In an era where sustainability and adaptability are crucial for organisational longevity, membership organisations must explore avenues beyond traditional membership revenue.

However, in our latest Re:member research, we discovered that only 14% of professional and 22% of consumer membership organisations admit they’re maximising their commercial potential.

By harnessing the power of strategic commercialisation, membership organisations can not only thrive, but also expand their impact, resources, and offerings. Here, Michael Coulsey​ – Commercial Director at Think – offers some insight into how membership organisations can do so to reach their (commercial) potential.

Understand your audience

In an ever-expanding market, membership bodies can now find themselves competing with commercial giants in their sector, with the likes of Google and Linkedin wading in and offering audience communities.

As a result, Mike suggests having an unrivalled understanding of your audience is essential. Do you have a strong preference centre? Are you running member surveys? Do you ask for detailed information at the onboarding or renewal stage? 

Data is key here – not only to maximise your revenue via a strong sales story, but also to consistently ensure that the messaging being served to your members is both relevant and useful. If you can demonstrate your members’ needs, preferences and pain points then you’ll stand out from the crowd.

Uncover your USP

Identifying your unique selling point and position within the market is key to unlocking your commercial potential. What can you offer that other organisations cannot? 

As a membership organisation, you’ll find there are plenty of companies out there that will want to align with your brand and ethos – whether that’s by running joint surveys, hosting webinars, creating reports or launching strategic partnerships. Mike explains how each is a fantastic way to create valuable resources for your members, while also offering additional exposure to your organisation via the amplification through the partners network.

Decipher what the market desires

How well do you know what the spenders in your market want? Are you offering the right inventory mix to get them to spend with you? 

If you’ve never asked these questions, Mike says it’s likely that there are companies interested in marketing to your audience, but not via the inventory that you offer and you’re missing out on their spend.

Certain companies may also only be interested in a certain section of your audience – could you instead create new, smaller communities to enable advertisers to sponsor target segments? Or, can you develop a new product to capture this?

This leads us onto…

Innovate and increase opportunity

Are you still selling the same channels you were three years ago? As Mike says, “standing still is moving backwards”.

Marketeers want to ensure that their message reaches all of your audience – and that means the need for cross-platform advertising. If you only offer print, it’s likely that you’ll be losing out on campaigns and clients that call for a multi-channel approach. 

New product development can not only drive revenue growth, but also add value for the members – so get thinking about those podcasts, surveys, and webinars!

Boost engagement 

Do you measure the engagement of your channels? How well do they perform?

If, for example, your newsletter sends aren’t receiving decent levels of engagement, it’s highly likely that neither is the advertising within them, either. As a result, this will lead to a high churn of advertisers and impact the ability of the sales team to grow those accounts into more significant spenders. 

To counteract this, Mike recommends a strong content programme, targeted at your specific membership segments, to ensure that members are engaging. After all: where there is engagement, there is ad revenue.


Mike advises investing in a robust – but flexible! – annual strategy, so that your team can track improvements in your organisation’s revenues. After all, as the Art of War says: Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat”.

Recruit the right sales team

You might have the right products, you may have a great strategy, but if you haven’t invested in an experienced and motivated sales team, you’ll never see the full potential of your revenue growth… 

By adopting a forward-thinking mindset, embracing innovation, and leveraging the strengths of your team, you can embark on a transformative journey that drives impact and ensures a bright, prosperous future. 

Want to know how to get started? Let our sales team help you – we’ve been working with membership organisations for over 24 years! 

Get in touch with us today to find out how to maximise your organisation’s commercial potential.

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