3 High-impact Association Membership Recruitment Strategies

This article will list three high-impact ways to increase association membership. We’ll be reiterating some of the advice shared in our podcast, 15 Minutes to Impact, and offering additional strategies for how to improve membership in an organization. So if you’re forming a membership recruitment plan, this is the perfect blog to bookmark!

Create Ideal Client Avatars

Before deciding which association membership recruitment strategies to invest in, you have to know who you’re targeting.

Knowing how to attract new members starts with identifying what kind of new member you are trying to attract. When you can accurately describe the demographics and psychographics of your current members using ideal client avatars (ICA), you’ll be more successful when marketing your association.

An ICA, or customer persona, is a semi-fictional archetype representing a large segment of your audience. The ICA is based on data from user research and website analytics. You will likely have more than one because your association will probably be attractive to a few different groups of people.

When creating your ICAs, you want to collect two types of data: demographics and psychographics. Demographics describe external, quantitative data about your audience (e.g., location, age), while psychographics explain internal motivations and more qualitative data points (e.g., values, personality) about them.

Here are some data points to consider gathering about your members to form ICAs:

  • Income
  • Location
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Marital status
  • Occupation
  • Religious views
  • Political views
  • Pain points
  • Interests
  • Values
  • Goals
  • Desires
  • Motivations
  • Personality traits
  • Fears/setbacks

Where can you get demographic and psychographic information for your ICAs? Your member database, social media following, and website analytics are just a few places to garner valuable insights about your members. For instance, Google Analytics collects demographic information, categorizing users by age, location, interests, etc.

Ideal Client Avatar Example

Here’s an example of an ideal client avatar named “Julie” created for a dental association:

Julie is a 36-year-old (age) small business owner (occupation) living in Baltimore, MD, (location) who runs a refurbished dental office she recently purchased. She’s married (marital status) with two young children (family profile). Julie graduated from the University of Maryland School of Dentistry (education level). Her household income totals ~$500,000 (income). She struggles to find a non-competitive community in her field (pain point). She’s driven, kind, stubborn, and prioritizes customer experience above everything else, and holds conservative Christian values (religious/political views).

Now that you know who you’re targeting, it’s time to get into our association membership recruitment strategies.

How to Increase Memberships in an Association

Once you know what kind of people you are trying to reach, you are ready to choose a marketing strategy. Though marketing has evolved, becoming increasingly digital, traditional marketing is still valuable, so don’t write it off. The three ways to increase association membership we recommend are email marketing, paid digital advertising, and direct mail. Let’s take a look at each.

1. Email Marketing

If you’re wondering how to recruit potential members to an organization, get their email addresses. Email marketing is a powerful tool for associations. In terms of ROI, email marketing is the most effective digital marketing strategy. In fact, for every $1 spent, emails generate $42 in return.

Start your email marketing strategy by targeting existing non-member customers in your database. If you have a lead magnet on your website, which you should, set up a campaign directed towards those who exchange their email for that piece of content.

Ideally, your automated email campaign will provide relevant content that provides value to prospects. Don’t bore them by selling your association in every email–start by giving. Be helpful and generous, then ease into the benefits of joining your organization.

2. Paid Ads

Google Ads and Facebook are the two most widely-used ad platforms that offer robust targeting options. Google Ads allows marketers to reach prospects based on:

  • Who they are
  • Their interests and habits
  • What they’re actively researching
  • People who’ve already interacted with your ads, website, or app and may return (i.e., retargeting).

Facebook allows association marketers to target three different kinds of audiences: core audiences, custom audiences, and lookalike audiences. Core audiences are defined by demographic criteria, custom audiences are people you want to retarget, and lookalike audiences are people who have similar interests to your ICAs.

Additionally, both ad platforms allow you to upload a contact list, which you can segment to serve custom ads to certain audiences.

3. Direct Mail

Although digital marketing is the future – and cheaper – direct mail is a tried-and-true method used for membership recruitment. A direct mail package includes a/an:

  1. Letter asking for support
  2. Enclosure (e.g., a brochure) about your organization
  3. Reply option (e.g., a postage-paid return envelope)
  4. Outer envelope (arguably one of the most important elements)

Direct mail acquisition campaigns can help association memberships increase by communicating a clear, concise message that appeals to emotion. And by the way, one piece of content isn’t enough. You need to continue marketing to your list with follow-up direct mail pieces, so they don’t forget about you. Better yet, use a multichannel approach, targeting your list through digital marketing initiatives as well.

At Marketing General Incorporated (MGI), we develop integrated multichannel direct mail strategies that test mailing lists, special offers, messaging, and value propositions to optimize every marketing dollar. If done correctly, direct mail is one of the best ways to increase association memberships.

Let’s Form a Membership Recruitment Plan Together

At MGI, we’ve used decades of industry experience to develop the Membership Lifecycle–a five-step marketing model identifying the fundamental building blocks associations need to grow successfully.

  1. Awareness when prospects first discover you
  2. Recruitment when prospects become members
  3. Engagement when new members feel they belong with you
  4. Renewal when lapsing members decide whether to keep you
  5. Reinstatement when former members agree to return to you

Our five-step Membership Lifecycle has proven to be an effective model for designing customized association membership recruitment strategies and solutions.

For more valuable information about how to increase your association membership, check out our podcast, 15 Minutes to Impact. This podcast is for association marketers, from association marketers. It launched at the beginning of the pandemic, and we’ve been encouraged by the response thus far. One of our most actionable episodes is Association Marketing Pro Tips for 2022. In that episode, we share tips that will make an immediate impact for association marketers.

If you’re ready for a membership increase, request a consultation with MGI today.

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