Content marketing mistakes: Nine things membership organisations should avoid

Content marketing mistakes: Nine things membership organisations should avoid

To keep your marketing strategy on point, Executive Director, Jackie Scully, recommends that you stop doing these things right now (yes now).

How often have you got so wrapped up in business as usual membership marketing activity that you’ve left no time to create content that your members really want to see, or that the organisation needs you to send to help achieve its strategic objectives? Every week? You’re not alone. 

Jackie is on a mission to get us all to stop doing and start thinking about what will really grab and keep audience attention. So, down tools, read on and then promise us that you will never do any of the following ever again (and we mean ever).

1. Marketing without content or strategy

A big mistake that a lot of membership organisations make is viewing marketing and content departments as separate entities, with marketing comms coming from one side of the business while rich, informative articles and features go unnoticed on the other. 

In order to best communicate with your members, it’s time to stop making the two mutually exclusive and instead create impactful content around your organisation’s marketing messages. Define your content marketing strategy ahead of time to avoid “random acts of marketing”, which happen when you try to respond to the different needs of each department on the fly. 

While it’s great to be reactive, you don’t have time to do everything, so avoid sending out emails or creating content for the sake of it. Plan ahead to ensure your content output is aligned with your marketing comms and defined by strategy, so you can do less but achieve more. This will ensure every piece of content comes with a transaction attached, and that what you create will get more views.

2. Disconnected chaos

Disconnected communications and an inconsistent tone of voice can feel very confusing for your audience, so it’s vital that all comms across your organisation feel aligned.

While you probably have different departments communicating with your members, all content is still coming from one central organisation, so this should be clear from the tone in which you communicate with them.

If your podcast isn’t speaking to your magazine and your email comms, it should!

3. The not-so-welcoming welcome email

Members are often bombarded with formal house-keeping rules and codes of conduct when first signing up (admit it, you’ll feel better), which can set a more serious tone to what is representative of the organisation. This does not provide for a very welcoming or enjoyable user experience!

Instead, we recommend keeping things light by celebrating the benefits their membership will bring them – talk about what they’re going to be a part of; the difference their membership makes; how often you’ll be communicating with them, what top-performing content they can expect to see and any learning opportunities or events on the horizon that they can be a part of. Think of it as less no-gos, and more go-tos – welcome emails mark the beginning of the honeymoon period, after all, so now’s the time for positivity.

Person reading emails on mobile

4. Death by membership update

It’s time to forget about hitting those box-ticking email quotas; sending less is definitely worth more. Focus on the quality of the update you’re sending, rather than the frequency in which you send it. Of course, staying consistent is important, but there’s no point in scraping the barrel to try and find things to update your members with.

Instead, aim to offer a curated update for your members, rather than frequent emails or never ending lists. What’s the purpose of the update? What’s the story you’re trying to tell? Is email the right communication channel for this?

Include specific, key messages in your membership emails and ensure to include interesting calls-to-action (CTAs) at the end. It’s likely your members won’t read more than three to five things, so don’t send anything without good reason to. 

And, if you have different strands of content to share (CPD, community, policy etc), don’t cram it all in one send. Doing so is a sure-fire way to ensure your messages won’t go in.

5. Stories, not schedules

Don’t let a marketing plan dictate when you communicate with members – it’s time to follow the story, rather than the predetermined schedule.

While planning ahead for your content and communication strategy is vital, so is being able to respond to topical and relevant updates in an agile manner. Allocate team resource to do just that, so you don’t end up missing an opportunity because you’re too busy sticking to the plan.

6. Marketing without measurement

Marketing without considering your data is a recipe for disaster. How are you going to improve your marketing comms if you don’t look at what your data (AKA your audience) is telling you? 

Make sure to test everything so you can see what your data tells you. For instance, use A/B testing when sending out emails – do different subject lines deliver different results? Does long-form content work better than a short, punchy list? Are your efforts delivering the results and rewards you’re looking for?

Remain adaptable – if you’re not seeing the results you want, rip up the plan and try a different approach. It’s not failure; it’s learning.

7. One size fits nobody

Members will soon switch off and start ignoring one-size-fits-all communications that don’t apply to them, so targeting your membership comms accordingly is vital if you want to avoid poor engagement down the line.

While smaller teams may not have the resource or data to segment members and get really personal, there are ways around this. Send out short surveys or polls to ask members what they want to read; give them a quick call, or invite them to attend focus groups to get their opinion. Comms born out of this, rather than assumptions and ‘anecdata’, mean you can personalise more accurately by listening to what your members want.

8. Show, don’t tell

It’s time to stop telling your member’s how good your organisation is with empty words and box-ticking gestures. Instead, show them what you can do for them, or what positive change your organisation is making. 

It’s less about showing off your office or demonstrating corporate showmanship and is more about providing benefit-stuffed, member-led content that makes practical and meaningful change. Don’t be a broadcaster, be a positive force.

9. Words, words, words

Finally, we all know how to use words, but that doesn’t mean we should use them all the time.

Think about varying the content types you are producing to add variety and interest and speak to members who learn in lots of different ways. We are being bombarded with the written word, so why not be the ones to mix it up. Yes, video, audio and instructables (we love an instructable) do take more time and resource, but done well, they can deliver more impact than lots and lots of words on a page.

Need to reboot your membership marketing activities? We can help, with everything from outsourced services to consultancy and training. Contact us by sending an email or by phoning 020 3771 7216.


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