CMDi’s latest end-user survey has revealed the truth about why people join a trade association in 2017. It’s not because they want to fit in. It’s because they expect to stand out.

Associations today face a number of communications challenges: from growing their membership base and communicating the value of membership, to delivering engaging content that helps to raise industry standards – and ensures that their members stand out from the crowd.

Tackling these challenges, whilst staying at the cutting edge of communications best practice, is a big ask. Especially for teams with lots to achieve on a limited budget. That’s why we’ve compiled CMDi’s five tips to help membership marketing teams stay a cut above the rest.

1. Make the ‘member experience’ your number one priority

Start by identifying all the touchpoints your existing and potential members will encounter – from your online ‘members area’, to how your membership hotline is answered. Review what’s working and what needs to be improved.

Make sure your membership experience is firmly focussed on your brand values, otherwise confusion will create inconsistent messaging and, ultimately, dilute the experience.

Look at ways to unify the “voice” of your staff, so everyone is delivering the same experience. And make sure it’s not just personal, but also memorable and motivating for members.

According to the CIM, Customer Experience management (CX) has made the biggest impact on consumer marketing communications in the past few years. Many UK membership organisations have been delivering ‘CX’ very well, instinctively. Now is the time to make it a strategic priority.

2. Get on board with data

The biggest trend in B2B marketing teams right now is the rise of the data analyst and insights manager. As technology improves and marketing automation increases, membership marketing teams need to ensure data has a more ‘actionable’ role. By employing experts, or an in-house data analyst, you will help your data take on greater meaning, which will lead to better results.

Your association will also achieve a much firmer grasp on what you’re measuring and why. All teams across your organisation will become better predictors of future member behaviour. You’ll become experts at analysing past member activities and determining how they’re correlated with member retention, revenue, and satisfaction.

3. Invest in software to create deeper personalisation and build member “personas”

Associations have already been using personalisation well in email and at networking events. But 2017 is going to require that you get serious about recognising every one of your members, prospects, and event attendees on an individual or targeted group basis.

Personalisation in the for-profit sector is shaping member expectations and making it essential that your association provides customised material for every member or member segment.

Make this a priority in 2017 and ensure you have the technology to do so. It’s now vital to invest in the best CRM software and online community platforms, to help you collect and use the data you need to make personalisation easy.

It’s also the time to create “personas” for every membership type. According to The Content Marketing Institute, 41% of B2B and 38% of B2C marketers are prioritising better understanding of their audiences. Many are starting with a persona mapping programme. Personas help you understand your members (and prospective members) better. This makes it easier for you to tailor your content, messaging, product development, and services to their specific needs.

4. Use visual content marketing to cut through more effectively

Content marketing is still king for all B2B communications. But for membership marketing, where the problem is usually too much content rather than not enough, a focus on cut-through is essential.

According to HubSpot, B2C marketers still place more emphasis on the importance of visual content in their marketing portfolios. B2B marketers are catching up quickly. The main driver is the desire to make content more compelling and shareable, so it delivers greater ROI. The written word alone can’t always achieve this. The most common forms of visual content that will be used in 2017 are video (including 360-degree video and ‘the selfie’ video), infographics, data visualisation and more creative images in blogs and social media posts.

5. Authenticity and standards must always remain centre stage

Although the world is changing fast, membership organisations need to hold true to their core reason for being. With global uncertainty, political upsets, and increased social media connectivity, it’s more important than ever that your association knows what it stands for, and passionately lives according to the values that your members embrace with pride. Ensuring your brand voice and identity is clearly articulated – and understood – by all stake holders, must remain a top priority and not get lost in scramble to achieve everything else.

And finally… the key driver behind all your activity needs to remember this: people no longer join associations to fit in; they expect to stand out.

Contact me to discover how our incisive approach to membership marketing could provide the edge your communications need.

Dianne Lucas
Managing Director