Richard Broughton, Director
The marketing challenges faced by member-based organisations are in many ways unique, with specific opportunities and threats. However, in other ways, their route to growth and prosperity is consistent with the strategies exercised by commercial entities selling a traditional product or service. In the case of member orgs, the product or service is likely a collection of ‘member benefits’ and may be considered less tangible than a consumer-focused product/service, but are nether-the-less central to the organisation’s offer.
Like any profit driven business, a membership organisation’s most base objective is to generate more income in order to grow and develop an ever-improving offer for its stakeholders. To achieve this, it must cultivate a closer bond with its members through increased engagement, sustain and improve member satisfaction through maintaining relevance and capability and promote its successes to spawn new membership enquiries and counter attrition.
Our experience working as a key partner to member-based organisations means we are ideally positioned to help you deliver on your objectives. Below you will find our top tips to start you on your journey to marketing excellence.
1. Know your purpose
It may sound obvious but articulating your core purpose is critical to long term success. How can your members be advocates if you can’t highlight the reasons why they should be? To define the purpose, you should ask three questions:
- What is your vision? Think of this question as aspirational and forward facing. It’s about agreeing the direction you want the organisation to go and what do you want to become. Vision forms the why; why you exist, why you matter, why you are relevant. It also offers a chance to think about the future; what do you want to become – the biggest, the most respected or the most trusted?
- What is your mission? Agreeing your mission should be fairly easy. It’s the ‘what’ of a member organisation. For example, if you’re a trade union, your mission is likely to provide advice and support, advance your member’s agenda and leverage their collective power to improve their standard of living/working conditions.
- What are our values? Values may seem less pertinent but in reality, the opposite is true. Values shape the culture and today more than ever, society buys into values we agree with. Strong ethics and integrity are a given but your audience expects a lot more than simply ‘legally compliant’ – they want to be a part of something greater, something they are proud to be a part of.
Once you’ve defined your purpose, make sure you live by it. Don’t file it away only to be looked at when someone asks. Make your purpose the foundation of your organisation. Share it with your internal teams and get them to agree to it. Share with your members and ask for their input on how to do better.
2. Engage to get to know your members
The only way to maintain relevance is truly get to know your members and understand what motivates then, what they want from your organisation and how they view your performance. You do this in two ways; though engagement and feedback and through data and analytics. You can judge your current level of engagement using the scale below.
Stage 1: Zero engagement: Your communications are 100% dissemination. You don’t know who is consuming your content or if they are consuming at all.
Stage 2: One-way communication: You are communicating with a first tier, such as a member email lists but you have no feedback loop.
Stage 3: Light two-way communication: You use social media, it isn’t providing much value but you will respond if someone communicates with you. You have opportunities to receive feedback and have processes in place to respond.
Stage 4: Deep two-way communication: You have a well considered strategy of how to proactively engage with your members and other stakeholders. Your strategy stretches across owned assets (website, email), as well as social spaces.
3. Maximise your website’s potential
As your primary touch point, your website can and should be seen as your most important asset. It is the place where you can satisfy your members with the information and services they want, in a channel that is convenient for them. Use the intelligence you get through engagement and invest the time and energy required to develop the content, functionality and SEO value of your site. If you have an older website, that isn’t well-designed for mobile devises, make this a top priority. Mobile now represents over 50% of traffic for most organisations so make sure the experience your audience receives on mobile is an enjoyable one.
In part 2 we explore the importance of interaction, staying fresh, and delivering a unique offer, plus many more helpful tips for your member organisation’s marketing.
The MTM Agency is an integrated marketing communications agency, delivering world class solutions that drive our client’s membership growth, increase revenue and provide outstanding return on investment. For more details visit: The MTM Agency