How Market Penetration Shapes Associations’ Success

When consulting with associations on how to increase members, I often make a statement, and ask a question: “You have XX members.  What percentage does this represent of the total market?”  In many cases, the answer is “I don’t know to be honest”, or that their membership represents less than half of the market share.  This problem isn’t new. But it’s hard to think of a more troubling statistic for anyone who has set out to build a strong, member-centric organization.

An association is most effective when it can legitimately claim to be the voice of its community, whether that community is an industry, a group of professionals, or a collection of like-minded individuals.  The most effective associations are most likely to retain enough members to build a solid financial base.  And the most financially stable associations are the ones with the time and resources to focus on long-term strategy and member return on investment (ROI), rather than short-term survival.

But if your organization hasn’t reached a large enough share of its prospective members, or hasn’t even defined its membership base, you’re back at the beginning of the curve.

Here are some of the questions to ask:

  • What are the top four, five, or half-dozen audience segments that make up your membership?
  • Are you missing other audiences that should be a part of your membership base?
  • What is the total size of each audience within your geographic territory?
  • What is your current market share for each group?
  • What additional percentage of each audience is already known to you – as prospects, subscribers, workshop or e-learning participants, lapsed members, or in any other capacity?
  • How can you assemble a comprehensive prospect list, and what’s the best strategy for reaching out?
  • Do you have the in-house resources to conduct an integrated membership marketing campaign, or do you need outsourced support?

If your association has low market penetration – or even worse, if you don’t know how to define your market – it’s time to invest in the in-house time or external resources to solve the problem. Not because we say so, but because your organization’s health and survival depend on it.

Need help getting at these answers, and developing a recruitment and retention strategy?  We can help.

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