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7 effective membership marketing ideas (with examples)

4 min read
Jul 20, 2023

Membership marketing is essential for gaining new members, boosting member engagement to improve renewal rates, and increasing your reputation by positioning you as an industry leader.

The challenge is choosing the right membership marketing ideas to build into your marketing strategy. It’s so challenging, in fact, that according to the WildApricot 2020 Membership Growth Report, 68% of organizations struggle with membership growth.

To spark some conversation on your team, here’s a list of seven effective membership marketing ideas (with examples included) you can begin using today enhance your association’s marketing efforts.

Seven effective membership marketing ideas 

  1. Improve your current member engagement activities. 
  2. Create a referral program.
  3. Launch a membership drive.
  4. Host a free event.
  5. Contact relevant businesses in your field.
  6. Use a targeted advertising campaign.
  7. Implement tiered membership levels.

1. Improve your current member engagement activities 

Members who have a great membership experience will be more likely to spread the word about your work. That all starts with your member benefits!

Here are a few ways you can boost membership engagement:

  • Establish online member communities, so members can connect remotely and learn from one another.
  • Create eLearning opportunities like online lectures and webinars.
  • Build a mentorship program so existing members can find valuable new relationships — and learning — among your membership.
  • Host in-person events like lunch and learns and welcome events.

2. Create a referral program

While engaged members may be more likely to refer your organization to others, you don’t have to leave it to chance. You can maximize how many referrals you get by creating a referral program.

According to the Wild Apricot Membership Report, 75% of organizations use this tactic and rate it higher than any other campaign.

The idea behind a referral program is simple: provide members with a genuine incentive to refer others, and they’ll be more likely to do so. For example, you could give them a discount on their annual renewal up to a specific limit, e.g., 5% for every member referred, up to five.

When setting up a referral program, be sure to:

  • Identify your ideal persona to create marketing materials for.
  • Make it easy for members to refer you by ensuring the requirements for participation and benefits aren’t too strict.
  • Only ask for referrals when members have a positive experience.
  • Provide something meaningful to members beyond gift certificates.
  • Promote your referral program so members know about it.
  • Track data like the number of referrals and where they are coming from so you can make necessary adjustments.

3. Launch a membership drive

Membership drives or campaigns are great for when you’ve hit a lull in membership sign-ups. Use them to get your organization in front of as many prospective members as possible. 

You can do this through a multi-pronged approach that includes:

  • Promoting across marketing channels (email, social, digital ads, print).
  • Recruiting members at virtual and in-person events.
  • Incentivizing referrals through your referral program.
  • Creating a member email list and using email marketing software to segment your list and send targeted messages to these segments.

4. Host a free event

Hosting a free event gives prospective members a sneak peek into your membership benefits without having to put any money down.

Just make sure you’ve fine-tuned your strategy for promoting your event, ensuring your attendance numbers are high. 

A few ways to do this include optimizing your communication strategy (e.g., segmenting your email lists) and retargeting. Retargeting reminds those who’ve visited your site but left without registering for your event.

For even more ideas on promoting your free event, learn more here.

5. Contact relevant businesses in your field

Partnering with other businesses improves your visibility, drives attendance, and boosts membership. These partnerships are a win-win; you get extra exposure through access to their audience, and the business increases sales through association with your organization and access to your members.

Traditionally these partnerships took the form of corporate sponsorships. For-profits paid to be associated with specific events and have their branding on marketing materials. 

But today these relationships are more dynamic, with businesses wanting to be actively involved in offering their skills in volunteer positions. 

To initiate an interaction with a business, send a letter, drop an email, give them a call, or — if they’re okay with it and you ask first — drop by their office and introduce yourself. Who knows what type of relationship could develop!

6. Use a targeted advertising campaign to drive awareness

Social media advertising, geofencing, and search engine advertising are a few other ways to create awareness for your membership program. 

Driving awareness with these tactics never guarantees a conversion, especially as most people rarely part with their cash at the first touchpoint. 

But it’s an essential step in moving prospective members through your sales funnel. You’ll have to supplement any campaign with engagement tactics like webinars and other marketing materials to help nudge them toward action.

But keeping current and prospective members engaged is a part of that journey with your organization.

7. Implement tiered membership levels

Tiered membership levels are one membership model for collecting dues from members. They give members flexibility in how they engage with your organization while boosting your revenue by upselling existing members on more premium tiers that offer more benefits.

You can organize tiers by:

  • Career stage (e.g., student vs. career professionals)
  • Donation levels (e.g., major donors vs. infrequent ones)
  • Value (members pay for the benefits they want) 

When organizing by value, a common approach is to offer three membership packages next to each other. Each subsequent package offers incrementally more value at a higher price point.

For example, you could offer a:

  • Tier 1 (basic) package that gives members access to your membership directory and learning system 
  • Tier 2 (popular) package that provides all the Tier 1 benefits plus registration discounts
  • Tier 3 (premium) package that offers all Tier 2 benefits plus networking opportunities and access to a magazine

The bottom line on membership marketing ideas

The right membership marketing ideas like referral programs, free events, and membership campaigns can help you get more members and boost member engagement.

Choosing the right marketing ideas can, of course, be tricky. But if you take the time to get to know your members and what appeals to them, you’ll be able to take a more strategic marketing approach and reach out to these individuals in a way that truly resonates, leading to more positive responses and ultimately membership sign-ups!

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