Get Members’ Attention With Their Own Data

What do people care about most? Themselves. One association turned this simple truth into a marketing success by integrating member data into its recruitment messaging.

Dig deep in your memory (for some of us, really deep) to the moment you received your high school yearbook. What was the first thing you did?

You opened it up and looked for the pictures of yourself.

Being far removed from my high school days (and not yet having a child at that age), I have no idea if high schools even still print yearbooks, but we can draw a modern parallel to the yearbook effect in the steady stream of notifications on our smartphones that tell us “A friend has tagged you in a photo.” Seemingly every social app uses such notifications, and for good reason. Information about ourselves is just too hard to ignore.

The Credit Union National Association put this trick to use in 2015 with its “Go All In With CUNA Councils” campaign, a member recruitment and engagement campaign that earned the organization a Gold Circle Award from ASAE this year.

By asking a question, the message encouraged credit union staff to think about their level of engagement with the councils.

While CUNA is a trade association with organizational members, it operates seven related professional societies—the councils—for individual members in various disciplines within credit unions. “All In” was a marketing push last summer to encourage more credit unions to enroll at least one staff professional on each council.

But the message was more than just “Hey, join our councils,” says Natalie Sherry, MSIMC, CUDE, membership manager for CUNA Councils. Instead, CUNA gathered all its member data on council participation and showed every credit union exactly how many councils it had staff on, and who they were. Then it offered some incentives for credit unions to “go all in.”

“We really focused on asking the question, ‘Does your credit union have a member in each of the six councils?'” says Sherry. (In 2015, CUNA operated six councils; the seventh is new for 2016.) “By asking a question, the message encouraged credit union staff to think about their level of engagement with the councils.”

The method worked. CUNA started the campaign with 152 credit unions “all in” with staff on all six councils and finished with 249, a 64 percent increase. It also boosted the number of credit unions with at least one staffer on any council by 1.2 percent. And overall it drew in 363 new individual members across all councils. Sherry says the total ROI on the campaign was 361 percent.

One reason for that high ROI was that the placement of member data in the actual recruitment message kept the need for flashy design low, Sherry says, calling it a “data-first, creative-second” approach.

“We wanted the campaign to be about the credit union,” she says. “The councils exist to provide a service for like-minded professionals, and we were able to utilize data to create a campaign about our members that resonated with our members.”

You can get a closer look at CUNA’s “All In” campaign via the list of 2016 Gold Circle Award winners or at CUNA’s 2016 “All In” sequel campaign, running now.

Other organizations have used info about their members as bait for drawing them toward action, as well.

In 2014, NAADAC, the Association for Addiction Professionals, began integrating individual members’ membership expiration dates into its email newsletters, with a link to renew (or to join, for nonmember recipients). “That link is the number-one most clicked link on any emails that we send at any time,” said Misti Storie, director of training and professional development at NAADAC, at the time. “Just by sending our normal information out, this link is a constant membership recruitment tool that has increased our numbers exponentially without any extra staff time on our part.”

The Society of Hospital Medicine developed a similar effort in 2015, aimed at keeping member profiles up to date. Rather than showing an expiration date, SHM planned to populate a box in its monthly newsletter with the recipient’s data from a different profile field in every issue, with a link asking the member to update it.

And Jeffrey Cufaude, principal of Idea Architects, noticed in 2013 that his electric bill included a comparison of his energy usage to his neighbors and wrote about the possibilities for associations: “Imagine an association that shares a member activity report comparing your program participation, resource utilization, and volunteer contributions with others.”

To make such any effort work, Sherry urges associations to get their member data in order, but the information they choose to track and leverage needn’t be complicated.

“Having that baseline of data in place is job one, and, for associations that don’t have a lot of data about their members, they’re going to need find a way to get it,” she says. “You need to know who they are, what are their titles, how long have they been members, what are their designations, who do they work for? There’s a good amount that you can do with that kind of data.”

Has your association spurred members to action by appealing to their self-interest? How could the data you collect about your members be used within your member messaging? If you have examples or ideas, please share in the comments.


Joe Rominiecki

By Joe Rominiecki

Joe Rominiecki, manager of communications at the Entomological Society of America, is a former senior editor at Associations Now. MORE

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