Test-Drive Your Next Member Recruitment Campaign

Digital marketing tools make it easier to test out a member recruitment campaign in real time. At the American Optometric Association, piloting several marketing tactics with chapters first helped inform a national campaign targeted to young prospects.

When it comes to new-member recruitment, a little bit of testing and tinkering can go a long way to a successful outcome.

At the American Optometric Association, a piloted approach with chapters pointed the way to a successful national member recruitment campaign to reach more young people. The test-drive let AOA monitor the response to all aspects of the campaign, from its call to action to its creative touches, before rolling it out nationally last year.

“Of the young nonmember audience that we specifically targeted, we converted many prospects both in the pilot and national campaign,” says Vinnie Schneider, a brand manager at Dovetail, a marketing agency that worked alongside AOA. “We felt really good about the results, and we heard anecdotally that we were telling a story that resonated deeply.”

The “United in Possibilities” campaign, which won a 2019 ASAE Gold Circle Award in the membership recruitment campaign category, launched first in AOA’s Georgia and Minnesota chapters. The pilot yielded a conversion rate of 11 percent, exceeding the 8 percent goal set early in the project.

Much of the campaign’s success boils down to using a few common digital marketing tools and targeting a small group of nonmembers in the pilot phase. Here’s how the AOA team did it.

Email marketing. AOA tested its call-to-action messages using A/B testing. It also refined key messages in the emails by monitoring open and click-through rates.

At the same time, AOA picked an email marketing platform with features that would allow personalization of messages to local chapters. Prospects in each state received different chapter news, information, events, and benefits, which helped convert many students into professional members—a tactic that has worked well for other associations too.

“We drew students in using content that was most useful to them,” Schneider says. “The newsletter really was a peek behind the scenes of what the AOA was doing for young members.”

Social media advertising. Since the campaign was targeted to young people, paid social media advertising played an important role. But different strategies apply to different social media platforms, says Scott Leisler, Dovetail’s president and chief creative officer.

“If it was advertising on Facebook, we knew we only had a few seconds to reach people and get to the core message of recruitment,” Leisler says.

AOA found that animated video, in particular, helped capture the attention of young social media users scrolling through a feed. Leisler combined animations with striking visuals of young people to drive home the campaign’s key message:

Member invitation. Part of AOA’s recruitment success hinged on a volunteer group of young members who did outreach to prospects, emailing or calling them and extending an official invitation to join.

“The idea was to have this committee reach out to hot leads and give a little push factor,” Schneider says. “But what we learned was that this was actually the most important thing in getting someone to join. Hearing from a peer and extending an invitation to join became the most important tool in our arsenal.”

Have you piloted a member recruitment campaign with a chapter? What tactics did you test out, and what were the outcomes? Post your comments below.

(Olivier Le Moal/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Tim Ebner

By Tim Ebner

Tim Ebner is a senior editor for Associations Now. He covers membership, leadership, and governance issues. Email him with story ideas or news tips. MORE

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