-Tony Rossell, MGI Senior Vice President
Inaction is the single largest enemy to association membership marketing success.
Over the years, I have been in more meetings than I care to count where statements like, “we cannot do that because,” “we need approval,” or “we need more research” has shut down the marketing process.
To many, it may sound like heresy, but very often the right course of action is to simply do something. I call this the Ready, Fire, Aim solution. By doing something, an association may very well discover that they are sitting on some big opportunities.
One group that I am familiar with has 100,000 opt-in emails from prospects who have registered on their website. However, the group is not reaching out to these prospects because they fear that they do not have the right messages and services in place. While conducting research to understand the needs of these prospects is certainly a fine thing to do, my recommendation instead is to follow a Ready, Fire, Aim approach.
To apply this approach, this particular association could divide up their prospect list—perhaps by recency of account registration—and create four or five different email messages to test into the list. This is the Ready stage. Then the association could promote the opportunity to join by sending out the emails to the list—the Fire stage. And finally, the group could track the response—the Aim stage—by determining which, if any, of the message tests produced the best return.
With the results analysis in hand, a more thorough marketing plan can be developed to include additional tests that spend more budget on the higher responding portions of the list using more expensive marketing channels, like direct mail, phone, and personal outreach. The lower responding portions of the list can then be assigned to less expensive channels, like additional emails and online digital ads.
There are certainly other options besides email to conduct a quick launch marketing effort. Another example would be to take a list of recently lapsed members and have staff or a third-party firm try calling the members and inviting them to come back. For those who do not want to re-join, a few short questions can be added to the script to understand their reasons for not continuing with their membership. If the calling proves unsuccessful, after a few days it can be easily discontinued. However, if the calls are successful, additional calls can be performed that reach further back in time to previously lapsed members. Either way, the risks in terms of time and cost is minimal, but the outcome will provide insight and direction.
The bottom line—the best market research that can be completed is determining whether someone will write a check or not based on the marketing effort that you present to them. This can be accomplished by taking action, testing quickly and adapting your marketing effort based on results. By doing this, an association will be able to determine if it is sitting on a membership gold mine or on a membership disaster. But whichever outcome is presented, it is a better place to be than the paralysis of analysis.