Marketing Copywriting, Maslen on Marketing

Membership marketing – keeping it fresh

I owe the idea for this article to Sarah Jakeman of Cognitum Database Marketing Services. Thanks, Sarah! Here’s her question. “How do you keep copy fresh when you are marketing what is basically the same service on an ongoing basis to the same audience?”

Sarah cited the example of marketing a professional body to its members. But much of what I’m going to say on the subject applies to subscriptions marketing, too.

Fresh or frozen?

To keep your copy fresh, you have to revisit the original brief every year. Better yet, write a new one and hand it over to a professional writer. Seeing your organisation for the first time, they’ll bring a fresh perspective and introduce new ideas.

I see a lot of renewal copy that is clearly just a rehash of the previous year’s copy, usually to the detriment of the message. So take a long hard look at the organisation and the current benefits of membership. Have you launched any new services? Provided new products? Added new tiers of membership? You may find that the organisation has moved on and left the copy frozen in time.

Five ideas for keeping them in

  1. Don’t wait until the renewal is due before making contact. It’s far better to keep in regular touch with members. This goes for subscribers, too. Though at least they get the publication they’ve subscribed to.
  2. One of the biggest reasons for membership attrition is non-use of services. If you run lots of events, anyone not attending for a year is less likely to renew. So you need to help every member feel they are a part of the organisation. Regardless of how much they use its services.
  3. Send out a membership newsletter. And please, make sure it’s packed with useful and RELEVANT information, not just self-satisfied puffs about how pleased the organisation is with itself. Do it via e-mail, too. If people have opted-in, they’ll be more likely to read it, so you don’t have to worry so much about low production values. You DO have to worry about content and copywriting though. A badly written e-mail newsletter is no more likely to be enjoyed than a badly written print one.
  4. Develop some non-physical services and ways for all members to participate in the life of the organisation. With the limitless possibilities of the internet, launching bulletin boards, chatrooms, e-seminars or web polling should help even your most reticent member join in.
  5. Remind people of the less tangible benefits of membership. The feeling of belongingness. The cachet of being able to use your logo, initials or membership designation. And the sense of professional development membership confers.


Strike the right tone

In terms of copywriting, you have to strike a balance between two tones of voice. A peer-to-peer appeal that acknowledges their standing as existing members. And a more straightforward sales pitch that encourages them to renew. It’s not easy. Be too laid back and you risk their feeling no sense of urgency. Be too aggressive and you will almost certainly put them off.

Lock them in

You could also try locking them in for two or more years. As the length of membership increases, the desire and will to cancel diminishes. In effect, inertia becomes a more powerful force than restlessness. If you are going to try this, offer them a nice incentive, usually reduced annual membership.

You could also try offering lifetime membership for a one-off fee. But to make this pay, you have to calculate lifetime customer value and pitch the fee accordingly so that you don’t end up with lots of members and no profits.

This month’s message

Marketing the same service to the same people every year is hard. But before you reach for last year’s text and the Sunfish Copywriter’s Tart-up Kit (patent applied for), have a look at the service itself. Is it REALLY unchanged? Or is there actually lots of new stuff you could write about? Either way, your best bet is to ignore last year’s effort altogether and start with a blank page. Use it to write either a brief for an external copywriter or a new and original document of your own.

[Readability statistics for this article]

Sentences/paragraph                3.8
Words/sentence                        12.6
Characters/word                        4.6
Passive sentences                    3%
Flesch Reading Ease                57.3/100
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level      8.4

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