2017 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report


The 2017 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report is now available as a downloadable PDF. Here are some of the highlights of this year’s research.
Once again, many more associations are reporting an increase in their membership compared to those siting a membership decline.  Individual membership organizations (IMO’s) led the way with 48% sharing that membership had an increase over the past year.
In fact, many associations report substantial growth rates.  Of those organizations that showed increases in overall membership, one-quarter report increases of 6% to 10%, while 19% report increases in membership over the past year of more than 10%.

Similarly, associations are maintaining membership growth over the longer term.  Again this year, 50% of associations report that their membership over the past five years has increased.  And if we look back over the historical trend from our very first benchmarking report, associations have consistently reported an ongoing five year trend of increasing membership counts.

These outcomes challenge the narrative put forth by some that membership as a product and professional and trade associations as a category are in decline.

In addition the increases reported in total membership counts, the 2017 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report also highlights continuing strong data on other key membership statistics.

Similar to 2016, 68% of associations’ report renewal rates of 80% or higher. The median membership renewal rate is 84% overall. Trade associations have a higher median renewal rate (89%) compared to IMOs (80%) and combination associations (82%).

Renewal rates from our benchmarking research have remained remarkably stable of the years meaning the engine for membership growth continues to be new member acquisition. This does not in any way say that maintaining a high renewal rate is not important, but it does show that growth depends on continued new member acquisition.

And strong membership acquisition results have continued for associations.  Over the past year, 45% of associations report increases in their new member acquisitions, with IMOs showing the most growth (47% vs. 45% for trade associations and 43% for combination associations).

However, all of this positive data does not mean that associations are not facing significant challenges.

Respondents reported some major external challenges to their association.  For IMOs the cost of membership and competing associations are the top two challenges.  And Combination associations are most likely to struggle with declining member/employer budgets (32%).

For trade organizations, the biggest external challenge is industry consolidation/shrinkage (36%).  One participant shared in the comments section of the research, “Our market is shrinking and certain leaders are averse to opening up our member categories to expand opportunities.”

Internal challenges were also identified in our research.  IMOs are significantly more likely to be challenged in attracting and maintaining younger members (26%), while trade organizations struggle more with proving that their membership provides a tangible ROI (32%). And Combination associations find it more difficult to meet the needs of a diverse membership (27%).

But the good news is that the analysis of this year’s data also highlights signs of vibrancy that is helping to drive membership growth.

For example, it appears that associations – especially those that are experiencing membership growth – are more effectively reaching out to upcoming generations of members.

In fact, associations estimate that about 21% of members are Millennials or Gen Z.  And associations reporting an increase in membership over the past year, the past five years, and an increase in overall renewals are significantly more likely to have a higher percentage of Millennials.

New technology is also helping associations market more broadly and effectively.  Specifically, there has been a rapid adoption of online digital marketing including Facebook paid advertising, search engine ads (pay-per-click), lead generation content marketing (White Papers), and paid banners on other websites.

Many participants highlighted the use of these tools in the comments section of our research noting, for example, “Facebook remarketing has been successful, especially when specifically targeted to a specific audience such as our Young Professionals.”

Finally, another driver building more vibrant memberships has been engaging members with new products and services that deliver what members want when they want it.

In the case of IMO’s for example, when looking at the products and services that are reported as showing stable or decreasing engagement, one finds many of the traditional and long-term association offerings like volunteerism, the purchase or maintenance of insurance, or book or directory purchases.

However, when looking at what is reported as showing increasing engagement and participation, we find activities like participation in the public social network of the association, participation in the private social network, attendance at webinars, or participation in a young professional programs as the fastest growing engagement tools.

In other words, increasing engagement has been driven by change and innovation and not relying on the services of the past.

For 2017, the Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report continues to highlight growth and resilience for membership associations.  But maintaining growth is challenging, taxing, and requires hard work and constant innovation. 
You can review the entire report here.  We hope that you find this year’s report helpful, challenging, and encouraging as you serve the members of your association.
 

Webinar Posted: 2017 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report


The headline for the soon to be released 2017 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report is that for the ninth consecutive year, many more associations are reporting an increase in their membership compared to those noting a membership decline.
Our webinar sharing some of the top findings in the forthcoming report is now available with this link.
Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report Webinar
The session looks at principal findings from the research, the membership challenges reported by associations, and the drivers of resiliency and growth shared by participating associations. 

Highlights from the 2017 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report

The full 2017 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report will be released next month, but here are some of the highlights of this year's report.


Using Data Analytics to Drive Effective Marketing Strategy


One of the most rapidly adopted tools in association marketing today is data analytics.  It provides the knowledge to segment members and customers, target offers and messages, and maximize efficiency.
Here are some methods that are making a big difference for associations right now.
  1. Recruitment Modeling – Many factors serve as either positive or negative predictors of whether or not a member will join an association including previous buying behavior (frequency and recency), non-monetary interactions, list source, number of previous recruitment contacts, and company or personal demographics.  By analyzing and scoring how each of these factors impacts someone’s likelihood of joining and rolling up the scores, a prospective membership file can be arrayed from the most likely to the least likely person to join and then broken down into segments or deciles. Not surprisingly the top deciles may perform at double the return of the overall file producing outstanding results.
  2. Membership Retention Key Performance Indicators (KPI) – Every interaction that a current member has with the association is a predictor of whether or not they will renew.  Data analytics can help to define which behaviors or interactions a member takes are most likely to result in them continuing with the association.  Knowing this can drive an engagement strategy and move members to these behaviors.  Interestingly, conference attendance is often a negative predictor of renewal.
  3. Member and Customer Ranking - It is not at all unusual to have 20 percent of customers or members produce 80 percent of sales.  Identifying who these customers are is a great use of data analytics.  The method to identify the very best performing customers involves building an algorithm around three coordinates: Recency, Frequency, and Monetary Amount (RFM).  This method highlights a customer who recently made several purchases as a better prospect over one who made a very large purchase several years ago.  Focusing time, resources, and attention on the best members and customers will pay off.
  4. Missionary Products and Member Migration - Whether it is understood or not, most associations have one product line that is typically the very first financial transaction between the association and an individual or company.  Data analytics can define this product or service and knowing this allows an association to focus marketing resources on that “missionary” or introductory product and service.  In addition to identifying the introductory product – whether it is conference registration, membership, or certification – further analysis can track secondary and tertiary purchases to help understand the product migration path for the association.  All of this enables a marketing team to help an individual successfully navigate the opportunities presented by an association and reduce marketing static and conflicting messages.
There are obviously far more opportunities than listed here to analyze data in order to maximize marketing effectiveness.  In fact, the only limits are having the data available and defining the knowledge that you want to gain from the data.
And even if all of the needed data is not on hand, demographic and firmographic data appends are available with a wealth of information to enhance any database.  Then for success in data analytics it is important to define what specific questions that you want the analysis to answer before you start the analytics process. 

Everyone is Discovering the Power of Membership


The theme of the recently released book, Marketing 4.0, proposes that “The role of marketers is to guide customers throughout their journey from awareness and ultimately to advocacy.”
Most membership organizations have operated with this philosophy for years.  I have defined this ongoing relationship as the Membership Lifecycle.
But the news is that today the understanding of membership as one of the most powerful relationship builders between any organization and its audience is becoming foundational in minds of most marketers.
For example, the for-profit world is rapidly adopting the membership model.  In her book, The Membership Economy: Find Your Super Users, Master the Forever Transaction, and Build Recurring Revenue, Robbie Baxter spoke to this opportunity.  She wrote, “Membership strengthens loyalty.  Membership strengthens participation.  Membership strengthens referrals.  And organizations that think about membership tend to focus more on providing long-term value, which ultimately leads to better customer lifetime value.  Any CEO who is not thinking about membership is missing a huge opportunity to point his or her organization toward long-term sustainable profitability.”
The economic benefits or establishing long-term, continuity relationships with customer (or members), was also recently documented in a study published in Forbes Magazine titled, “New Subscription Economy Index Shows Subscription Businesses Growing 9X Faster Than S&P 500 Ones.”  The authors study compared the growth rates of companies using a sales platform of recurring subscription revenue (think Netflix) to companies in the S&P 500 and US retail sales.  “The result: Since the start of 2012, the sales of subscription economy businesses are growing nine times faster than sales of companies in the S&P 500 and more than four times the rate of U.S. retail sales.”
What’s more associations themselves are reporting significant strength in membership.  In the soon to be published 2017 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report, of the 1,056 responding associations, 46 percent reported that their membership has increased over the past year, while only 25 percent reported a decrease in membership counts.  And respondents also reported a median renewal rate of 84 percent meaning associations were benefiting from the revenue of a membership relationship on average for over 6 years.
What can we take away from what we see happening in the marketplace?  For associations the key is to invest and continue to focus on recruiting and retaining members. The tools, methods, and competitive environment of getting and keeping members are changing, but the power and opportunity of this core relationship will continue.

Small is Beautiful or Too Big to Grow?



As we analyze the data from our 2017 Membership Marketing Benchmarking research, we see many interesting data points that we will share when we officially release the report.
Here is one interesting point; it looks like the larger an association is in either total members or operating revenue the less likely it is to see the rate of membership growth increase.
Overall, 46% of participating associations reported that their membership has increased over the past year.   However, when we look at these associations that increased membership split out by operating revenue, we see varying levels of median growth rates.
  • Up to $1Million: 8.35%
  • $1 Million to $4.9 Million: 4.72%
  • $5 Million to $19.9 Million: 3.91%
  • $20 Million or More: 2.82%
This trend seems to hold true when we look at these associations split out by their total number of members.  For individual membership associations, here is how growth rates break out.
  • Up to 1,000 Members: 7.95%
  • 1,000 to 5,000 Members: 6.32%
  • 5,001 to 19,999 Members: 3.95%
  • 20,000 or More: 2.71%
Economists debate whether or not “small is beautiful” when it comes to companies, cities, and countries.  So size is not necessarily a predictor of fast or slow growth.

What is interesting are the reasons noted by both larger and smaller associations as their challenges to growth.  In the research, associations with the lowest operating budgets site insufficient staff as the chief challenge that they face in growing their membership.  On the other hand, associations with the highest operating budgets site the difficulty in communicating value as the major challenge for them in growing membership.

Lower budgeted groups may be resource challenged, but larger groups are challenged in focusing their superior staff and resources to present a clear value proposition. 

Just Released: Community Benchmarking Study

For the past three years, Marketing General Incorporated and Higher Logic have produced the Community Benchmarking Study. The latest edition is now available as a download.
Here is your link to get a copy of the study.
Clearly, for many people, connecting is moving from face to face to online interactions whether it be with Facebook or some other platform.  And association members are no exception to this trend.
So the Community Benchmarking Study highlights important insights on the impact that an online community can have on overall membership growth and member engagement. The Study examines the ratios of members who are discussion creators, contributors, passive (viewers), and inactive.  It also includes a case study using real data from ASAE, with their permission, on the reach and engagement scores for their association.
The Community Benchmarking Study is a great resource for associations to use to measure and improve their member engagement and networking in the online world. 


Determining Your Association’s Missionary Product


The most expensive task in marketing is new customer, member, or donor acquisition.  But many associations are trying to fight the marketing wars on multiple fronts because they have not identified their introductory or missionary product.  Instead they reach out to the marketplace with many products like membership, certification, conference, or publications.
An association that defines the product with the best level of response and return on investment and focuses its marketing resources on it to bring prospects into relationship with the association will achieve the most success.  The strategy is then to upgrade or cross-sell additional products and services to buyers of the introductory product.  However, when acquisition marketing efforts are spread over many products lines the marketing impact is diluted and the costs increase.
For associations, the most successful missionary product is membership.  This makes sense when you think about it.  As a member, a prospect is signing on to stay in touch with you for the next twelve months allowing for regular upgrade and cross-selling opportunities for secondary products and services.  Additionally, the average member stays with an association for five years, so there is a long-term income stream tied to a new member that supports the initial marketing investment.
On the other hand, a book buyer may only be interested in a specific topic and perhaps make their next purchase through an online bookstore.  And a conference registrant or certification candidate has to make a much bigger financial and time investment compared to the price of purchasing a membership.
But whatever product or service an association chooses to use for new customer acquisition, it makes sense to support it with adequate budgets and push.  Growth comes through focused efforts targeted at a specific market segment. 

2017 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report Invitation


The questionnaire for the 2017 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report is now open and I want to invite you to participate in the research this year.
The annual Benchmarking Report is the association industry’s most comprehensive study on membership marketing and gives you the opportunity compare your organization against almost 1,000 other associations.
If you are a previous participant, please use the personalized link that you received in our email directed to you.  If you have not received an email invitation to participate, you may use this link.
The survey should take less than 20 minutes to complete.
This annual study has provided critical comparative data on how individual, trade, and hybrid membership organizations promote awareness, target and recruit new members, and engage and renew their current members.
To thank you for your participation in this best practices research project, MGI will send you a printed copy of the full 2017 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report.
Your participation is much appreciated. No specific responses will be reported from any individual or association without their written consent.
Please take some time now to participate in the 2017 Membership Marketing Benchmarking research by using this link.

Tips for Forecasting Membership Growth in the New Year


As the New Year gets started, it is a good time to review membership marketing plans and forecast where membership counts are headed.
Here is a method to help make accurate projections on long-term outcomes and run possible growth scenarios.  It is called a Steady State Analysis.  The concept of steady state can be illustrated with a bucket of water.  If there is a steady input of water and a steady outflow, eventually the bucket will come to a balanced level or equilibrium.
To do a Steady State Analysis with membership, you use a simple calculation based on current new member input and the organization’s lapse rate (non-renewal rate). Using these two numbers, the formula calculates the level where your total membership will reach equilibrium or a steady state.
Here’s the formula. Annual New Member Input / Reciprocal of Renewal Rate (or Lapse Rate) Shown as a Decimal = Total Membership Steady State.
For example, with an input of 5,000 New Member over a .25 Lapse Rate, the steady state of membership will be 20,000.
Steady State Analysis is also a useful tool for studying different membership growth options.  Here are three sample scenarios varying the new member input and renewal rate from the example above.
•The first option maintains a 75% renewal and increases the new member input to 7,000 per year and results in a steady state membership of 28,000 members over time.
•The second option increases the renewal rate to 85% and reduces new member input to 2,000 per year and results in a steady state of 13,333 members over time.
•The third option increases the renewal rate to 80% and also increases the new member input to 6,000 per year and results in a steady state of 30,000 members over time.
In order to create the optimal strategy, associations can use a Steady State Analysis to define where the opportunity for growth lies — through enhanced acquisition efforts, renewal efforts, or a combination of both.
When calculating an association’s steady state, the question often arises as to how long it will take to reach the projected membership number.  The timeframe will depend on how close or how far away an organization now is from its equilibrium.  The further away the longer it will take.  However, a simple spreadsheet calculation can be used to establish an accurate time line for reaching equilibrium.
One important message that can come out of a Steady State Analysis is that incremental changes in new member acquisition and renewals can make a big difference over time in membership counts.  Take some time to see where your membership is headed and run some scenarios to see what strategy might be most effective to focus on in 2017 to maximize your organization’s long-term membership growth.

Membership Essentials: Recruitment and Renewal Strategies Webinar


A recording of the live webinar that I presented this month on Membership Recruitment and Renewal Strategies is now available online.  Here is the link (best viewed in Internet Explorer).  The session was adapted from the chapter that I authored for ASAE’s 2016 edition of Membership Essentials: Recruiting, Retention, Roles, Responsibilities, and Resources.
In the area of membership recruitment, the webinar included the following topics:
  • Target Markets – Who you want to reach and determining what are your primary markets and acquiring or building lists of these prospects. 
  • Membership Offers – What a member will receive by identifying special offers you will make in your promotions to attract new members.
  • Promotional Tactics – How a member will be reached by selecting the best marketing channels like personal sales, direct mail, email, telemarketing, etc. and the frequency and timing of promotions.
  • Marketing Messages – Why a member should join by proving your value proposition and presenting solutions and benefits to members that are compelling.
  • Testing and Tracking – Where to take future efforts by trying variations of the four points listed above and recording which lists, offers, messages, and channels produce the best ROI and number of new members.

For membership renewals, the webinar highlighted these topics:
  • New Member Conversion – Where to focus efforts to maximize renewals.  Typically, first-year members are the least likely to renew.  
  • Renewal Frequency, Timing and Channels – When and how often various marketing tools should be applied to maximize renewals. 
  • Budget Considerations and Steady State Membership Counts – Why most organizations under budget on renewal efforts and how adequate spending can make a big difference in total membership counts.
  • Payment Options – How offering automatic credit card or EFT renewal turns renewals from an opt-in decision to an opt-out action.
  • Renewal Notice Personalization – How personalized messages can be added to renewal efforts like, “because of your membership, you saved $50.00 on your product purchases this year.”
Look for details of our next webinar, Membership Marketing: Beyond the Basics, in February. 

Top Association Management Predictions for 2017


For the upcoming year, Aptify just released a report titled, Top Association Management Predictions for 2017.  I was asked to provide my perspective on where membership is headed.   Here are the three predictions that I shared.

  1. Continuing Membership Growth – For the eighth consecutive year, according the 2016 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report, the number of associations reporting an increase in membership counts (49%) has substantially surpassed the number reporting a decline in membership (22%).  In 2017, membership will continue to be the glue that enhances networking, information distribution, and sales for associations. 
  2. Evolving Membership Models – Over the last few years, many associations have re-evaluated and changed their membership model by creating tiered membership structures or hybrid memberships.  In 2017, many associations will evaluate and adjust their membership product to meet the changing needs in the marketplace.
  3. Adding Online Inbound Marketing – Because they have so much content to share and very defined audiences, inbound marketing is an ideal channel for associations.  In 2017, in order to build worldwide awareness and demonstrate relevance, associations will rapidly adopt this channel as part of their existing marketing mix.

The full report is available as a free download with a site registration.  It is a good read. 

Defining and Communicating Value through Emotional Drivers


Have you ever been asked what differentiates your membership from the others that are available? In marketing terms, do you know what is your “unique selling proposition” (UPS)?
This is the type of question I often ask of prospective clients when I meet with them. A lot of times I do not get very compelling or confident answers.
A first step in defining this value is to define the motivations of members and prospective members.  What are their deep seated needs? Here is one way to think about and define these needs.  Way back in 1956 a book written by Victor Schwab, "Mail Order Strategy" (Hoke Communications, 1956). Schwab was a famous copywriter -- an Ad Age person of the Century -- who detailed the 40 key "emotional drivers" that influence people’s actions.
Here are a few of Schwab’s drivers that I think might be particularly relevant for membership marketing.
People want to be:
  • Up to date
  • Recognized authorities
  • Efficient
  • Good parents, bosses, and employers
People want to gain:
  • Time
  • Comfort
  • Praise of others
  • Health
  • Popularity
  • Personal prestige
  • Money
People want to save:
  • Work
  • Discomfort
  • Embarrassment
  • Worry
  • Time
People want to do:

  • Satisfy their curiosity
  • Win others’ affection
  • Improve themselves generally

Understanding the motivations and needs of members and prospects in your marketplace will drive everything from your messaging to your product development.  Take time through brainstorming, research, and testing to build an understanding of these emotional drivers.

 

Three Steps to Engage Volunteers in Membership Marketing

Volunteers can make a significant impact in helping you reach out to others and grow your membership.

In fact, once again word-of-mouth marketing has the top spot as the most effective method of new member recruitment in our 2016 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report.  So getting volunteers' help is not just a good idea, but an essential part of membership development.

Here are three steps to get volunteers plugged in your membership marketing efforts.

1. Motivate them with “why” membership is important.

Someone once said, “Anything in life is too difficult without an adequate answer to the question ‘why’.” To get a volunteer motivated to help in membership we need to help them answer their question, "why?”

I would postulate that there are at least two aspects to answering this question for the volunteer. The first is helping them to understand your organization's story. This is the vision, values, and mission of your organization and how they are changing society, your profession, and your members’ lives. We all want to be a part of making the world a better place.

The second aspect of motivating a volunteer is helping them get in touch with their own story of how membership has influenced their life and success. I can speak from a personal example here. I am a long term member of ASAE. Through my membership, I have had the opportunity to publish over twenty articles in ASAE periodicals, contribute chapters to two ASAE membership books, stay on top of important issues through their social network, and meet hundreds of colleagues who I have learned from with almost every interaction. This past year I have spoken at ASAE sponsored events and completed a term as the chair of the ASAE Membership Section Council. Keeping in touch with my membership story motivates me to share ASAE with others.

2. Tell them “how” they can be involved.

Here is another reason why knowing and using the membership lifecycle can be so important. One size does not fit every volunteer when it comes membership marketing. Some volunteers will be great at cold calling potential members, but calling people you do not know may be outside the comfort zone of others. But when you look at the membership lifecycle -- awareness, recruitment, engagement, renewal, and reinstatement -- many volunteers can find a place that is right for them to be involved in the membership program.

Some members may be more than happy to focus on engagement – helping new members get involved in the association. Other members might be great at following up with their friends and colleagues to get them to renew. Keep in mind that our benchmarking report highlighted that personal contact appears to be a key ingredient for increasing renewals. Associations with renewal rates over 80% are significantly more likely to use peer to peer member contacts to help with renewal efforts.

Volunteers also might be perfect to follow up with lapsed members to gain important insights and understanding of why the member did not continue with the association.

3. Help them establish a plan of “what” to do.

Motivation by the organization’s story and the member’s own story and matching volunteer’s strengths with a specific role or job is a great start. But we all know that the best intentions without clear plans and goals do not work.

So an additional step is working with volunteers to establish a written plan of action and specific goals. In a fully developed volunteer structure, an accountability system with a regular check-in with other volunteers could be put in place. But a simple first step might be having the volunteer write out their membership goals, put them in a self addressed envelope, and having staff mail them to the member a month after setting the plan as a reminder.


For any organization, relationships and referrals are critical.  This may be even more important for membership groups.  Your membership marketing success can be enhanced by engaging your volunteers in this effort.

Just Released: The Association Innovation Benchmarking Report

 
Innovation is one of the keys to maintaining a resilient and growing association. One definition of innovation is, “the act or process of introducing new ideas, devices, or methods.” For associations introducing new products, services, and methods is critical to attract new members and retain current members. 
So if this is so important, what are the characteristics that define innovative associations? 
The Association Innovation Benchmarking Report
That’s the question Marketing General Incorporated (MGI), in conjunction with the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), decided to ask professionals in the association world. 
The research focused on how associations set innovation goals, how they support innovation, what rewards and recognition they offer, and how they set metrics for innovation.  The research resulted in the publication of the Association Innovation Benchmarking Report. 
A total of 344 associations participated in the research, and the findings reveal a wealth of insights on the role of innovation within associations. Here are some of the top findings: 
  • Most associations (73%) began to focus on innovation only within the past five years.
  • Innovation is most often prompted internally by the CEO of the association.
  • Associations most often focus their innovation on websites/social media, conventions/conferences/seminars, and education programs.
  • The majority of respondents (72%) do not have any form of rewards or recognition for innovation at their association.
  • Finding financial resources and fighting the status quo have proved to be the two biggest challenges in becoming an innovative organization. 


The full Association Innovation Benchmarking Report is now available as a download.  Please use this link and scroll down the page to receive a copy of the complete study. 
 

Just Released: The 2016 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report

I am pleased to announce the release of the 2016 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report. It is now available to you as a download.
 
This edition of the report represents the eighth consecutive year that Marketing General Incorporated (MGI) has produced this research which explores the membership marketing initiatives and outcomes of 828 distinct participating associations. The purpose of the study continues to be the development of meaningful benchmarks by which the leadership of associations can evaluate their own membership marketing strategies and see what practices correlate with better membership outcomes.
 
This year’s findings can best be described as “solid membership growth” as opposed to the previous year’s more moderate membership results. Of the participating associations this year, 49% reported membership growth, representing an increase from the 46% who reported growth in 2015. Associations reported a mean renewal rate of 82% with trade associations leading the way with an average renewal rate of 87%.
 
Important topics covered in this edition of the report include:
  • The five year association membership growth trends.
  • The biggest challenges reported in growing membership.
  • The average and median renewal rates for associations.
  • The top reasons for members joining.
  • The top reasons for members not renewing.
  • The communication methods used to engage new members.
  • The most popular social media used by associations.
  • The average number of member email contacts per week and the average open rates.
  • The frequency and amount of dues increases. 
The 2016 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report also includes comments from participants on their successes and challenges in membership marketing. And to provide more specificity, this year’s report segments association responses by the type of association – Individual, Trade, or Combination.

To download a copy, please use this link. I hope that you find it a helpful tool as you manage and grow your organization’s membership.






How to Simplify Your Membership Marketing



Frequently, I have the opportunity to review the membership marketing programs of various associations.
Sometimes, I find that organizations are doing too little to get and keep members.  They need to increase the frequency and reach of their marketing efforts.
However, of late I have observed another problem; overly complex and tradition bound membership marketing plans. Here are some of the issues that I have seen and some fixes to these challenges.
  1. Not Keeping a Focus on ROI: Some organizations continue efforts year in and year out without stepping back to really look at the time, effort, and budget required to deploy an initiative compared to the return it produces.  At some point, almost every promotion needs to be retooled or sunset.  Regularly identify and drop the poor performing promotions and reprogram the budget toward innovative new opportunities.
  2. Over Testing: Any good marketer is in favor of testing.  However, too much of a good thing may not make sense.  It makes sense to test big elements (offers, lists, channels) because the results will normally come back with a statistically valid outcome.  However, testing little elements like a color, a signature, or a font will very likely produce such a minor difference in response that any variance will be statistically insignificant.  Test big items for big wins and save the time and energy on launching inconsequential tests. 
  3. Too Much Segmentation: Every market can be segmented by a host of demographics, behaviors, and list selects.  But at some point providing a unique message and offer to each segment becomes inefficient and ineffective.  More often than not when I have tried to tailor unique “special messages” to each slice of prospective members a generic option has outperformed the highly targeted approach.  Present your most powerful and compelling message to your market instead of diluting it by trying to be all things to all people.
  4. Too Many Steps: How many clicks and how much information is required to join or renew your organization’s membership?  It is great to gather a detailed profile of on member and you want to ensure that he is qualified, but over time your application process may have added requests that cause a member to abandon the transaction because it takes too much time or they do not have the information at hand.  In fact, many organizations report exceptionally high shopping cart abandons during the join process on their websites.  When you are asking a prospect or member to complete a transaction, require the minimum time, clicks, and information possible before the dues payment is received.
  5. Too Much Research: Research is a foundational discipline for effective marketing.  However, research can become like pealing an onion.  There always seems to be another layer of the unknown.  At some point, gaining understanding has to give way to execution. And indeed the best research can simply be whether or not someone will write a check in response to your offer.  Lean toward a “ready, fire, aim” approach in your marketing by gathering real data from actual promotional efforts.
Here is the bottom line.  When you are developing a plan or a marketing campaign ask the hard questions.  Is this promotion really worth the time and effort required for the expected return?  Do we have the quantity necessary to get a legitimate statistical outcome from this test?  Are these demographic differences really significant enough to warrant a different message or is our core value proposition strong enough for each market segment?  Would I really take the time and effort to go through all of the steps needed to make this transaction or is it too much to ask?   And am I willing to take the risk to gain understanding by acting on what I know instead of waiting for more information? 

Delivering Member Value through Association Sponsored Research


Whether you serve members in a trade association or individual membership association, value is something that members want to receive from you.  And sometimes one of the most valuable benefits that can be uniquely supplied by a membership organization is research conducted with or on the behalf of your members.
Here are some examples of association sponsored research that members value either because it provides guidance to them or visibility to their profession. 
·        Member Polling Research – Gathering member perspective on important, newsworthy topics and then sharing it with the media can demonstrate the influence and support that an association is providing to members.  Here are samples of how one association has gained national attention by sharing their findings from member polls on critical healthcare issues.

·        Compensation Research – Because associations serve a defined constituency, they are well positioned to gather and report on employee compensation.  Both employers and employees are served through this information and access to the research report is a powerful incentive for member recruitment and retention efforts each year.   

·        Industry Benchmarking – Good benchmarking helps move planning from using antidotal information to data driven insights.  One trade organization, for example, provides benchmarking reports to help other member companies with data on sales force performance, number and size of orders, and web statistics.  Another association benchmarks critical purchasing data that now influences decision making for the entire economy.    

·        Consumer Opinion Research -- Helping members understand customers’ needs and desires within a defined marketplace can provide invaluable assistance.  Often this type of research is too costly or complex for an individual member company to produce, but done on behalf of many members, it can provide statistically valid and actionable information that easily pays for member’s annual dues. 
To recruit, engage, and retain members creating compelling and useful value has to be a top priority. But ideally that value needs to something more than a discount that is available from any number of organizations.  The value should be something that fits within the mission of the association and that others cannot easily replicate or find in the general market or through a Google search.  Research for members and about members can supply that specialized information that delivers indispensable value.