Bring Members Back With This Membership Marketing Tactic

Research shows that the top reason association members don’t renew their memberships is a lack of engagement with the organization. So, it’s not surprising to learn that increasing member engagement is the top goal for the majority of associations. Every organization has an association membership marketing plan, but getting the word out at the exact time a member is most receptive can be a challenge. A member engagement funnel can be an effective way to drive association members toward engagement and, ultimately, retention. To do this, you need to deliver information where and when they’re likely to listen. It’s a bit of a dance really.

Take A Page From Marketing And Sales

Many marketers visualize the process of nurturing prospective customers as a marketing and sales funnel. It starts from the point a customer is thinking about making a purchase to actually making it. At every stage of the funnel, different communication channels and messages are employed. Each with the objective of driving prospects to the next level. Nurturing engagement is not unlike nurturing marketing and sales. The funnel represents the narrowing down of prospects. The customer’s engagement dictates to marketing and sales what content is relevant which allows them to apply more refined communication tactics.

Design A Funnel That Fits Your Members

Both sales and marketing funnels and membership engagement funnels identify stages that mirror the behavior of prospects or members. For example, a very simple marketing and sales funnel includes the stages of awareness (the prospect fits the demographic of a buyer), consideration (the prospect has begun researching a product), and purchase (the buyer is ready to make a purchase). A member engagement funnel might include awareness (the member has joined or renewed his membership), commitment (the member has demonstrated an interest in a topic or issue), and participation (the member has engaged).

Map Your Marketing To The Funnel Stage

Once the stages of the engagement funnel are identified, an association can begin designing a plan to communicate with members in a way and with a message that resonates at each specific stage. For example:


Members at this stage have decided that they want to dance but aren’t sure whether they prefer a polka or foxtrot. Typical outreach to new and renewing members at this stage—a welcome or renewal email, membership certificate or card, welcome kit, invitation to a members-only section of the website, introduction to either a new member or returning membership email marketing series, an invitation to join an association social network or a task force—should introduce both existing and new opportunities for engagement as well as solicit participation.

Be careful to target engagement messaging appropriately. For example, new members may want to peruse a whole menu of dance styles. Renewing members may only be interested in staying with the polka until they get it right.


These members know they love to polka and all they want to do is find places and people that love polka the way they do. These members have already begun trading polka tips with other members on public and private social networks, or requested further information on polka opportunities.

Membership marketing collateral at this stage—newsletters on specific areas of interest, targeted membership email campaigns fleshing out specific initiatives or highlighting other member’s participation in activities, or community management on public and private networks that points a member to a specific resource or opportunity based on his online comments—must be tailored to that polka-loving member.


Members at the participation stage are ready to polka. They’ve received their instructions, know what to do, and and want to reach out to polka mentors and fellow polka-crazy members that are part of this big new community. You’ve equipped them with a helpline for issues and a concierge to make their experiences something special (the opportunity to learn the best polka moves on the planet).

Your job at this stage is to encourage advocacy (provide ways that participants can immediately tell others, such as social media, photo booths, or pre-packaged email templates about their experiences or impact) and offer recognition, such as call outs, profiles, or awards (polka advocate of the year, maybe?) for participation so you can convert garden-variety polka members into polka-happy evangelists.

A Funnel Keeps Your Association Focused

Dance metaphors aside, the idea of a funnel is to employ very specific membership marketing tactics that recognize where the member is in his or her engagement process, deliver support and information that motivates and equips them to go to the next stage, and infuse an engagement message in existing and new outreach and programming.

Because of the direct connection between membership renewals and engagement, it’s critical that engagement be given priority. A membership engagement funnel is a familiar and highly applicable framework for nurturing members toward full-throttle participation and renewal year after year.

Who doesn’t love to dance?