If you’re like most association leaders, you spend a lot of time brainstorming and strategizing how to grow your membership.  You send surveys to try to get an idea of what your members want, you go on scouting missions at relevant organizations and college campuses, and you blast communication, hoping to reach the right people.

There is a better way. 

And you don’t need to bring on any additional competencies to do it. You just need to tap into the data that you’re already collecting in your technology systems. This data is the key to understanding how members, subscribers, and anonymous website visitors interact with your association. With the right data, your association can create a smart plan to grow your association membership by engaging the right people with the right messages at the right time. 

Members vs. Audience 

Members are the people who pay you annual subscription revenue, and are the most dedicated core of your org. 

But your audience is much larger. 

When you think about growing your membership, it's important to note that anybody who interacts with your association or consumes your content is a part of your audience.
Your audience is likely 10x-1,000x bigger than your membership. 

Want to get in front of these people and turn them into members? Of course you do. But how?

Your data can tell you how to meet your could-be members where they are and nurture them towards membership. 

Here are two ideas you might try, using your current data setup and member lists. These ideas assume you have the ability to launch paid social media campaigns, and you have an email platform that can send automated messages. 

Find New Audiences with Lookalike Campaigns

Without data, finding and nurturing new audiences can be like throwing pasta at the wall and seeing what sticks. 

If you're serious about growing your membership, you'll be better served by a much more targeted approach.  

Where better to start than with your current member list?
Your current members give you a lot of data on what they like to read, which webinars they're interested in, where they like to engage with your content, and more - so creating a lookalike campaign gives you a way to tap into that knowledge to get more association members just like them.

We recommend starting with an existing member segment like:

  • Early Career Members
  • Non-Member Subscribers 
  • Members in Chicago

Once you’ve created the segment, you can use it to build an audience in Facebook or LinkedIn to reach more people like them. For example, you could try segmenting your list around early career members if you wanted to attract new Millennial or Gen Z audiences. 

When determining what content to use in these paid social ads, consider what your existing segment is interested in. Do you have a workshop or course that is performing particularly well with young members? Create some ads around that course to attract new members that share characteristics with your existing audience.

Nurture New Audiences with Targeted Content

Getting new association members might require more than one touch. Create a funnel designed to nurture these new lookalike audiences. Most email platforms have “journey” features that allow you to retarget or communicate with audiences based on the actions they’ve taken previously. 

Instead of jumping right to “become a member!” or “join ______ today!”, offer something of known value right away, saying, “hey, take a look!”, and starting to build that relationship. Low key, no strings attached.

Once you’ve started a relationship with these new potential members, nurture them further via retargeting campaigns on social media, additional email nurture sequences or on-site personalization built with their specific customer journey in mind. 

As you develop and engage with new audiences based on audience analytics, you’re able to attract new members and nurture existing ones, creating loyal members for years to come. 

Get More Association Members Using Data

Once you try some of the ideas shared above, you’ll start to realize that you’ve only scratched the surface on what’s possible when you use data to grow.  In order to level up your growth strategy and get more association members, it’s important to have the right setup.

One of the most under-rated and critical needs for a fast-growing association is unified data. That means connecting your website, AMS, LMS, marketing tech, and more so you can get one clear look at your organization’s data story. 

Unifying Data with a Customer Data Platform

A customer data platform (CDP) gives you the tools and strategy to interpret the data you’re already collecting across all of your technology systems. CDPs give you what you need  to accomplish membership growth goals like: 

  • Finding and nurturing new non-member audiences
  • Growing specific segments of your membership (e.g., “young members” or “international members”)
  • Turning your website visitors or non-member subscribers into members

Hum is an intelligent customer data platform backed by a team of savvy digital marketers hell-bent on helping associations grow. In fact, Hum was purpose-built for associations and has helped them build audience strategies that power sustainable membership growth. Don’t believe us? Just ask our clients. 

Ready to kickstart audience and membership growth? Download our free Executive Guide to Digital Transformation to learn how your association can utilize first-party data in a strategic way.