In simple terms, a prospective member goes through a four step buying process and ideally each step of the join process is anticipated and supported by the destination association.
The prospective member join process begins when a prospect says, “I have a problem.” The prospect may need some piece of information or some specific training to learn a new skill or maintain a license. Or the prospective member may need to tap into a network for career or businesses advancement.
The next step for the prospect is to search for a solution. This most likely will be done online. But he may also ask for a recommendation from a friend or colleague. Options that they may never have been aware of before come into focus.
Once options are identified, the prospective member will evaluate the choices. Should the prospect just use Google since there is no direct cost for this information? How about an industry publication? Or would a full service provider like an association with information, training, and networking be the best solution?
Finally, the value offered by each provider is weighed and the transaction is completed.
At the same time, an association has its part to play in this buying process.
First the association needs to anticipate the needs of prospective members. What does research show are the challenges faced by people in the industry or field? Do potential members like to meet those needs through meetings, publications, social networks, or a website? How much can they afford to spend for a solution?
Secondly, the association needs to be sure that it is easily findable and offers an initial opt-in opportunity for the prospect. Will web searches bring the association’s solutions to the top of search engines? Can search engine marketing, online content marketing, and website remarketing ensure that the association regularly pops up as a prime solutions provider? Is a prospective member’s contact information collected for additional follow-up after an initial inquiry? Are members ready to recommend the association to those who are searching? Maintaining a presence allows the association to be a part of the prospect’s evaluation process.
Next, the association needs to understand and present a very clear and compelling value proposition to the prospective member. Why is joining the best value for the money compared to the other options that are under consideration? What are the immediate and longer term benefits of membership? What is the key promise that the association can deliver that no one else can match?
Finally, the association must make the actually joining transaction simple and easy. With website joins, it is amazing how many prospective members abandon the online shopping cart of some associations because too much information is requested, the sign up process is too complex, or there are unclear instructions. The lower the commitment of time, money, and information required to join the less of an impediment the transaction process will be to completing the join process.
We all want to increase membership retention. Here are some tips that you can implement this year to help make your membership stickier and encourage members’ to stay with your organization.
1. Increase the number of contacts and relationships you have within a member’s organization. This is particularly applicable for trade group memberships where it is important to identify the membership champion, decider, approver, and user.
2. Reward continuous membership tenure with loyalty points or recognition with a “member since” award.
3. Limit access to members for important, critical, or timely content and communicate these limitations to members. Members only content might include alerts, salary and industry surveys, standards, and notifications on regulations.
4. Provide member financial incentives beyond member discounts like members only product sales, group purchasing, and free shipping.
5. Exclude non-members from the benefits of full access to your organization’s social media networks.
6. Require continuous membership for participation in hard to find industry specific services like professional liability or workers compensation insurance.
7. Gain members approval for auto credit card or EFT renewals or installment billing to turn membership renewals from opt-in to opt-out.
8. Maintain important data for members for third party validation of certification, continuing education, graduation, and awards.
9. Enhance member visibility with directory listings, vanity email addresses, referral links from your organizations website, certificates for display, window clings, and member usage of your organization’s logo -- all limited to continued membership.
10. Monitor members interactions with the organization through email opens, purchases, and participation in social media and develop and intervention plan to reach out to those who are not engaged.
This list is only a start. Feel free to add your own ideas in the comments section here.