Digital Marketing for Membership Organisations: A Comprehensive How-To

In today’s world, the internet is king. This is why it’s important for member organisations to leverage digital marketing to sustain membership growth and maintain a vibrant community. Digital marketing plays a crucial role in enabling organisations to gain new members, ensure continued engagement with existing members, and attract the appropriate traffic to their website. But if digital marketing isn’t your strong suit, choosing the right marketing ideas is difficult. It can be hard to know where to even start and if your marketing tools are working.

Don’t fret – in this article, we’ll give you a comprehensive crash course. We’ll go over some of the most effective digital marketing strategies for membership organisations, like Search Engine Optimisation, pay-per-click advertising, and social media marketing. If you’re looking for new ways to grow your membership base and foster long-term engagement – this is the place.

Search Engine Optimisation for Your Organisation

SEO, or Search Engine Optimisation, is an integral part of digital marketing. If you’ve ever wondered why certain sites pop up first when you google something – SEO is the answer. Search Engine Optimisation is done by fine-tuning your website to increase its chances of ranking higher when someone googles topics related to your organisation.

A significant part of Search Engine Optimisation is done through the use of keywords. Simply put, your website should contain the same words and phrases relevant to your organisation’s industry, services, and benefits.

By finding and analysing the search terms people use related to your product or service through keyword research, you can narrow down what people are looking for on search engines and leverage this to your advantage. You can use a keyword research tool like Google’s keyword planner to do this.

As search engine results are constantly changing, SEO is not a one-off project – it’s important to consistently do keyword research, check your Google Analytics and keep optimising your website to keep your place in the search engine.

SEO is More Than Just Words

Another essential part of SEO is making sure you have engaging, quality content that keeps potential members on your site. Relying too heavily on keywords, or keyword stuffing, may help your website in the short term, but Google penalises this tactic in the long term. It’s important to keep the human side of things at the forefront.

The fool-proof way to do this is to put your organisation’s best side front and centre. Draw your target members in with topics that interest them, informative content and answers to common questions and problems they might have. This also gives you a chance to show your expertise in your field, encouraging them to click through your website, learning more about your organisation and the benefits of joining along the way.

Keep It Local

To avoid getting lost in the mass of member organisations worldwide and reach those in your area, it’s important to make the most of local SEO strategies. You can do this by using location-specific keywords, such as making sure your website includes the phrase “in Canberra,” e.g. “The premier plumbing association in Canberra.”

Make the most of your Google My Business profile by ensuring it has all the relevant information such as your phone number and address will also help the search engine algorithm narrow down who you are trying to reach. According to Google’s Consumer Insights, “Near me” searches increased by 100% between 2019 and 2020, so now is the time to make sure your geotargeting is on point.

How Pay-Per-Click Can Help Your Membership Marketing

Pay-per-click (PPC) marketing, or search engine advertising, is a method of online marketing that allows advertisers to pay based on how many clicks their ad receives. Social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook, as well as website display windows, offer avenues for this, but the most prevalent is through search engines such as Google.

For example, when you search for something on Google, often the first half dozen results will have the word “sponsored” above them. This is thanks to Google Ads – a platform that allows advertisers to bid on search keywords. The winning bid then appears at the top of the search result.

Developing well-targeted PPC campaigns is one of the best ways to reach prospective members who are actively searching for services and organisations related to your industry, and ensure they see you first. Properly leveraging PPC marketing on either search engines or social media platforms can drastically increase the number of eyes on your organisation.

Know Your Demographic

It’s important before you begin advertising of any kind that you have a clear idea of who it is you’re trying to target. This is particularly important with PPC campaigns, as Google Ads will allow you to narrow down who you target by age, gender, household, income, and even parental status.

Suppose you manage a professional women’s association in a particular industry. In that case, Google Ads lets you target your ads specifically to women between the ages of 25 and 40 to help you attract this demographic.

The Power of Compelling Copy

Getting your organisation’s website link in front of the eyes of viewers is only half the battle: enticing them to click it among dozens of other options on the same search page is the hard part. Your ad must be eye-catching, to the point, and highlight the key advantages of membership.

Does your organisation pride itself on the networking opportunities it provides? Are member-exclusive events your biggest draw? With only a sentence or two for you to draw people in, make sure you put a spotlight on why your organisation is worth joining.

Don’t Let Your PPC Campaign Stagnate

Much like SEO, it’s important to maintain and freshen up your PPC campaigns continuously. With PPC advertising, you have the freedom to modify and update your campaign at any given time, unlike traditional print advertising which only allows for a single distribution. Make the most out of this flexibility by constantly updating your campaign.
The analytics available means you can easily see what works and what doesn’t, allowing you to tweak your PPC campaign to perfection. Keep optimising your keywords, ad placements, and copy to ensure you get the highest ROI possible.

The Golden Era of Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing (SMM) means leveraging social media platforms to build your organisation’s brand, attract new members and retain existing ones, and generate traffic to your website. Social media marketing is more important than ever, now far surpassing traditional advertising in terms of potential ROI.

Plentiful Platform Options

Start by identifying which social media platforms you use and your target audience is most engaged and active on. The options are plentiful, with LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter being the main giants.

As an example, if you run an organisation for professionals that offers networking opportunities, LinkedIn is the perfect place to reach your audience. If your organisation is less formal and geared toward a millennial audience, Instagram might be the best platform to focus your SMM campaign. If Gen Z is your target audience, TikTok is a powerful tool.

Social media platforms like Facebook allow you to “sponsor” your posts – this means you can pay to have your content seen by a wider audience, outside your followers and people who find your content organically.

Much like Google Ads, you can be highly specific with who you want your sponsored posts and ads to reach on social media. After selecting the platform to prioritize, leverage your understanding of the target audience and confirm you’re effectively targeting them.

The Magic of Both Paid and Organic SMM

Your social media marketing campaign should have a two-pronged approach – reaching audiences by sponsoring your content in paid campaigns, like with PPC marketing, and reaching them organically through quality content and online word of mouth.

While paid SMM can help you reach a broad audience, organic SMM is a powerful way to create member engagement as well. Achieving a perfect equilibrium between the two is crucial not only for effectively reaching out to your desired demographic but also keeping their attention engaged long enough to become invested in your organisation, while also fostering a sense of reliability and prominence.

Organic social posts are free and are only seen by your existing followers, people browsing the hashtags used in your post, and the followers of anyone who shares your content. Reaching your audience organically means regularly uploading engaging, quality content to your page that showcases the best of your organisation; the benefits it provides, as well as the activities and events on offer.

Show your audience success stories – how your organisation has helped its members. Testimonials from your members are a fantastic way to do this as they allow those who are considering joining your organisation to hear exactly why they should from people like them, their peers. This is an excellent way to build trust and increase membership.

Stay Engaged to Keep Them Engaged

Using social media allows your organisation to really stay connected with your followers. By consistently and swiftly responding to comments, messages and inquiries you can demonstrate, in an organic way, that you are committed to member satisfaction. Showing this to your followers by staying engaged is more effective than simply telling them in an advertisement that you’re committed to listening to your members.

Ideally, regularly posting and staying engaged should also allow you to have a direct and regular stream of feedback from your members, keeping you in the know about how they’re thinking and feeling about your organisation. This makes your members feel seen and heard, ensuring you know how to best keep your members happy. Always keep in mind that happy members are more likely to spread the word about your membership program.

Email Marketing

We’re all familiar with email marketing as a concept: most of us have dozens of promotional emails in our inbox at any given time, and the first promotional email was sent over 50 years ago in 1971. However, you might not be familiar with just how many tools are available today that allow you to optimise your email marketing and make it stand out in the crowd.

Rather than just sending out a mass email to your mailing list, these tools mean email marketing can help nurture your relationships with potential and existing members.

Make the Most of Personalising and Segmenting

Email marketing platforms, such as MailChimp, allow you to segment your email list and personalise the content for the reader. You can do this using information gathered during your member sign-up and onboarding process. We’ll go into this more in-depth below:


Email segmentation means breaking down your mailing list into distinct groups based on specific criteria such as different member categories, interests and engagement levels. This allows you to develop more personalised email campaigns to speak directly to each segment.

An example of this would be if your organisation offers student memberships, you can send only that segment of your members an email wishing them luck during the pre-exam period, and inviting them to a student-only event.
Vitally, you can segment your mailing list by where they are in their membership journey. You can automate your email service to track the membership cycle, send new members a welcome email, and those whose membership is about to lapse an encouraging reminder email to renew.


Personalising your emails means changing the actual content of the email to each recipient, such as automatically including their first name at the start of the email.
It sounds like a small detail, but according to the email marketing platform Benchmark, employing personalisation in your emails means a 27% higher unique click rate and an 11% higher open rate.

Using the name of the recipient in your email is just the simplest form of email personalisation. You could use email personalisation to include a specific call to action in your newsletter, for example. Remind existing members to renew. Get new members excited to attend their first event. The possibilities are endless.

What to Include in Your Emails

Getting members to click your email is one thing, but getting them excited to click every time they receive a notification from you is another.

Making your emails as interesting and relevant to your members as possible is key. The content you publish should be valuable to them and genuinely worth reading instead of purely promotional. Some options to include are industry insights, educational resources, exclusive offers, and referral programs. Now it’s time to create a call-to-action, something that encourages the reader to take the next step. Ultimately, your emails should reflect the vibrant community that your organisation is.

Learn What Works

Just like SEO and PPC, analytics and regular tweaking are your best friends when it comes to email marketing. Using your email marketing platform, regularly check your email campaign’s metrics like open rates, click-through rates, and conversion. Keep refining your email marketing strategy over time and optimising member communication.

Content Marketing

Content marketing involves creating high-quality, valuable content to engage and attract potential members. Create content to show your expertise and gain the trust of your audience. Content marketing can help you build brand awareness and increase member engagement.

The content you post to your website, social media platforms and include in emails should align with the interests and needs of your target audience. Make sure it focuses on topics that relate to your organisation’s field or niche, so the right people find you and stay engaged.

Cover all your bases

The different formats you can make original content in are countless and you should take advantage of this. Try and produce a variety of content: blog posts, articles, videos, and infographics are just a few of your options. Keeping your content formats varied helps cater to the different ways your potential members like to consume content.

Once your content is varied, engaging and otherwise down-pat, make sure it doesn’t get lost. Posting across multiple platforms like your website, social media platforms, and industry forums will make sure your content has the highest reach possible.

Understanding Member Personas

We’ve talked a lot in this article about demographics and target audiences, but these words can feel a little bit abstract and broad when it comes to actually producing content, writing copy and setting the parameters for your PPC ads.

For your digital marketing efforts to be effective, it helps to create an accurate vision of who you are trying to reach, instead of just a bundle of membership statistics. Do this by creating “member personas,” fictional representations of your ideal members. If you’re hoping to increase student membership, think about what kind of student would join your organisation.

An Example of a Member Persona and How They Help

If you run, for example, an association for freelance makeup artists, your member persona for students might be Kate: a 21-year-old woman, who is studying makeup artistry at TAFE. She’s worried about how to break into the freelance market when she graduates and is hoping to connect with more peers who can help her navigate her way.

Now, when you create marketing campaigns, you have a clear picture of who you’re speaking to. You have an idea of what their interests are, their worries and motivations. You can now tailor your messaging accordingly. You now know to focus on the network opportunities your organisation offers, provide plenty of educational content and resources, and focus on Instagram, the most popular social media platform for her age group and field.

Really Learn Who Your Members Are

When it comes to creating member personas, your existing member base is your best asset. Conducting research on your existing member data will help you get a much better idea of who the people are that want to join your organisation and help create member personas.

You can do this by collecting and analysing data. Conducting surveys, interviews, and creating focus groups is a great way to do this. It’s important to first cover the bases: what the main age groups in your membership organisations are, income levels, and career levels. This is the first step to creating multiple accurate member personas.

Besides raw data, interviews will also give you the more personal information you need. By asking the right questions, you can get a better understanding of how your members see themselves, their worries and wants, and how they work and live. Ask them questions that go beyond statistic gathering. Some examples might be: what challenges did they recently face, and where did they seek out a solution? Where do they get the majority of their information and news from?

Besides interviews, you should leverage the knowledge of other stakeholders about your members. Everybody employee in your organisation will have something valuable to say that helps you get another piece of the puzzle. Other tools available to you that can’t be forgotten are your website analytics and any existing member feedback you have.

Fostering Meaningful Engagement With Your Members

You should see your organisation’s digital presence as not only a way to target prospective members but improve and add to the experience of your existing members.

According to a 2018 study from Talk Triggers, 50% of people would pick word-of-mouth if they had to choose only one source of information, and 71% of people pass on word-of-mouth recommendations if they’ve had a great experience. The logic tracks that if you focus on giving your current members a consistently great experience, new members will follow.

Social media engagement is a great tool to foster membership engagement, therefore driving member retention, loyalty, and advocacy. The more engage your members are, the more likely they are to renew their membership and refer new members.

We’ve already discussed a few fantastic ways to do this above, such as delivering your members quality content, including industry resources and educational information in your (ideally personalised) email campaigns. In case you’re still short on ideas, interactive content is a great way to drive social media engagement.

This means hosting discussions and webinars on your platforms, posting member spotlights (i.e. “member of the month”), and hosting live Q&A sessions. These are fun, informative, and most importantly, get your members involved. Some other sure-fire ways to do this online are through quizzes and polls. They’re easy to make and for members to actively participate in, as well as giving them a chance to share their opinion.

Now that we’ve explained how to use digital marketing and how it can help you both gain and keep members, we wish you luck on your journey. Search Engine Optimisation is always a good place to start, and you can read more about it from us here.

  • Juliette Owen-Jones
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