Does it Make Sense to Hire a Consultant to help your Membership Marketing Team?

In an article in the November issue of ASAE’s Consultants Connection newsletter (member sign in required), I make the case that there are at least five good reasons to add a consultant to your team.

1. To supplement existing staff.
2. To bring perspective and objectivity.
3. To provide a proven methodology.
4. To raise accountability.
5. To share special knowledge or skills.

As a consultant, I have an opinion, but I would enjoy your feedback.  What do you think? Do consultants play a role in helping organizations with membership marketing or should this be entirely an inside job? Have you used consultants successfully? What positions on your marketing team do you look to fill with a consultant? What do you look for in choosing a consultant?

Please feel free to share your thoughts.

Using Social Media to Recruit Staff

A former client contact of mine helps to manage a blog and related social media to recruit staff for the company where she works -- Sodexo.  I think it is a really creative use of a blog, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Here is the link. If you get a chance, take a couple of minutes to browse all of the tools that are deployed.

The Top 25 Lessons Learned in Membership Marketing: 200 Marketing Pro’s Share their Wisdom

We asked 200 membership professionals to share in their own words what were the most important or successful lessons that they have learned in membership marketing. I have reviewed all the comments and have distilled these direct quotes down to the top 25 responses. I think you will find them inspiring and insightful.

If you would like to see all 200 responses, please email me and I can forward them to you.

1. A multi-channel approach is best. There isn't any silver bullet. A variety of techniques, well executed elicits success.

2. You can't spend too much time or money on marketing.

3. When you actually do a recruitment campaign, they join. When you engage with your members, they stay. When you analyze the data, you find a nugget of information that can change all of your preconceived ideas.

4. There is no such thing as a Non-Member....only potential members. You must keep trying and promoting; they will never buy - if you do not (personally) believe in what you are trying to sell; this includes the Association itself...not just the 'goods' of the Association offers.

5. Members need to be reminded multiple times about their membership dues. It always amazes me that you can contact a member 7 times and then 1 year later, they are "surprised" they are no longer a member of our Association.

6. Personal contact with people. Connecting with individuals at conferences, meetings, in their workplace, or on the phone has been the most successful for us. Staying connected through e-mail was second in our marketing plan.

7. Market early, market often!

8. Like the economy, membership marketing goes through cycles. You need to make sure your message speaks to what is motivating people in tough times and be prepared for when the changes come.

9. Focus on what makes your association unique. What niche do you fill that no one else can - market that to potential members?

10. Positive word-of-mouth is worth its weight in gold. If you can get your existing members to recruit new folks then you can just sit back and count the cash.

11. That the membership model is rapidly changing as a result of increased access to free information.

12. 80/20/10. Staying motivated even when you see low membership involvement. Remembering that 80% will not be active members, 20% will be active participants and 10% will take on leadership roles.

13. It's not easy.

14. It is incumbent upon any association to first provide value to its membership and then to communicate that value to the members on an ongoing basis. Building community and member engagement is the key to successful membership marketing.

15. Membership marketing is not a silo unto the membership department alone. It requires coordination across multiple departments, lest it appear that the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing. This remains an ongoing challenge in my association.

16. This survey has reminded me of what I have learned, and ashamed to say not implementing half of it. I'm the only full-time staff, but I know better.

17. That there are very few "new" ideas and listening to what others are doing is the best way to improve your business.

18. The most important lesson I've learned is test EVERYTHING! Also, agility is paramount. You have to be agile enough to change your strategy, approach or messaging quickly.

19. Never stop doing it. We are seeing results today of marketing we continued to do through 09 even though there was a downturn.

20. Direct mail works for our association. And it works especially well if you continue to test your campaign ideas. The process to change is constant and important. We've learned what works well with young members, what works well with older members, whether advocacy is important to certain contingencies, and more.

21. I have learned to apply the same discipline in marketing as we do in software/standards development.

22. You must continually examine your marketing mix to ensure that you are maximizing ROI, utilizing the most cost-effective channels for different audience segments, and placing retention and acquisition efforts and expenditures in the most appropriate balance to meet organizational goals.

23. Without accurate and comprehensive performance data and statistics on membership activities (financial, marketing, costs, lifetime value, recruitment, retention, on boarding, etc.) it is virtually impossible to determine the health and success of the membership program.

24. 1. Test new things and track everything--it's the only way you'll know what works and doesn't work. 2. Recruiting new members by direct mail trumps e-mail marketing 100 times over. 3. Many of those in management do not understand the value of marketing--or the difference between good and bad marketing efforts/techniques. So, it's important to educate them and toot your own horn to help them understand. But don't get your feelings hurt if they do not! 4. Member testimonials add considerable value and spark to all.

25. The right list and the right offers are key to prospecting. Retaining members is the work of the organization. Delivering the value promised through marketing is key to renewals.

Okay, here is a 26th bonus comment.

26. Most important lesson is how critical membership marketing is to our success (and how frustrating it is that we don't have enough staff to do it well.

Building Your Online Membership Lead Generation and Conversion System

In my last post, I noted the importance of building a mechanism to capture leads that come to your website through SEO, SEM, social media, third party links, or online ads.

The vast majority of visitors are not going to join the organization on their first visit to the website. However, an attractive offer of free additional information related to their search can be enticing.

Therefore, the initial goal is to get an opt-in from the visitor for future communications. This list building function can often be done by having these web searchers directed to a microsite specifically designed to capture an opt-in.

The next question is what to do with these leads and how to maximize the effectiveness of the conversion system.

One way to look at this lead to paid member conversion system is as a funnel. Each stage can be monitored and measured for optimization.

A good system might look something like this.

Responses and effectiveness can be measured at each stage of the funnel:

• What online ads, pay per click, or co-registration sites are the best sources for leads?
• What offers – free articles, newsletters, discounts, event notifications -- produce the highest opt-in rate?
• What cultivation efforts -- email, mail, phone follow-up -- produce the highest click through rates and membership sales rates?

Many membership groups make huge investments in their websites, but do not fully take advantage of the traffic that the site may produce. Adding a lead generation and conversion system to an attractive website helps maximize the economic value of the site.

Please let me know if you would like to talk more about setting up this type of program and how to optimize it.

Maximizing your Website as a Tool for Membership Recruitment

Many membership organizations invest a lot of time and energy in building web traffic through SEO and some also with SEM. But surprisingly few use a visit to a website as an opportunity to capture an opt-in from a prospective member.

Joel Book commented on this in DM News. He wrote, “Research from Web analytics technology provider Webtrends shows that on average, 95% of website visitors leave a site without indentifying who they are and taking some form of action, such as subscribing to your e-newsletter. That’s why subscriber conversion is one of the most important metrics that impacts marketing ROI.”1

When an opt-in is captured, we have found that these leads are some of the highest responding lists for membership recruitment campaigns.

So how do you get a visitor to opt-in to receiving additional information from an organization?

We recommend a concept that I call trading content for contact. This involves trading valuable information in exchange for the right to continue a dialogue with a prospective member. This information typically comes in the form of a free email newsletter or a white paper on an important topic of interest to visitors.  This process is fundemental in achieving the awarness stage of the membership lifecycle.  Here is one example of offering whitepapers or an email subscription to visitors of a website. 

If a visitor to your site desires to access valuable information, you do not have to give away the store.  It is not inappropriate to ask them to share who they are and have the opportunity to opt-in for future contact.

1. Joel Book, Advanced e-mail tactics can shed light on new customers, DM News, Strategic Content, October, 2010, page 10.