My recently posted article on Membership Marketing on Ezine.
How to Win at Membership-Based Marketing
By Michelle Rider
In today's economy many large corporations, small businesses, and even non-profit organizations are struggling with how to win at membership-based marketing. Over the last several years, a global recession has forced people to tighten their belts and reduce spending on benefits such as fitness training and fee-for-membership-based spending. Many organizations have been left scrambling for new solutions as they watched their existing membership renewals slip lower than ever before, and new member growth percentages drop year after year. Although the economy is moving into a state of revival, many organizations are still not seeing their membership levels improve to where they need to be.
Those that are thriving are defining new methods of membership marketing to gain a competitive advantage, as well as refining the practices of their standard tried-and-true methods. In order to succeed in membership marketing in today’s market you need to make sure you are reaching your prospects on multiple levels in the places they spend the most time, which in many cases means going digital! According to a recent marketing survey, 97% of consumers are utilizing the internet to research products and services they are considering purchasing. (http://www.biakelsey.com/company/press-releases/100310-nearly-all-consumers-now-use-online-media-to-shop-locally.asp)
Mobile technology, including SmartPhones, tablets, notebooks and expanded WIFI access, has given people more options and more motivation than ever before to stay connected to the products and people they care about. Companies and organizations in need of improving their membership marketing have caught on to this trend and have gone one step further than creating their own social media profiles; they are creating their own online communities. An online community adds value to the membership and gives members a sense of belonging, making them more loyal to the brand overall.
In addition to building online communities, companies can gain membership by using SmartPhone apps and running promotional contests and loyalty programs to build awareness and retain current members. For organizations to succeed at membership marketing, they need to know where their members are online and be there with them. If members are connected to Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook, the corporations must be there as well. With a digital strategy and an understanding of the power of a consumer’s reliance on instant gratification, the marketing possibilities are endless and the response rate is much quicker than a traditional route.
Traditional marketing methods can still be useful, but the organizations that are seeing their profit margins rise the most substantially are incorporating technology to improve on their old stand-bys. Direct response mail, using both print and e-mail, is still a major player in membership marketing. Having superior member benefits, a clear message, and a strong call to action still generates results, but the new tricks of the trade include refined data mining to create targeted lists and utilizing modern technology to test messages, designs, envelopes and e-mail subject lines. In addition, a parallel messaging strategy will score every time. Social media can now reinforce, and in some cases replace, the message delivered through traditional media, which will not only ensure the message is delivered in the platform members are now using, but also reduce the cost of delivering a triumphant membership marketing strategy over time.
Even after finding the perfect delivery system, it can still be difficult to get potential members to convert. To turn potential customers into loyal ones, you will need a strong USP (unique selling position) that clearly expresses to a prospect why they should become a member. It is best if your USP evokes an emotional response of some kind. Clear, concise copywriting that presents problems and offers your membership as the solution will help turn prospects into members. Be sure to include a sense of urgency so that people want to sign up instantly, such as a special limited-time offer if they join by a specific deadline.
Although economic conditions are finally getting a reprieve, the way people approach spending and saving money has been permanently and radically altered. The typical “one size fits all” yearly membership is no longer desirable. Winning at membership marketing means speaking to your prospects on their level and finding them where they are seeking the information they need.
Once they get their foot in the door you can win them over with your first class customer service and amazing membership benefits!