July 22, 2019

Segmenting Prospects to Improve Membership Marketing

Segmenting Prospects to Improve Membership Marketing

We’ve been talking this month about membership segments who have unique membership goals and needs, such as freelancers and independent contractors, and vendor members. Now, we’re turning our attention to a segment who aren’t members yet: membership prospects or leads.

This segment includes people who have interacted with you at least once, such as event attendees, customers, booth visitors, and subscribers. You have their email, now what should you do?

Don’t Treat All Membership Prospects the Same

Here’s what you don’t do: don’t treat them all the same because they’re not all the same. Group them into segments based on the following factors, so you can communicate with each segment about relevant topics.

Engagement history. Membership prospects don’t all have the same history with you. Some of them might have only purchased a salary survey. Others might have attended your annual conference several times.

They have different levels of familiarity with your association and, therefore, different levels of trust. Some leads will require more “warming up” before you invite them to join your association.

Membership type. If these prospects were to join, they’d have different membership goals based on what they do for a living. For example, prospects who fit into the regular/core membership category have different membership goals than prospects who fit into the vendor membership category.

Professional attributes. You should also consider segmenting by other significant attributes, for example:

  • Career stage: A recent marketing graduate has different reasons for joining than the CEO of a large marketing agency.
  • Business size: A small local homebuilder whose office is their kitchen table has very different needs than a large company that builds tens of thousands of homes a year from offices across the nation.

Throw out Your “10 Reasons to Join” List

The two most common reasons for joining an association are education and networking. But, that’s not why every prospect joins. The large homebuilder joins so they can influence the association’s lobbying agenda. The small homebuilder wants to be included in the association’s local home tour.

Vendor member prospects seek marketing opportunities so they can build brand awareness and attract new customers. Marketing is not usually a concern for “regular” member prospects, unless they’re looking for a new position, in which case, they’ll be more interested in your job board.

You’ll see differences with prospects who join for education and networking. The recent graduate wants to acquire fundamental skills and a mentor to help them figure out next steps. The CEO is interested in economic forecasts and roundtables with fellow CEOs.

You can’t take a one-size-fits-all approach to membership marketing. Instead, learn enough about your membership prospects so you can put them into appropriate segments, for example, small vs. large business, vendor vs. regular prospect, and entry-level vs. senior management. Focus your membership marketing content for each segment on what’s most valuable for the prospects, not your association. Very few of them will join to “support the industry.”

What would compel a prospect to join?

  • Improving their company’s bottom line
  • Helping them find a better job
  • Connecting them with supportive peers
  • Helping them do their job or run their business more effectively
  • Connecting them with prospective clients

Let Membership Prospects Sample Your Association’s Value

Content marketing is a proven strategy that gives membership prospects a taste of your association’s valuable content. It proves that you belong in their inbox—and in their life. You understand their needs, challenges, and aspirations. They can rely upon you to help them cut through the noise, and deliver the information and solutions they need to succeed.

Publish a special newsletter for different segments of your membership prospects. Don’t send it as frequently as your member newsletters, perhaps monthly. Make sure it only takes a few minutes to read.

Most importantly, they must opt in to this newsletter. When they gave you their email during the purchase or registration process, they probably didn’t give you permission to send them newsletters. To avoid the spam folder, send them a sample of the newsletter and ask up front if they would like to continue receiving it.

Make sure that sample newsletter is relevant to their interests and needs. You could tell them about the different editions you have for non-members, for example, early career, senior management, small business, etc.

You could also invite membership prospects to a special webinar, perhaps a briefing for seasoned professionals on an industry hot topic, or a practical how-to for early career professionals. Instead of an outright sales spiel, take time during the webinar to mention related association resources, including some that are members-only.

Provide Convincing Testimonials

Information and education are important, but not the only reasons people join associations. They also join to connect and develop relationships with peers, mentors, and leads.

92% of consumers read testimonials and customer reviews before making a purchase, and 88% trust these testimonials as much as a personal recommendation. Prospects are more likely to consider membership if they see someone like them make a convincing case for it. In the emails and newsletters you send to membership prospects, include member testimonials that describe how association relationships have helped members achieve their goals.

Develop a Membership Sales Process

Content marketing helps you establish trust and value with membership prospects. Eventually, however, you need to make a personal connection. Start by sending a quick poll or open-ended question about their professional challenges or goals. Then, make a call or send a personal email so you can dig deeper into their response and learn how membership can help them with those challenges or goals.

If you don’t succeed, go to plan B: keep sending them the newsletter. You don’t want to burn bridges. You never know, it could be impossible for them to join right now but they could suggest membership to someone they know. A few years from now, they could be in a new job with a budget for membership, or they could have a new attitude about membership.

Focus your membership marketing on getting to know each segment of your membership prospects, and getting them to know, like, and trust you. Find out how the MemberSuite Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solution can help you keep track of and manage membership prospects.