The Magical Power of Member Focus

Membership strategy member focus

The Magical Power of Member Focus

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A marketing leader once told me: “More is more.” More prospects, more offers, more communications. More stuff. With unlimited resources, this could be true. But resources are always limited. So when can less be more?

How can your nonprofit grow through member focus? To start, ask yourself these two questions:

Who is your association for and how clearly can you describe them?

You can “test your vision” by defining what makes members and non-members different. Could you look at a list of people and accurately predict from the data which are members and which are not? If not, you need to tighten your focus.

In the past, we relied on research at best, and instinct at worst, to profile who members are and what they want. Maybe built personas. But they usually described joiner and non-joiners the same way. Now, in the age of big data, we can do much better than that. The most powerful, predictive segmentations are not about who people are. They are about what they care about. Data can help us in touch with that, too.

One prominent medical society used outside and internal data to define their audience. They perceived four “attitudes”, or interest groups, that described them. They used these groups to predict, at an individual level, which segment(s) they belonged to. Focusing their messaging along these segments tripled their growth rate in one year. If you think this sophistication is beyond your reach, they did too. But today’s tools and resources make the impossible of yesterday the table stakes of today.

Is what your association does for members unique and how hard would it be to duplicate?

Test your product focus. Ask yourself how quickly a well-resourced competitor could do exactly what you do. If the answer is anything but “never,” you have more room to focus. Organizations that can “own” a tightly-defined area of interest can win against much larger competitors. They can build fanatically loyal audiences and serve them exquisitely tailored offerings. Some smaller medical societies that have mastered this strategy have grown at eye-popping rates. By focusing on interests over descriptions, they have even drawn new members from outside their specialty.

Larger organizations, with “umbrella” missions, struggle here. They believe that they must serve every need of their entire audience. In reality, you best serve those who engage with you, and focus drives engagement. It is a challenge to stop doing some things and start doing more of others. The realization that focus equals power, and that less is more, is the crucial first step to growth.

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