3 Reasons Why More Marketing Isn’t the Answer to Membership Growth

Aug 6, 2020


Raise your hand if you’ve ever thought that more marketing or better marketing would get your membership out of a growth slump.

I sure have. I think most of my clients have.

When I was the Executive Director of a membership-based nonprofit (a role I held for nearly a decade), my organization tried all sorts of marketing. We invested time and money into tools that we thought would make a difference and catchy campaigns that were lots of fun to dream up, but ultimately didn’t really have an impact.

Why didn’t the marketing approach work?

As I reflect back on that time, and on what I’ve seen with my clients over the years, there are 3 reasons why I believe marketing wasn’t the answer.


Reason #1:  Marketing can help people discover you, but that’s as far as it goes.

There are 8 specific and distinct stages in a member’s experience. Discovery is just the first stage. Once a prospective member finds out about you, the work has only just begun. You still have to convince that prospect to join, provide a friction-free process to do so, onboard them effectively, get them engaged, and show them enough value that they want to stick around. Marketing can’t do any of those things for you.


Reason #2:  Marketing makes promises but it's often met with skepticism.

Many organizations have reported that it has become harder to get members to join organizations over the past few years. This is not a universal truth, but it is the experience for many, especially if the organization has struggled to modernize offers and tech. Organizations today have to be more connected, more responsive, and more consistent than ever before. Marketing can’t really show that to people. That comes from intentionally designing and delivering a high-value member experience.


Reason #3:  Marketing may help bring people in on the front-end, but it can’t make them stay.

Marketing often works beautifully to sell more of a specific product but that’s largely because it’s a single sale. With membership, a member is being asked to make a buying decision and a purchase over-and-over-and-over-and-over, which makes everything that happens beyond the initial marketing even more important. Growth simply can’t happen if you’re losing people off the backside as quickly as you’re bringing them in on the frontside.

So, what’s the alternative to marketing? What actually works to GROW a membership?
I believe that the answer is an intentionally designed member experience that predictably and consistently provides high value.

This type of approach shows members that you: understand their challenges, are equipped to help them address those challenges, and that you care about seeing them be successful.

The way that you make someone *feel* in their interactions with you will always be more powerful than any initial marketing you can do.


 Want to be sure membership growth isn't slipping through your fingers?

The BEST way to ensure that YOU are delivering the kind of member experience that makes people eager to be part of what you're offering is by participating in the Member Experience Makeover – a deep-dive experience design program where you'll gain complete clarity regarding what members want from you and how you can actually deliver an experience that is of high value end-to-end.

You get all the details about the program by clicking here. 

Hey there.  I’m Joy Duling, Founder and CEO of The Joy of Membership.

Clients hire me to help them design and deliver exceptional member experiences. If you lead an association, trade group, or membership-based nonprofit, you can find FREE resources to help you run and grow your membership organization by visiting here: http://joyofmembership.com/help

I look forward to connecting with you there.