Does this sound familiar? You’re managing association memberships and you’re strategizing on how to grow them. You’re asking yourself, Why would potential new members join my association? What’s in it for them, and how can I incentivize them to stay after their first year?
Strong membership organizations flourish with strong acquisition strategies and proven retention programs. Are your membership numbers flat? Are you losing members, and do you need some fresh ideas to pump things up?
Here are five key ways to increase your association membership.
1. Map It Out
One of the best ways to improve the membership journey is to walk through the process on your own. By doing this, you’ll identify ways to improve the experience and enhance engagement. Since different members have different journeys, it’s important to map out the steps:
- From awareness to interest
- From desire to action
- From becoming a member to becoming a loyal member
- From becoming a brand advocate to a champion to a strategic partner
The membership process should include discernible pathways and touchpoints, such as checking out your blog (signifying awareness), downloading a trends report (showing interest), sitting in on a webinar (evaluating membership, leading to desire), or using a seasonal special to join (action).
A funnel with a top, middle, and bottom is one way to think of the customer journey. As potential members move through the process, the top is awareness, the middle is evaluation (evaluating the membership), and the bottom is conversions. In this case, converting is becoming a member or customer.
Once you’ve mapped out the journey, it’s important to use those maps to make a more detailed, personal pathway for each type of member. For example, one potential new member might have networking-related reasons for joining, while another might only need to list affiliation to your association on a résumé. If you map out by segment and by steps, then you will be more successful. The key is to personalize the experience at each step and keep it consistent throughout.
“Consistency and personalization are hallmarks of great membership acquisition and retention efforts. For example, if you can have data around what made them join on the personal level, make sure that is peppered throughout their journey with you,” said Leigh Kessler, vice-president of marketing for CharityEngine.
2. Provide Value
Make sure your association offers benefits that professionals are seeking. Then make sure you’re frequently reminding current and potential members of those benefits.
“As we’ve pivoted from in-person to virtual events due to the pandemic, we’ve seen a significant increase in overall registrations. Given the current financial struggles many companies are having, it was very interesting to see that our members have an arguably increased appetite for professional development,” shared Doug Hoekstra, director of digital content for Financial Executives International (FEI).
Consider offering events like expos, lunch and learns, or webinars. Include fresh speakers and interesting topics to draw in attendees. Education, instructional videos, free trials, certifications, group insurance, ebook downloads, career support, and online trainings are all benefits that can add credibility and help recruit new members, depending on who you’re targeting as a potential new member.
Remember that you’ll want to communicate these benefits often by making sure your website is up to date on the latest news, events, and offerings.
3. Empower Referrals
Referral programs and member drives are proven ways to encourage current members into recruiting new members. Incentives can be financial, such as discounts on renewal fees. Tapping into industry influencers to help market your association is also a great way to generate referrals.
Consider allowing existing members to bring a free guest to events. Then use event registration forms as a way to capture lead information. Another way is exchanging free access to a webinar for potential new members’ contact information and permission to contact them.
Statistics show 92 percent of customers trust a referral if it’s given from someone they know, and people are four times more likely to make a purchase if referred by a friend. Referrals have the power to bring a new audience to your association.
Additionally, since the best referrals come from existing customers, it’s important to retain current members and to keep them happy. So, make sure you’re providing value to your current members and enhancing their experiences. This is especially important for new members since they’re at a greater risk of dropping off within their first year of membership.
4. Get Personal and Get Feedback
Feedback will tell you what you’re doing right and what you’re doing wrong. Some members might offer helpful suggestions. A loyalty assessment could also help determine why some stay and why some don’t.
Remember that a personalized experience helps keep current members engaged. Top-level organizers and senior members of the association might meet with new members to welcome them, to discover their stories, and to answer any questions. The association could even spotlight them on their website to show they value their members individually.
Once you’ve completed your journey mapping and have successfully targeted specific areas, leverage members who align with each journey map, and talk with them about their experiences. You’ll not only receive valuable feedback but you’ll also put yourself in a position to further grow your list as they reach out to others and encourage them to join.
5. Create Urgency
One frequent reason for not renewing is that members simply forget. Several reminders might be necessary before convincing the member to take action. Set up reminders early and frequently, pointing out the benefits to each renewing member and to each potential new member you are targeting. Create urgency by offering current members a discount for renewing early, or provide new members a discount for joining on the spot.
Retention is improved with a decrease in lapses. It’s much easier to keep members connected if they renew and stay rather than trying to persuade them to come back, especially if the lapse was caused by simply forgetting to renew.
Beyond leveraging the tactics above, there’s often huge value to derive from working with a marketing agency you can trust. Marketing is an engine that has to keep moving to gain real momentum and traction. If your association could use some help, reach out to us for a free consultation about how Spiral Marketing can help you with your association marketing.