The State of Association Membership Sales



Here’s what I see working in the association field right now: associations are beginning to focus and implement improvements on their value proposition and modernizing their membership categories. They are allowing new entrants to come into the space by updating benefits, services, and new membership categories. This is fantastic! The new dues levels that are being developed better reflect the industry realities. For example, we’re seeing a lot of organizations removing dues caps because their membership, based on revenue, is growing. That’s a big step forward!
Overall, associations have also improved their membership retention and have increased engagement. For example, my friends at Marketing General enjoy a 90% retention rate. That’s absolutely fantastic!
There is also a change in mindset and acceptance when it comes to business development and sales. Business development is no longer a dirty word in the non-profit world.
However, there are challenges facing associations. One of the biggest ones? Chief staff executives really have an apathy toward revenue generation. They don’t want to get their hands dirty with it, however, we see some of the most successful association executives of all time do a fantastic job at raising money which affords them the resources to accomplish their association’s missions.
Another challenge is tangible data. Data is being collected but it is not being utilized to learn why companies are engaging, joining, renewing or not renewing. This information is critical to move forward and develop strategies to create new opportunities for growth or, at the very least, stop the bleed.
A third challenge is that there is a number of associations that are lacking a sales process and a process for reporting. From what I’ve heard from my clients, association management systems do not make great sales CRMs. If you’ve been following our content, you’ll know that we use and swear by Salesforce. It generates weekly reports, pipelines, and activities. It also measures sales metrics for closed ratios, number of activities, and more. This information can be very valuable in adjusting your sales processes.
And lastly, let go of your legacy programs, specifically those in the affinity area, that do not bring value to your members. You’re wasting your time and energy on those projects and, frankly, they do not move the needle for your or your members. It actually lowers members’ impression of the value proposition of their membership when they don’t see value in a program. Keep the benefits and services that folks are engaged with and you’ll be much more successful.
Need help with tackling any of the challenges mentioned above? Reach out to Mike Thomas and he would be happy to walk you through how we help associations grow.


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