Mission-Centric Membership Marketing in a Data-Driven World
“I'm a Believer” is a No. 1 hit that The Monkees released in 1966. If your only frame of reference for this song is the animated film “Shrek,” that's OK. You already know the most important thing — even performed by Smash Mouth, it's insidiously catchy.
Dolly Parton's “I Will Always Love You” is an undeniable classic; however, Whitney Houston's powerful cover transformed it into something unmistakably hers.
The lush symphonies of the great composers resonate across centuries. The movements of each composition may be familiar, but a skilled conductor gives them new life.
Membership marketing is the same, maestro.
The Music of Membership
Fundraising is the act of developing the conditions and relationships conducive to giving. It is an ongoing process, a dance performed to the accompaniment of marketing.
I came into marketing as a writer-producer, so branding and storytelling will always interest me more than data. But numbers get management’s attention in a way that "squishy" stuff just can't. How can you be memorable and effective in your marketing without feeling handcuffed by data — or worse, tradition?
Numbers don't equal emotional connection or sustainable relationships with supporters. They are indicators of two things: impact and opportunity.
You need revenue, so you need members!
Create Mission-Centric Messaging
The key to effective membership marketing lies in something obvious, but often overlooked — your mission. Need drives mission, mission drives goals, goals drive approach, approach builds impact, impact drives conversion.
Keep mission in mind always, as a guiding light that informs and inspires every creative endeavor. Let the audience color your approach, new ideas won't be so scary!
You are not what you do. You are a mission of service.
What you do is simply how you carry out that mission given the resources at your disposal and the needs of your community. Is a PBS station really a TV station? No. It is a mission to educate, empower and engage through trustworthy journalism, diverse perspectives, access to arts and culture and much more.
Membership demands true believers who are already aware and appreciative. Like Smash Mouth, you are not for everyone.
It's impossible to grow in a meaningful way if you aren’t honest about your audience. Make smart choices about whom you will target and why they’ll help you meet your goals. Growth in new and underserved segments is necessary, but you must provide enough value to not just get, but keep their attention.
So often, I see an exciting creative endeavor or stunt draw the desired attention, only to watch the excitement peter off due to lack of follow-through.
Mean What You Say
There must be an authentic commitment that all parts of the organization are supporting, something else of value to keep their interest. Goals should be set to bring teams together in common cause toward the next important achievement. And those goals should easily be traced back to — here’s the chorus, sing along! — your mission and core values.
Does this mean not taking chances? Never changing? No! You'll have to get very good at iterating on the same key messages in different ways. Let your creative instinct and audience needs drive the direction your messaging takes. The data is your roadmap.
Starting a new campaign is the beginning of a conversation, and you must repeat those concepts and catchphrases for a while before they sink in. Don't let slow early results or negative reactions scare you. Stay the course, focus on the goal and let data inform if or how you tweak your approach.
Commit to Your Creative
"But we'll upset our current audience!"
Maybe. What are you saying that's so reckless it might chase believers away? Memorable marketing and new approaches are not reckless.
The right people will stick with you, because what you're doing is still easily traced back to the values that unite everyone involved. It's just tailored to get a different response.
Creativity is about evoking reactions. Why be forgettable when you can be memorable?
Pick Up the Baton
You're the conductor. Make believers out of the audience and they'll be excited about your next performance. Hit those familiar beats. Repetition helps condition. How you deliver that same value proposition is where the artistry comes in.
The packaging you wrap around it is wide open. It's your attention-getter, the thesis statement for which the key differentiator is the conclusion.
Pump Up the Value
Participants, fans, people who interact with you regularly and like what you stand for are the most likely to become members. You need to lay the foundation and set the right mix of feel-good messaging, impact data and value proposition for their investment.
Members are your family, true believers who wanted to invest in keeping your mission strong and growing, but you also can't take them for granted. Your job is to prove and re-prove your value and importance to them, to earn their trust every single day. That's what data is for. Are you living up to your end of the bargain?
Be memorable. Be for someone. Challenge expectations in ways that expand the appeal and depth of your brand.
Have you revisited your brand guide recently? It may be due for a refresh. Base it around your why rather than your what and how.
Let your mission guide the way!
Rebranding and strategic planning are no small endeavors, but they may be vital to the future of your organization.
The preceding blog was provided by an individual unaffiliated with NonProfit PRO. The views expressed within do not directly reflect the thoughts or opinions of NonProfit PRO.
Tony Sadowski is vice president of creative at Slice Communications. With nearly two decades of broadcast television and radio promotions experience, Tony is a versatile marketer and content creator with a wealth of storytelling and brand management experience. As a writer-producer at FOX43 in Central Pennsylvania and, more recently, as senior producer at WHYY in Philadelphia, he has crafted countless creative campaigns, written volumes of copy, launched a wide variety of programs and brands, and led on-air and digital promo strategies.
Tony is the owner of the marketing strategy, media production and voice-over company Spec Communications. An avid podcaster since 2011, he is host and producer of Starting Artists, a life and career change podcast featuring interviews with creative people who have had interesting work journeys, plus insights into escaping toxicity, moving forward with your goals, and getting to a happier place.