I’ve been getting a daily morning digest lately called Associations Now from the American Society of Association Executives. They do a good job highlighting success stories from associations. And since the membership model is becoming more popular for publishers, it’s worthwhile to describe 3 recent stories.
1. Profiting from LinkedIn. A membership study last year by the International Coach Federation found that 97% of their members were on LinkedIn. So they targeted 30 groups on LinkedIn with “above-the-fold” display ads, sponsored InMail messages, and sponsored updates in LinkedIn’s news feed. They then created a custom landing page and Google sales funnel to track new members. Links were offered to this type of content: “Are you guilty of these branding blunders that coaches often make?”
LinkedIn sends weekly progress reports along with recommendations. For example, ICF’s 300×250 ad size was performing better than the 160×600, so they reallocated funds accordingly. The InMail had an average open rate of 33%. Their button on the display ad said, “I’m interested,” rather than, “I want to join.” The outcome: For a $25,000 investment, ICF enrolled 1,899 new members at $245 each for revenue of $465,255.
The next test will come at renewal time. One good sign: A group of new members on LinkedIn have asked ICF if they can start an “ICF Millennials” group there.
The takeaway: Find out where your potential members/subscribers are hanging out “socially” and pursue with what’s natural in that platform.
2. Connect with your past. For an association he was consulting with, Kevin Whorton, president of Whorton Marketing & Research, found that 40% of their members over the last 15 years were “one and dones.” He says that “most associations don’t realize their pool of past members is likely larger than their number of current members” and that the pool falls into 3 categories: 10% he calls “hell no” former members—forget them; 30% may be receptive to rejoining; while 60% may prefer a simple customer relationship.
“There’s a politeness to staying in touch and encouraging them to come back, but there’s also a great risk in terms of just working the heck out of that file and wearing out your welcome with those people,” Whorton says. “So, usually, their response to your promotion should tell you what bucket they fall into in the future.”
Use the knowledge you have of them to tailor the messages you send, he says. It will show that you recognize your previous relationship. “Response rates to a marketing campaign for former members, when it’s done right, can be four to five times that of a campaign reaching out to new prospects.” Even if they have been lapsed for some time, Whorton still wants you to acknowledge the past. “…it still matters in the mindset of the person. I will probably never forget that I belonged to an organization that I paid dues to 12 years ago. When they write me, I’ll be reminded of it.”
The takeaway: Past members/subscribers who are open to your continued contact should be approached as previous supporters.
3. Connect to your future. Harvey Mudd College decided several years ago that they needed to get more women interested in computer programming. After looking at the history of the problem, the college knew it had to give women access to the computer programming profession as soon as they arrived on campus. So they offered to pay for all female first-year students to attend the world’s largest conference of women technologists—the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. Faculty also tailored the introductory class to be more inviting for women.
It worked: The percentage of women graduates of the school’s computer science program jumped from 10% in 2005 to about 40% in 2011.
The takeaway: Changes—especially in the makeup of your members/subscribers—don’t happen magically. A targeted effort must be made and can be successful.
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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering diversity, Newspaper in Education, marketing and leadership before joining SIPA in 2009 , and then SIIA in 2013.