How to Generate New Membership Leads Using Traditional Lead Generation Methods

Membership Recruitment |

Generating new membership leads is a vital part of ensuring your membership organisations continues to grow and thrive. You will never be able to achieve a 100% membership retention rate, due to factors that are outside of your control – the retirement or death of members, new legislations, competitors and other outside influences.

Therefore, in order to maintain your membership numbers (at a minimum, but most likely you’ll have targets relating to growth), you’ll need to top up your membership levels with new members each year.

But targeting new members can be difficult. You can’t have a ‘one size fits all’ approach as although members may all have similar reasons for joining, you probably won’t find them all in the same place to begin with. You’ll need to employ a variety of tactics to ensure you’re reaching as wide an audience as possible – targeting traditional member profiles as well as those that fit the ‘next generation of members’ profile.

Marketing nowadays is split into two camps – we’ll call them ‘traditional’ and ‘modern’. Traditional marketing focuses on the kind of activities that have always been carried out – events, mails, telemarketing etc. Modern focuses on working with the new platforms and technology that have been established more recently, and those that are on the cutting edge of development.

So what exactly can you do to specifically help generate new membership leads? Let’s take a look at some of the traditional marketing methods you can employ:


Telemarketing is a very effective, yet very difficult lead generation activity to master. Done well it can help generate and nurture high quality membership leads. However, done badly it can damage your brand and ruin relations.

It’s vital that you find a telemarketing company or individual that you trust. They must be intelligent, competent, friendly and flexible. Finding people that match this criteria, who are still willing to do what is effectively an entry level job, is a difficult task. But if you find someone who ticks all these boxes then you may find telemarketing to be one of your most effective tools.

Telemarketing generally works better for membership organisations who want to target organisations as members, rather than private individuals.

Direct Mail

Direct mail is again a very traditional marketing method, but one that is still used on a regular basis by many associations and professional membership organisations because it works so well.

You’ll need to either have an existing database (ideally developed over time through an opt-in process which you should be managing in your membership CRM), or failing that, it may be possible to purchase one. Make sure you use a list owner, rather than a list broker when buying a membership database. Data from list owners will be more accurate and will come with more quality based guarantees.

Once you have your database finalised, you’ll need to think of something relevant and interesting to send your prospect members. Sending out the basic information about your association won’t be enough to lure people in. You need to think of a hook or something to entice them. Perhaps a discount, an invite to a free networking event, or links to some free online resources.


Make sure that you and all your membership organisation’s staff members are making the most of the contacts in their network. Talking to people, finding out what they do and who they know is a fantastic lead generation technique.

If you’re at an event, make sure that you try and speak to as many people as possible, and that you follow those conversations up afterwards.


Referrals are the gold dust of lead generation. These are incredibly valuable, but are hard to forcefully generate. Your existing members must have a high level of satisfaction and appreciation for the value their membership gives them. They then have to have people in their own network that they’d be willing to recommend membership to.

By using a membership software solution you can identify members that have the potential to be ‘champions ‘ (read our recent whitepaper “Turning Members into Champions” for more information on this). You can then nurture the relationship you have with these champions and try and assist them to make referrals and recommendations.


Events are a great way to get your message across to a large number of prospects. There are a number of different ways you can use events to generate leads.

You can host free events yourself – these could be networking events or training based events for example. Inviting prospects to an event without forcing them to become a member first is a great way for them to learn more about your organisation and to start building that relationship with you. Free, value-added events are a great way to position yourself as an industry leader and will put you in a favourable place with potential new members.

You could also sponsor, speak or exhibit at a relevant conference or tradeshow. These large events are a fantastic way of meeting hundreds of new prospects. Not all of the attendees will have the potential to become qualified leads, but by reaching out to as many people as possible you’ll have a greater chance of meeting people who are keen to learn more about your organisation.

It’s vital that you add all new contacts met at events back into your membership CRM solution, and follow up with them in a method that is suitable.


Forming alliances with complementary, non-competitive organisations is a very effective way of generating high quality leads for your membership organisation.

By teaming up with another company, you can swap leads and contacts, support and recommend each other, and split the cost of various marketing activities.

Depending on your industry it may or may not be easy to find potential organisations to work with. But by partnering with suitable companies you may find that you not only get the financial support, but also a continuous stream of qualified leads. These relationships are a two way street though, so you must be willing to reciprocate and provide value to the company you are working with. Likewise you must be able to carefully monitor, track and report on the leads that you are given to show that they are being appropriately handled.

So those are our top methods for generating qualified membership leads using traditional marketing methods. Come back next week where we’ll be talking about how you can take advantage of the more modern platforms and techniques to reach an even wider audience.