MGI Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report

Rob Miller, MAP, CAE

December 11, 2019

Marketing General, a leader in marketing research for associations, recently released their 2019 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report, a compendium of information regarding marketing and associations trends. Marketing General specializes in providing associations and non-profits expert guidance on growing and retaining membership. Every year, they release the Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report, an in-depth study of the strategies and tactics that membership organizations use to recruit new members, engage and renew those members, and reinstate lapsed members. 

In that report, one particular insight caught our eye. On page 10, they reported that while there has been a decrease in reported data problems, many associations continued to voice concerns about data and how to use it. The most significant challenges, according to the report, are a lack of marketing results tracking and analysis at 39% and inadequate membership dashboards and reporting tools at 35%. 

image3-1While the minor decline of voiced concerns about these problems is positive, their existence at all is a missed opportunity, in our opinion. Marketing General first began featuring data challenges prominently in the Benchmarking Report in 2018, and in just one year, they have become part of the highlights in the introduction of the report, illustrated by the visualization shown here. Clearly Marketing General believes that data challenges have become a major obstacle for associations and their missions, and that it is a problem that must be solved. Now more than ever, timely and accurate data is essential to an effective marketing campaign for any organization. The report argues that the ability to track, analyze, and report on marketing efforts has become a core ability to drive success. So, if you are finding that your association is having these problems, it is probably time to start looking into solutions.

We found a similar trend in Community Brands’, “8 Strategies to Modernize your Association in 2020” (Check out our recent blog post about it). In this report, Community Brands highlighted the need for associations to take a closer look at their data and how they are using it. Three of the eight strategies were specifically about how using data effectively to inform decision making and strategizing in 2020 will greatly improve your association’s member retention and revenue generation. When two giants of the industry are telling you to look closer at your data, it would probably be a good idea to spend some time to make sure you are using it as effectively and efficiently as possible. 

According to Marketing General, the top concern, at 39%, is tracking and analysis of marketing results. Most associations use email for marketing, but if the data is not available to executives and department heads, it is akin to not existing and is certainly not actionable. Most email marketing tools provide options to inspect the data but how many executives at associations have access to this information? It also may not be found in an Association Management System (AMS), where the executive may have access (we revealed that AMS systems contain less than 20% of an association data in a recent blog). Because of the complicated nature of the AMS, along with licensing issues, data quality issues, and poor user experience, we’ve seen that many executives tend to avoid using the AMS at all.  As a result, that generally leaves the marketing data analysis up to the IT staff, who, while also lacking the time and human resources to undertake such a task, may not have the institutional and/or industry knowledge to understand the insights that the data is presenting.

image2-1Nucleus is the solution to both problems. Nucleus pulls the data out of your email marketing tool, information often only available to a few members of staff, and not only makes it physically accessible to the rest of the team, but also blends it with your AMS data to create a richer, and more nuanced insight into who is opening your emails and reacting to them. With the email marketing tool by itself, you might learn that 10% of the recipients clicked a link in an email, but when Nucleus blends that information with the data you have about your members in your AMS, you can then use demographics such as age, gender, and/or region to further segment which emails your receipts care most about. Now you have real information. You know not only how many people interacted with your email marketing campaign, but also who interacted with it, sparking greater insight into the effectiveness of the campaign. We’ve looked at data across our clients who track device usage and we’ve found that, on average, Millennials are more likely to consume information on their phones whereas Boomers are more likely to use tablets because of the bigger screens. This is a great example of how Nucleus blends the data from your email marketing tool, which might report that some people use phones and others use tablets, with the data from your AMS, which identifies the age of those members who interacted with the email. After Nucleus blends the data, it generates visualizations that all your staff will be able to understand, regardless of their experience with data. With Nucleus, your data will become accessible to and actionable for all levels of staff, from your most junior membership coordinators to your most senior executives, generating tangible value.

image1Marketing General also relays that, at 35%, inadequate membership dashboards and reporting tools are the second most common data issues voiced by associations. This one is easy to solve. An inherent feature of Nucleus addresses this with a user-friendly dashboard interface and expertly designed data reports, available to your staff on their desktop, tablet or mobile device. Your staff won’t have to scramble to make board-friendly reports either, because your board members can access Nucleus directly or the visualizations can be easily exported to PDF to be added to the board book. This also makes it much easier for executives to easily access and interpret the data, as it puts the data that they care about in their pocket, so it is there when and where they need it. Delegating AMS usage to lower level staff is an impediment to timely data informed decision making, and Nucleus makes it easier for executives to be invaluable contributors to that decision-making process.

Data collection and analyses can be major obstacles for an association operating today because of how necessary they are for a successful marketing campaign. The good news is that data is becoming less problematic and more helpful as associations are finding ways to unlock and blend all their data and use it in valuable ways, rather than allowing it to go unused, hidden in data silos (see our past blog “Data silos are back!”). 

It is complicated, expensive, and time consuming to make your data work for you when you’re doing it all on your own. Nucleus can help you pull your marketing results while blending it with your AMS data to create easy-to-understand reports and visualizations on a user-friendly dashboard. Your data might be hard to see right now, but it contains useful, valuable information that Nucleus can help you unlock and turn into actionable insights.

The fact that two such prominent member-industry entities, Marketing General and Community Brands, both feature data so prominently in their research and recommendation pieces is no coincidence – you’ve been thinking about ways to make better use of your member data, these industry leaders are telling you that now is the time to act.

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