How a New Membership Brand Helped AMA Triple Their Growth Rate

Member Growth Rate
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Can an Association Triple Their Member Growth Rate in One Year?
Here’s How We Helped AMA Do It.

The American Medical Association badly needed to grow its membership. Like many associations, the profession was growing, but the membership was flat. Fewer members meant weaker revenue. Smaller market share meant less relevance and influence with which to pursue their mission.

They called it “The Cliff.” Physicians would drop their AMA membership after medical school and disappear –as if they fell off a cliff. An aging membership with no new young members is a concerning trend. 

Their affinity products and discounts were not competitive and unpopular with members. And their subsidiary insurance agency, AMA Insurance, was also underperforming, which put even more pressure on AMA’s revenue.

Physicians had an increasingly negative view of the AMA. They did not see the value and did not think AMA stood for them.
At the same time, tech startups were undermining  AMA’s, doing many of the same things AMA did but better.
The pressure to grow was intense. AMA had made major investments with big advertising firms and expensive strategy consultants with no results to show for it.

The "Digital Reboot"

Our research revealed the root causes of their problems: First, AMA talked a lot about AMA and very little about doctors. As a result, doctors thought AMA stood only for its own interests and not theirs. One doctor was even memorably heard to say that “the AMA must die.” 

Second, physicians simply did not know what AMA does. 80% could only name the flagship journal JAMA when asked to name something AMA does (read more here). But in reality, AMA did many things that were important for physicians and had a significant positive impact on the practice of medicine. Our testing proved that once physicians understood what AMA did for them, they were very positive and willing to join. 

Working with visionary new Chief Experience Officer Todd Unger, we built the solution around those insights in a way that would address all of the critical membership issues at the same time. We called it the “Digital Reboot.”

 

A Powerful New Membership Brand

The heart of the program was a bold new membership brand called “Members Move Medicine.” All about doctors, it positioned AMA as the “physicians’ relentless ally in patient care,” and featured heroic photography of actual physicians, and told the stories of the vital work they do and how AMA acts as their ally. 

We backed it up with twenty “proof points” — clear, simple statements about things AMA did they doctors cared about but did not realize. For example, working to bring drug prices down, battling the opioid epidemic, blocking big insurance company mergers, and more. 

The new association membership strategy was overwhelmingly well-received and transformed the way people saw the AMA, inside as well as out. So much so that AMA President Barbara L. McAneny, M.D., declared at their national convention that the new membership brand was “the best thing AMA has ever done.”

The campaign came to life entirely in digital, driven mainly by compelling content that brought physicians to the AMA website to join. From zero joins through the website in the prior year, AMA began processing thousands of new enrollments via the web.

We led other initiatives to tackle the remaining problems in driving member growth, including:

  • Creating a powerful new member segmentation, driven by data analytics and based on physicians’ specific interests (read more about segmentation here)
  • Redesigning the join experience to improve enrollment completions dramatically
  • Rethinking the member journey from join to renewal in ways that build higher awareness and engagement
  • Rolling out a thoroughly tested new dues structure for residents and young physicians that fixed the “cliff” in early career membership
  • Re-engineering the affinity program to offer fewer but much higher value products and discounts
  • Rationalizing their insurance business to focus on the products that only AMA could offer and that doctors needed most
  • Designing a new Health System Membership program with a strong value proposition and high ROI for the health systems for enrolling their physicians as a group

Member Growth Tripled

These efforts together were wildly successful on all fronts. Member growth tripled, young member enrollment improved, engagement increased, and Health System Membership was a winning proposition.

In the words of CMO Todd Unger, “It’s been a dramatic impact. Transformative.”

Among AMA’s many successes were that:

  • The member growth rate went from less than 1% to 3.5% in one year
  • New member acquisition jumped by 39% month-over-month while the cost to acquire a new member dropped by more than 40%
  • Young physician membership leaped by 15% out of the gate
  • Group memberships generated more than 30,000 new members in the first year alone. AMA predicts that more than half their membership will come this way in future years.
  • Insurance sales and affinity product engagement both improved significantly.
  • The Members Move Medicine campaign won multiple prestigious marketing awards, competing with famous international ad agencies

To read more about how to increase membership in nonprofit organizations, click here.

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