Consumer Use of Email Declines, but Association Deployment Remains Constant

In a time when some data indicates that email usage is declining, it appears that the use of email in membership marketing has remained stable this past year.

The 2010 U.S. Digital Year in Review Report showed that “Web-based email is waning: Total usage of web-based email dropped 9% in 2010 with more precipitous declines occurring among younger age groups, particularly teenagers. It’s clear that communication is shifting not only to other platforms, but to other devices. (If you plan to email your kids and you want a response, be sure to send them a text.)”1.

In our 2011 Membership Marketing Benchmarking research, we again asked where email was used in the marketing process. Respondents reported a small increase in using email to build awareness among prospects. They showed little change in using email to engage or onboard new members and support renewal efforts from the previous year. This follows a substantial growth in the use of email from 2009 to 2010.

Obviously, these two studies are drawing from completely different sets of data. However, if the trend line for web-based email is in decline, and since there is such a heavy reliance on email in membership marketing, it may be a warning that alternative channels need to be developed.

For example, the use of somewhat newer online marketing channels is taken advantage of by a minority of membership organizations. Only 13.6% of respondents report that prospective members become aware of their organizations through search engine ads and only 11.9% of respondents used paid advertising on other organizations websites to build awareness.

What results are you seeing in email usage for your organization? Feel free to share.

1. The Top 10 Digital Media Trends of 2010, By Linda Abraham - February 9, 2011

What Level of Engagement Do Members Really have with their Association?

Everyone would agree that a critical opportunity for associations is to engage members as customers of the products and services made available by an association.

But we wondered what proportion of members typically purchased or engaged the association each year through some type of product, service, or activity. To find out, we included the following question in our 2011 Membership Marketing Benchmarking research.
“What proportion of your members do you estimate engage with your organization in the following areas EACH YEAR?”
The chart below highlights the average percentage of members who used or were involved with each product offering. Some members may have used just one product others may have participated in every engagement opportunity. So this data does not show a cumulative level of engagement, but a product by product level of usage.

What stands out to me is the relatively low level of usage members have with the products and services offered by associations. Is it fair to say that members may be primarily members for the products and services that membership includes? What do you think?

What are the Biggest Impediments to Membership Growth?

I have often wondered what are the biggest challenges for organizations in growing their membership. So this year we asked association executives in our Membership Marketing Benchmarking research to tell us. And 631 unique associations answered the question.

Then we took their answers on the biggest challenges they faced and cross tabulated them with the reported membership performance for their organizations over the past five years. Did membership increase over this time period, stay the same, or decrease.

What we wanted to know was which challenges hurt membership growth the most and which were painful, but tended not to impede growth.

Here is what we found.

The data seems to indicate that if your organization has weak product and service offerings, an insufficient budget, or a lack of marketing expertise then membership growth has been not been achieved.

And if an organization suffers from the lack of a strategy or plan, then membership has been more likely to remain static.

However, there may be hope for membership growth even if an organization is faced with insufficient staff, market saturation, an inadequate association management database, or inadequate research to understand the market they serve as the biggest challenges. Organizations reporting these problems were more likely to see membership growth over the past five years.

What might be your theories to explain these outcomes? Does this data surprise you?