Ready, Fire, Aim Membership Marketing

Inaction is the single biggest enemy to association membership marketing success.
Over the years, I have been in more meetings than I care to count where statements like, “we cannot do that because,” “we need approval,” or “we need more research” has shut down the marketing process.
To many it may sound like heresy, but very often the right course of action is simply to do something.  I call this the “Ready, Fire, Aim” solution.  By doing something an association very well may discover that they are sitting on some big opportunities.
One group that I am familiar with has 100,000 opt-in emails from prospects who have registered on their website.  But they are not reaching out to these prospects fearing they do not have the right messages and services in place.  Conducting research to understand the needs of prospects is certainly a fine thing to do, but my recommendation instead was to follow a Ready, Fire, Aim approach.
Specifically, the association could divide up the list perhaps by recency of account registration and create four or five different email messages to test into the list.  This is the “Ready” stage.  Then putting out the opportunity to join by sending out the emails is the “Fire” stage.  Finally, tracking the response is the “Aim” stage by determining which if any of the message tests produced the best return.
With this results analysis in hand, a more thorough marketing plan can be developed with additional tests that spend more budgets on the higher responding portions of the list using more expensive marketing channels like direct mail, phone, and personal outreach.  The lower responding portions of the list can be assigned less expensive channels like additional emails and online digital ads.
There are certainly other options besides email to do a fast launch of a marketing effort.  Another example would be to take a list of recently lapsed members and have staff or a third party firm try calling the members and inviting them to come back.  For those who do not want to re-join a few short questions can be added to the script to understand their reasons for not continuing.  If the calling proves unsuccessful after a few days, it can be easily discontinued.  However, if the calls are successful, additional calls can be done reaching back further in time to previously lapsed members.  Either way, the risks in terms of time and cost is minimal, but the outcome will provide insight and direction.
The bottom line is that the best market research that can be done is determining if someone will write a check or not based on your marketing effort.  This can be accomplished by taking action and testing fast and adapting based on results.  By doing this an association may find that it is sitting on a membership gold mine or on a membership disaster.  But whichever outcome is presented, it is a better place to be than the paralysis of analysis.

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