199 Ideas: Membership Recruitment and Retention

Last week ASAE and the Center for Association Leadership released their newest book, 199 Ideas: Membership Recruitment and Retention.

You will find it a very practical resource that membership professionals should keep handy and use as a checklist for the basics of membership marketing.

As the title suggests, 199 Ideas, is presented in a readable format as tips by topic area: Recruitment Basics, Where to Find New Members, How to Get Prospects to Join, and Retention Basics.

Here is a sampling of some of the tips:

  1. “Tracking is everything. Want to really know what works for recruiting new members? Remember that all of your applications should be coded so that you can track where [they came from] (page 14).”

  2. “New members can be found in lots of places, but the easiest sources are people who already know your association (former members, nonmembers who have attended you convention or purchased your services) or know your members (page 15).”

  3. “By far, it [direct mail} is the most effective and fastest way to grow your membership, if numbers are what you’re after. Direct mail can be costly overall, but after you’ve been at it for a while (testing and analyzing, that is) you’ll be able to pick lists like a pro and you’ll learn which copy and offers will work and which won’t. This form of marketing allows you to pinpoint success – or failure -- with real numbers and thereby lets you control how much it costs you to get a member (page 19).”

  4. “Every membership professional who engages in direct marketing must understand two things: 1.) that every mailing is an opportunity to test new ideas; and 2.) never ‘roll out’ . . . until you’re satisfied that the test works (page 22).”

  5. “It’s important to have a well thought out renewal campaign with multiple touch points. You should consider a blended approach in your communications that includes email, direct mail, telephone calls, and web based tools )page 63).”[1]

As useful as the book is, I would take issue with a couple of the points made in 199 Ideas.

First, I think that recruitment basics chapter overemphasizes research and analysis. If all the research that was recommended in the book was done then there would not be time to actually do the recommended marketing. Often a better approach is to attempt some marketing efforts early on and let the market speak to you through the responses you get. Yes, research is good, but I also believe in the “just do it” approach to marketing.

Secondly, setting the expectation that your “response is usually somewhere between 2 and 5 percent (page 22)” for direct mail acquisition is unrealistic. Of course we would all love to mail 100,000 pieces of mail for $70,000 in cost to sell our membership at $200 in dues and get back $1,000,000 (5 percent return), but don’t promise that to anyone if you want to keep your job!

The book was developed by the Membership Section Council of ASAE and the Center. Key contributors to the book were Linda Brady of the International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering, Tip Tucker Kendall from the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association, Michael C. McGough (a former colleague of mine) from the National Investment Relations Institute, and Miriam Miller from the United Fresh Produce Association.

By the way, the book also includes a "Share My Tip" form where you can contribute your thoughts for the next version of the book.

[1] 199 Ideas: Membership Recruitment and Retention, by ASAE & The Center's Membership Section Council, 2009, 88 pages.


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