Participate in the 2014 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Survey

We have just launched the questionnaire for the 2014 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Survey and I want to invite blog readers who work for a membership organization to participate.

Last year nearly 700 membership organizations took part in this research. Our hope is to increase the quantity of participants in this the 6th year of the report in order to provide analysis with even finer segmentation than in the past.

If you are on our survey list, you would have already received an email with a personal link to connect you to the survey. Please use the link provided in the email to respond. However, if you have not received an email requesting you to participate, you can still be a part of the research by using this link.

To thank you for your participation in this best practices research project, we will send you a printed copy of the full, final report.

Please take a moment now to participate in this important research.  You can participate using this survey link

Part Two: Three Membership Marketing Resolutions for the New Year

This is the second of three recommended membership marketing resolutions that I wanted to share at the start of the New Year.  In this resolution, I want to encourage you to experiment with digital advertising as a means to spread your message much more broadly and allow prospects to initiate a relationship with your organization.
Digital advertising -- from Search Engine Marketing (SEM), to social media advertising, to banner ads and many other options -- continues to grow at a very rapid pace.  In the US it is estimated that digital advertising, “will account for 21.8% of all ad spend ($109.7 billion), up from 19% the year before.”
However, very few membership organizations are tapping into this channel.  The most recent Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report highlighted that only 14% of associations use search engine ads and only 12% use paid banner ads on other websites to create and build awareness of their association.   There is a great deal of usage of association sponsored social media sites, but in a sense this digital presence is preaching to the choir instead of targeting brand new prospects. 

Digital advertising offers some terrific benefits to marketers.
·        Flexibility – With SEM and social media ads, you can adjust and allocate funds on a daily basis.  It is not like a print advertisement where once an ad runs there is not opportunity for adjustments.
·        Coverage – Digital advertising gives you access to every corner of the world where there is an internet connection.  Reaching this broadly with traditional media like direct mail can be prohibitively expensive.
·        Targeting – Digital advertising allows for pinpoint targeting by a person’s interests, job, geographic location, and behavior.  You are able to place the right opportunity in front of the right person. 
·        Measurement -- Response to digital advertising can be measured down to the penny.  You can know impressions, clicks, and with some effort the ultimate amount of purchases. 
·        Speed – You can literally have a digital advertising program up and running and producing response in a day.  However, you will want to take the time to put in place a relationship building response path to get the maximum value out of your media spend. 
There are many options to explore with digital ads, but here are some real life options that are working for membership organizations right now.

Social Media Advertising
Ads in LinkedIn or Facebook can be targeted by interests, likes, groups, skills, professions, and more.  Ads can be a direct membership offer that takes a prospect directly to a membership join site. Facebook allows for tracking directly from the click on the ad to your website’s “Thank You” page to verify the purchase.   Or you can offer free content to encourage a prospect to start a relationship with your organization like the sample below. 

Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
Both search and content ads can place your membership in front of prospects who are searching for answers.   An ideal offering for these ads is some free content produced by your organization in exchange for their contact information and an opt-in to continue communications.  This sample offers a free whitepaper on an important solution specifically provided to members of this association.

Google Remarketing
Many organizations have done their due diligence on Search Engine Optimization, but once a visitor leaves their site, they have no means to continue the interaction.  Google Remarketing can be used to continue to present a specific product or offer to the visitor on other pages once they have left your website. Here is an ad that appeared in the Washington Post following a visit to my company’s website. 

Another benefit of digital advertising is that you can start small and gradually build your program.  So it is something that you can experiment with over the course of this year. 
In my next post, I will look at one more resolutions that you may want to consider in this year.  And if you find posts of help, you may want to participate in a webinar on these resolutions that I will be doing for the ASAE Membership Section Council on Wednesday, January 29th.  Registration for the webinar is free, but a site registration with ASAE is required.  You can sign up for the webinar using this link.

Three Membership Marketing Resolutions for the New Year: Part One

In this and several upcoming posts, I want to share three resolutions you may want to consider for your membership marketing program in the New Year.  The first resolution is to re-focus your efforts on planning, testing, and tracking.

The basics of membership marketing are to create a plan, try new approaches, and track the results and your important membership data points.  Some groups do this very well, so this may be a simplistic resolution for you.  However, all membership organizations could do this better. 

When it comes to planning some groups simply do not have a documented plan in place to recruit and retain members.  And if you do not know where you are going, it is highly unlikely you will achieve very much. 

Other organizations suffer from the paralysis of analysis.  They over think their plans.  I remember the advice one executive director gave to a new membership staff person.  He said spend your first year getting to know the organization, your second year creating a plan, and your third year implementing the plan.

My preference would be to follow a “ready, fire, aim” strategy.  Put together a plan that makes sense to you and your team: include some new initiatives, read the responses from your promotions and then adapt your plan based on what works best. 

Here is an easy to use marketing template to put together a membership recruitment plan for your organization.   As you can see below, the template helps you to identify the main components that go into a plan including the marketing channels that you will use, the value proposition you will communicate, and your special offers, messages, and the frequency of contact for each market segment that you want to reach.

One of the biggest weaknesses in the practice of membership marketing is the lack of testing.  In the 2013 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report only 16% of associations reported doing A/B tests in their marketing efforts.  Yet the results from a test can easily double or triple results.  Lack of testing means many programs are sub-optimizing their potential returns.  Marketing tests can be done on the special offers, graphics, messages, and the lists that you use in an effort. 

In the example below of testing lists, the response rates varied between 16 different lists used from 3.46% to 0.33%.  But if some of these higher responding lists had not been tried and the responses were not monitored, the organization might have continued to reach out to the lower responding prospects and never known about the best responding segments. 

Finally, tracking the key statistics related to your membership is essential.  I am sometimes surprised when I meet with an organization and they are not sure about how many new members join each month, or what their renewal rate is for new and longer term members, or even where their total membership count currently stands.  

Ideally, all of these numbers can be maintained on a simple dashboard that helps monitor this data.  Here is a sample of what a dashboard might look like. 

By regularly tracking your vital membership numbers, you will identify problems early on while there is time to make a change.  For example, if you see your “Conversion Rate” (new members’ renewal rate) declining for several months, you can do a quick survey to determine if there is a problem with your content or your product fulfillment.  If you see your overall renewal rate increasing, you can congratulate yourself of the successful changes you made to your renewal process.  Using a dashboard to track your membership allows you to continuously keep your finger on the pulse of your membership.

Laying a foundation for your membership program that includes creating a plan that can be quickly deployed and adapted, testing new opportunities that can offer big jumps in response, and tracking the ongoing health of your membership to allow for interventions is a very good start to the year for any membership organization. 

In subsequent posts, I will look at two other resolutions that you may want to consider in this year.  And if you find this series helpful, you are invited to participate in a webinar on these resolutions that I will be doing for the ASAE Membership Section Council on Wednesday, January 29th.  Registration for the webinar is free, but a site registration with ASAE is required.  You can sign up for the webinar using this link