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Association Marketers Choose Ca$h to Power Membership Marketing

By Association Adviser staff • November 27, 2017

For our November poll, we asked Association Adviser readers if they’d rather have more staff to help with membership marketing or more money to help power their membership marketing plans. The results are in:

More staff or more money for membership marketing?

By a slim majority, readers responded that they’d rather have a larger budget for membership marketing. With so many online and print tools available for free or a scalable cost, marketing to a large target audience doesn’t require as large a staff as it might have decades ago when the main vehicles for reaching people were printed communications, telephone or face-to-face interactions – all of which are still effective but require more manpower than the many digital channels available to marketing professionals today.

“I’d definitely prefer to have more money to execute a membership marketing plan,” said Christina McCoy, CAE, of AMPED Association Management. “More budget allows you to get creative and explore more with what the marketing plan can look like. It’s also easier to add money than to add staff,” she continued.

“Plus, it’s common for membership marketing to be put on the back burner when it comes to budgeting,” McCoy added. “Associations tend to see membership marketing as finding new members, but it’s also about retaining current members, and that requires money and effort.”

A report from Marketing General Incorporated gives a slightly different answer than our poll results. While both “insufficient staff” and “insufficient budget” ranked among the top three self-reported internal challenges to growing membership, more individual-based (professional) and trade association staff members stated that they face membership marketing issues related to staff needs (30 percent overall) than budget needs (16 percent overall).

However, the marketing professionals surveyed seem to be making smart use of the resources and tools they do have. The survey’s 1,170 participants said they use a variety of digital marketing tools, such as association-sponsored social networking sites, search engine marketing, and lead generation content (white papers, downloadable eBooks, etc.) to bring in new members. The report includes an interesting look at the biggest external factors affecting membership growth as well. It’s worth a look if you have some time.

But neither staff nor budget needs ranked first among membership marketing professionals: That honor goes to difficulty in communicating value or benefits of membership, which is the same challenge that unseated “cutting through information clutter” in our seventh annual Association Communications Benchmarking Study.

Participants in our study, like the one from MGI, say they try to be prudent about their communication department budgets by improving their use of existing tools like social media and video rather than risk making a bad investment of staff time and money in new communication vehicles or mobile strategies:

If your publishing/content creation team unexpectedly received a 50 percent increase in annual budget, how would you recommend they spend it?

2017 Benchmarking chart about membership marketing budget priorities
Source: 2017 Association Communications Benchmarking Survey

Do you agree with these results? What would YOU want to best improve your membership marketing – more money or more staff, and why? Leave us a note in the comments below.