Use Data to Inform Your Member-Recruitment Strategies

February 24, 2023 By: Gretchen Jackson and Alicia Deadrick

Associations often rely on data to make decisions and launch new products, programs, and services, but it’s also important to use it when developing a member-recruitment strategy. From market saturation to onboarding techniques, data will allow associations to be more effective.

Data can guide many types of strategies that associations develop, including how they recruit members.

With that in mind, here is a look at how organizations can use data to develop an overall member-recruitment strategy, including determining market saturation, developing a recruitment plan, and onboarding new members.

What’s the Market Like?

Many associations want to grow their membership, but base their growth goals on their current membership numbers without considering market saturation. However, it could be that most of the organizations or individuals that fit your niche market are already members or on your mailing list.

For some associations, it is straightforward to determine how many potential members exist (i.e., if you serve universities or hospitals in a particular region). For others, it is a nebulous journey into market research and eligibility.

If you can easily assess the number of potential members (e.g., all hospitals and clinics in Washington state), you can compare that to your current membership list to see market saturation. If it turns out you’re already at 90 percent market saturation, you may need to focus on retention efforts, nondues revenue, or remodeling your dues structure for financial growth.

On the flip side, if your market saturation is low, there is a lot of opportunity for growth. But this could also point to other issues: If there is so much potential, why aren’t members joining? Take a look at your value proposition, brand awareness, dues model, and benefits to determine where the association is underperforming or not aligning with the goals and values of potential members.

Data-Led Recruitment

Once market saturation is determined, understanding your current membership base and who you best serve will help guide your recruitment plan. A great place to start is to compare your market saturation study to your largest membership segment to gauge whether there are enough prospective members to make further efforts valuable. Use which benefits you know these members take advantage of as a marketing tool.

For ideas on who to focus on next, ask a few key members, a chapter leader, or active volunteer to share their membership story. Consider what made them initiate their membership. How does that target group compare to your current membership segments and market saturation? Follow up by asking for advice on how to market to that group.

Don’t leave engaged nonmembers on the table. Apply what you’ve learned from your key members and volunteers to try new marketing tactics on nonmember conference or program attendees you’ve collected data on. Use what you know they are interested in to create personas and inform them of related recordings you have in your member library or other specific benefits that would have a nonmember fee. By identifying enough benefits that would equate to the cost of membership, you make it an easy decision for them to join on the spot.

Data-Informed Onboarding

To create or revamp your new member onboarding campaign, you will first want to analyze any data you can related to how members interact with your emails. Open rates, click rates, and the time of day emails are opened most often will give a great starting place.

In addition, open and click rates compared to subject lines will shed light on which topics your members are already engaging with most. Use this information to determine which topics or existing emails can be combined and the order in which to send them. Once a general outline is created for your campaign, think about what data you can begin to collect once it starts.

Within your onboarding campaign outline, consider adding follow-up emails to those that are not opening emails. Even further, try to identify a method to be informed of members who do not open a defined number of emails. You can then personally reach out to re-engage them.

Once the new member onboarding campaign is set up, create a plan to refresh the campaign regularly. As you collect more and more data, you can adapt and update your campaign to reflect what is successful.

With each new recruitment strategy, follow these steps to ensure your efforts will pay off in the end. Tweak the data you are collecting as you go along to help guide future decisions, but keep in mind the purpose behind each piece of data you collect. As you complete each strategy, you will gain valuable insight that you can use repeatedly.

Gretchen Jackson

Gretchen Jackson is membership development manager at the American Public Works Association—MO Office and a member of ASAE’s Membership Professionals Advisory Council.

Alicia Deadrick

Alicia Deadrick is membership manager at the Globalization and Localization Association and a member of ASAE’s Membership Professionals Advisory Council.