Improving membership marketing programs is an ongoing process.
Here are some ways to make it easier and more effective.
For many associations, increasing membership growth and retention is a constant struggle.
Improving membership marketing programs to attract more members and increase member loyalty is particularly challenging when you have a small staff.
There’s no single idea or approach that will suddenly open a flow of new members to your association or keep members from leaving. To successfully attract and retain members, you must remind yourself that your membership marketing programs are really an ongoing process.
The good news is that while it’s a continual process, it doesn’t have to be difficult.
Let’s look at how to put together a plan to improve your membership marketing programs. Then, let’s look at three phases of membership marketing and what you can do in each one to boost your results.
How to improve your membership marketing programs
To start, think about the overall strategy for your association’s membership marketing programs. Here are three key steps:
- Analyze your membership. Consider the overall state of your current membership. What’s your membership growth rate? What’s your membership retention rate? What’s your current financial situation?The purpose of this step is to establish benchmarks for your membership marketing programs. An ideal way to analyze your membership is to use the data reporting and analytics capabilities in your association management software (AMS).
TIP: YourMembership AMS by Community Brands includes dashboards, reports, and data analytics capabilities to give you insights that can help you make more informed decisions for your membership marketing programs.
- Set goals. Considering your industry’s situation and your association’s capabilities, set goals for your membership marketing programs. Your goals will provide you with a target to work toward and to measure the success of your membership marketing programs against. Some goals you set might include:
- How many new members you aim to add during the next 12 months
- How much you will increase your membership retention rate during the next 12 months
- What financial results you expect from your membership recruitment and retention efforts
TIP: Learn how to set clear, attainable goals for your membership marketing programs. Read the article, Setting SMART Goals for Your Small Staff Association.
- Develop a marketing strategy. Your marketing strategy is how you will go about reaching your membership marketing goals. It’s how you will attract and retain members. It involves understanding your members; offering attractive member benefits, programs, services, and packages; and using multiple tactics to recruit and retain members. We’ll dive into marketing strategy next.
Three phases of membership marketing strategy
Let’s look at three areas of membership marketing strategy and what you can do in each one to boost your membership marketing programs for years to come:
- Understand your membership.
- Attract new members to your organization.
- Keep your members.
Understand your membership.
When you’re building a membership marketing program, you can get sidetracked pretty quickly with complex marketing concepts and complicated ideas. But who has time for that when you have a small staff?
Before you spend valuable time and resources on a membership marketing activity, consider three simple questions to better understand your membership. Once you’ve answered these questions, you can better understand how to target your membership recruitment activities:
1. Who are our association’s members?
There are countless ways to dig you’re your membership. Start by asking the question: What are the demographics of my membership? Demographic information typically includes some or all of the following: age, income, education, geographic location, title, length of membership, and type of membership.
While collecting many different types of information is possible, try to focus on areas to help you identify and understand your current and prospective members. A common way to collect this data is to capture and analyze it in your AMS.
TIP: Using an all-in-one AMS system like YourMembership AMS can help your organization to collect, secure, manage, analyze, and use your member data more effectively.
2. What problems do our members face?
One of the best ways to understand your members better is to ask them about their challenges. Traditionally, this is done every three to five years as part of a strategic planning process. But your members face problems every day in a continually changing world.
So, send a brief member satisfaction survey each year to your members to find out more about their concerns and needs. Allow your members to identify and rank issues of concern. You can then tweak your programs, services, and other activities to reflect your members’ priorities.
Another simple way to learn more about your members’ needs is to read what they’re saying in your online member community. That’s where they’ll be discussing their biggest challenges and sharing ideas. You can even prompt them by posting a survey or poll in your online community to get them talking more about their top concerns.
TIP: YourMembership AMS has built-in survey functionality that makes it easy to build and send targeted surveys and get feedback. YourMembership also includes functionality to help you build a thriving online member community.
3. How does our association solve these problems?
Once you’re clear about the challenges your members face, think about how to address the issues. With a strong demographic picture of your membership and a good understanding of the issues they’re concerned about, you can assess whether your association’s priorities, programs, and services align with your members’ needs. Be sure to regularly review survey feedback and insights gathered from your online community to keep your membership benefits and programs relevant.
Recruit new members.
As part of your membership marketing strategy, you probably already use several tactics to recruit new members. These might include direct mail, email, telemarketing, text messaging, social media, and member-get-a-member programs.
To optimize results from each of these tactics, go back to the research you’ve done about your membership. Focus on how your organization addresses members’ challenges to make each marketing communication more compelling – ultimately making prospective members want to become members.
Also, make sure that joining is easy. Review your website to ensure prospective members can easily find your online membership application. And streamline your application as much as possible, asking for only what’s necessary to process each membership. You can always ask for more information later.
TIP: The way you price and package memberships can also be a big factor in your ability to attract and retain members. Learn more about how to set the right price for your membership models: Read the guide, Association Membership Pricing Strategies 101.
Retain your members.
It can be easy to focus on new member recruitment and let member retention slip. It’s exciting to bring in new members. You get to develop marketing plans and create fun and compelling text and graphics.
But your existing members are extremely valuable to your association. It’s generally cheaper and easier to keep members. Plus, when members are happy, they can help you to create a thriving association that naturally attracts more members. Shouldn’t they get more than a generic thank you note with their membership dues invoice?
In fact, retaining members is about the entire member lifecycle. From the moment they join your association to the day they click the “renew” button, they’re deciding whether it’s worth their time and money to be a member. That means that everything from the member onboarding experience you provide to the membership benefits you offer to the way you communicate with members impacts their loyalty with your association.
Here are some ideas to help you improve membership retention as part of your membership marketing programs:
1) Look for declining membership retention.
Watch for signals that your association is no longer maintaining strong relationships with current members. One obvious indicator is that your membership retention rate is falling. Another: the number of members who are volunteering is decreasing. Or maybe attendance at your association’s events is dropping off. Each of these is a symptom that your organization needs to strengthen relationships with members.
2) Give your member onboarding process a boost.
Be sure to send a member onboarding email series that makes your new members feel welcome right away. Also, help them feel welcome by celebrating new members in your email newsletter.
3) Get (and keep) members more engaged.
Give members more of the benefits they want and find ways to increase engagement with them. For example:
- If you don’t already have one, offer an online member community to provide a place for members to connect with each other, share ideas, and access valuable industry and association information.
TIP: With YourMembership online community functionality, you can automatically make suggested connections based on members’ similar interests to help members network and become more engaged with your association’s community.
- Offer an online career center to help your members find jobs and access resources to help them grow professionally.
- Pair up new members with established members as a sort of “buddy” program. This can help new members get to know your association better while keeping current members engaged.
Ask members to volunteer to get them more involved. For example, ask them to start and encourage conversations in your online member community. Invite them to join a committee or help at your next event. Ask them to help your recruitment efforts by providing a testimonial or develop other content that you can use in marketing campaigns.
4) Improve member service.
The quality of your member service is a top factor influencing membership retention. It’s sometimes the only personal interaction between the member and your organization. Ask yourself: Is the interaction enjoyable and convenient for the member? Does our staff seem to care about members’ work and the problems they face? Are phone calls and emails returned promptly? Are commitments delivered on time?
Commit to these activities and build these initiatives into your budget as much as possible. As the interactions between your members and your association grow stronger and more positive, your members’ affiliation with your association will grow, too.
5) Adapt to the changing needs of members.
Use the tactics outlined above to continually re-educate yourself on the problems and issues faced by your members and how the association solves them.
Membership marketing isn’t a project; it’s an ongoing process. But it doesn’t have to be difficult. With the right tools and approaches, your reward is to sit back and enjoy the results.
Learn more tips and techniques for your association’s membership marketing programs. Read the guide, Top 10 Greatest Hits for Membership Marketing.
By Kyela Bishop, YourMembership Marketing Coordinator, Community Brands