Taking a look through Marketing General’s 14th annual Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report, some numbers and findings definitely jump out. (And although this is a survey of associations, the results have merit for business publishers as well.) Phoning people is still quite effective. (Gasp!) More social media plans are getting put in place but still aren’t delivering in a big way. Planning year-round engagement is a must now. And members bring in members.
“After facing several years of unprecedented global events, associations have begun to emerge from the heavy toll of the pandemic,” the report states. “Findings in the report focus on the marketing strategies and tactics that associations have adopted to grow their membership over the past year.”
Here are the takeaways that caught my eye. (You can download the report here.):
How’s your career portal or professional development? More than half of associations report increases in the use of career services (55%, up from 37% in 2021). Results show a positive correlation between associations with growth in membership numbers and those with upticks in many areas of engagement, including career portals. Nearly three-quarters of associations have increased virtual professional development opportunities during the past year (73%).
Calls to action. Telemarketing is employed significantly more by associations reporting increases in their renewals over the past year. Survey results indicate that associations with increases in new member acquisitions, renewal rates at or above 80%, and increases in their five-year membership levels consider phone calls to be significantly more effective in generating membership renewals.
Go after testimonials. Of the marketing channels used for member recruitment, email (48%), events and meetings (30%), and member referrals (28%) are considered the most effective. Organic social media, which is the second-most-used channel, is only considered highly effective by 14% of those who use it, below personal sales calls (19%). And that’s with half of respondents having a strategic organic social media plan in place.
In-person is still desired. By far, the most common reason members join is to network with others in the field (63%, identical to 2021). After that, executives believe members join for the continuing education/professional certification (36%) and to access specialized and/or current information (35%, up from 32% in 2021).
Once they join, continue to reach out. Associations reporting renewal rates at or above 80% more often provide an emailed or mailed welcome kit and/or a welcome phone call to onboard new members. And associations with increases in membership are significantly more likely to begin their renewal process immediately after welcoming members compared to associations with membership declines in the same period.
Say “grace” period. Results show that associations with renewal rates at or above 80% are significantly more likely to offer a two- to three-month grace period. In comparison, a significantly higher percentage of those with renewal rates under 80% do not offer any grace period at all. About half of respondents offer accommodations for hardship when members are renewing. Close to one-third of associations provide automatic annual credit card renewal (37%) and/or installment renewal payments (34%) as options when renewing membership.
Engage year-round. Lack of engagement remains the top reason that executives believe members do not renew their membership (52%, up from 50% in 2021). About one-third of respondents report that members do not renew because they either forgot (34%), they believe the membership lacks value (34%) or members have left the field. More than half of those surveyed have developed new products and services (62%), re-evaluated and streamlined internal processes (59%), and expanded their marketing efforts (54%). Other causes for non-renewals include a lack of brand awareness, company mergers and industry shrinkage.
Keep innovating. Innovation seems to drive membership success, as executives reporting increases in one-year and five-year membership levels and increases in new member acquisitions and member renewals are significantly more likely to consider their association to be extremely or very innovative. About one-quarter of respondents currently have a framework in place for innovation and new ideas (26%, up from 20% in 2021) and one-third are working on developing a process to support and grow innovation and new ideas (32%, up from 27% in 2021).
Again, you can download the report here.