Marketing General Inc.'s 2017 Membership Marketing Benchmark Report may be geared to associations, but there are membership/subscription lessons to be learned for everyone. Asked for their biggest weakness, one respondent said, "Lack of creativity/innovation – [we] utilize the same tactics and largely the same messages that have been deployed for quite some time."
Here are 9 takeaways from the report, which can be downloaded here.
Emphasize networking in your marketing. Networking is by far the number one reason that associations believe people join for. (Continuing education was second and access to specialized and/or current information third.) Remember that networking can come in a variety of ways—in-person, of course, but also listserves, virtual committee meetings and even certain courses. Also be sure to build in that networking time to your events.
Focus on cross-selling. Word-of-mouth recommendations and email continue to be the two biggest recruitment methods for new members. But climbing to third for the first time is cross-selling to non-members who buy products or attend your conferences. That would support the argument for some portion of your content to be available to non-subscribers or non-members. "Every touch point, every encounter, every transaction matters," said Robyn Duda of Robyn Duda Creative and formely UBM.
Highlight people. People like people stuff. Wrote one respondent: "We have generated a large volume of social media engagement when we highlight individuals from our members. The likes, retweets, etc. are huge." Member news always does well for SIPA, and last week a post about Brief Media's new chief revenue officer, Paul Mattioli, did extremely well. Qualifier: he was holding a very cute dog. (Much of Brief Media's audience is in the veterinary field.)
Don't give up on social, especially Twitter. Social media sites are the most effective digital marketing tool for getting new members. While LinkedIn and Facebook have been the leaders, Twitter and Instagram are surging forward of late. A year ago Facebook sent almost 5 visitors to publishers per post for every one visitor Twitter sent, according to data from SocialFlow. Last month, Facebook sent just 2.5 visitors to publisher sites per post for every one sent by Twitter. That's a huge gain. Instagram remains the leading platform for posting pictures (88%).
Try occasional discounts. Respondents were asked what strategy has been especially successful for them. One said, "Our best performing acquisition has been offering an extra 3 months for the price of 12. We offer it via an emailed campaign as well as a 'looka-like' campaign on Facebook.'" I can vouch for this. I've had two arts organizations do this for me when they fell short on something that I deemed important. I was pleased by the offer.
Ask members/subscribers to bring a friend. Wrote one respondent: "We invite our members to bring guests to our Member Mixers, and we then invite those guests to attend one of the events in our monthly series as our guest. This allows people to become familiar with our organization and the work we do. We also add them to our email invites/newsletters/alerts (with their permission) to increase our contact with them." Reminds me of those singles events where everyone has to bring a friend.
If it's possible in your niche, look into offering certifications. I wrote last month that publishers have had success making responding to a survey a mandatory task for receiving certification. A majority of the organizations that offer certifications saw a renewal increase.
Pick up the phone. Calls from staff are a huge driver for renewals for many associations. Also, telemarketing still can drive subscriptions/memberships. Wrote one respondent: "We have a ready database of potential members, available every month, and have refined and streamlined our contact with them... Our conversion rates for [telemarketing] are around 15%." Another respondent said that "lapsed member telemarketing generates at least 5% of our renewals."
Keep some type of engagement scorecard. Lack of engagement remains the number one reason companies don't renew, with the number even going up from 33% in 2016 to 37% in 2017. One successful strategy involved creating a Facebook Custom Audience of members who lapsed in the last 12 months and presenting Facebook ads reminding them to reinstate their membership.