Beyond acquisition: A guide to membership marketing for associations

When you have a small staff, it’s important to get as much as you can out of your membership marketing efforts. Here are five simple steps.

When you think about membership marketing for your association, you might think of recruiting new members. But membership marketing is about much more than that. It’s also about providing a valuable and engaging member experience that keeps members renewing year after year.

Of course, when you have a small staff, membership marketing can seem like a tall order. You don’t always have the time and resources to create complex plans and campaigns.

So, how can your association’s small staff get bigger results when it comes to membership marketing?

In this article, we’ll look at five simple steps for getting more out of your membership marketing efforts:

  1. Consider the full member journey.
  2. Understand your target audiences.
  3. Develop compelling value propositions and membership tiers.
  4. Create a multi-channel membership marketing plan.
  5. Measure the progress of your membership marketing.


Five simple steps to get more out of your membership marketing

1. Consider the full member journey.

Membership marketing involves presenting a consistent brand image and providing a valuable experience for members from the moment they are prospective members through their entire experience with your organization. It can help to think about the full member experience in two ways: the member journey with your association and your members’ career journeys.

Here are some ideas about these aspects of the member experience to help guide your membership marketing activities:

  • The member experience starts from day one. From the moment your members join your organization, they’re deciding if they’ll stay or if they’ll go. Even before that, they’re getting an impression of your association. So, everything you do to promote your organization and provide a great member experience is a form of membership marketing – including keeping your website fresh, making it easy to join, providing a smooth and welcoming onboarding experience, delivering great member value throughout the year, and making membership renewal easy.


  • Members have different needs in various stages of their careers. Association trends research from Community Brands shows that members have different priorities based on their career stages. So, it’s important to pay attention to what your members want in the early, middle, and late stages of their careers, and deliver more of what each of those member groups want. Doing so will help you to attract and retain more members.


  • Listening to your members goes a long way. Gather member feedback – not just once, but throughout the member journey. Using regular feedback, you can continue to provide a valuable experience for members and even identify at-risk members so that you can get them more engaged before they lapse.


2. Understand your target audiences.

Before you can market effectively to members and prospective members, you must understand them. Knowing them better helps you to address their needs and develop more targeted membership packages and communications.

Here are some simple and effective ways to collect and use data to better understand your target audiences:

  • Send member surveys. Send surveys to your members to gather their thoughts about your association’s programs and benefits. For example, you might send a member survey to find out how well your member benefits and programs are meeting members’ needs.

TIP: YourMembership association management software (AMS) by Community Brands has survey functionality built in, making it easy to build and send targeted surveys and get member feedback.

  • Conduct focus groups. To gather more detailed feedback, invite a diverse group of members (representing various career stages, years as a member, etc.) to meet with you so that you can uncover more about their needs and what you can do to deliver greater value for them.
  • Keep an eye on what your members are writing. Read what your members are writing in your online member community and on social media platforms. You might also participate in these online conversations to encourage more discussion and feedback.
  • Look at your association’s data. The data you collect in your association management software can give you insights into your target audiences to better understand demographic information, membership trends, member behaviors, and more. These insights make it easier to plan targeted marketing campaigns, uncover opportunities to improve your membership marketing efforts, and find ways to deliver a better experience for all of your audiences. 

TIP: You can use dashboard and reporting capabilities in YourMembership AMS to easily pull and modify reports. You can also use data analytics capabilities in YourMembership for added insights into functions across your organization.


3. Develop compelling value propositions and membership packages.

It’s important to help members understand what’s in it for them if they join or renew. Here are some tips to help you show members the value of membership with your association:

  • Evaluate your membership packages. Based on the member feedback you gather, review your membership levels and adjust them as needed to make sure they’re providing great member value.
  • Write value statements. Create a value proposition for your association. Your value proposition (sometimes called a positioning statement) should briefly explain the unique benefits your association has to offer members. It should tell current and prospective members why they should join, what’s in it for them as a member, and why they should continue to renew their membership.


It’s also important to spell out the unique value each of your membership levels offers. So, create value statements that you can use in your membership marketing messages; they should concisely explain the unique benefits of each membership package or level. Some questions to address in your value statements include:

    • Who does each membership package help?
    • What are the benefits of each membership package?
    • Why is each membership level better than similar ones on the market?


  • Develop messaging. Your value statements should be the core of your membership marketing messages. They will help to convince your target audiences that it’s time to join or renew. Create messages based on your target audiences for each membership level. Be sure to keep messages consistent with your organization’s branding.


4. Create a multi-channel membership marketing plan.

A strong membership marketing plan recruits new members and engages current members. It also uses multiple channels to reach people in a variety of ways.

Here are some effective tactics to include in your membership marketing plan:

  • Keep your website fresh. To make a great impression on members and prospective members, your website must appear relevant, not outdated. An old and poorly formatted site can cause prospective and current members to leave the site before you have a chance to show them your organization’s value. To keep your website fresh:
    • Make it mobile-friendly. Make sure it looks good and works well as visitors access it via their mobile devices.
    • Present an attractive design. Include consistent use of your organization’s branding and present a modern design that makes it easy for visitors to read and for you to highlight key messages.
    • Offer clear navigation. Using your website should be intuitive so that visitors don’t have to search and search for what they want.
    • Optimize it for search engines. Incorporate best practices for search engine optimization (SEO) so that members and prospective members can easily find your association’s website. For example, incorporate keywords in your web pages and keep your content updated.


  • Put email to work. Email is a great way to connect with prospective members and keep current members engaged. But it must be used strategically to be effective. Be sure to:
    • Think mobile. As with your website, make sure your email communications look good and work well on mobile devices.
    • Target your membership marketing messages. Segment your email list by dividing your members and prospective members into smaller groups based on demographics, behaviors, engagement, etc. Then, send information that’s relevant to each audience – making it more likely that they’ll open your emails and take action.
    • Automate. Automating some routine emails will free your staff’s time to work on more strategic email marketing campaigns. For example, automate email communications to members based on member actions, such as paying membership dues. Then, when members join your organization and pay their annual dues, they can receive an automated email confirmation that includes a receipt of payment.

TIP: Email campaign functionality in YourMembership AMS allows you to quickly and easily create email lists and target email content based on a variety of member properties. YourMembership also includes automated workflows that can simplify and streamline common email communications.


  • Use text messaging. Text messaging campaigns are highly effective. They target mobile devices through Short Message Service (SMS) and can reach and engage your members faster than other methods.

TIP: SMS Campaign functionality in YourMembership can help you reach more members with quick, concise, and highly effective text messages.


  • Get social. Use social media to attract new members and get existing members more involved with your organization. Some ideas:
    • Demonstrate value. Let followers know about the member experiences you provide – events, online learning, networking opportunities, publications, and other resources. In addition to sharing your own content, share interesting and informative content from other sources in your industry.
    • Promote your association’s events. Your association’s events offer big value for members and prospective members. Promote them on your social media accounts and post live updates and recaps afterward to encourage anyone who didn’t attend to come to the next event.
    • Interact. Use social media as a tool to interact with your members and prospective members. Liking, commenting, and replying to comments on relevant posts are great ways to stay engaged with prospects and members.


  • Create your own social network through an online community. Beyond typical social media channels, offering an online member community is a great way to elevate social networking among your association’s members and prospective members. At the same time, it can make your association a part of your members’ social networking habits.

TIP: Launching an online community when you have a small staff is easier than you might think. YourMembership AMS includes online community functionality that makes it easy to build a thriving online member community.


5. Measure the progress of your membership marketing.

You’re going to be spending time and effort with your membership marketing efforts. But how do you know if they’re successful? Here are some tips:


  • Establish success metrics, or key performance indicators (KPIs). To measure how your campaigns are tracking toward your membership marketing goals, decide what key performance indicators (KPIs), or metrics, will help you monitor and measure your progress. For example, depending on your specific goals, these might include the number of new members, member engagement levels, or your membership renewal rate over a certain period.


  • Set up dashboards, reports, and data analytics. To track the metrics that you’ve established, you must have a way to view data. An ideal way to do this is to use your association management software to set up dashboards for a quick overview of key metrics and reports to give you more detailed data.

To take your analysis further, use data visualizations to see more specific insights into your membership marketing and uncover actions you can take to improve results.

TIP: YourMembership AMS includes dashboard and reporting capabilities that make it easy to track key performance indicators (KPIs). It also includes advanced data analytics capabilities that make your data come alive for deeper insights and analysis.


BONUS STEP: Ask your members to help with membership marketing.

Consider turning to your most engaged and loyal members to help extend your marketing reach. For example, your members can help you by spreading the word about the value of your association to their networks. They can also create written or video member testimonials that you can use in member recruitment and retention campaigns. You might also ask your most loyal members to volunteer to recruit members, welcome new members, keep conversations going in your online member community, and develop content that you can use in marketing campaigns.


Discover more tips on membership marketing for associations

Learn more tips and insights to help you boost your association’s membership marketing. Read the guide, Top 10 Greatest Hits for Membership Marketing.

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