MGI Tipster – Volume 11, Issue 9

September 13, 2012   |   Vol. 11   |   Issue 9
Super Hints Revealed – Part 2

Last month we introduced our readers to the first of two MGI Tipster installments summarizing a newly published booklet by MGI Senior Vice President Raylene Kershaw titled 100 Super Hints Revealed, a compilation of direct membership marketing ideas.

You are invited to download 100 Super Hints Revealed from the MGI website.

One-to-one direct marketing remains the most powerful tool for membership marketers because it is efficient, targeted, and measurable.

This month we focus on the second series of super helpful hints.


When you are looking for new members, prioritize your mail or email lists for best results.

First, test your own lists in this order: lapsed members and member buyers (tested by year), followed by current non-member subscribers, buyers, attendees, and inquirers.

Next, test outside response lists of similar organizations including current members, lapsed members, recent attendees, buyers, and inquirers.

Then, test outside non-response lists in this order: 3-month or “hotline” names in selects most like your target prospects; older names in less specific selects; and finally, the master list without selects.


Not sure how many pieces to mail? Think backwards: first, estimate response rates, then mail as many prospects as needed to reach your new member goal. Resist temptation; test only one item at a time: list, offer, message, or creative. And always code responses to track what you test.

Know the five basic formulas for direct mail: renewal rate; break-even; lifetime value; maximum acquisition cost; and steady state. See MGI Tipster Vol. 11 No. 7.


You hire your vendors to work for you so don’t be reluctant to ask them: what’s new? what’s working? Buy in bulk and print in bulk to save money. Consider off-the-shelf house stocks since paper can be expensive. Piggyback your own mailings to lower costs. Comingle small mailings to boost presort discounts.

Include return envelopes to lift response. Write the application form first and make it simple-to-understand and easy-to-complete. Be sure there’s enough space to fill in the information requested. It should contain helpful devices like numbering and check boxes to help the adult reader. It may seem counterintuitive, but consider not including brochures in your acquisition mailings; test and you may find their inclusion actually depresses response.


Membership is a push, not a pull commodity: you may build it but don’t expect many to come unless you ask and ask again. And ask membership prospects to do only one thing: join. That’s the only decision you want them to make.

Make it easy to join: let them do it by mail, email, fax, telephone, and website. Make it easy to pay: offer every possible payment option … mail, email, 800 phone number, fax, multi-payments, checks, credit cards, purchase orders, bill-me options, and automatic renewal.

Develop logical price points and test them; you may be surprised to learn that less is not always better. Consider one of the most effective offers of all: a no-risk, no-questions-asked, money-back guarantee.


If understanding member needs is important in a strong economy, it can be critical in a down economy. You’ve got to know how well you serve the needs of your members and their profession, and the sooner the better.

It happens: boards of directors can have biases that may be misguided or downright wrong. Research may validate their beliefs or disprove them. Survey results can be unpopular and uncomplimentary, but don’t ignore them. Rather, correct the negatives and capitalize on the positives. Fulfilling member needs is central to membership growth.


Start early: as soon as your annual conference winds down begin promoting next year’s event. When designing promotion materials, stick with the basics. Keep postcards simple, oversized, and colorful. Unlike member acquisition, use self-mailers. Brand your publications so every piece is obviously you.

Promote in a logical manner beginning with “save the date,” then “early bird” registration discounts, then countdown reminders, and finally day pass offers.

Want to learn more?

Here is Super Hint # 101: If you would like to know more about any aspect of membership marketing, contact Raylene Kershaw, MGI’s Senior Vice President and COO, at 703.706.0344, or email her at

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