Five Trends that will Impact Membership Marketing in 2020

Based on my client interactions this past year and our ongoing benchmarking research with a thousand associations here are the trends that I think will impact membership marketing in the year ahead.
1.     Digital Marketing – The use of online paid digital marketing (including Facebook, Google, and LinkedIn) will continue to grow in 2020.  This past year our benchmarking research highlighted that 20 percent of individual membership associations reported digital marketing was one of the channels that helped them obtain the most new members.  Of those using this channel, 32 percent had increased their spending from the previous year. Some client associations are now producing thousands of new members with digital ads each year.  2.     Tracking and Analysis – Associations will continue to see improvements in their ability to use and benefit from marketing data.  For the first time in years, associations reported in 2019 that in almost every category their marketing data challenges have decreased.  Difficulty with results tracking and analysis declined from 51 percent to 39 percent.  And not having access to skilled data professionals declined from 39 percent to 30 percent.  Associations increasingly understand that data-driven marketing is essential for better serving and growing membership. 3.     Video Content – Society is rapidly moving to a preference for more visual communications.  With digital marketing, our results with clients have clearly shown a higher level of engagement with video-based ads. Video lends itself to powerful testimonials.  And videos are even more effective when they are presented live on Facebook Live and Instagram Live. 4.     Texting (SMS) Communications – The use of texting as a marketing channel will emerge in 2020 as a way to communicate instantly with members.  Many for-profit organizations from stores to banks now use texting to communicate with customers.  However, with only 2 percent of associations using texting for renewal communications, this has been an underutilized channel that is due to expand. Texting offers associations a much higher open rate than email, a cost-effective channel, and a mobile-friendly connection.  Engaged members will increasingly expect to interact with an association with SMS.  5.     Economic Disruption – Over the last decade, our benchmarking research has consistently shown that membership counts have continued to increase for nearly half of associations.  Only a quarter of associations typically report a decline in membership.  The one outlier to this trend was the Great Recession of 2008.  In recently completed research, 56 percent of association professionals said that they expect a recession in the next 12 months.  However, only 39 percent have a recession contingency plan in place.   Associations will suffer if they are not prepared by having their benefits and messages ready to highlight how the association is one of the best investments a professional or company can make for networking, skills development, and career guidance to weather the impact of a challenging economy.

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