Something happened. A detail got missed, a typo slipped through, a component was left out of a mail campaign.

You look around for someone to blame. But it’s probably not the fault of the overloaded project manager or the task-juggling marketing coordinator.

It just may be your process. A rushed, ill-defined, cobbled-together process that let your project manager down, it failed to protect you from the last-minute mix-up, blew the test, and disappointed your members.

This can happen if you live in a “Reactive” environment. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Does your daily performance dashboard define your mood?
  • Does your team avoid you if the previous day’s renewals were low, or campaign results haven’t started showing up yet?
  • How do you react to a campaign that comes in under projections? Or when a mistake happens?
  • Is your first instinct to cut programs or member communications when costs go up?
  • Who gets to decide if your implementation schedule is a guideline or a rule?
  • What – or who – makes the decisions: a carefully developed marketing plan, or an eager board member with a big idea?

Certainly, it’s your job as a leader to address poor-performing resources and results, and eager board members can’t be ignored.

But at MCA, we’ve learned that the best approach is to build a membership marketing strategy that is more “Really Active” than Reactive. It’s also a way to figure out what to worry about (instead of things you can’t change), puts the tools for success in the right people’s hands, and keeps the organization focused on what matters: your members.

Dashboards are indispensable (when designed well).

Membership is a long game, and daily performance snapshots don’t tell the story very well. Pick a consistent time frame (like the end of the month) and measure month-over-month and year-over-year. Learn your trends. Watch for seasonal impact, or peaks and valleys caused by sponsored events. Be sure you’re trending the right metrics (on-time renewals separate from late renewals; new joins from re-joins). Keep the raw data so, if you have to dig in and find the cause of a blip (web renewals crashed, or the business reply postage account wasn’t funded), you can do the forensics. But don’t let the dailies drive your mood or your actions.

Get everyone on the same (Memberized) page.

Do you know what a member is worth? Is everyone in your organization clear that getting, engaging and keeping a member is the goal?

Are you operationally driven, or can you honestly say you are member-driven? Do all departments understand the role they play in impacting membership satisfaction? Look around your senior leadership table. If you don’t have someone with “membership” in their title at that level, you’re not truly committed to the membership business.

MCA approaches every engagement with the expectation that our first responsibility is to be the “member champion.” If your current membership marketing strategy isn’t member-friendly (we call this “memberized”) and designed to make it easy to do business with you, we’ll suggest alternatives that result in greater member satisfaction and – ultimately – more members.

Lots of organizations struggle with this. We’ve challenged many clients with this question: Are you an event-sponsor with a member component, or a member organization that hosts an event? Ask yourself: Are your events or publications BETTER because of the membership differentiation? If they aren’t, are you in the right business? Or are you failing to capitalize on your strengths?

Is your product clearly understood, and your member journey well-defined?

Getting a member is (relatively) easy. Delivering on the promise you made at acquisition is the “big job.” Membership is a continuity business, and – if you do your big job well – you’ll keep your members and have opportunities to engage more expansively with them. This leads to member lifetime value.

But if your process doesn’t include clear, thoughtful onboarding and continual active listening, you may find that “the system” fails you at renewal. This leads to a drop in member lifetime value, and more scrambling to bring in new members, at any cost.

Flawless execution is not a pipe dream.

Is your marketing execution process a well-oiled machine? We’re not suggesting AI or robotic repetition. Not yet at least. What we do suggest is building (or renting) a marketing execution system that protects you from the glitches and bumps that destabilize member confidence, derail campaigns, cause unnecessary anxiety among your staff, and keep you up at night. This might be a better email service provider, an entire CRM system, a project management partner, or all of the above. Whatever it takes to help you get a good night’s sleep.

The devil is in the details, so step-by-step, highly disciplined execution is the only way to achieve “flawless.” Well-articulated project briefs, clear inter-dependencies, realistic timelines, and project managers empowered to “make it so” will put “flawless” within reach.

Add appropriate marketing intelligence in the form of a comprehensive plan, supportable projections, analysis based on roll-out potential (not JUST test performance), and a healthy dose of discipline. Voila, you are on the path to a Really Active process.

Here’s something to ponder: do you do everything in-house, or do you tactically outsource? Do you use internal resources to send monthly renewal notices, or deploy acquisition campaigns, or send your onboarding series? What happens when another department usurps their time to send a critical communication, or get ready for a board meeting, or host an annual event?

Yes, there’s a cost to using outside resources for execution, but the flip side is that your schedule goes from “hope it works” to a professionally executed, contractually obligated commitment.

Moving from Reactive to Really Active is an ongoing commitment.

The quest for the well-oiled machine never ends. At MCA, we’re constantly evolving our own processes to stay Really Active instead of allowing Reactive thinking to creep in.

Because, if we’re all honest, a Reactive process takes less up-front work, but delivers a lot more sleepless nights and harried project managers.

A commitment to a Really Active membership marketing strategy is a commitment to being flexible, constantly learning, and being open to new ideas. You’ll never move the needle on that persistent dashboard without appropriate R & D, fresh thinking, and a member-driven mentality.

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