Behind the Member Wall

Modern content marketing has created a challenging opportunity for associations.

Behind the Member Wall
Hands typing on a laptop

Once considered the keepers of vital industry information, associations must now contend with the fact that many professional audiences expect the majority of information to be free.

Of course, this is not news to you. We know that associations are increasingly competing with free online resources and for-profit companies. We’ve also seen inbound content marketing dominate the professional information landscape, with savvy marketers creating free, engaging content designed to capture audience attention, brand allegiance and ultimately their business.

But that doesn’t mean that associations are at risk of losing their value. In fact, associations, as industry resources, still have access to information that no one else has, and can continue to be a guiding asset for our industries and everyone we serve. We just have to reconsider how we create and deliver content. A key part of this is figuring out what information lives behind the member wall.

Understanding the Member Wall

In and of itself, a member wall is a pay wall that divides the content you share for free from the content you share with paying members. Similar to the pay walls we all have experience with, such as The New York Times or The Washington Post, member walls are designed to be a kind of “gate”—one that offers enough engaging content to drive visitors to become dues-paying members.

But unlike news sites who offer a single product to their audiences, associations’ reliance on multiple revenue streams—and the need to adapt those as the competitive landscape continues to evolve—means managing a number of goals and ensuring your member wall, and the engagement strategy leading up to it, supports them.

Depending on whether you’re looking to…

  • Attract and convert new members
  • Build customer relationships for future non-member transactions
  • Generate impact and awareness
  • Capture non-dues revenues
  • Attract thought leaders to help with your content development

…or some combination of the above, you’ll want to make sure your member wall experience is aligned with your current goals and audience expectations.

Two Common Member Wall Strategies

While there are a number of ways to create effective engagements leading up to the member wall, McKinley has identified the two strategies that represent the most common—and the most effective—methods in use today.

  • Demand Generation Model
    • Content lives behind the member wall
    • Previews member content value using email campaigns, webinars, product trials and gated content
    • Designed to create value-added experiences that lead prospects to the top of the funnel
    • Appeals to a specific, select audience
    • Traditional model of generating demand
  • Open Access Model
    • Content lives outside the member wall
    • Establishes a “hub” of free-access information on issues surrounding your association
    • Excellent for building awareness, thought leadership and emotional connections to brand
    • Can be used to capture contact information for prospecting and generate CTA-driven non-dues revenue
    • Modeled after content marketing

Or, as with most associations operating today, you can create a hybrid of the two methods, offering some enticing content outside the member wall while implementing strategies to drive those who engage to convert to members.

Member Wall Challenges

Of course, when it comes to defining an engagement strategy for your member wall experience, you’ll want to keep your eye on the bottom line. Opening up some of the incredible content you’re sitting on means that you’re now giving away something that you used to – or could – charge for. And while it’s important to stay current and adapt to new information paradigms, you can’t do it at your own expense.

As you’re considering how you configure your member wall, you need to think through your revenue streams:

  • Do you currently have products or services that can be offered to non-members for a fee?
  • Or do you rely exclusively on your information and need to create content teasers that lead to gated, behind-the-wall content?

Both have their advantages and adapt easily enough to a new member wall model, but each comes with its own set of concerns regarding how much you can give away while still offering significant value to your paying members—and maintaining your most significant source of funds.

The Bottom Line

Though the information landscape has been changed forever with the rise of content marketing, member wall engagement experiences offer associations a clear way forward. By thinking through what your prospective members expect, what your organization can monetize to generate non-dues revenue and which engagement model best meets your association’s needs, we can create experiences that build your brand, drive engagement and create the revenue we need to continue leading the way.

At McKinley, we offer full-service consulting that builds highly effective prospect engagement strategies for associations. From audience identification and engagement to program development and implementation, we’ll help you create the experience you want and the revenue you need.

Interested in assessing your member wall and content marketing strategy?

Contact our team today to learn more.