Tipster: Five Power Tips – To Improve Your Membership Marketing Program

December 15, 2014 | Vol. 13 | Issue 12

Tipster: Five Power Tips – To Improve Your Membership Marketing Program

On Thursday, December 18, 2014, I will be delighted to host MGI’s Webinar Five Power Tips to Improve Your Membership Marketing Program. Here’s a sample of what we are going to cover in depth. I hope you will join us.

For over thirty years, Marketing General Incorporated has been able to observe the membership marketing programs of over 300 associations. In the past decade, we introduced the Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report, which has added to our accumulated knowledge on the subject. From this unique vantage point, here are five areas we find extremely important to help assure an association’s success in finding, acquiring, keeping, and recovering members:

Tip #1: Invest in Membership. “We tried direct mail—or email, or internet advertising, or billboards—but it didn’t work because we lost money doing it.” An all-too-frequent experience that stops many membership programs in their tracks, this ranks as one of the most common issues we face. It is based on the false assumption that losing money on a single campaign means the effort failed. Yet, many of our successful membership organizations lose money on every campaign. But, their programs succeed because they understand that members are an investment, not a purchase. How much money a member is worth over time is far more important than first-year dues. Campaigns are investments that pay for themselves over the life of a member.

Tip #2: Anchor Your Priorities. From innumerable studies by the Direct Marketing Association, we know this after over 50 years of experience: the success of a marketing campaign is roughly 50% in the accuracy of targeting, 35% in what is being promoted, and 15% in the creative package the campaign is delivered in. Yet, to this day, many organizations spend their time agonizing over the details in almost inverse proportion to their impact. The best associations know whom they attract and what those prospects want from them. With that important knowledge, deciding on how the creative should look is a relatively easy process.

Tip #3: Be Steady and Sure. Often, after a failed attempt at marketing (see Tip #1), a group will delay having to launch a campaign until the need for new members is critical, often just before annual budgets are due. This delay can inevitably create two results. First, the response to the campaign will be less than optimal, and second the response will often not be nearly enough in terms of revenue to offset the need for more member revenue in the coming year. This can strain future program budgets and the overall financial health of the organization, and place essential programs in jeopardy. The secret is to set a course of campaigns over the upcoming year, and stick to it. Research and experience tell us that it takes an average of 5–6 campaign touches a year to acquire a new member. One or two campaigns are simply not enough to acquire a significant, steady influx of new members.

Tip #4: Integrate to Win. “Direct Mail doesn’t work! Email doesn’t work! Search marketing doesn’t work!” Depending upon your experience and your organization, one or all of these may be true. Here’s what we know does work: Integrate all the media that work best for you into your campaigns. Like the Beatles, Monty Python, Lady Antebellum, and Wilco, the whole will be greater than the sum of its parts. Marketing General has conducted thousands of tests in the past thirty years, and one of our conclusions is almost never wrong: an intelligent mix and sequencing of touches from various media, i.e., combining direct mail with pre- and post-emails and Facebook advertising, will outperform any single effort. When you integrate your campaigns, you will gain more members. It’s that simple.

Tip #5: Know What to Measure. I was asked the other day in a seminar I was presenting, “What’s the most important single measurement an association should know?” My answer was that there was no single item I could think of, but of those most readily unknown, my favorite is rate of renewal. A 5% increase or decrease in your renewal rate can result in explosive growth or a slide into a murky financial future. Because renewal rates include so many variables from one group to the next, there is no “correct” renewal rate. The average individual membership association maintains a renewal rate of 76%. Trade groups on average maintain a 79% renewal rate. Some organizations maintain renewal rates as high as 80% and 85%. Within the renewal rate measurement, there can be refinements like the first-year renewal rate vs. the overall rate, or the monthly rate compared to monthly rates from past years as a predictive barometer. Whatever you choose, make sure you know your organization’s renewal rate. Picking up the investment model from Tip #1, your renewal rate tells how long your investment in new members can keep gaining interest.

These are my Big Five.

Taken together, they can help you and your organization assure financial and program success. Please don’t hesitate to join us on Thursday, December 18, 2014, at 2:00PM EST for Five Power Tips to Improve Your Membership Marketing Program. During that hour, I will delve more deeply and offer real-world examples of these five tips at work. Register online now and join us on the 18th. I look forward to seeing you there and sharing more with you. As always, if you have any questions about this article, contact me, Harold Maurer, at or 703.706.0391.

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