It is very easy in life to replace the end with the means. This happens when we focus our attention on best business practices, individual leaders, or our own projects as the goal instead of the mission of the organization that we serve. That’s why a recent presentation by Mark J. Golden, FASAE, CAE, at the […]
It is my pleasure to announce the release of the 2013 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report. With site registration, a free download of the report is available using this link. Please download your copy of the report now and let me know what you think. A final and full printed report has also just been mailed to all […]
As we deploy new and exciting marketing channels, it is often good to step back to be sure that we are not forgetting about the tried and true performers. That’s why I found an article by Kevin Mills, the Director of Membership for the National Legal Defense Association, a good reminder. In the April issue […]
Base budgets on the harvest, not on the cost of the seeds.
In direct marketing there are three big items to test: lists, offers, and message. I thought that I would share some insights from what we have learned over the past year related to offers. So here are 10 of the top membership marketing offers that have worked for our clients. 1. A discount almost always […]
Here are a few reasons why, if you’re not online marketing or you are questionning the value of online marketing, you NEED to be online, marketing.
a. Search marketing is about seizing opportunities. Every organization should maximize opportunities to engage potential members/ customers online that are actively searching for relevant services an organization provides by instituting a comprehensive search engine marketing strategy including paid search marketing and search engine optimization (SEO).
b. Marketing speed and agility are important competitive advantages, especially with today’s focus on costs. Online and search marketing allows for on-the-fly changes that save time and money.
c. Unlike magazines and publications that publish ads on their own schedule say once per month, search is on your customer’s schedule, real-time, engaged in the “now.”
d. Online marketing allows you to connect and engage with potential members when they’re receptive, when they’re ready to receive your orgs message.
e. With search engine marketing your org will have the ability to target an audience on a country level all the way to a 10 mile radius within a specific metro area.
Last month was really busy. I met with many organizations that have cut budgets over the last couple of years. They are now realizing that there is very little else to cut and they need to grow membership.
And it is sad to say that some of them do not realize just how much trouble they may be in going forward.
When I meet with groups, I use a simple method to calculate where their membership is headed given their current metrics. It is called a Steady State Analysis.
Using your current data, you can also do this analysis to see what the ultimate equilibrium of your association membership count will be. You can also use the analysis to model where it might be if you add more new members or have higher renewals.
To do the calculation, you only need two numbers; your renewal rate and your total new member input from the past year. Here is how it works. You take your new member input from the past year and divide it by your lapse rate presented as a decimal. So if your renewal rate is 80%, then your lapse rate is 20% or .20.
For example, 20,000 New Member Input / .25 Lapse Rate = 80,000 Steady State Total Membership.
Here is the formula: Annual New Member Input / Reciprocal of Renewal Rate (or Lapse Rate) Shown as a Decimal = Total Membership Steady State.
Here are three examples of how you can project your future membership.
I read a posting on the ASAE Membership Listserve asking about “kinds” of renewal incentives to use. While I’m not against using (and have used) renewal incentives, I think that, if an association is delivering value, the ‘incentive’ is being realized throughout the year (you may want to test adjusting your renewal copy to indicate […]
Membership is a “push” product. This means that prospects need to be encouraged or sold in order to join an organization. That is why direct response media like direct mail and email are the channels of choice to acquire new members.
But just like any tool, these channels can be used either poorly or effectively. I have distilled some of the experiences that I have found in direct response membership recruitment down into seven tips to improve membership recruitment. I hope you find them helpful.
1. Begin each and every campaign by thinking creatively and asking “Who might be interested in joining?” Then search out lists that contain these potential members. Not taking the time to research and test mail and email lists is the single biggest mistake in membership recruitment. In any given outreach, the results from one list to the next can vary by 1,000%. Even if you primarily promote to an in-house prospect list, try some direct response rental lists and compare the results. You may be very surprised at the results from tapping into a new file of prospective members. Some of the best outside lists to try are members of similar associations, subscribers to industry magazines, and buyers of books related to your association. Tip: Ask current members what other professional literature that they read and try these lists first.
2. Once you have found the best lists, carefully develop a strong Unique Selling Proposition (USP) to drive the positioning and copy of your promotion. The USP answers the prospect’s question of, “Why this association?” The USP is the big benefit that your association can deliver compared to any other group. Tip: Ask someone who is not familiar with your organization to read your copy and define the USP in one sentence. If they can’t, go back to the drawing board.
3. Develop a special offer to answer your prospect’s question: “Why join now?” After many tests, one of the best offers continues to be a limited-time, introductory dues discount. Ideally, this discount will bring the dues down to a psychological price point – a dues amount that ends with a dollar amount of a “7” or “9”. For example, an acquisition price of $139 will typically generate more revenue and members than a price of $150. But be sure to offer something. Direct response marketing is offer driven.
4. Build your promotion around a metaphor — something a prospect will recognize and know what to do with. Try using an invitation, survey, certificate, or temporary membership card format. People process information by putting it into mental boxes. They make a split second decision on whether a promotion is important or not, so you need to get their attention. An invitation, for example, typically requests a response and goes in the mental box that says: “I NEED TO RSVP”.
Claude C. Hopkins is acknowledged as the great grandfather of direct marketing. In 1923, Hopkins wrote Scientific Advertising in which he declared that: “The time has come when advertising has in some hands reached the status of a science.” 1
His fundamental marketing thesis was: “We learn the principles and prove them by repeated tests. This is done through keyed advertising by traced returns . . . We compare one way with many others, backward and forward, and record the results. When one method invariably proves best, that method becomes a fixed principle.” 2
Today, his premise of testing is as true as ever. In fact, testing may even be more important now because the vast array of options available to marketers. A test can mean the difference between a stunning success for a product or an abject failure.
And because of the larger quantities and costs involved, testing is a particular necessity and an ideal opportunity when it comes to membership recruitment.
It is not uncommon to see a successful test change response rates by the following percentages:
• List tests – Can impact response by 500 percent.
• Offer tests – Can impact response by 200 percent.
• Creative tests – Can impact response by 100 percent.
These test outcomes highlight that by doing the same old thing over and over again, there is likelihood that a marketing program is substantially sub-optimizing the potential returns that could be achieved.
If testing is so important, then how should it be done?
One of the most enjoyable projects that I work on each year is the Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report. This year, we had 407 associations complete the survey.
Today, I wanted to share ten top tips from the hundreds of findings appearing in the report.
1. Out of a list of 10 definitions of success in our survey, association executives are most likely to rank growth in member counts (22%), revenue growth (21%), and net revenue growth (21%) as their primary definition of success for their organization.
2. Findings in the report indicate a more marked difference in membership growth of over 11% for those organizations focused on acquisition rather than those focused on retention or on a balanced strategy (18%: acquisition vs. 4%: retention and 9%: both), the five year change in membership (38%: acquisition vs. 27%: retention and 34%: both), and the change in new members (24%: acquisition vs. 7%: retention and 16%: both).
3. For associations with over 5,000 members, direct mail is considered the most effective channel for new member recruitment.
4. While Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are the most commonly used social media tools, they are not necessarily considered the most effective in reaching membership goals by association executives. In fact, the most effective social networking tools are considered to be those that are basically housed within the association itself, namely the association listserv (50%) and/or a private association social network (39%).
Over the years, just about every membership marketing program has been influenced by tradition, internal politics, or database limitations.
So it was interesting when I met the other day with a talented marketer who joined a group that presented him with a clean slate for membership marketing. Since almost nothing was in place, he had to build the membership marketing program from the ground up.
It got me to thinking, what if I was in the same place? What if my only mandate was to grow membership based on sound marketing principles? What would my membership marketing program look like?
Well here is my take on the programs that I would put in place to get membership moving.
1. Build Awareness – My first action would be to harness the web. Awareness is the first step to any purchase. And the leading source for information for most people has become the Web. So membership development begins with using search engine optimization, search engine advertising, ad networks, and social media to help people who are seeking solutions provided by an association to find me. Tracking traffic sources and the effectiveness of keywords will help me identify the people and the value that my prospects are looking to find.
Anyone coming to my web site would be encouraged to register for a free association newsletter. This allows me to add the prospect to my database.
2. Recruit New Members – The fastest growing membership associations still rely on test-driven membership acquisition campaigns as the workhorse for gaining new members. Ineffective membership recruitment is the single biggest marketing reason for declining or stagnant memberships. So my second step would be to establish regular mail and email promotions to both house and outside lists, And because these promotions will typically be the largest outreaches that the association will do, they statistically lend themselves to head-to-head market tests. Testing will tell me the best lists, offers, messages, and packages to use going forward.
3. Engage New Members – Once a new member joins my association, he or she becomes the most likely member not to renew. Almost all associations show first year members as the lowest renewing cohort. The first year is therefore referred to as the conversion year for new members.
So once I get a flow on new members coming to the association, I would establish a conversion program. This type of effort is a multiple step orientation that helps the member to become engaged in the association. A sound conversion program certainly orients the member to the products, services, and opportunities provided by an association. It also should generate a second interaction with the member. This might be as simple as having the members complete a survey, but it optimally leads to a second purchase by the member of a product or attendance at a meeting. For example, sending new members a discount voucher for their first purchase can help them engage the organization as both a member and a customer.