Recently, Marketing General Incorporated released their 2016 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report. For the 8th straight year, MGI has conducted its Membership Marketing Benchmarking Survey to analyze and track the strategies and tactics that membership organizations use to recruit new members, engage and renew those members, and reinstate lapsed members. This annual report is one-of-a-kind. It provides insight on the membership enhancement strategies that 828 unique associations-spanning individual member associations, trade associations, and associations combining the characteristics of both-are using today and whether they are successful or not.
There is a multitude of information in this comprehensive report, but here are five stats that stood out when I read the report for the first time:
1. 31% of Associations believe that their TOP internal membership growth challenge is communicating value/benefit.
Today’s members are forcing associations to justify their value through proof of utility – how the organization can assist it’s members in achieving their goals. If a member communications program’s (better coined to some as “content marketing”) sole purpose is to blatantly promote the association’s products and services, members simply will not engage with the organization’s content. Associations need to address the HOW.
2. 55% of Associations say that the TOP reason members join is networking with “like peers.”
It’s all about building and enhancing your member’s network. Making connections is critical and joining an association gives members countless opportunities to connect on a local and global level. Identifying contacts that are working through the same circumstances (both good and challenging) allows members to have a sense of security and trust. They can share ideas, ask for advice, volunteer to be a speaker or become a member of a committee. Since most associations have national or local conferences, members can participate and have the opportunity to learn about breaking news in their career, learn "best practices" or new ideas, hear about key achievers in their field and also meet and brainstorm with others who are also looking to share and learn new information.
3. 32% of Associations cite the economy/cost of membership as a TOP external challenge to membership growth.
When we sit with association leaders and discuss strategies and tactics for member engagement and retention, the question always comes up, “How often do you see other associations raising their dues?” With the economy as it is today, many associations who maintained their annual fee levels during the recession are wondering if it’s time to raise them. Remember, the number one reason why members don’t renew is “lack of value.” Truthfully, even if they say it’s due to financial reasons or they are too busy to participate, they are really telling you that the value isn’t worth the price. So, spend some time discovering the perceived value members have about who you are, what you offer, and your strategic direction. Remember, that value is worth more than price and that value is in the eyes of the members.
4. 76% of Associations saw a rise in participation in their organization’s social network over the past year.
Facebook and Twitter remain the two most popular social media platforms for external marketing by associations. Associations with 5,000 members or more are significantly more likely to use YouTube than smaller associations. Associations primarily use social media for communication and engagement with site users (83% overall). Interestingly enough, 21% of associations use social media for information gathering, up from 10% last year. One in two associations publish across their preferred social media channels on a daily basis, while 31% post content weekly. The percentage of associations without a social media presence has declined steadily over the past few years – from 11% in 2013, 9% in 2014, 7% in 2015, to 4% in 2016.
5. 63% of the associations offering a young professional program report that they saw an increase in participation.
Many professional associations see the growing number of Millennials entering the work force as a critical, untapped demographic that could bolster their ranks. Associations should be focusing on their succession strategies-the millennials are the key to sustained growth in the future. Most associations do not play a direct role in the lives of most university students or other young people. The result is that many young professionals have a low level of awareness of the existence of associations, their role in various industries and professions and the benefits of engagement. They are educating themselves on whether or not associations are relevant to their situation. To solve this challenge, associations need an engagement value proposition that is: