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

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