Nonlinear Marketing Boosts Member Recruitment and Retention

To acquire new members and retain existing ones, associations have to understand consumer behavior and embrace nonlinear marketing techniques, said Jamie Turner, opening keynoter at ASAE’s 2018 Marketing, Membership & Communications Conference.

Most association marketing efforts revolve around getting more people to become members or engaging and retaining existing members. And to accomplish this, marketers often take a traditional approach.

“The problem is that these traditional models don’t reflect how the real world works,” said Jamie Turner, author and CEO of the marketing consultancy SIXTY, speaking Tuesday as the opening keynoter at ASAE’s 2018 Marketing, Membership & Communications Conference.

Case in point: the sales funnel, which is how marketers traditionally think about the journey of a person going from a passerby to an active member.

“Guess what? The sales funnel is dead,” Turner said. “It doesn’t allow marketers to accurately understand how people engage with an organization or a brand.”

That’s because the traditional sales funnel is linear, according to Turner, where the customer or member prospect starts at the top by visiting an organization’s website, then reading a blog post, then participating in a webinar or downloading a white paper, before getting to the bottom and signing up for membership.

But here’s the problem: “The customer journey is not always linear,” he said. “People could start in the middle of the funnel, then work their way up and then down again. Or people could begin at the bottom and then go back up to the top.”

That’s why Turner says associations need to change the way they connect with member prospects by engaging in nonlinear marketing techniques used by big consumer brands like Red Bull and Airbnb.

“Instead of thinking about it as a sales funnel, [these companies are] thinking about it more as a spider’s web,” he said. “If we turn the sales funnel on its side, we’ve basically got a web going on that we can use to capture people. And when we bring them in, everything else is gold.”

Nonlinear marketing involves weaving your brand into the fabric of your member prospect’s life, he explained: “You want people to be using your brand and talking about your brand with their friends without even realizing it.”

It also requires that associations think about how to get people engaged. “Consider what you need to do to get people to have a dialogue with you, a relationship with you, and participate with you. And, if you can do that, you’ll have a solid foundation in place,” he said.

Turner shared five ways associations can begin to implement nonlinear marketing techniques:

Retarget people who have visited your website. “This type of online advertising will help you drive traffic back to your website once a member prospect has visited,” he said.

Ask people for their opinion. “Surveys show you care about members and prospects, and it also gives people the chance to spend some time with your organization and brand.”

Get members to help you generate content. “You don’t have to do it all,” he said. “Have them upload videos, write guest blog posts, share photos on Instagram. If you can get people to participate in your marketing for you, that will be a great accomplishment.”

Work with influencers. “Go out and pay nominal fees to influencers to get them to talk about your association. Because when you can get a third party to talk about your association, it’s even better than when you talk about it.”

Create mastermind groups. A mastermind group is a small group of trusted peers who get together online to learn from one another and share insider knowledge. “When you formulate a mastermind group about certain topics on behalf of your association members, suddenly they’re engaged with one another and learning from one another, and they go, ‘This is why I’m paying money to be a member of this association,’” Turner said.

Since techniques like these are typically more inclusive and involving, he added, they will produce long-term benefits for associations. “Ultimately, it will lead to a longer, more meaningful relationship with your members and prospects,” he said.

Jamie Turner, author and CEO of SIXTY. (Sabrina Kidwai, APR, CAE)

Samantha Whitehorne

By Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editor-in-chief of Associations Now. MORE

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