Membership Development Ranked as Top Priority in 2009

When new association research is released, I try to stay on top of it and share the highpoints on this blog.

A recent report, “Associations: A Benchmarking Report on Association Priorities, Challenges and Strategies for the Coming Year” by McKinley Marketing, Inc., had some insights on what the priorities for associations are in 2009.

I was encouraged to see that the responses heavily focused on getting and keeping members. In challenging times, I cannot think of a much better priority. The ongoing, renewable membership relationship can sustain an organization like no other revenue stream.

Here is how respondents answered the question, “What are your three highest priorities for 2009?” They said:

  1. Improving member retention -- 50%
  2. New Member Acquisition -- 41%
  3. Branding/Increasing Awareness -- 36%
  4. Developing new methods for member engagement -- 34%
  5. Increasing meeting attendance -- 25%

By the way, “incorporating social media into marketing strategy” came in 7Th place with 18%.

The report also concluded that “Direct mail, event marketing and public relations are considered the most effective tactics to accomplish all [marketing} goals; online media tactics are considered the least effective.”[1] However, as expertise grows, I suspect that online tactics will become more important in coming years.

The survey went to over 2,500 associations and participating associations included well known groups like the: American Library Association; Association Forum of Chicagoland; American Society for Quality; American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers; American Society of Mechanical Engineers; American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, and National Society of Professional Engineers

What would you set as your organizations top three priorities in 2009? Please feel free to share them.

[1] 2009 Economic Impact on Associations, page 10


David Gammel said...


That's interesting about not seeing online tools as critical. I wonder how many of those same groups drive people to register online with print communications, for example? A lot, I would guess.

While it is not a stand alone solution for most groups I think the Web is a critical element of almost any comprehensive campaign.

Appreciate your thoughts on that.


Tony Rossell said...

David -- As always, I appreciate your comments and insights. I was not involved in the research, but let me share my interpretation. Yes, almost every association uses the web as a sign up vehicle. But I see very few using the web in a pro active manner with lead generation and lead management through responder specific microsites, email list rental, search engine ads, and pay per click banner ads. These will be some of the key tools going forward in association membership marketing. Tony

Anonymous said...


Do you have any idea if these rankings differ from previous years' and if so, how?


Anonymous said...

Oh - and on the SEO/SEM thing, I think that at least one reason that associations aren't really doing this yet is because if, for instance, you search on American Historical Association, AHA's already going to come up as the first link and for a lot of organizations, that's good enough for them. They aren't really thinking beyond that to other search terms that might lead people to them (not to imply anything one way or the other about AHA of course).

Tony Rossell said...

Elizabeth -- Thanks for the question and the comment. I think that this is the first version of the study that I quoted. I did not see any year to year data.

On you other point, from what I have seen, it seems that most associations do pretty well on SEO. This may or may not be by plan. Most associatons have so much content on their site that they come up pretty well when industry terms are searched. However, for many this is where online marketing stops. I hope to write more about this in the next week or two. Tony

Sheri Jacobs said...

Hi Tony,
We will be sending out a follow up survey in June to measure and track changes and collect anecdotal responses. It should be interesting to see if/how things changed from December to June. I'll keep you posted and send you a copy of the results when they are ready.


MalaysiaInvestment said...
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Tony Rossell said...

Sheri -- Sounds great. Please keep me posted. It was a helpful and somewhat surprising study. Tony