The Virtue of Persistence

October 18, 2017   |   Vol. 16   |   Issue 10
By John Sample, CDM and CeM, MGI’s Relationship Director

The Virtue of Persistence

Ambition is the path to success. Persistence is the vehicle you arrive in.”
Bill Bradley

Are your efforts to grow your membership persistent? It is a loaded question. I think most membership professionals would immediately answer “yes.” I suspect a good many, given a moment to think about it, might begin to hedge…

Persistent can mean different things in different situations. A persistent cough or sore throat is a bad thing, as is a child’s persistent demand for candy at the checkout aisle. Is persistence in your association’s member recruitment, renewal, and reinstatement process actually a good thing? I think that it is a good thing, a crucial thing, a rare thing.

Google “persistence” and you’ll find the following definition: firm or obstinate continuance in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition. If the definition of persistence was simply firm continuance in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition, we would all feel great about being persistent. The definition also contains a word that throws us—obstinate—and that word underscores a fear that most marketers have: the fear of irritating our prospects by overwhelming them with our messaging.

But what is the cost of under-whelming them? Your association has value that most of your members decide to reinvest in each year. Your prospective members need to know about this value, and unless your efforts to communicate that value are firm and maybe even obstinate, you are selling your association and its marketing efforts short.

Persistence does not simply mean doing more of what you are currently doing. I do not recommend that you simply triple the number of emails that you are currently sending. Rather, persistence means continually finding ways to market membership in your association more effectively. Here are three ideas with which many of our more persistent clients have found success.

Test Your Messaging – Messaging is a continuously evolving dance between membership marketers and potential members. Perhaps you shouldn’t dance in the same red Chuck Taylors that you wore to your prom. The old “tried and true” might need an update, but you won’t know unless you test. Try testing different imagery, offers, and timing too. Do not test too much at once, and remember to measure what you test!

Test Different Channels – This does not need to be expensive! Doing a small, measurable test of a new tactic can be budget friendly if designed properly. Testing multiple channels is even better. I believe that there is magic in the mix of channels. Test, measure, adjust, and then test again.

Tune Up Your List – Your prospect list is an asset. Persistent organizations treat it as such. You get your car tuned up and serviced so that it performs better; do the same to your list. Find ways to add new names to your list, keep the older ones updated, and append new information when available. The best offer, message, design, and channel don’t help if they don’t reach a prospect.

Being persistent is not the same as being a nuisance. Your renewing members are telling you that they see value in membership in your association. Some long-term members have proven that ten, fifteen, twenty times. Marketing membership in your association absolutely takes persistence, and your future members will thank you for it.

For more information, or if you are interested in exchanging some ideas about message testing, testing different channels on a budget, or cleaning up your prospect list, please contact John Sample at or 703.706.0346.

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