What is my Career? Membership Development is Relationship Marketing

Do you work in membership development, membership retention, or membership marketing? If you do, you may have trouble explaining what you do to others, including prospective employers outside the non-profit or association fields.

I believe the answer to the question, “what is my career?” is that you are a professional engaged in “relationship marketing”.

The textbook description of relationship marketing from Philip Kotler follows.

“Relationship marketing has the aim of building long-term mutually satisfying relations with key parties – customers, suppliers, distributors – in order to earn and retain their long-term preference and business . . . The ultimate outcome of relationship marketing is the building of a unique company asset called a marketing network. A marketing network consists of the company and its supporting stakeholders (customers, employees, suppliers, distributors, retailers, ad agencies, university scientists, and others) . . . The operating principle is simple: Build an effective network of relationship with key stakeholders, and profits will follow.”[1]

If that sounds familiar it is because that is what we do.

Kotler goes on to describe the progression in relationship marketing as moving people through eight stages of relationship starting with “Suspects” and moving to “Partners”.[2] Here are his stages.

  • Suspects
  • Prospects
  • First Time Buyers
  • Repeat Customers
  • Clients
  • Members
  • Advocates
  • Partners

All of these stages have relevance in membership development. However, in membership we tend to shorten the cycle and bring people into the membership relationship sooner. The relational marketing progression that I have recommended to use for associations is pictured below. You can read about it in my post titled, Five Phases of the Membership Life Cycle.

Here is the bottom line. If you are involved in membership marketing, you have a very valuable and transferable skill. You have developed hands on experience of establishing, building, upgrading, and retaining a customer. You are a relationship marketer.

[1] Philip Kotler, Marketing Management, Prentice Hall, page 13.
[2] Philip Kotler, Marketing Management, Prentice Hall, page 50.


Matt Baehr said...

Ha - Kotler's book was one of my grad school marketing texts.

Tony Rossell said...

Matt -- That's why you are always so insightful. Actually, I have a collection of marketing, strategy, and managment textbooks on my shelves. They are a great source for a quick reference or quote when I am writing on a topic. They at least provide a little objective information. Tony