Your Guide to Building a Membership Marketing Strategy: Tips for 2022 and Beyond

Person with papers, iPhone, pens, highlighters, and computer planning membership marketing strategy

One of the most effective ways to recruit new members is to let them know about your benefits. That means clearly communicating your organization’s value proposition. 

Based on a recent Marketing General report, associations that saw spikes in new membership or member renewal rates 80% or higher in the last five years said their value proposition was compelling or very compelling.

To articulate your value proposition to current and prospective members, you need to build a membership marketing strategy to spread the word. Targeted marketing for your association can help you reach and connect with new members, as well as better engage your current ones.

But creating a membership marketing strategy from scratch can be a daunting task. That’s why we’ve put together this guide to walk you through the benefits, the tools you’ll need, and ways to engage prospects.

In this guide, you’ll learn:

  • The Benefits of a Strong Membership Marketing Plan
  • 5 Association Marketing Software Tools You’ll Need
  • 7 Steps to Reach New Members with Your Marketing Strategy
  • 5 Steps to Engage Current Members with Your Marketing Approach
  • 4 Best Practices to Make Your Membership Marketing Successful

The Benefits of a Strong Membership Marketing Plan

According to a recent membership growth survey, the biggest difficulty associations and member organizations face is reaching potential members. But that’s where a marketing plan can help. A strong strategy can help you find and connect to potential members, and then nurture them down your conversion funnel. 

As mentioned, a solid membership marketing strategy boasts a variety of advantages—even beyond just finding leads. 

Some of the top benefits include:

  • Growing your membership base. This is a primary focus for many membership marketing plans. A marketing plan can help organizations reach out to and connect with new prospective members.
  • Better engagement with your current members. Membership marketing plans don’t have to concentrate entirely on bringing in new members. Your plan can also include strategies to encourage current members to get more involved. It can also remind them of the value of their membership. Plus, when your members are more engaged, they’re more likely to renew their commitment to your organization and refer their friends.
  • Boosting your organization’s reputation. A well-planned marketing strategy can go a long way toward increasing your organization’s visibility with both prospective members and your community or industry. When other industry pros and organizations are well-versed on your value proposition, this can enhance your reputation.

5 Association Marketing Software Tools You’ll Need

Now that you understand the advantages of creating a membership marketing plan, let’s examine some of the critical software you’ll need to build your strategy and execute on it. 

1. Social media scheduling platform

There are almost 4 billion people on social media, so it only makes sense to distribute information about your membership benefits on social. Use a social media schedule platform to build your following, connect with prospective new members, and promote events and webinars.

Use a scheduling tool like Buffer or Hootsuite to prepare your social posts ahead of time.

2. Email marketing platform

According to recent reports, email marketing is one of the top three tactics for driving membership generally, and 76% of surveyed associations said email is effective when re-engaging lapsed members. So, email marketing should be one pillar of your membership marketing plan.

The right email marketing software should make it simple to create slick emails for your members and prospective members. Email marketing is also a powerful tool to promote your membership benefits, events, and more—all with customized targeting and messaging for specific members (or soon-to-be members).

Highly-rated email marketing platforms include MailchimpCampaign Monitor, and Hubspot.

3. Direct mail marketing platform

Direct mail is an underrated form of communication that can make an impact. More than three-fourths (76%) of younger members said that direct mail they’d received from their organization was somewhat or very effective

In a time when most means of communication are digital and our mailboxes are mostly bills, direct mail can actually help you cut through the noise. So, consider creating tailored flyers, postcards, or one-page mailers to send to prospective new members on your list. 

Some highly-rated direct mail marketing tools include Anchor Address QualityPostal.io, and Banjo.

4. Graphic design platform

You may not have an in-house graphic designer to help you create beautiful graphics for your social posts or design those direct mailers. To help fill the creative gap, you can lean on a graphic design platform to easily create flyers, direct mail, social posts, slide decks, and more.

Look for a simple drag-and-drop tool, like Canva or Venngage, that’s intuitive to use, even for those without a formal design background.

5. Association management software

Save time and additional hassle by using an association management tool that easily integrates with the marketing software listed above. When these tools work together, this cuts down on human error and streamlines processes for setting up marketing campaigns.

membership management platform like MemberClicks can also make your marketing simple. It can compile and segment member lists for you to deploy marketing campaigns to current members or prospects already in your system. We’ll also cover this in more detail below.

7 Steps to Reach New Members with Your Marketing Strategy

Increasing your numbers for new members is far easier said than done. One study said 68% of organizations face challenges when trying to boost their membership numbers. 

Although registering new members can come with obstacles, a few key marketing strategies can help you optimize your acquisition efforts.

1. Determine your target audience

When establishing your plan to appeal to prospective members, you’ll need to know exactly who you’re talking to. This will allow you to tailor your campaigns to engage with them more effectively. 

That’s where member profiles come in. Create member personas to encompass the people you want to target. Include details like demographics, education level, industry, and professional roles. Then, tailor your marketing approach to resonate with that audience.

2. Craft your pitch

How does your organization help your members? And how would your prospective members answer this question? When your members understand your value proposition, it can boast much higher membership renewal rates than when they don’t. 

Understanding (and being able to articulate) the value you provide to potential new members is critical. That’s why it’s important to craft your pitch. Refine your value proposition and focus on the benefits for new members. Then, make sure you include these benefits in all your communications and marketing materials.

3. Choose your marketing channels and strategies

Trying to connect with prospective new members through only email marketing or social media isn’t enough—spread your message far and wide. Leading organizations use 16% more tactics than peers, so choose multiple mediums for your outreach.

As part of profiling your ideal member personas, research where your prospects hang out. What channels do they use most? Once you collect that valuable info, leverage it to meet these potential new members where they are.

Some of the most common channels you may lean on include:

  • Social media
  • Email 
  • SEO
  • Direct mail
  • Word-of-mouth referrals
  • Local media outlets (newspapers, radio stations, or local blogs)

4. Optimize your website

Your website is a cornerstone when recruiting new members. Our recent research found websites and email were the top two channels to boost your membership. So, it’s crucial to make sure your website makes it as easy as possible for prospective members to find everything they need.

Your organization’s site should be easy to navigate. It should feature your mission, your membership benefits and tiers, any upcoming events, and your blog.

Make sure your membership application is easy to find. And if you can, place the application right on your homepage. Try to keep the application form as simple as possible—don’t request information that isn’t necessary.

5. Promote your registration incentives

Sometimes, offering prospective members a little extra incentive for becoming a member can convert those who have been on the fence. So, when you’re targeting new members in your marketing campaigns, be sure to let them know about any promotions or incentives for registering. 

For example, everyone loves a little free swag like branded gifts (pens, T-shirts, stationary, water bottles, etc., with your logo). You can also sell these items on your website and at events. 

A few other perks you could offer include: 

  • A discount on dues (like a “new member promo” of 10% off annual dues)
  • Free tickets to a conference in your industry
  • Entry into a giveaway for all new members 
  • Gift certificates to local businesses, cafes, restaurants, etc.

6. Create a marketing timeline

Many organizations will have multiple campaigns they launch throughout the calendar year. And keeping up with all the details for each one can be dizzying. But planning ahead can make these campaigns easier to track. Sit down and write out the high-level details of your campaigns and put all their timelines on your calendar for the year so you can be prepared.

Include kickoff dates for each campaign, a list of materials you’ll need to create for each major campaign, and launch dates for each initiative.

7. Track outreach to assess progress

Measuring your marketing on a regular basis is a great way to understand your successes and areas of improvement. By tracking key performance indicators, you’ll be able to get a sense of how your campaigns are doing. It’ll be clear whether your campaigns are reaching your target audience, the messaging resonates, and how many prospects are registering as new members.

It’s a good idea to monitor the successes of your latest new member marketing campaign as well as keep track of member base growth each quarter. Other important marketing metrics to track include:

  • Engagement metrics on social posts (and social following)
  • Open rates and click-through rates in email marketing 
  • Conversion rates for all marketing channels
  • Response rates for direct mail
  • SEO rankings for targeted keywords
  • Analytics for your organization website like average sessions, time spent on page, bounce rates, and conversions (i.e., registrations or submitting a contact form)

5 Steps to Engage Current Members with Your Marketing Approach

Retaining members is one of the most important pieces of your marketing plan. Keeping established members around provides your organization with a steady revenue stream. It also creates a more diverse member base. There’s also the added benefit that seasoned veterans act as a great source of wisdom and institutional knowledge for new members.

So, how do you build current member engagement into your membership marketing strategy? 

Here are 5 steps for keeping current members front and center in your plan:

1. Involve members in your decision-making process by requesting their feedback

When it comes to crafting your marketing approach, you have a valuable source to consult for input: your current members. Who better to ask about how you can engage other members?

Ask your members for honest feedback via a member needs assessment. What are the best benefits of belonging to your association, and are there any gaps you can address? Then take those notes and incorporate them into your offerings and messaging. Listening and acting on feedback from your members can help your membership be even more appealing to prospects.

2. Create a referral program

Research shows that one of the most efficient ways to boost your membership is through referrals. As a result, it only makes sense to get your members involved in spreading the word via a referral program

To encourage your current loyal members to participate, offer an incentive for those who send you successful new recruits. Providing a reward—a discount on dues, a gift card and handwritten note, a gift card for a fancy dinner. It’s a great way to show your appreciation for current members.

3. Launch member appreciation initiatives

Let your current members know how important they are to your association as part of your marketing strategy. To do this, make sure member appreciation efforts are top-notch. Communicate regularly how much your members are the lifeblood of your organization.

Send handwritten thank-you notes, host a Member Appreciation Week each year, or highlight an individual member each month on your blog or social channels.

4. Plan exciting and valuable events

Entice current members with the chance to network with industry influencers. One way to do this is to host a lunch event with a prestigious speaker from your industry.

Put together a free lunch, networking event, or speaker series that allows members to gain insights from an industry leader. Not only does this establish you as an authority in the space, but this type of exciting event is a reminder of the benefits your organization offers. 

Events also offer members the chance to rub elbows with other professionals from their industry and encourages them to get more involved in your organization.

5. Adapt to members’ changing needs and preferences

Not all members’ needs are the same, nor do they stay the same over time. That’s why it’s important to regularly check in with members, gauge their needs, and adjust your member marketing plan accordingly. 

Deploy regular comprehensive member needs assessments to assess whether your membership benefits continue to meet your members’ changing needs. And after a major marketing initiative or event, send out brief feedback surveys to get a sense of what resonated and what could be improved upon in the future.

4 Best Practices to Make Your Membership Marketing Successful

You’re almost ready to sit down and start laying out your marketing plan. But before you do, here are a few best practices to help you create a successful marketing strategy for your organization.

1. Use membership management tools to stay organized

Membership management software can help you organize all your membership activities in one platform. This kind of software can centralize and even automate some of the tasks that come with marketing your membership.

Features we recommend looking for in a membership management tool to help you get (and stay) organized are:

  • A robust membership database to compile all your association members and their contact details. It should also be easy to create and segment lists for targeted marketing campaigns
  • Event management tools to register attendees and promote conferences, networking events, and more
  • Simple communication management like email marketing tools and an online community just for your members
  • A content management system (CMS) that simplifies the process of building and maintaining a website, and make updates to correspond with your marketing plan
  • Reporting and analytics tools to help you dive deep into your member data and glean important insights to drive better decision-making. After all, if you can’t measure the success of your marketing campaigns, you’ll never know if you’re getting a return on your efforts

2. Take a multichannel marketing approach

According to a recent Wild Apricot report, more than two-thirds (68%) of organizations had issues increasing their membership. But the same survey showed that using a multichannel marketing approach can be much more effective when organizations want to boost their numbers.

It’s not enough to lean on a single channel to market your organization—be it email, social media, or direct mail. So, when creating your membership marketing plan, focus on the channels your members and prospects use on a regular basis. 

Different segments of your target audience may prefer different communication mediums. For example, maybe most of your current members respond well to email newsletters, but prospective members seem to use social media more.

3. Keep members at the forefront of your marketing outreach

Members are key to your organization, so it’s crucial to keep them central to your marketing plan. According to a 2019 report, less than half (40%) of younger members felt the experience they received was actually worth the price they paid for membership.

Make sure all your marketing initiatives are centered on how your organization helps current or prospective members. For example, use your marketing materials to address common pain points and answer potential objections to membership. Highlight high-achieving members who you’ve helped take their skills or business to the next level.

4. Stay flexible

While it’s crucial to create a plan to guide your marketing efforts, be aware that not everything will always go according to plan. At some point when executing on your marketing strategy, you’ll likely have to make adjustments on the fly. That may mean changing up the communication medium, changing your target audience, or tweaking the messaging.

Regardless of the scenario, you can’t always plan for unexpected circumstances. Stay agile and flexible so that unplanned issues won’t completely throw you off your game.

Moving Forward With Your Own Membership Marketing Strategy

With the right tools and tactics, like the ones outlined above, you can work with your team to create a high-impact membership marketing plan to shout your mission from the rooftops. Use this new knowhow to communicate the benefits of belonging to your organization and to enhance the member experience.

Need some additional help with building your plan to grow your membership? Check out our resource with 10 new member recruitment ideas.

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