Content Marketing to Support Membership Growth and Engagement

December 16, 2015   |   Vol. 14   |   Issue 12
By Erik Schonher, MGI Vice President

Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience – and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.

Content Marketing Institute website

Creating and curating relevant and valuable content is foundational to every association’s value proposition. It is an ongoing process that is integrated into the very DNA of an association. We do this with the ultimate intention of driving dues and non-dues revenues that include membership, conferences, certification, and more.

Unfortunately, while we recognize the value of content as a final product packaged to sell as a seminar, book, or conference, many associations opt to continue relying on more traditional tactics instead of incorporating its use into their sales and promotional efforts.

Today, you’re competing with associations and companies that are all using the same tactics, and this is a problem. Seemingly infinite choices, coupled with the technology to skip and ignore advertising of all kinds, make it easy for prospects (members and non-members) to ignore your message.

But the proper packaging and strategic placement of ongoing content can help you break out of the clutter. This is the strategic intent of content marketing. It is content created to serve the specific, defined needs of target audiences, made available for free, to generate interest and awareness in your brand and eventually drive the prospect to a purchase.

A great example of an informal content marketing tactic is “word-of-mouth recommendations” which has consistently been cited as one of the top three most effective marketing channels for acquiring new members by executives from individual member, trade, and combination associations.

Another example using a more strategic approach would be a program Marketing General Incorporated ran for one of our medical association clients.

The goal of this program was to heighten brand awareness and a positive brand image of the association as a “thought leader” to members, prospects, decision makers, and influencers. Working with the client, we determined that the information we collected would have to be:

  1. Timely
  2. Relevant and have “value” for professionals and consumers
  3. Quickly developed
  4. Easily packaged for delivery through a variety of channels (i.e., press releases, articles, interviews, etc.)

The client determined that they wanted to focus on how implementation of The Affordable Care Act was affecting the physicians of a medical specialty. Our solution was to use MGI’s Industry Issues Poll, implementing three polls, each on a different topic, over a six-month period to collect the data. Targeting only active members within the United States (excluding medical students and retired physicians), we designed a short online survey that could be completed in 5 to 7 minutes. It was promoted through an email solicitation and the association website. Data collection lasted one week.

Once collected, the data was analyzed and used to create a series of press releases which were quickly picked up by major media outlets including The Wall Street Journal, The Huffington Post, Medscape, and Modern Healthcare.

Each subsequent survey, focusing on a different impact of the Affordable Care Act, created ongoing content that continued to receive major press coverage–even being quoted on the Senate floor and being entered into the official Congressional Record.

While no revenue can be directly tracked to this initiative, taking into account the circulation of each of these communication companies, it is estimated that the articles were made available to over 15,000,000 people around the world.

In fact, the client was so pleased with the performance of this campaign and the impact that it had on the association’s brand, they wrote the following:

Wanted to give you a heads up that we are receiving an enormous amount of press coverage from the poll that was released on Monday and it keeps coming in…. The information was also mentioned yesterday by Sen. …in his Senate floor speech…. Thanks for all of your help again.

When members and customers have a choice in finding the information they seek, the ability to provide valuable, relevant content is what separates brand loyalty from forgotten also-rans. If we really want to do great marketing, we have to get out of the clutter business and stay solidly in the communication business.

You can instill a sense of immediacy and loyalty toward your brand and products with the careful deployment of honest-to-goodness content. Marketing can no longer afford to be “interruptive” in nature. The simple truth is that no one wants to be distracted by ads and marketing speak and EVERYONE responds to quality, consistency, and relevancy.

Contact Rick Whelan, President, if you’d like to learn more about MGI’s research, data analytics, acquisition, and retention programs to help you increase your membership and non-dues revenues. He can be reached at or (703) 706-0350.

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