the one thing ALONE that have actually reached out to the industry at large and provided widespread visibility and public access to knowledge and information - by far, and that is a provable, verifiable and indisputable fact.

Pardon the maternal sounding analogy, but being a real mother, it can't be helped. Those of us who love forums (and the members) from the heart and have actively participated in them over the years - and I am *not* referring to any who may have their names up as moderators in name only, but those who actively interact, including and especially the faithful and generous members themselves, are the ones who have assumed the parental role in this industry, of nurturing and guiding our "babies" as they seek out counsel and advice, and have been raising them up the way they should go - hopefully the right way.

It is the denizens of generous and kind_hearted, community_minded individuals, the rank and file members who are out there in the trenches daily, mostly behind anonymous membernames, who have been supporting and building the presence of this industry for years.

IMHO of course, and admittedly a biased opinion, but for those of us who have had the privilege of partaking of this, to whatever degree, it's both a humbling and gratifying experience to have had the opportunity to reach out to the internet community in this way.

I've never mentioned this to anyone before, but I've personally always been grateful to Brett for having provided me the opportunity and privilege of being able to contribute whatever I could to what I've believed in; and I also have profound respect for those of other online communities as well. IMHO there's room for many; each will have its own personality and flavor and appeal to different people - and there's not one I haven't learned something from, without exception.

Again, just personal opinion but that's where I believe the heartbeat of the SEO industry lies, and that is the only kind of membership I'm personally interested in.
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Old 08-10-2004   #13
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The bottom line is the board is just too busy to manage the operation correctly, so they have set it up the best they know how, i.e. via sales. I don't think they will be able to coordinate any changes as they stand today. Every communication, or lack there of, that I have had with them indicates this. And I don't think they have been aware on any level that they are doing anything wrong. They just don't have the time to do the job right going forward.

So, simply, turn over the positions to people who have the time, are not interested in making a great profit off of it and move ahead. Short of that, they need to re-file as a for profit corporation and deal with the back taxes.
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Old 08-10-2004   #14
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As an alternate means of raising funds in the future, perhaps SEMPO can offer companies the opportunity to sponsor specific research. This may be a more effective, and transparent, means of raising such funds, without the need to segregate members.
That's exactly one part of my list of changes were in an earlier post. Members can 'donate' when they wish for whatever they wish, to help with whatever needs help within the org. LOW admission fee. Donate when you wish.

Great post Marcia!

I've actually wondered why the industry needs this kind of org to begin with. Heck, many of us have helped ''spread the word" about SEM for years and years.

SEMPO was simply created to help promote a few select SEM firms. That's it. The cover for this was "promote the industry". It's all very obvious.

This thread is full of great advice that is "actionable" advice. That's the key. It's not advice that would take months or a year to implement. Many parts can be done in days, and some more in a couple of weeks. An actual re-design would take about 6 weeks tops, with full content management; completely search engine friendly; Very user friendly.
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Old 08-10-2004   #15
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I agree with the timeframe issues and an earlier post by Danny S. that they should move up the time frame for re-elections. If it was me I could get it done in 6 weeks, this group, no way. As they said during my phone call, something like ... you know we all run very prominent businesses... (that is not a quote, just a paraphrase). Maybe if they don't want my help related to legal issues, we can coordinate to help them hire a new board with a goal of establishment in no later than 8 weeks???????
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Old 08-11-2004   #16
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The current system does lend itself to a questioning of motives, purposes, promotion, etc., I'll agree with that.

I've always felt that the membership should be based on a simpler system, such as chambers of commerce, or other non-profit industry groups. A tiered system based on the number of employees would be fair, however, it does not account for the SEO's within corp settings. In that case, I totally agree with the individual/corporate levels.

on a few other notes . . .

The mission of education is noble, yet what kind of communication is the question taking center stage, IMO. Last month saw significantly bad press concerning our industry, and SEMPO was in position to have played a major role in educating the press as to what exactly it is that we do for companies.

I would also agree to expanded guidelines of communications, both to members and non-members. Regardless of membership status, SE?'s are still the market that SEMPO intends to represent. How else will membership grow?

See Marcia's post above as an excellent example of how this industry has communicated since day one.

Last edited by Matt B : 08-11-2004 at 12:45 AM.
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Old 08-11-2004   #17
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Originally Posted by Marcia
SEO Forums are the one thing ALONE that have actually reached out to the industry at large and provided widespread visibility and public access to knowledge and information - by far, and that is a provable, verifiable and indisputable fact.
To bad there is not a 'hand clapping' emoticon I can insert here because I completely agree with what you have said here, Marcia. In fact, I think forums and Danny Sullivan have done far more to promote SEO and SEM to the world than SEMPO can ever hope to accomplish. Great post, Marcia!
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Old 08-11-2004   #18
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I agree, well said Marcia.

I'm not that fussed about the two hats, the legal issues, communication, Barbaras knickers etc. For me the issue is a complete lack of action with regards to their stated objectives and goals.

Ironically, the recent forum posts of SEMPO and their 'wrong-doings' has probably done more for getting the SEMPO name out into the public domain than they have achieved in the whole year since they were founded.

The goals, as I understand them as they are as clear as mud, are to promote SEM as a whole to the worlds business communites and beyond. This means the marketing managers of literally millions of companies worldwide with an internet presence that profit from the web. There was some talk about SEMPO having failed because they only have ~$250,000 in one year. I would counter with WHY has SEMPO got that much money sitting idly in the bank? Why hasn't SEMPO promoted existing research or paid for advertisment in the main stream press? Why are SEMPO saving up to cover stipends and research which is going to cost them 5 or 6 figure sums? There is plenty of research and statistics out there already. The new research they are splashing out on will have to be something really special and come with a large PR budget for a member to feel the moneys being well spent imo.

SEMPO talk too much about the members benefits, when their stated goals is to promote SEM as a whole. If potential members saw that they were actually making efforts into promoting SEM as a whole they'd be far more willing to join, which would mean more money in the coffers, which would be more money to spend promoting SEM... more members...

In a full year nothing really has happened to get the message out to the mainstream. Why haven't they paid for advertisment in main stream press (It doesnt have to cost hundreds of thousands) outlining what SEM is and how it can turn internet companies around? If the bread and milk boards in the UK can do it, then so can SEMPO.
It is all so self-serving to me, I had that impression as one of the original SEMPO Yahoo group participents (also badly handled btw.) from the get go, and voiced many of the points expressed here on my own German language SEM forum months ago. I've had enough of hearing how SEMPO could benefit me as a member through links, research and articles on their site (which aren't only to be found on SEMPO) and want to know what they are doing about their stated goals.

I'd very much like to see SEMPO work. I am in a market that really needs it (German language market) and couldn't give a rats a** if I got a link from a sempo page or had access to 'running your SEM' business articles or networking. I want SEMPO to carry out their original goals, use the money they have into promoting SEM and less money into research and stipends (ca. 30% of total funds is excessive when not backed up by action or results).

I don't think they are dead in the water yet. They have time to prove they are not a bunch of self-serving marketeers, but only if they start chasing the goals they claim to have and if potential members see some evidence which goes against the current grain of 'looking after the boys'.

Alan
[added]perhaps this thread is a little off topic and should be a separate one. Mods feel free to move or whatever[/added]

Last edited by Webby : 08-11-2004 at 06:49 AM.
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Old 08-11-2004   #19
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Quote:
From my conference call, they indicated that they are not allowed to participate on forums.
Beth, my understanding was that the board can't address legal issues in a public forum. Various board members have indeed participated in forums in the past. They did stay quiet following the Mike Grehan article two weeks ago, but this seemed to be a decision to do so given that they prefered to respond to things at the planned public meeting. Lack of posting last week isn't suprising given that I think the entire board was at the SES show. As people begin digging out after this, I'd expect/hope we'd see them respond to things as they can, where they feel they can.

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The bottom line is the board is just too busy to manage the operation correctly...so, simply, turn over the positions to people who have the time..I agree with the timeframe issues and an earlier post by Danny S. that they should move up the time frame for re-elections.
Perhaps, but this is off-topic for this thread. This thread is specifically about whether the membership structure of SEMPO should change from its five-tier, anyone can apply situation. Issues about the board, such as should the elections be accelerated, etc, should be addressed in a separate thread, if you want to start one on that.

Quote:
I've actually wondered why the industry needs this kind of org to begin with.
Again, please start a separate thread if you'd like to discuss this. This thread assumes there will indeed be a SEMPO but asks whether the membership structure needs to change.

Sorry to nag on starting separate threads, but there are multiple issues that have come up in the wake of SEMPO. People are expressing good concerns, but they are getting lost when mixed into a single thread. If we can focus on different areas, then it's easier to understand what might be the most pressing concerns and possible solutions.
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Old 08-11-2004   #20
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I think it would be an excellent idea to have only lower-cost individual memberships (say $150) plus slightly higher-cost corportate memberships (say $300-$500) to help eliminate the concern over elitism.
Excellent idea Danny. The current system is FAR to heavily skewed to the 'Circle'.

Even the default "Find a Search Engine Marketing Company" http://www.sempo.org/sempo-membershi...ory-circle.php search facility is default 'Circle' only - you have to navigate radio buttons to actually finad all the members - and that assumes that you understood the difference between 'SEMPO CIRCLE', 'Supporters', 'Contributors', and 'Executive Members' in the first place.

Why not have a search by country? By language? By skills?
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