As a membership organization, you probably use several different channels and systems to target and convert prospective members as well as drive member engagement and retention.
These likely include web, mobile, email, and member management software or other CRM.
But the most successful membership organizations today have added a new technology to their martech mix — a customer data platform (CDP) to help them bring together all of the data they’re collecting across the aforementioned systems and then leverage that data in real time for marketing.
Why membership organizations are continually turning to CDPs
The CDP has proven to be an invaluable tech resource for membership organizations today and distinguished itself from the other marketing solutions. In fact, the platform has seen increased adoption among membership groups for two simple but compelling reasons:
- First-Party Data Unification: A CDP brings together all of your membership data across systems — including any membership management software you may use — into a single profile database, simultaneously eliminating those inhibiting data silos, which can cause headaches across the organization (especially for marketing). By consolidating all member and prospective member data in one place – whether its member status, behavioral & engagement data, demographics, location, or other data — you save tons of time on manual data uploads, exports, and list segmentation.
- First-Party Data Activation: The data you collect in a CDP is immediately available for activation to help you more effectively personalize individual experiences. Connect your core marketing technologies, including your aforementioned membership management software, to your CDP so you can enrich member profiles and build new segments that can be sent to all of your digital channels for targeting (e.g., email, web, Google, Facebook). Machine learning in the CDP enables you to deliver more effective 1:1 experiences based on each individual’s attributes, preferences, and behaviors.
Simply put, membership organizations with CDPs have realized there is untapped potential in their marketing programs: Data that can drive new initiatives, refine existing ones, and — at the end of the day — lead to improved performance metrics, including membership growth, retention, and revenue.
The only thing that differs among these groups is how they specifically harness the power of their customer data platforms, given there are various types of membership organizations operating today.
Specific CDP use cases for membership organizations
As with any new marketing technology, there are specific use cases that a CDP can enable.
Here are some of the most common ways membership organizations — from consumer advocacy groups and non-profits to trade associations and service clubs — take advantage of the platform.
Use case #1: Grow your membership base by identifying and converting high-value prospective members.
Modern membership organizations work just like any other subscription-based business, in many respects. They have mission statements, personas, a strong digital presence with robust content, and specific new member and renewal goals.
As such, successful membership organizations regularly revisit these elements of their businesses to improve a host of key objectives — including and especially membership growth strategies.
By turning to a customer data platform, your membership organization can gauge which prospective members have shown and continue to show substantial engagement with the brand.
You can then determine who is most likely to convert in their respective buyer journeys and, in turn, refine your member lifecycle orchestration strategy to connect with those prospects.
Simply integrate your membership management system, CRM, ESP, adtech, and other tools to your CDP, and you’ll have the ability to not only see individual engagement scores adjust in real time, but segment and immediately take action on the data.
Segmentation of prospective members based on how recently, how frequently, and where they interact with your membership organization online (and offline) can prove invaluable for just about every component of your marketing: from targeted (and retargeted) ads to individualized emails — activities that can ultimately turn semi-interested leads into full-time members (or donors or enrollees).
Similarly, look-alike modeling based on your current member base can help you identify, target, and convert new members that share similar attributes.
Use case #2: Improve your member retention numbers by uncovering granular membership insights in your CDP.
Member retention is a top priority at all organizations. Improvements to things like onboarding, content, and perks certainly influence renewal decisions for your existing membership base.
A 2018 Dynamic Benchmarking and Kaiser Insights study found groups with onboarding, orientation, or welcoming plans saw member renewal rates rise from 62% before implementation to 68% after.
Programs like these certainly play pivotal roles in your retention strategy — but you also need access to granular member data to extract valuable insights that enable you to build effective renewal strategies for different member segments across channels. Understanding behavioral attributes in real time can give you the edge you need to act when it matters most.
But distinct member behaviors sourced from your CDP can also inform how to promote renewal messaging to current members, including the ideal channels, mediums, and timing for said messaging.
For instance, if you discover the recency or frequency of member log-ins are suddenly low for key segments whose memberships will end soon, you can develop personalized renewal offers and content recommendations to reengage them. Publishers have been using these personalization tactics with much success for years now.
There are several other niche member types — multi-year members, repeat or major donors, active volunteers, newsletter subscribers — you can narrow in on regarding your retention efforts, of course. It all depends on who you and your organizational leaders value most.
The sky is the limit in terms of the segments you can build in a CDP: multi-year members, repeat or major donors, active volunteers, and newsletter subscribers, to name some You can also create rich segments to focus your membership retention efforts for maximum impact.
In addition to detecting which high-value members should be targeted with renewal messaging, a CDP can also help you recognize when members — particularly unengaged ones — seem unlikely to renew.
By applying predictive models directly within your CDP, you can leverage machine learning to immediately recognize which members have a high propensity to churn so you can deliver messaging that encourages membership renewal.
As outlined in our dedicated customer churn guide, failing to focus some of your marketing attention on members heading for the digital door can lead to substantial revenue losses. Conversely, pinpointing these members and marketing to them individually can steadily bump up your renewal rates.
Use case #3: Drive ecommerce sales for your retail arm by personalizing product recommendations to specific members.
Not every membership organization has an ecommerce arm that sells merchandise, proprietary research, or some other product type to bolster revenue.
If your organization does, though, you can deliver highly personalized product recommendations based on each individual’s interests, behaviors, and other attributes. You can also use a CDP to reduce ad waste by immediately identifying members who have made a purchase.
For instance, you can leverage the real-time segmentation in our CDP to suppress members from being retargeted across channels following their purchase. That way, you don’t overwhelm recent buyers with irrelevant ads. Instead, focus on yet-to-buy segments who could convert soon.
You could focus on known members who have visited your site in a given time frame (say, the last 24 hours or week) and spent considerable time viewing specific products. You can also target cart abandoners — those who add an item to their shopping cart but neglect to buy — with incentives to come back and purchase via email and digital advertising, for example.
Over time, you can develop and refine segments of one-time buyers, repeat purchasers, high-value members, and other niche buckets that can lead to improvements in key marketing and sales metrics.
This is how the major retail players today drive ecommerce sales — and how several of the premier membership organizations continually generate new business and grow.
In a time when many membership organizations test monetization models to not only survive but thrive, it’s worth your energy and resources to leverage your first-party data with a CDP and experiment with new (and potentially lucrative) avenues for revenue growth.
Use case #4: Expand (or develop) your co-marketing program by building strategic, second-party data relationships.
Co-marketing initiatives with select partners is common for many membership organizations today. The main benefit of these efforts is the ability to tap into new prospect pools and delight members with exclusive deals and offers from the brands they care about. The key to converting these prospective members, though, is enabling bi-directional, second-party data sharing with your partners.
The more data amassed about these audiences — from both partners and actions they take with your brand — the better. Once integrated from disparate systems into your CDP, you can craft highly relevant, personalized messaging you can dispatch both in real time (as they engage with you online) and over the long haul (targeted campaigns) to get them to sign up.
On the flip side of this data sharing, you can create new premium advertising and data products for partners that have an interest in marketing to your audience.
All you have to do is know which segments a given partner wants to target, then bucket the members in question via your CDP and send them along to your co-marketing collaborators.
One thing to be mindful with these relationships is to adhere to global privacy regulations: You don’t want a fine for failing to comply with GDPR or other consumer protection measures.
Thankfully, CDPs like ours come with consent management functionality built in, meaning you can market to current and prospective members without fear of messaging someone whose consent you don’t have. Moreover, you can suppress members who’ve opted out (or never opted in) before sharing lists with partners.
Second-party data partnerships have proven fruitful for innumerable businesses today, including membership organizations — and especially when that data is integrated into a customer data platform.
Advancing your membership growth strategy with a CDP
Even with a wealth of martech at their disposal, there are still some membership organizations who’ve yet to implement a proper marketing database to power their membership growth strategies.
“[T]he use of data and data analysis has shown almost no forward movement over the last number of years,” among membership organizations, a 2018 Marketing General report found.
As one of the report’s authors noted, though, organizations that have adopted a data-driven approach with modern martech, are miles ahead with their membership marketing compared to other groups.
“The marketing opportunities have just really expanded, and the groups that taking advantage of those, I think will see more success in their membership acquisition efforts,” Marketing General Senior Vice President Tony Rossell told Associations Now.
The point here is simple: The CDP enables every single one of the aforementioned use cases — and make the lives and jobs of membership marketers markedly easier and more streamlined than ever, helping to grow critical metrics including member acquisition and retention.
Media and publishing brands were some of the first to recognize the potency of customer data platforms in terms of fueling monetization. Similar to these entities, membership organizations also focus primarily on member retention and subscription growth to enhance their earnings.
With one industry whose CDP use cases and general data-driven initiatives they can emulate to varying degrees, it’s easy to see why so many membership organizations increasingly allocate spend to invest in customer data platforms that can act as the center of their marketing universe.
If your member organization make the single member view — and, in turn, your CDP — the center of everything you do from a marketing perspective, you’ll grow, engage, and retain members far more effectively than those who rely on manually piecing together their member data from siloed solutions.