What Makes a Membership Marketing Campaign Successful? : Associations now

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By Lisa Boylan / Sep 14, 2021
(sergey_b_a / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

Advance planning, membership research and clear goals can make all the difference in an effort to increase membership. An expert from the association offers advice to chart the course for your next campaign to be successful.

So much is out of our control right now, and recent research on association membership does not paint a pretty picture. Forty-seven percent of associations reported a drop in membership and 45% saw their renewal rates drop in 2021, according to the latest report from Marketing General Incorporated. Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report. One way to create order and gain a foothold is through a marketing campaign aimed at tangible goals, such as increasing member recruitment and retention.

But before launching a campaign, it’s a good idea to determine what type of campaign is needed, says Brianna Martin, senior director of marketing and events at Mighty Citizen. Associations often want to focus on a specific campaign, but this is not always what is really needed, which is why they recommend carrying out a needs assessment. “I really think it’s something everyone should be doing,” she said.

Collect member data

Start research with stakeholders to get more information about the industry and how the association fits into it. Then conduct interviews with members to assess their perceptions, what they find valuable and where they think value could be added.

“You can’t just make assumptions about who you think your members are and what’s important to them – what keeps them awake at night,” Martin said.

This process takes time and resources that associations do not always have. But most associations conduct some type of member interview, which is why Martin suggests adding these needs assessment questions to the interviews and surveys you already conduct. The good news is that you can use the information from this research for purposes other than just a campaign strategy.

Use the information from the interviews to create personas that represent the target audience for the campaign. If you don’t have the time or money to create personas, you can always create an audience profile. Next, determine the crux of the campaign by determining goals, strategies, actions, etc. Martin suggests using a model so that everything stays in the marketing campaign.

Risks, strategies and buy-in

Another key element is the consideration of risks and opportunities. If you’re trying to do something you’ve never done before, or anticipate challenges, make sure your stakeholders know ahead of time. Risks could include launching digital advertising for the first time or changing a newsletter, which could lead to higher unsubscribe rates. The benefits might outweigh the risks, but it’s wise to be upfront with stakeholders from the start.

Next, it’s time to strategize on how to achieve the goal, keeping in mind that multiple strategies can be focused on the same goal.

Once you’ve strategized, it’s a good time to stop before going any further, said Martin, to meet with stakeholders and anyone else who needs to endorse the entire campaign. Make sure you have a full buy-in. “You don’t want to start putting everything in place and planning without making sure everyone is on board,” she said.

The last step is to create a calendar. Tools like an Excel spreadsheet, Word document, or project management software can help you create a schedule. “Just make sure you have one,” she said, “and then make sure it’s all in one place.”

So many associations are jostling with a reduced staff, stretched and wearing several different hats. This is why planning is the key. “Success in everything is having a well thought-out plan and strategy,” said Martin. “It keeps you organized and helps you for the future. “

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