Spend any time at all surfing the Web these days and you can’t avoid the hottest term in online marketing:  funnels.

So, what’s the deal with funnels and does a membership, or membership-based organization, need them?

Let me start by saying that there’s actually a good chance that you already have a funnel… it’s simply new words to describe an age-old marketing process.

  • A prospect discovers you – they are considered to be at “the top of your funnel”.
  • You make some type of irresistible offer, capture their contact information and that puts the prospect officially “in your funnel”.
  • You offer sequential opportunities for them to get to know you and, at some point, a purchase decision is made.
  • You could stop there, or you can lead people deeper into the funnel – offering additional buying opportunities – up-sells, down-sells, cross-sells, etc.
  • If someone stops taking action at any point, then they’ve “fallen out of your funnel”. Sometimes in the future, you may reattract them into the same funnel, or into a completely different funnel altogether.

That’s really all there is to it.

To answer the question that I posed in the headline of this article… yes, ANY kind of business, including one that is membership-based, needs a clear and effective funnel.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve been up and running for 30 days, or 30 years.

Now, just because you probably HAVE a funnel, that doesn’t mean that your funnel is well-constructed or working properly.

You could actually have an ugly, leaky funnel with prospects falling out of it all the time.

The symptoms are obvious:

  • Slow growth (or no growth) in your membership;
  • A stagnant email list; and
  • Difficulty getting people to make buying decisions.

Funnel strategy isn’t something that most of us spend a lot of time thinking about.  I think this is partly because even the term “funnel” makes it feel like we’re working with widgets and gidgets, not real people and engaging relationships.

Most of my clients prefer to focus on their mission and the impact they want to have for their members, their industry, or the world-at-large.

The trouble is that we HAVE to think about how we’re going to attract and engage people in ways that feel natural and easy.

A well-planned funnel strategy is how you do that.


Do you have a clear funnel strategy that brings people consistently into your membership?  I'd love to hear what works… or what hasn't.

Share your thoughts in the comments below…


Joy Duling is Founder and CEO of The Joy of Membership.  Since 2005, Joy and her team have helped associations, trade groups and membership-based nonprofits run their programs more easily and deliver exceptional member care.

You can find FREE tools, tips and training to help you run and grow your membership organization in The Joy of Membership Help Hub.




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