3 Elements of Successful Association Marketing

Marketing Strategy

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If you are responsible for your Association’s marketing to grow both new membership recruitment and member engagement, you may feel like you have the hardest job in the world. You’ll likely send out emails and direct mailings, hold events, create outstanding social media posts, and respond to feedback, all in the hopes of a fire-hydrant-like response back.

Unfortunately, sometimes all the hydrant emits is a slow trickle. You and your association leaders should understand that growing an association membership program is akin to the germination of an oak tree, not a bamboo plant.

According to Salesforce, Hubspot, and other resources, it will take a minimum of six touches before a customer will notice, much less respond to a sales or marketing inquiry. Since selling an association member isn’t like selling the new LEGO Stars Wars game, six touches will likely be closer to 10 to 12 in your case.

What this means is association marketing requires three essential elements to be successful:

  1. Time
  2. Consistency
  3. Resiliency

Let’s delve deeper into these elements of your association’s marketing strategy.

1. Association Marketing Requires Time and Data

Since you are playing the long game with association marketing, it is imperative to track marketing results. According to Six Sigma process improvement program, you will need seven data points to begin to see a trend. For example, when you create a marketing campaign for membership renewals, you should factor in at least seven data points to have good data to know what is really working (or not working) with the campaign.

According to Hubspot, the law of diminishing returns applies to marketing touches. The problem is every industry is different, so it is hard to give an exact number of marketing touches without trial and error. A good rule of thumb is three attempted marketing touches in a week for a campaign, possibly four if it is the last week to renew or join.

2. Consistency is Key in Association Marketing

The biggest key to growing your affinity’s marketing is consistency in the activity of message and delivery. Lack of consistency is where association marketing campaigns often fall short.

According to an article in Forbes, brands with consistent messages are worth 20 percent more than those with inconsistent messaging. If your marketing campaign has a consistent sprinkle of messaging regarding association membership value, the more likely the message will be received and understood.

Think of your own life and how many times a marketing message must be seen before you act. It’s admittedly a fine line between message consistency and over-saturation, but few, if any, associations are large enough to have the marketing resources to over-communicate their value.

Know your member persona and try to publish your content at a certain time that may get the most engagement. Monitor your Google Analytics to track this engagement and uncover the consistent engagement windows.

For example, the marketers for an association of independent pharmacists found the best marketing engagement occurred on Sunday evenings and Monday mornings before 10 a.m. Why?

Independent pharmacists are business owners in addition to being extremely busy filling medications and answering a plethora of customer and provider questions each day. Their window to acknowledge an association message coincided with their preparation to begin a new work week. Anything outside of these hours was almost always ignored or forgotten. After seven consecutive Sunday evening marketing touches, engagement began to show results.

3. Resilience in Association Marketing

If you equate marketing consistency with activity, then resilience is having the agile mindset to perform. According to Intelligent Marketing, marketing resilience means effectively focusing marketing activities in the right place and at the right time.

The pandemic fundamentally changed buying behaviors and how we work. Therefore, associations must respond to the changing needs of their members, who are, in turn, responding to the needs of their customers.

Associations, therefore, must be resilient to understand and adapt to member needs. What marketing activities worked well pre-pandemic may have little effectiveness now.

Focus on digital marketing activities that increase your association’s visibility and amplify its message. Being resilient doesn’t mean stubbornness. It means frequently finding out the right place and right time to deliver messaging to current and future members where they are.


Affinity marketing takes time to grow and become fruitful. Understand that your marketing effort needs consistent messaging over an extended period to generate the most return on your time. And, as with any marketing strategy, a consistent approach will create the opportunity for a loyal membership, and ultimately, a steady downpour of membership leads and renewals. Be resilient and flexible, ready to try different methods of communicating with your members.

Next week we will delve into 10 association marketing tactics that will make the most out of your time and investment.

We invite you to contact us to learn more about association marketing strategies. Core Affinity has built a network of strong supplier partners ready to add value to your association through affinity programs that will enhance your association’s member recruitment and member engagement strategies.


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