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.


Museum of Contemporary Native Arts said...

Great post...and hear, hear to #26!

Tony Rossell said...

Thanks for the comment. I will say that under funded and under resourced membership program are one of the biggest challenges for membership organizations. The odd thing is that the long term income of membership programs is so predictable and measurable that I am often shocked that this under funding takes place. There are not many places where you can spend a dollar today and gain up to a 10 year payout. Tony

Annaliese said...

Hi Tony -- I'm curious about what you mean by the "top 25 responses." What was your criteria for selecting these? Personal favorites or was there a voting/ranking system? Most repeated concepts?

Tony Rossell said...

Annaliese -- Great question. These were open ended responses from our survey. I went through the 200 comments and picked the ones to list based on the frequency the topic was mentioned and on what I thought was an insightful perspective. Unlike the quantitative portion of our research, the selected quotes are not scientific -- just interesting. Tony