Membership model rewards Hoyt

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Peter Hoyt founded the In-Store Marketing Institute in 2003 as a unit within Hoyt Publishing, a small b-to-b publishing company that was then 15 years old. To launch a new, privately held industry association “was a risky idea that took us into uncharted territory,” he said. “Would folks accept a private association in the sacred space reserved for not-for-profits?”

Nonetheless, Hoyt went ahead and introduced the association to serve retailers, marketers, agencies and point-of-purchase vendors. For marketers such as Microsoft Corp. and MillerCoors, membership in the association provides a forum to share best practices and fund research on in-store marketing.

Even after the recession hit, membership dues for the institute in 2009 and 2010 continued to grow, while “our events, trade show and conferences weathered the storm fairly well,” Hoyt said.

Gross revenue for the In-Store Marketing Institute, which supplanted Hoyt Publishing as the company's name in 2008, tumbled 20% from 2008 to 2010 as the media side of the business took a crushing blow. “[Shopper Marketing], formerly the flagship of Hoyt Publishing, went from delivering a 22% net profit to a 19% loss,” Hoyt said. “We seem to be bouncing back pretty nicely in 2011, but it was a brutal decline.”

The company's net profit margin, meanwhile, declined only slightly—from 19.3% in 2008 to 16.1% in 2010—thanks in part to membership fees in the association.

“The financial argument for what we did is indisputable,” Hoyt said. “If we were relying solely on our former business model, we would have slipped well into the red; and it's anybody's guess how long we could have held out. But to leap to the financial implications is to really miss the point.”

Hoyt's advice to other media companies that might want to follow his lead: “Do not launch an association if your goal is to make a profit,” he said, adding that no industry will support an organization that proves itself to be profit-driven and parasitic.

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