Member Focus: The 2 Most Important Questions

Member Focus
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Is your association member focused? Ask yourself these two questions.

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

A marketing leader once told me: “More is more.” As in, more prospects, more offers, and more communications. More stuff. Maybe true, if resources are unlimited. But resources are always limited. So when can less be more?

Member Focus Vision Test

When you focus there are two significant ways to focus and two “vision tests” to ask how focused you are. First, who are you for, and how clearly can you describe them? Second, is what you do for them unique, and how hard would it be to duplicate? The test for the first question, your people focus, is this: What makes members and non-members different? Specifically. 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. What does that mean?


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 joiners and non-joiners the same way. Now, in the age of big data, we can do much better than that. The most potent, predictive segmentations are not about who people are but what they care about. Data can help us get at that, too.

One prominent medical society used outside data, alongside their own, to uncover four “attitudes” or interest areas that described their audience and to predict, at an individual level, which segment(s) they belonged to. Focusing their content and 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 yesterday’s table stakes the impossible of today.


To the second of our questions, your product focus, the test is this: How quickly could a well-resourced competitor 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 issue or area of interest can win against much larger competitors by building fanatically loyal audiences and serving them exquisitely tailored offerings. Some smaller medical societies that have mastered this strategy have grown at eye-popping rates and drawn new members even from outside their specialty by focusing on interests over descriptions.


Larger organizations with “umbrella” missions struggle here, believing they must serve their entire audience’s every need. You best serve those who engage with you, and focus drives engagement. How to stop doing some things and do more of others is a challenge of the highest order, which I have written about here. The crucial first step is realizing that focus equals power and that less is more.

To read more about the power of member focus, see How to Make Membership An Offer They Can’t Refuse and “Focus on Members Who Love You Most.”

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