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Should Your Association Use Google AdWords for Member Recruitment?

Posted by Dave Stevens on Jul 12, 2017 12:00:00 PM

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In your quest for more members, you've probably tried everything from "member get a member" to content marketing to email campaigns. Those are great membership marketing tools that you should continue to use, but if you want more members, you should consider testing pay per click (PPC) advertising such as Google AdWords.

There are two primary reasons you should consider adding this search engine marketing (SEM) tool to your member recruitment toolkit:

  1. It can be a cost-effective tool for reaching prospective members.
  2. It is exceptionally measurable, so it provides a wealth of information about what motivates a prospective member.

Let's take a closer look at each of these.

Cost Effective Member Recruitment
First, a caveat: a poorly designed or managed AdWords campaign can burn through a tremendous amount of money without positive results. So don't give the summer intern your association credit card and turn them loose. 

That said, in skilled hands, Google Adwords and similar PPC tools can be very cost effective for several reasons:

  • You can control how much you spend per click, per time period, per keyword, etc. While there are many complicated nuances available for pricing, you can control your bottom line. 
  • Even better, you can optimize costs deeper into the member recruitment process through Google tools that track “conversions," such as the submission of a form. This goes beyond simple inbound marketing analytics. This is marketing automation that adjusts on the fly based on the results.
  • You can reach prospective members at a moment when they most need your association.  It's easy to ignore a random email or phone call pitching the benefits of membership. It's quite another thing to find an immediate solution to your urgent issue. For example, "I need continuing education to meet my license requirements by the end of the month." That is an overly simple example, but being presented with a "solution" is obviously much more interesting to you when you are having an urgent problem.
  • As noted above, you only pay when someone clicks on your ad. Your "failures"—ads not clicked on—don't cost you anything. (There is an efficiency cost, but that is beyond the scope of this article.)

Exceptional Wealth of Information
It has been said that you can learn more from your failures than your successes. Search engine marketing such as Google AdWords is a classic example. Properly designed campaigns and ad groups allow you to measure what does—and does not—work:

  • You'll learn which keywords (search phrases) are being used. You'll see the variations, and the frequency of use. For example, are people searching for "architect continuing education," "architect CEU," "AIA learning units," "online architect CE," "Indiana architect CE," "cheap architect CEUs," or other phrases? Which are most popular? 
  • Surprisingly, you may also discover that some of the terminology you have been using for the past 10 years is no longer in vogue. 
  • You'll measure the appeal of various value propositions. Every click is comparable to a vote for a concept. Is it better to mention "quality," "cost" or "convenience?" Does mentioning the association name help or hurt?
  • You'll identify the correlation between the search phrase and the value proposition. Mentioning "quality" when someone searched for "cheap architect CEUs" is probably not as effective as promoting your "member discount." That's obvious. But perhaps "convenience" is still an effective proposition for those seeking "cheap architect CEUs." The permutations and results are fascinating.

As noted, failure has a very small price. If very few people click on your ads, you have spent very little other than your time, but you have learned so much. 

The biggest mistake we see by organization is using overly generic terms. Overly simple terms provide very little information, yet can be very expensive. Instead, let your website handle the more generic terminology, while you focus your search engine marketing on more descriptive terms. 

Are you ready to add another tool to your membership toolkit? Consider pay per click programs such as Google AdWords. The upside potential is great. Even "failure” can be rich with information you can use to improve your overall association membership marketing.

Stevens & Stevens is a 2017 ISAE platinum partner.

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Topics: Marketing, membership, Member Recruitment and Retention

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