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Your Membership Marketing Is In Trouble: The 2013 Pulse Report

Greenfield Services just released their 2013 Pulse Report based on a survey of 173 association managers, leaders and executives across Canada. This year, the news is not great, as the title of the report may give away: “Opportunities Beyond Our Grasp.” Membership marketing issues are top of mind for a lot of associations, but unfortunately, many aren’t keeping up with member demand. The report is filled with disconnects between what associations know they need to or want to do and what they are actually doing. We’ve done a bit of discover to break down the important aspects of this year’s report:

Greenfield Services just released their 2013 Pulse Report based on a survey of 173 association managers, leaders and executives across Canada. This year, the news is not great, as the title of the report may give away: “Opportunities Beyond Our Grasp.” Membership marketing issues are top of mind for a lot of associations, but unfortunately, many aren’t keeping up with member demand. The report is filled with disconnects between what associations know they need to or want to do and what they are actually doing. We’ve done a bit of discover to break down the important aspects of this year’s report:

MEMBERSHIP IS A TOP PRIORITY

Membership is top of mind for associations. Over 62% of those surveyed listed membership growth as a top priority Just over 20% of associations say that member retention is a priority, 12% say member acquisition and 67.1% put equal priority on each. Yet, only 12.7% say that increased renewal rate is a “key focus.”

Respondents know they need to build meaningful and long-lasting relationships with members. So how are associations building these relationships?

TOUCH-POINTS REGARDING MEMBERSHIP RENEWAL

It takes 10 touch-points to break through the noise of competing media and priorities in order to reach an audience with messages that require a decision or action (ie: renewing association membership).

Of those surveyed, 45.2% use only one to three touch-points. Only 8.1% reach out at least 10 times, and 3.2% don’t reach out at all. That leaves a lot of room for improvement.

Associations need to improve not just in frequency, but also timing. Over 75% of respondents didn’t reach out until the last few months before renewal was necessary. When it comes to renewing membership, these touch-points should start six to nine months in advance of renewal date to be fully effective.

SOCIAL MEDIA AND MEMBER ENGAGEMENT

Satisfaction with the associations’ social media program dropped slightly from last year. This year 9.4% said their programs were “unsuccessful” and only 57.9% said programs were “somewhat or very successful,” down from 63.3% last year.

This isn’t really a surprise when it looks like most associations are still treating social media as an afterthought, despite important goals surrounding the online platforms. Seventy-two percent say social media objectives include engaging members and getting them to events as well as getting members to engage in online conversation. The largest sector of respondents say their associations only spend five to nine hours on social media per week. That’s not enough.

The most effective online communicators:

  • Produce twice-weekly or daily blogs
  • Use social media to promote relevant third-party content
  • Seek opportunities to guest blog on external sites

That level of activity cannot be accomplished in five to nine hours per week.

NEXT GENERATION ENGAGEMENT

This year, the number of people cancelling association membership because they’ve retired from the industry grew from 5.3% in 2012 to 8.4%. Baby boomers are retiring, and as they do, you can expect the number of cancellations due to retirement to increase. This means, engaging the next generation to fill the membership ranks gets more important every year. However, over the last year, the number of associations with plans in place to engage the younger members remained nearly the same with 23.6% this year only slightly up from the 22.9% with plans in place in 2012.

Additionally, it looks as if associations working on plans to engage younger members have put those plans on hold. More than a quarter of associations stated they had no plans to reach out to Generation Y. Those putting a plan in place dropped from 34.7% last year to 26%. Associations reporting no activity on engaging Millennials also increased slightly.

This year’s Pulse Report shows that associations are in trouble when it comes to member marketing. Big trouble. The reports points to lack of budget and staff resources and issues keeping associations from fully engaging in the member marketing they know they need. It clearly points to many opportunities beyond our grasps.

If you want your association to remain relevant you need to take a look at where your new members are coming from and how to show all members value in belonging to your association. You need to do that before next year, or you may not be around.

For more information about the 2013 Pulse Report, contact Greenfield Services.

Sarah Sladek

Concerned about declining engagement in our nation’s membership associations, non-profits, and workplaces, Sarah Sladek founded XYZ University, the nation’s first and only generations-focused training and engagement strategy company, in 2002.

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