Membership marketing–the process of acquiring, engaging and retaining members–is the cornerstone for associations and member-based organizations. It is also a very challenging task.
Now is the time to start thinking about your goals for 2012 and what you want your association or member-based organization to look like in the coming years. Will you be able to sustain your current membership or funding goals? Do you need support in attracting a younger demographic or engaging Gen X and Gen Y as your Boomers move on and enter retirement?
There are many pieces that fall into membership marketing. We recently partnered with Sarah Sladek, CEO of XYZ University and author of “The End of Membership As We Know It,” to offer membership marketing for our clients. With more than 25 years of experience working for and with associations, our team understands how associations work, how to develop meaningful relationships with members and how to create a successful strategy for association growth.
Your members want a return on their investment. They want to see the value in their membership. So how do you create value with membership marketing? By utilizing and developing plans in multiple areas and disciplines. Consider the following three areas:
Social media, websites and mobile marketing
Social marketing is here to stay. Your members and potential members are hanging out online. Create value by providing them with engaging content and reasons to interact with you. As you think about your organization’s goals, also consider your current Web presence. Are you engaging with your audience? Are they talking with you? Are you giving them opportunities to do so by maintaining a Facebook page, blog or other means of engagement?
Brush up on your social media statistics and understand what they mean for the audience you’re trying to connect with. Social media is not just for the young and hip. There are great ways to connect with everyone in your membership base through your website, social media channels and use of mobile marketing. The key is to have a great plan in place and people to execute those plans for you.
Membership campaigns and promotions
Word of mouth marketing has come a long way since your organization began. Promoting your association and tapping into new members requires out-of-the-box thinking and new directions for your marketing and communication strategies. Ideas include outreach or advocacy campaigns, new product/service offerings and networking events (think live Twitter feeds, social meet-ups and speed networking). It all goes back to your target audience–who are you trying to reach and how will you get there?
Strong brands and identities
Does what you stand for resonate with your current membership? How about your ideal members? Are you touting values that are still relevant today or that have followed from year to year because that’s what has been done in the past? Do you assess your current logo, website and brand identity on a regular basis?
Associations rely on relationship-building to grow membership and your brand is an integral piece of that process. Keeping your brand at the forefront of everything you do can help evoke and maintain emotional attachments and a sense of purpose for your members. Make sure that your identity grows with your membership. Make it appealing for new members to join, current members to stay and outside audiences to understand what you’re all about. Strategies include:
- Defining your core values
- Assessing current visual identity systems
- Researching and developing key message statements
- Updating online presence–website, e-marketing, social media
Outline membership value in your marketing plan
It can be a daunting task to communicate with your membership. And it’s likely that they are grouped in to various demographics. Recruiting new members and staying engaged with current members takes many moving parts. Allocation of resources is critical as is establishing an effective, workable plan to drive results. In addition to the three areas above, you need a stellar marketing and communications plan. Elements of your planning process should include:
- Targeting your audiences
- Analyzing your competition’s strategies
- Researching your audiences’ preferences and perceptions
- Shaping your brand and core messages
- Understanding and stating the unique value you provide
- Developing work plans and budgets to support goals
- Evaluating results
Don’t be overwhelmed. These are elements you can take on yourself or hire out which is exactly why we are so excited to be a part of this new partnership. We have been developing marketing strategies and plans for associations, nonprofits and member-based organizations for years. It is a perfect fit for the services we already offer our clients. So whether you’re looking for a membership marketing firm of record, or for resources like this post to get you started in your own planning, know that we are here to listen, help and offer advice to push your membership marketing to the next level.
Here’s to a prosperous 2012!