By Rick Whelan, CDM, MGI President
200+ Days to Another Great Membership Year
In a little over six months—200+ days—it will be a new year. Make the rest of 2017 count for you and your association by working now to grow membership and revenue with these four important steps.
- DO SOMETHING—I am often amazed at the number of people I talk to in associations who complain and worry about missed membership and revenue goals, but who do not have a plan to recruit and retain more members. (And by plan, I mean a written document that works backwards from their annual goals to the tasks they need to do to reach those goals, and not “well I did what we did last year”.) Membership does not just happen—it needs to be planned, so you can put thoughtful and meaningful marketing strategies in place. Most of that plan needs to be implemented throughout the year, it needs to be realistically budgeted, results need to be routinely tabulated and analyzed, and the plan needs to be modified or changed to reflect those results.
- BE MEDIA NEUTRAL—Most of our clients tend to use email and standard mail efforts to recruit and renew members. Some others will use social media and member-get-a-member programs, and fewer still use the telephone. In fact, unless you really, really know your market—and most of us do not—then your membership marketing and communications plan should be “media neutral”. Your plan should include the use of a wide variety of media over multiple efforts all year long. I’ve even made old technology new again, reintroducing the fax machine in many of our marketing efforts on behalf of clients.
- TEST, TEST, & TEST SOME MORE—Testing is the toughest thing to do in marketing, and it can make the biggest difference. At MGI, we’ve seen successful tests double, triple, or even quadruple results over previous efforts. Test the big stuff first—lists, message, offer, and format. Design, while important, ranks far down the list of what makes a membership marketing effort work. Copy should be clear, concise, and get-to-the-point. It should be quick and easy for me to find the offer, know how much it costs, and see what I need to do to respond immediately. The more you try to impress me with your award-winning prose and flashy design, the more likely I am to get bored, distracted, and confused and not respond to your efforts at all.
- SELL WHAT PEOPLE WANT TO BUY—Americans are born joiners and no matter our age, race, profession, or social status, we all want to belong to organizations that help us get ahead professionally, make us feel good about ourselves, or provide something we think we need or want. That said, your association should look at its membership and product offerings on an on-going basis. Make sure the products, services, and benefits are at the forefront of those prospects and current member’s needs and wants. What’s your “must have” product or service? And don’t just rely on internal staff and Board Members to make that decision—ask the real prospects and members. At least once a year or so, you should budget to do some research on your products and services. Talk to lapsed members, current members, and never members to see what professional products and services they need and buy now. Look at your competitors—both other associations and for-profit companies—and their offerings compared to yours. The right products, services, and benefits properly presented and priced will go miles in making sure you can look back at your 2017 membership marketing with pride.
Marketing General has helped associations grow membership for 39 years. If you’d like to talk about your association’s marketing needs and how you can grow your membership and revenue this year, contact Rick Whelan at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 703.706.0350.