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The Best Membership Marketing Strategies for Any Organization in 2020

Tatiana Morand  03 March 2020  0 comments
 

membership marketing

 

You’ve found the perfect niche for your membership site. 

 

You’ve started running events, whether virtual or in-person, and have gotten good feedback from your initial base. 

 

And now you’re just waiting for the members to roll in… but it’s not happening just yet. 

 

Membership programs are a great way to build community, serve your audience, and ensure consistent revenue for your organization.

 

However, growing and maintaining a robust membership base takes time and effort, and requires at least a little bit of self-promotion (or membership marketing) on your end.

 

But let’s start at the beginning… why do you need to market your membership at all?

Why Membership Marketing is Important

 

Have you ever heard the phrase, “if you build it, they will come?”

 

Unfortunately, that’s usually pretty far from the truth. You could have the most incredible, value-packed membership in the world, but if people don’t know about it, they’re never going to sign up.

 

But your membership marketing doesn’t have to be a constant sales pitch. Instead, it should be a way for you to share your tools, resources, and services with those who want it the most: your ideal member personas.

 

Essentially, membership marketing allows you to get your message out to the masses while remaining laser-focused on those who are the right fit for your organization.

 

Luckily, with the following suggestions, you’ll be able to put together a solid, easy-to-implement membership marketing strategy for your own organization.

What You Need to Do First

Before you even get started with membership marketing, you need to make sure that you have a clearly defined membership offering or package. This means that you understand who your ideal member is, what their needs are, and how you can best support them.

 

You also need to make sure you have the right systems and processes in place in order to set up your membership. This could be everything from physical equipment or space rental to your website and payment processor.

 

(Hint: for help setting up a membership website, check out our review of the top 10 membership website builders.)

 

Finally, you need to ensure that everyone on your team has the same goal in mind, and that you’re all on the same page about the best way to achieve it. Your goal should be SMART in nature, and could be something like: “We want to grow our membership by 100 members by this time next year.”

 

Once you have these basics in place, you’re ready to start promoting your membership! Below are some of the top ways you can start using membership marketing in your own organization today. 

Marketing to New Members 

No matter how amazing your offer or how high your member retention rate, you’re going to eventually lose some of your members over time. That’s normal, and happens to every organization.

 

Still, because of the tendency to lose old members, an important part of your membership marketing strategy should always be outreach to attract new members and continue to grow your audience. 

Tactics to reach out to a new audience:

 

1. Show up where they show up.

 

Is your ideal member a 21-year-old girl hanging out on Instagram, or a 75-year-old pensioner who loves getting handwritten snail mail? 

 

Whoever you’re trying to reach, you should be showing up at the same places they are, whether that’s through building an active social media presence online or reaching out through a personalized direct mail campaign.

 

2. Partner with complementary organizations or brands.

 

Another way to reach new people is to collaborate with other organizations who have a similar target market to you. 

 

For example, if your organization is a sailing and recreation club, you might opt to sponsor a local coastal cleanup, because many of the people who care about having a clean marine environment might also be interested in sailing and other aquatic sports.

 

3. Have an enticing sign-up bonus.

 

By offering and promoting an exciting sign-up bonus (especially if it’s only available for a limited time), your organization becomes even more desirable to potential members. Your bonus could include a wide variety of things, from merchandise and gifts to free months of membership and premium services.

 

4. Create a website for your members. 

 

A huge part of building relationships with new members is building trust, and having your own membership site is an easy way to instantly add credibility to your organization. 

 

More than that though, websites can answer questions, deliver content, provide resources, and host your community. And building a website doesn’t have to cost a fortune — with powerful, all-in-one membership software like Wild Apricot, you can have a website up and running and part of your membership marketing strategy in no time at all. If that interests you, you can start a free trial today. 

 

Although these tactics are a great starting point, they’re just a couple of the ways you might attract new members to sign up for your membership. For more ideas, check out 101 Ways to Get New Members for Your Organization

Marketing to Existing Members

 

Memberships are ongoing relationships between you, as the organization, and your members. It’s not a one-off product purchase where you never engage with them again — it’s a choice that people are making month after month or year after year to continue renewing their commitment to you.

 

But you can make that choice a whole lot easier for them with a few simple techniques to increase your membership retention, like conducting exit interviews or creating specialized education and resources just for members.

 

More than just retaining your current members, though, you should be trying to involve them in the membership marketing process. 

Tactics to engage your current audience (and get them to do some of the marketing for you):

 

1. Start a referral program.

 

Referral programs can be an incredibly successful way to grow your membership, because referrers are incentivized to get new members through the door. Referral programs help track the source of new memberships and reward those who brought them into your organization.

 

Different referral incentives you could offer include gifts, discounts, or even cash. For example, the YMCA of Metro Chicago offers 20% off monthly membership fees for both the referrer and the referee.

 

2. Run a contest or promotion.

 

People love winning prizes, and running a contest or promotion is a fun, engaging way to get your audience to help you promote your membership. 

 

With this strategy, you could do anything from asking people to share a photo with a specific hashtag and tagging your organization on social media, to seeing which member can bring the most non-members to a meeting or event. 

 

One example comes from the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. They run a weekly social media contest asking their  members to share photos at the museum with the hashtag #mfaboston. The winning post then gets reshared on their official Instagram account as that week’s fan favourite. There are so many different things you could do with your audience here, so get creative with it!


mfaboston

3. Always meet (and exceed) expectations.

 

This should go without saying, but if you want your existing members to help you reach and attract new members, you need to make sure you’re consistently delivering everything you promised as a part of your membership, and going above-and-beyond wherever possible. 

 

One way to do this is to listen more deeply to what members are telling you and determine their real desires. 


“For example, members may tell you that they want to connect with others in the industry, but what they really want are sales opportunities or referral partners,” said Joy Duling, membership expert at The Joy of Membership


“If you recognize this as the “real” desire underneath what they say, you can intentionally set up your networking opportunities in a way that encourages creation of joint ventures and referrals. You can also highlight such connections when they happen, to provide models for what can happen.” 

 

Read More: Why Marketing Doesn’t Grow Communities (And Three Things You Can Do Instead)


When people are happy, they naturally share about their experiences with their friends and family — otherwise known as word-of-mouth marketing. 


Word-of-mouth marketing can be hard to track. One way to do so is by asking new members how they first heard about you. If it was through someone who’s already a member, you know you’re doing it right! 


Now that you’ve learned some of the best strategies to market your membership, let’s talk about how it can fit in with your general marketing strategy.

How to Integrate Membership Marketing into Your Overall Marketing Plan

 

While you can always run a membership drive as a standalone campaign, (for more tips on setting a goal, budget, and strategy for your membership drive, read The Complete Guide to a Successful Membership Drive), sometimes it can be helpful to look at your membership marketing in the context of your organization’s overarching marketing plan. 


“Always having a plan in place so you know where you want to go and how you're going to get there is key. Don't just go after ideas that have absolutely nothing to do with your goals and objectives,” said Claire Kerr Zlobin, Founder and Executive Director of Life With a Baby, a peer support system which is a project of the nonprofit Healthy Start, Healthy Future.


No matter which marketing tactics you choose, having a plan in place is key so that you know you won’t be stretched too thin. 


“I’ve seen that before, where an organization will follow an idea that might seem cool or fun at the time and then use a lot of resources on something that doesn’t actually further the goals and objectives of the organization,” she continued. 


Plus, if you can add membership marketing into channels you’re already using, it won’t feel like such a big time commitment. 

 

Here are some of the most common ways you might be marketing your organization already, and how you can seamlessly integrate membership marketing into these channels: 


Social media

 

Social media is often the first place people go to research an organization that they’re not familiar with, so having a strong, on-brand social media presence is imperative to attracting new members. The American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) does this by using branded imagery and educational content, such as sharing a Forbes article on interior design ideas for kitchen renovations that quoted one of their members. Remember though, show up where your target audience is: if they’re not on Twitter, you don’t have to be either!


ASID 

 

Email

 

Email marketing is one of the most powerful ways to move a potential member further along the membership funnel, because if they’ve signed up for your email list, you already know they’re interested in what you have to say. With a carefully crafted nurture sequence that tells them more about membership, you’ll be able to move people from email subscriber to full-blown member in no time. 


Learn More: The 3 Keys to Growing Your Organization with Content

 

Content

 

You can provide education and resources for your audience through written content like blog posts, articles, and newsletters, or audiovisual content like podcasts and videos. For example, the Rhode Island Academy of Physician Assistants only sends out their newsletter to members — so if a potential member is looking at their website and wants to learn more, they need to sign up. 


Of course, this only works if you’re creating content that’s worth signing up for. The more value there is in your free content, the more a potential member is going to start viewing you as an industry leader, and the more likely they might be to join your membership.

 

Paid ads

 

Sometimes people need an extra push before they’re ready to make the leap. Retargeting users who are already interested and engaging with your organization through paid advertising can be a very effective approach to converting followers into members. 

 

The key is to reach the right people at the right time so that they’re poised and ready to become members. For example, retargeting someone on Facebook if they had recently visited your “Member Benefits” page can bring your organization top of mind at a moment they wouldn’t otherwise have considered you. 

 

Events

 

In-person events allow you to make connections and build relationships on a much more personal level. For many people, having a personal connection to an organization makes them much more willing to sign up as a member, so events are perfect for growing your membership base on the spot.

 

If your events are already popular with the general public, you can also frame a discounted ticket as a member benefit. For example, Laura Stotland from the Los Angeles based Alliance for Women in Media, Southern California Affiliate offers special membership discounts on event tickets — and it’s one of her organization’s biggest benefits. 


They usually offer a $10 to $20 discount to members on each event ticket. Since their annual membership fee is currently $125, it doesn't take long for the event ticket savings to offset the annual membership fee — and get more people interested in their membership. 

 

When done properly, membership marketing is one of the best ways to grow and maintain your organization’s membership program. So go ahead and get started with some of these strategies, then let us know how they worked for you!

Tatiana Morand

Posted by Tatiana Morand

Published Tuesday, 03 March 2020 at 9:48 AM
Sorry, this blog post is closed for further comments.

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