Membership Marketing Planning for 2008

As the New Year begins, I thought it might be useful to outline the marketing planning methodology that I use to brainstorm and develop strategies for the associations for whom I do consulting. .

I presented this to my good friend, Chris Rogers, President of CDR Communications, at breakfast the other day and he also felt it was a good tool that would serve in his communications work for non-profits. So here it is.

We are all familiar with the four P’s – Product, Price, Place, and Promotion. They are established tools in marketing to help define strategy, but I find that they do not serve non-profits as well.

So I have adapted these for the association world to the following:

  • Market – Answers the question, “WHO?”

  • Product – Answers the question, “WHAT?”

  • Promotion – Answers the question, “HOW?”

  • Economics – Answers the question, “WHY?”

Let me make a few quick comments about each of these.

First, any sound marketing strategy needs to look at “Who” we want to reach. I have found it helpful to break most markets down visually using a triangle or pyramid.
At the top of the triangle are the best prospects for the product that we are offering. If properly defined, this is almost always the smallest segment. As we work our way down to less qualified prospects, we have increasing numbers of potential members or customers – hence the wider triangle. The goal of course is to be sure that we flow our scarce marketing funds first to the best prospects and then down the triangle to generate the best ROI.

Taking the time to carefully define who is in each market segment and how many people are in the segment is fundamental to planning.

Next, define “What” you are offering. Should your product be bundled or sold a la carte? What are your best price points? What is your unique selling proposition (USP) to each market segment? What enhancements can be made to the product to make it unique or more valuable? How does your product compare to the competition?

The third element is promotion or “How” we go to market. Unfortunately, many marketers start at this point without doing the earlier leg work. I sometimes, for example, hear that “direct mail doesn’t work for our organization.” It is possible, but it is more likely that the channel is not to blame, but the message went to the wrong person. You cannot sell ice to Eskimos.

Promotional decisions look at how best to connect the product and the market. What marketing channel should you choose (personal sales, telemarketing, direct mail, space ads, broadcast FAX, email, search engine ads, or retail)? Each channel offers unique advantages, cost structures, and response rates.

Finally, marketing planning requires an answer to the question, “Why”. Does the plan make economic sense? This involves looking at realistic projections of revenue and costs and calculating the Life Time Value, Cost of Goods Sold, and Maximum Acquisition Cost for a member or customer. I provided these calculations in a membership marketing context in my post, Know the Numbers on Membership Marketing.

I hope that these thoughts get your strategic marketing juices flowing. I wish you a joyous and peaceful New Year!

I will return to the Five Phases of Membership Marketing in January.


Vinay said...


Really enjoyed reading this write up. In fact, I too have been thinking about this very topic and had come to pretty much the same conclusion. Even had that same pyramid in my mind. And now that I think about it, this is the pyramid/through process I been following when promoting GRC. It really is the way in my mind as well. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Tony.


Tony Rossell said...

Vinay -- Thanks for commenting and welcome! Something I think that you do very well in particular is stepping back and looking at the big picture -- looking at the forest from the trees. I think that it is a really good idea for every organization to do this and what better time than the start of a new year. Tony