Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

July 01 2014

Using Data to Recruit New Members

By Kate Mulcrone

How publicly available data and research can help you grow your member and attendee bases — now and in the future.




Using data to plan for future growth and analyze trends may sound intimidating and expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. Kelly McDonald, president of McDonald Marketing and the author of two books on consumer trends and multicultural marketing, works with clients to find areas that are ripe for future growth — in both people and ideas — by using resources that include free, publicly available data.

See Also: 4 Easy Ways to Get More From Event Registration Data

McDonald suggests beginning with the most recent data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau, which she considers the definitive source for demographic information about the United States. The “information is free, it is available, it is accessible,” McDonald said. Using it simply requires taking the time to drill down to look at where your members and attendees are geographically and in terms of factors such as age, race, and gender. Comparing that census data with your organization’s member data will allow you to pinpoint regions where your industry may be booming but membership is relatively low.

While data from the census provides a broad overview of the U.S. population using quantitative factors such as age, gender, race, education, and income level, it doesn’t provide deeper insight into any of the segments. It can show you patterns or give you a snapshot of how your community is changing, McDonald said, but “the census is just going to give you the numbers.” For more context, McDonald recommends seeking out additional publicly available data resources, including reports published by the Pew Research Center. She refers to research by Pew and other think tanks as the qualitative element that balances out quantitative, demographic data.

“It is tremendous to see the information that [the Pew reports] have, and they lay it out in a much more user-friendly way than the census does,” she said. “If I am writing an article or presentation about marketing to women, I want to read about the latest and greatest in women’s trends, whether it’s what they are doing, what they are buying, what they are thinking, or what they are worried about.”

There is a place for both qualitative and quantitative methods. Along with looking at data sets, “I think that having a conversation on an ongoing basis with different groups of people can be very beneficial,” McDonald said. “I always tell people, you need to cultivate your pilot fish, and sometimes your pilot fish may be your members, sometimes they could be suppliers, sometimes they could even be the people that are within your own organization. But, talk to those pilot fish and say, ‘How do we get more people just like you? What does someone like you want?’”

Kate Mulcrone is Convene’s web editor.


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