Marketing General’s 2021 Benchmarking Report indicates that the top reason leaders think people join/subscribe is to network (63%), followed by continuing education (46%), accessing specialized information (32%) and learning best practices (30%). In its email report, Litmus adds one more: world awareness. “Empathy is more important than ever,” they write.
What’s your value proposition look like? Only 52% of organizations surveyed by Marketing General this year believe their value proposition to be compelling or very compelling (up from 48% in 2020 and 49% in 2019). Another 40% consider their value proposition to be somewhat compelling.
The connection to revenue is clear. For those organizations that saw an increase in new members over the last couple years—which is just 29%—they reported that providing a compelling value proposition was critical to their success.
According to Litmus’ recent 2021 State of Email Report, organizations must also embrace the state of the world—brand purpose matters. As we struggle to attract and/or maintain younger members (24% loss, up from 17% in 2020), 62% of marketers “at least sometimes change the tone of an email in reaction to what’s happening around the world.”
Sustainability, DEI and climate change are all huge issues today, particularly for young people—83% of millennials say it’s important that companies they buy from also align with their values, and 73% of 35-54 year olds and 60% of 55+ year olds agree.
Word of mouth is still a huge driver. When it comes to which recruitment marketing channels get your organization the most new members, word of mouth was number one at 57%. Email placed next at 50% followed by organization-sponsored events/meetings at 40%. There’s a big drop after that before you get to personal sales calls (19%), member get a member (18%) and organic social media (17%). Chapter engagement can also be a big driver—perhaps volunteer committees could be the B2B media company equivalent to that.
Personalize the experience. According to Litmus, 80% of customers are more likely to make a purchase from a brand that provides personalized experiences, and 83% of customers are willing to share their data to create a more personalized experience. That also means more segmentation. More than 65% of marketers are creating at least two versions of an email on average. Nearly 16% are creating four or more. “Run an A/B test with your subscribers, with and without personalization, then look at your analytics to see how subscribers engage with both emails,” they advise.
Hone your welcome letter. Welcome letters are the second-most popular emails that marketers send at 79%, just behind newsletters at 81%. Numbers show that getting new members/subscribers engaged from the outset proves enormously important when renewals come up. Litmus advises these tips: Present one clear CTA—what’s the next best step for your new subscribers? Send out your welcome email quickly. Use your welcome email or series to ask questions of your subscribers. Reference your call-to-action in the subject line with something like “Let’s get going!”
Consider a first-year dues discount. This was the number two most effective offer for recruiting new members for organizations. Also high up were giving additional months free, multiple year discounts and free trials—which is the only initiative gaining traction. I just received an email concerning my year-old New York Times digital subscription, saying that my introductory rate is going up to support their “journalists as they seek the truth and help people understand the world.” I stayed with it at the slightly higher rate.
Use a mix of channels to reach your audience. Said one association leader: “Multi-channel, surround-sound offers (direct mail, email, paid ads)…they work together to increase overall response rate.” Another leader advised, “Use a multitude of channels. There are no silver bullet ‘one channel’ strategies for membership.”
Ask and you may receive. Speaking of renewals, 39% start the process 3 months prior to expiration, 18% start 2 months prior and 22% report they do not stop contacting lapsed members. “With hope on the horizon for a better year ahead, lapsed members may now be in a better position to reinstate their membership, but will not do so unless asked.” Don’t assume people have read all your renewal emails. (Phone contacting went from 37% to 50% last year.) Organizations reporting renewals of 80% or higher are significantly more likely to consider staff phone calls an effective tool for reinstating lapsed members.
Build better dashboards. The top data challenges for membership growth include a lack of marketing results to track and analyze reporting (37%, down from 39% in 2020), inadequate membership dashboards and reporting tools (34%, same as in 2020), and a lack of skilled data professionals to manage and work with the association’s data (33%, down from 34% in 2020). Finding data analysts has become a big challenge for media companies.
Become more innovative. Associations report that they have focused more on innovation, which could lead to a stronger value proposition. They have accomplished this by focusing on communication and collaboration (62%, up from 53% in 2020), providing encouragement to innovative employees (52%, up from 38% in 2020), and driving innovation from the top down (45%, up from 41% in 2020). However, only 20% of association executives report that their association has a process in place to encourage innovation and new ideas. More than half (54%) say they do not.