Skip Navigation
SAI Sites

Rounding Up Prospective Association Members? Geofence them in.

business man and woman use magnifying glasses to zoom in on geofenced locations on the globe to identify prospects

“Enhancing our Digital Presence” ranks high among the top priorities identified by association executives looking to give members the engaging online experience they demand. This priority has become especially critical when leaders are focused on attracting new, younger members with higher digital expectations. Knowing that this is a priority, Digital Transformation efforts must go beyond just enhancements to your association’s website. Leveraging innovative digital marketing tactics such as geofencing can extend and support recruitment efforts as well as contribute to your brand awareness. Here’s how:

Fish where the fish are

businessman standing at the big smart phone and-fishing catching a prospect with geofencing

The fishing adage is one of the oldest in marketing and it is foundational to best practice. What’s changed is the ability to go after specific groups of “fish” using geofencing tools.

Today, if you know a location where prospective members may congregate you can now target it to serve your association’s digital ads to their mobile devices. Geofencing is a marketing tactic which leverages the placement of a virtual geographic boundary, defined by GPS technology, that triggers a response when a mobile device enters the chosen area.

Since most people have their device set to “location enabled,” it’s this function that sets off the trigger and allows your digital display ad or teaser video (I like a combination of the two) to appear when they go online with their device. You don’t even need to have a physical presence at the location or event.

Here is a short list of geofencing possibilities:

  • Universities whose discipline-specific schools or colleges offer large numbers of potential student members (i.e. schools of medicine, engineering, law, physical therapy, etc.)
  • Office headquarters and branches where many prospective members may work – again, this depends on the audience your association serves (i.e. financial institutions, healthcare facilities, bioscience companies, municipal conventions and visitors bureaus, and so on)
  • Thought leadership meetings and events your association hosts, where geofencing will allow you to retarget attendees to join and interact even after the event
  • Symposia, meetings, or conferences that you do not host, but will have attendees who fit your membership persona criteria

In short, your association can leverage geofencing to reach its niche audience of prospective members based on a variety of location-specific options. It works in hyper-local regions, nationwide, and internationally. Many trade associations are already geofencing, utilizing the tactic to boost sponsorship media packages.

The first impression and beyond

businessman from smart phone giving a jigsaw puzzle piece to another man to show they are a match through geofencing

Once a prospect crosses into your geofenced area, they are automatically targeted. As these users then proceed to browse the internet, they’ll begin to see your ads.

From this first impression the prospect will be encouraged to click through, usually to a customized web landing page. This page often has elements including:

  • A prominent Call to Action (“Become a Member” button)
  • Relevant content about your association and the advantages of membership
  • The incentive – a report or study generated by your association that is of value to the audience you serve (You’re probably familiar with the process; visitors must provide their contact information to access the PDF)

What makes geofencing uniquely advantageous is the ability to retarget these prospects in different ways, even after they’ve left the geofenced location. For instance:

  • You served them a message, but they did not click through – You can continue to serve them your original message or send a different message to stay top of mind and build awareness and drive them to your membership page.
  • They clicked through but did not convert – They didn’t give you their information to download your report or inquire about membership. Again, you can serve them a new message about the advantages of membership and drive them back to your page.
  • They downloaded your report but did not inquire about membership – In addition to having their contact information in your recruitment funnel, you can maximize your brand impact by serving them membership ads that continue to appear on their mobile apps and browsers. This is a highly effective one-two punch.

Getting started

two smiling businessmen beginning to put the idea light bulb jigsaw puzzle together

It’s easy to test geofencing to see if it’s a good member prospecting tool for your association. Digital marketing firms typically offer geofencing and retargeting as part of an integrated recruitment marketing plan with a modest cost per thousand (CPM) impressions. A small project test can be researched, planned, and launched for less than $10,000 and provide more than 250,000 impressions.

How well the geofencing effort tests and performs comes from the defining work done in the front end of the process. Here’s a brief checklist to start with:

  • Know and document your ideal member profiles – you’ve probably already done this for your other recruitment workflows
  • Identify a list of behavioral keywords – you can get these from Google Analytics, many third-party Search Engine Optimization (SEO) applications, or Google Ads (formerly Adwords) if you’ve run these types of ads in the past
  • Create a list of geotarget locations – your digital marketing partner will help you refine your geofences, but initially you can start with mailing addresses and location coordinates gathered from tools such as Google Maps
  • Develop your landing page, content, call to action, and ad assets – task your in-house marketing team with this or work with your digital marketing partner to produce these assets
  • Select a campaign flight date – if it is event driven, you’ll want to build your timeline leading up to and shortly after the event, otherwise start with a 30- to 45-day window to allow impressions, click-throughs, retargeting, and campaign monitoring

Much of the research your membership team has already put together can easily be used to inform your geofencing effort. Examine your new member prospecting process and see where geofencing fits into your recruitment workflow.

Digitally enhance beyond your website

two smiling businessmen shake hands from inside of their smart phones, brought together by geofencing a map location

As digital tools emerge, the way we engage audiences and build relationships evolves. It’s important to not only incorporate these advancements into our websites, but also look at upgrading our outreach and communications processes as well.

Your geofence-generated ad, served to the right target audience, at the right place and time, may be as well received as the next mobile screen offer from your prospect’s favorite coffee shop.

I’d love to hear how you are employing digital tactics in your organization, especially those that go beyond enhancing your website. Let me know what you're doing to increase membership. Shoot me an email to discuss this blog post or to learn more about adding SAI Digital's services as an extension of your team. I look forward to hearing from you at

Get the latest insights.

It's better than your average e-newsletter...we promise. Sign up to start receiving the latest trends in web strategy.


By signing up for our updates, you are agreeing to our terms of use & privacy policy.