May 17, 2022   |   Vol. 21   |   Issue 5
By Rick Whelan, MGI President

Is it time to move your organization from a project focus to real long-term planning?

I can’t recall the number of times I have had conversations with new client prospects who want to hire MGI to do “a project.” Although I appreciate the confidence and faith they put in us to successfully complete the work, I am still amazed when they expect a single project to be the cure-all for their membership program ills.

I have done one-time recruitment programs that have been successful but end after a single effort and have no Plan B in place if that lone effort were to fail. Trust me: at some point, it will. Likewise, I have clients who stick to the same renewal program every year and lament when overall renewals are down year-over-year.

At best, these lone projects are usually band-aids for wounds that often need a higher level of diagnosis and long-term care. While single projects to recruit, renew, or reinstate members are acceptable–sometimes even necessary–they often are stopgap measures and not solutions for what might be hurting an organization’s overall membership program.

To be fully successful as a membership marketer, you can’t rely solely on “projects” to raise the counts and revenues you need. You must have a plan, and the plan needs to be written.

To start with, you need to know how many new prospects you must recruit each year to paid membership and how many current members need to renew to show year-over-year real growth–if that is your goal.

You also need to calculate how much you can afford to spend to get a new member or renew an existing one and what they are worth to you once you have them–not only from a dues standpoint but also any add-on purchases they might make given the right incentives to do so. This is their lifetime value.

In addition, you need to constantly test–new media, messaging, pricing, incentives, timing–every time you can do so. Many tests will not work, but some will. Those are the ones that will move your overall program ahead.

Recently, a prospect told me they could afford to spend $10 to renew a $150 dues-paying member. When I asked how they came by that number, they said that’s what was budgeted and they had no idea why or how it was derived.

I then asked what would happen if they spent $11, $12, or even $15 to renew a member. Would that extra spend result in more people renewing, and thus more than pay for the added investment? The answer is probably YES, as I have seen it happen, but my question fell on deaf ears. They were insistent that they could spend $10 and nothing more.

Successful marketers know our science is fluid. While there are fundamental rules that should be followed, membership marketing is as much an art as a science. What worked last year might not work this year.

Is it time to move your organization from a project focus to real long-term planning? Take advantage of what other association marketers have done. Read the MGI 2022 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report and our latest Economic Survey Results Report, which can be accessed on the MGI website. Both have useful case studies and program results you can mimic, borrow, or outright steal from over 800 association marketing pros.

Happy Marketing, and I welcome your comments or questions.

Rick Whelan, CDM

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