Membership Marketing is Messy, but it Beats the Alternative

I came across a proverb this morning that reminds me of the challenges and opportunities in membership marketing.

The proverb says, “Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.”[1]

Think of membership marketing as your ox. If you are actually testing new ideas and approaches and out in the marketplace, you will have some messes to clean up from it. Clearly the messes are not on purpose and everything possible should be done to avoid them.

Nevertheless, you will invariably hear complaints like:
  • You sent a promotion to a current member.

  • Your messages are too strong.

  • Your marketing is too expensive.

  • You send too many renewal notices.

  • You interrupted my dinner with a phone call.

  • You offered my friend a discount, but not me.

But here is the benefit. A well run membership development program will grow your membership and produce abundant returns. A sure way to keep everything neat and clean is not to change anything. Over time the result will be a stagnant or declining membership.

Which do you choose?

[1] Proverbs 14:4 , ESV


Scott Oser said...


You are correct in that in order to have the biggest impact in any marketing effort you may "upset" some people along the way. A colleague of mine who I did some work with when I first started my own biz told me that he knew I was doing a good job because he had received a couple of complaints. Key here is "a couple." Getting a complaint or two means we are being aggressive enough to get people's attention and doing everything we can to hit as much of our market as possible.

Should we try to have people complain? Absolutely not but as you said some times you do have to clean up a couple of messes that result from your doing a good job.

Dan said...

Tony, excellent post!

Well, you know we've chosen to be messy, but it certainly isn't easy to be the one that has to clean up what's left in the manger on a regular basis.

I usually get calls like, "Why do you send out soooo much mail?"

Some callers want a straight answer to that question, so I give it to them:

"There are two reasons:
1. ASCD has surveyed our members many times over the years and one of the questions we regularly ask is 'How would you like us to communicate with you? By mail, e-mail, phone, or fax?' and overwhelmingly the answer is 'by mail'.

2. As the Membership Director, the one question I never want to hear from my members or potential members is 'Why wasn't I informed?' And whether it's a special offer, promotion, or message about what is going on in the association, I'd rather take the risk of being a bit bothersome than to receive those types of calls."

Then I offer to remove them from the mailings. They usually opt-out of the mailings, but most of them thank me and are much calmer than they were when the phone conversation started. After all, one of the major reasons people join a professional association is to stay informed.

Tony Rossell said...

Scott -- Thanks for sharing your perspective. I think you make a good point. Aggressive does not mean irresponsible. I enjoy playing sports. I have no desire to cause anyone harm, but I do play my best and some would say I am aggressive. But if I am not trying my best, should I be on the field? Tony

Tony Rossell said...

Dan -- Good points. Listening to members, understanding their preferences, and doing what they ask is the way business should be done. You do a good job at that.

Going through life, we all want the "silver bullet" or gain with no pain. It is human nature. As the proverb I quoted highlights, we want a clean manger. But the reality is to grow, we still need to plow, plant, harvest, and clean up.

Thanks for yout thoughts. Tony

Compete-At said...

Great article.. posting to twitter now @RegisterOnline

Guin said...

Great post. I'm always concerned when I receive a complaint, but you're absolutely right that you can't please everyone. Your solution -- letting your "upset" member/s know that it wasn't intentional and that you simply want to make sure they receive updates -- is a good one. Thanks!