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Before you know it, it's that time of year again - time to start planning your membership recruitment efforts for the new year, 2013. If you pace your work over several weeks and pay attention to deadlines, your first acquisition of the new year should begin lifting your membership numbers as soon as January.
What are the key pieces that you should include in your plan? A solid membership recruitment plan examine five important elements:
1. The target market – who you want to reach. This includes determining your primary markets and acquiring or building lists of these prospects. Who you market to is the single biggest determinant of a successful recruitment program.
Are those you have targeted in the past still the best prospects for today? Are there alternative or ancillary markets that would be appropriate for your growth? Explore them.
Once you have determined what markets you want to reach, spend time researching the lists that include these prospects. Lists come in all shapes and sizes as well as degrees of quality. The best membership recruitment lists are typically nonmember lists from your own database, members or subscribers from similar organizations, and buyers of products and services in your marketplace. Proven direct marketing purchasing behavior is the best indicator that someone will respond to your membership offer.
2. The membership offer – what a member will receive. This includes how you package your membership product and what special offers you will make in your promotions to attract new members. Recruitment works best when you can answer the question, "why join now," with a special limited-time offer.
It had been standard procedure to begin a recruitment program with a straight, nonincentivized offer and then work into increasingly more valuable enticements. Prospects now largely expect some sort of sweetener from the outset, so be prepared to program a series of offers in a logical sequence and with an appropriate mix.
Keep in mind to test offers against one another to be certain you are maximizing your returns. Establish a control letter and try to beat it.
3. The marketing message – why a member should join. This includes defining your value proposition and presenting solutions and benefits to members that are compelling. Here is where you need to develop the case on why membership in your organization is an indispensable resource.
Indispensability is one of the most powerful messages you can present. The same as the unique selling proposition, it will convince appropriate prospects who want what you offer that there is no other place to go to get what they need.
Keep your words clear and succinct. Craft your message to tell prospects not what they will receive but what they will get out of what they receive. In other words, stress benefits not features.
4. The promotional tactics – how a member will be reached. This includes selecting the best marketing channels like personal sales, direct mail, email, telemarketing, etc., and the frequency and timing of promotions. Typically an integrated marketing approach, using multiple channels, is the most effective.
The most appropriate primary channel depends on the degree of marketing power you need to apply. A high price and a difficult decision to buy may require face-to-face selling, while a less complex sale might need telemarketing or, less expensive, direct mail.
Mixing multiple channels allows you to test differing combinations and apply various levels of selling to make the most of your investment. A lagging direct mail program may be rescued by adding emails and then, if necessary, telemarketing follow-ups as well.
5. The testing and tracking – where to take future efforts. This includes trying variations of the four points listed above and recording which lists, offers, messages, and channels produce the best ROI and number of new members. Failure to test and track recruitment efforts is probably the single most neglected element in marketing planning and execution.
Tracking should not be difficult. Assign individual codes to each list and to each offer and compile the results. That way you will know which work and which do not.
Keeping track of online joins can be a bit more challenging. This requires a web application form that requests prospects to enter coding information themselves. Providing a special offer that requires a code to be input in the website will help capture more codes from online responses.
Tony Rossell is SVP at Marketing General Inc. Contact him at 703-706-0360, or Tony@MarketingGeneral.com. This article originally appeared in the MGI Tipster newsletter, Vol. 11, Issue 10.