AMA Tripled Member Growth With A New Membership Brand

Member Growth Rate
Reading Time: 4 minutes

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.

The Executives Club of Chicago Doubled Membership With A New Member Value Proposition

Member Value Proposition
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Can A New Member Value Proposition Help Double Membership?
Here's How We Helped The Executive's Club of Chicago Do It.

The Executives’ Club of Chicago had to urgently revitalize its membership. One of America’s top business forums, their value proposition had changed very little in over 100 years, and their membership reflected that. Weak recruitment and retention had brought the Club close to crisis. 

A dynamic new CEO, Dr. Margaret Mueller, had rebranded the Club with the help of Energy BBDO, one of Chicago’s most famous ad agencies. She had to align the membership model with the new brand to make it work.

She put the entire membership model and value proposition on the table:

 

  • There was only one class of membership. Should corporate and individual memberships be different?
  • The dues structure was too complex. 
  • Is there a better dues structure?
  • They relied on a lot of free content. Should they make more of that content paid?
  • They had always focused on Chicago. How could they expand their reach?

How We Nail The Member Value Proposition

Most associations struggle with their member value proposition. In our experience,  most associations don’t ask the right questions about value. They focus too much on what members want instead of what they want, but can’t get anywhere else. The perfect value proposition addresses those needs in a way the no one else can.

 We created the Sequence “Way-to-Play” strategy process to solve that problem and help associations create a value proposition that marries their greatest strengths with members’ unmet needs. The result is a clear understanding of where they have a “Right to Win” that will anchor a great value proposition. (For another example of Way to Play in action, see: How SAE Multiplied Non-Dues Revenue 10X.)

 

We brought senior staff and Board members together to collaborate on a new understanding of the way they should play and how to bring their most unique assets to bear on what members needed most. The result was:

 

 

 

  • A powerful new positioning for the Club as an elite curator of uniquely valuable content and connections
  • A radically new membership model and an increased dues structure that delivered more value for Executives and Enterprises alike
  • An innovative, three-level value proposition that provided specifically targeted value for individuals, corporations, and sponsors
  • An exciting acquisition opportunity that would be synergistic with the new strategy

To bring the member value proposition to life, we developed a messaging and content strategy that would speak to different classes of members and immediately deliver the value they promised. (For more on content strategy, see  The 4 Important Questions to Up Your Content Game Now.) 

The new strategy:

  • Focused on stories of how valuable membership is to real-life executives
  • Called out the ROI for individuals and corporate decision-makers
  • Sold the new value proposition in terms of what’s in it for the member
  • Created powerful content and messaging for recruitment and renewal

Membership Doubled

The results have been transformational. When the new member value proposition launched for corporate members, many said that they had wanted to expand their relationship with the Club but did not know how they could. They were happy to pay more and more willing to sponsor. Individual members from far beyond Chicago enrolled. Current members were delighted, and it showed in satisfaction and retention.

The Club has enjoyed:

  • Doubling the membership in three years
  • Renewing 100% of corporate members and 90% of individual members in the first year 
  • Growing sponsorship by 30%
  • Nearly doubling their audience reach
  • Improving their Net Promoter Score (NPS) from -5 to +50 in two years

Click here to learn more about how we help associations like Exec Club create a winning member value proposition. 

SAE International Multiplied Non-Dues Revenue 10 Times

Non Dues Revenue
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Can An Association Multiply Non-Dues Revenue Ten Times In Three Years?
Here's How We Helped SAE Do It.

SAE International serves the automotive, aerospace, and off-road industries. Accordingly, they sought to make a much more significant impact on the industry than they did as a membership organization best-known for publications and technical standards, as well as generate a powerful stream of new non-dues revenue sources.

 

At the same time, SAE had a small portfolio of niche company affiliates serving manufacturers, which had never added up to much. As a result, they sought new non-dues revenue ideas and more diverse sources of revenue for the enterprise.

 

How could they use their minimal B2B footprint to build something that would significantly impact the industry and generate new non-dues revenue simultaneously?

 

SAE’s change agent, CEO Dr. David Schutt,  came to Sequence Consulting for our proven “Way to Play” process to create breakthrough strategies and launch non-dues revenue concepts that work 

How We Grow Non-Dues Revenue

The most successful growth strategies start with what the market needs but does not have and what unique assets and capabilities you offer. We call this exercise Way to Play. It points precisely to places where you have a Right to Win.

 

Our expert research with industry leaders showed that they need spaces to collaborate on pre-competitive technologies legally and confidentially, but those spaces did not exist. Many emerging technologies require industry-wide agreement on principles and best practices, from autonomous vehicles to cybersecurity. This was very important for the industry but very difficult to do without a trusted broker to facilitate.

 

Our Way to Play process revealed that one of SAE’s unique and powerful assets was its power to convene. That is, to bring players across the industry together in ways that would not happen otherwise. Their highly trusted brand, international reach, and long experience developing cross-industry standards made SAE the only player in the industry that could credibly create spaces for pre-competitive collaboration.

 

SAE launched the SAE Industry Technologies Consortia (SAE ITC). It is a 501(c)(6) that operates alongside the C3 membership organization. It provides a neutral venue for public and private organizations to come together and collaborate on shared industry challenges. To help bring those innovations to life, SAE ITC offers a full range of legal, marketing, data, and launch services that accelerate innovations.

 

Our Way to Play process was a breakthrough for SAE. It helped them see where there was an untapped non-dues revenue opportunity where they had an unmatchable competitive advantage—where they had the right to win. That clarity and depth of insight gave them the confidence to make a significant investment and a clear path to grow the new business quickly.

Their Non-Dues Revenue Multiplied

SAE ITC is a huge success. It has established SAE as the leader in cross-industry collaboration. In addition, it is a platform for SAE to grow through acquisitions and a significant net income stream. 

  • SAE ITC grew ten times over into a $6 million business in three years. 
  • It repaid its start-up costs in one year and generates a consistently high net income for the SAE enterprise.
  • It houses thirteen industry consortia addressing key industry challenges, from automated vehicle safety to aerospace engine quality.
  • SAE has made ten strategic acquisitions under the ITC umbrella. All of them have been successful.
  • Industry leaders come to ITC to solve their most strategic pre-competitive challenges. 
  • From the Big Three auto manufacturers to Silicon Valley to the Department of Defense, organizations come to SAE ITC to help solve problems no one else can.

Want to know more? Click here to learn more about how we help associations like SAE multiply non-dues revenue

American Lung Association Grew Their Subscriber Base 50%

Member Winback
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Can Member Winback Grow the Member Base by 50% ?
Here's How We Helped The American Lung Association Do It.

The American Lung Association had a subscriber base problem. Over time, more and more donors had disengaged with ALA, to the point that 75% of their donor file had not engaged with them for more than a year. In addition, new subscribers would enroll but never engage, adding to the lapsed subscriber file when they should be active. 

How could they reactivate 2.3 million lapsed donors?  How could they engage new donors so they would not lapse in the first place?

ALA had been hamstrung by outdated technology and made a significant investment in SalesForce Marketing Cloud, which gave them incredible new capabilities they had never used before. The challenge was how to use those new capabilities to turn their engagement around and start growing the active donor base again. 

CEO Harold Wimmer made it a top strategic priority to reverse the decline. Led by a strong new CMO, Julia Fitzgerald, ALA committed to a long-term strategy to build engagement and member growth that would have an immediate impact on lapsed subscribers.

How We Grow the Member Base

The goal was aggressive growth of the donor file. The approach was to launch evergreen Welcome Stream and Member Winback Campaigns that would continuously reactivate lapsed donors, engage new donors early and recapture recently lapsed donors. ALA had a long way to go to achieve up-to-date, CRM-driven donor marketing. They needed a comprehensive roadmap.

We took them step-by-step through a process to:

 

  • Set realistic goals based on nonprofit industry benchmarks
  • Integrate their multiple donor data sources into a single Salesforce instance
  • Design a dynamic dashboard that shows the results of every marketing campaign
  • Create an effective plan to harmonize national and local messaging
  • Define three highly productive segments of donors (down from the thirty they had tried to use before)

The outcome of these foundational steps was two campaigns carefully designed to reactivate lapsed donors and engage new donors immediately:  

 

  • A multi-part Welcome Stream that asked for information offered opportunities to engage and made targeted asks for repeat donations.
  • A personalized, CRM-driven drip campaign to  lapsed donors to remind them of their past donations and invite them to give again

Game Changer: Fifty Percent Growth in Two Years

In the words of CMO Julia Fitzgerald, “Member Winback campaign:  Game changer. Welcome Stream:  Game Changer.” 

ALA exceeded its campaign and growth goals, dramatically increasing the active donor file. Using an untouched file of inactive donors, some of whom had been lapsed for years, ALA was very quickly able to recover much of what they had lost and begin strong growth again. In addition, the welcome stream prevented future erosion of the file by engaging donors repeatedly during the first year, increasing the retention rate significantly. 

Among their successes were that: 

  • The donor file grew by 50%, from 600K to nearly 900K, in two years
  • They reactivated over 7% of  lapsed donors the first year, some of whom had been lapsed for years
  • Email engagement has leaped by 50%
  • First-year and multi-year retention both are steadily increasing
  • ALA now adds 4K net new donors to their file every month

The long-term roadmap gives them a solid foundation to get as much as possible from their data and technology investment. The successful member winback campaign and welcome stream are templates to target new segments of donors and drive even more growth. 

In addition, ALA now has the skills and processes in-house to evolve ever more successful campaigns themselves, building on the platform we helped them create. 

For another example of how we grow membership, see How Exec Club Doubled Membership With A New Value Proposition

Click here to learn more about how to increase membership in nonprofit organizations

American Psychological Association Got Near 100% Alignment on Strategic Transformation

Nonprofit Strategy
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Can You Get Near 100% Alignment on a Nonprofit Strategy?
Here's How We Helped American Psychological Association Do It.

The American Psychological Association had to make a significant strategic shift — and get the membership aligned behind it. That was easier said than done. APA’s 133,000 members represent every aspect of the field — academics and practitioners from every specialty in psychology. 

Historically highly decentralized, APA operated in silos, sometimes with competing interests. Many members were distrustful of the staff and prone to second-guess them. 

At the same time, the last strategic plan was more than ten years old and had never effectively driven strategic decision-making. The association had adopted so many strategic priorities that it could not execute well on any of them. They needed to focus on a manageable number of strategic goals that would have the most impact on the mission. 

That meant a lot of things members cared about would not be prioritized. Yet it was imperative that the membership overwhelmingly agree with the plan.

The Board charged the transformational new CEO, Dr. Arthur Evans, with creating a strategic plan that would focus their efforts and that the entire organization would get behind.

How We Get Nonprofit Strategy Alignment

Sequence designed a fully transparent and highly inclusive process that brought members, governance, and staff into a genuine dialog about priorities and high-impact outcomes. We invited exhaustive member input, including:  

  • Frequent open conference calls with members to update them on the non profit strategy process and get their feedback
  • A series of online surveys to more than 30,000 psychologists 
  • Extensive one-on-one conversations with influencers from across the association
  • Frequent online updates on the plan’s progress with opportunities for members to respond

Real alignment requires a shared point of view. Therefore, we used objective evidence from outside the organization to help the organization converge on a common perspective. 

For example: 

  • In-depth interviews with thought leaders from peer associations, healthcare organizations, and public figures on the challenges and trends in the market.
  • Deep analysis of competitors and comparable organizations to uncover best practices and new opportunities for APA.

Through a series of carefully designed workshops with the Board and the executive team, they evolved a powerful nonprofit strategy together. As the final strategy took shape, we went to great lengths to socialize the plan widely with members, including sharing drafts of the actual plan in a series of conference calls open to all members. 

The final strategic plan refreshed the vision and mission for a new future. It narrowed dozens of potential priorities to four clear top-level goals with realistic plans, couched in inspirational language that resonated with psychologists

Near 100% Nonprofit Strategy Alignment

The Board unanimously approved the plan, which went to the membership for their vote. 96.4% of the membership approved, an unprecedented level of consensus in the history of APA.

In the words of CEO Arthur Evans, “Our results were phenomenal. It was massively successful.”

This overwhelming support was transformational in many ways for APA. But, most important was that it: 

  • Empowered the new CEO to execute his vision and make the difficult decisions with the organization’s full support.
  • Required the executive team and staff to work together across silos to achieve ambitious goals.
  • Allowed APA to “start stopping”– to not do things out of line with the plan and focus all the resources available on the strategy’s goals.  
  • Energized the membership around a strategic direction in which they took ownership.
  • Fueled sustained member growth of 4% per year, even through the COVID crisis

Click here to learn more about we help associations like APA achieve nonprofit strategy alignment.

AARP Launched a $47 Million Non-Dues Revenue Startup

Association Revenue
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Can an Association Build a $43 Million Startup?
Here's How We Helped AARP Do It.

The largest association globally, AARP has enjoyed tremendous financial success from its non-dues association revenue offerings. Their outstanding products, services, and discounts have created terrific value for their members and robust partnerships with their affinity providers. 

AARP foresaw slow, steady growth in their affinity business, AARP Services, for years to come but few opportunities for new and exciting growth.

For many years, corporations had come to AARP seeking their expertise on older consumers. AARP knows more than anyone about people over age 50. They have decades of exclusive research and the largest database of 50+ individuals in America. 

They had been highly successful in developing high-value products for the 50+ market. Corporations wanted to benefit from that expertise, but AARP had never had a way to provide it.

If AARP could provide marketing insights and expertise to corporations in a way that was consistent with their mission of improving life for all as they age, the opportunity would be significant.

The challenge was to find a suitable model and create the business case to make a significant investment in a new business arena they had never entered before, to grow their market influence and association revenue.

 

Launching a Startup to Grow Association Revenue

Under the leadership of AARP Services CEO (and former Mastercard CMO) Larry Flanagan,  Sequence built the business plan from the ground up. Sequence had been a trusted strategic advisor to AARP for over ten years and had deep experience in for-profit startups and services businesses. In addition, our two decades of experience with major corporations and marketing agencies was extremely valuable in pinpointing the opportunity and creating a winning strategy.

 

 

The concept was to launch a marketing services agency, serving major corporations in the 50+ marketplace, leveraging AARP’s research, data analytics, and product development and marketing knowledge. Corporate marketers would come to the new agency for help creating and marketing products 50+ consumers wanted and needed, benefiting from a level of insight and expertise no other agency could offer. 

The goal was to write an airtight business plan to prove the revenue opportunity was there, that AARP could succeed, the plan to do it would work, and the association revenue opportunity justified the investment. 

We used all of the research and planning tools we had developed in our many years of experience to size the market, research the competition, understand their potential customers, and define an objective and sizeable opportunity. Their competitive advantage was obvious. The go-to-market required careful thought and planning, where our background in corporate development and marketing spanning both the for-profit and non-profit worlds was invaluable. 

Beyond market research, we developed detailed financial forecasts and operational plans to fund, launch, and build a new business that would generate significant new association revenue for AARP.

 The result was a credible, compelling business plan of the quality and depth that would inspire confidence in any investor, in this case, their Board, who approved a multi-million dollar investment in a new startup organization.

 

Successful Association Revenue Growth

AARP launched Influent50, an AARP Services agency, providing a full range of marketing services exclusively focused on the 50+ market. They assembled a world-class team of data scientists, strategists, and agency creatives with an exclusive license to AARP’s intellectual property (while never compromising member privacy). 

As a result, the team identified, understood, and communicated with 50+ consumers, unlike any other marketing firm in the country. 

They quickly attracted a roster of major corporations, including  Citibank, New York Life, the Hartford, and many others, to help them create and market products that would meet the needs of the 50+ market. 

Because Influent50 was able to bring AARP’s knowledge and resources to bear, the results they were able to deliver were tremendous:

  • Influent50 grew from a fledgling start-up to a $47 million business in three years. 
  • It created an entirely new revenue model for AARP, providing direct B2B value alongside their already successful affinity model. 
  • The agency was so successful that international corporations sought them out to re-create the model worldwide, in Asia and South America.

Sequence advised and supported them throughout the launch and growth phases, becoming part of the team and providing ongoing expertise and direction to guide their growth. 

In the words of Influent50 CEO Dave Austin, “We could have never done it without Sequence Consulting.”

Click here to learn how we help non profits like AARP grow association revenue.

Click here to read another non-dues revenue success story from a Sequence client.