Smart Marketing, or Just Luck?

By: Erik D. Schonher

Membership recruitment and renewal: the good news and bad news.

Good news: increasing membership levels at associations are returning. In Marketing General, Inc.'s 2012 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report, of the 689 associations that participated, 52 percent reported an increase in their membership in the previous year, versus 49 percent in 2011 and 36 percent in 2010.

This growth was fueled by 60 percent of associations reporting a boost in new-member acquisition and 69 percent reporting an increase or no change in overall renewals.

But now the bad news: When we asked, "What types of analysis do you use to measure the effectiveness of your membership marketing campaigns?" the responses were surprising—and potentially dangerous.

Only 49 percent of respondents said they track the response rates to their membership marketing initiatives, and 40 percent indicated that they don't use any marketing measurements at all.

Simply put, you can't improve what you don't track. These results call into question how the membership growth reported is actually being accomplished. Is it the result of smart marketing or simply good luck? If it's the latter, we may not have learned anything from lean times during the recession.

As the saying goes, "Those who don't know history are destined to repeat it." It's time for associations to take control of their destinies by better understanding what drives their membership business, and you can begin with these six key metrics for tracking your membership marketing efforts:

  • response rate
  • renewal rate
  • average tenure
  • lifetime value
  • maximum a cquisition cost
  • steady state analysis

Unsure how these metrics are calculated? Find a complete explanation at For a copy of the 2012 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report, visit

Erik D. Schonher is vice president of Marketing General, Inc., in Alexandria, Virginia. Email: [email protected]

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Methods Used to Measure Membership Marketing Campaigns

Response rate analysis: 49%
Source code or keycode capture and analysis: 29%
A/B split marketing tests: 20%
Lifetime value analysis: 16%
Computer matchback to prospect database: 15%
Recency/Frequency/Monetary amount (RFM): 7%
Regression analysis: 6%
None: 40%

Source: 2012 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report, Marketing General, Inc.