The American Society of Association Executives which now goes by the acronym ASAE, holds what it calls Super Swaps four times each year. The one I sat in on last week in Washington, DC was about membership marketing. There were probably 40 professionals in the room, many of whom contributed to a spirited conversation.
The session was moderated by Talisa Thomas Hall, president of The Center for Effective Organizations, who was very good. Although some of the ideas were association specific, many could be adapted to different marketing situations.
Annual Meeting – One association streamed its general sessions by putting them live on its Web site, so all could members could benefit and share in the conference. One of the speakers was well known and from a TED Talks series. When asked, the membership person said the general sessions are of interest to all, and not necessarily conference specific. It’s a great way to get people who didn’t attend the annual meeting last year, to think about coming next.
CEO Outreach - One CEO has a conference call every three months for all new and current members. They get on the phone and ask him questions about the association during the call. It’s a creative method for welcoming new people, and to show that you care.
Helping Members Get Through Tough Times. For members who are on the fence or can’t pay all at once, consider offering an extended installment plan. You can do it through Pay Pal. One membership professional said her association’s membership was down 20%, and since it's offered a payment plan membership is up 6%. That’s impressive.
Market to Where Members are with You Understand where specific members are in the lifecycle of membership, and deliver member benefits for them around that. For instance, one association has new members get a call from a staffer after the first 90 days to see how it's going. Another association has a forum annually where founding members are honored. Several associations have recently added associate memberships at a lower rate. All agreed that as part of this, you should give your current members recognition or an added bonus.
Wooing younger members One association sends members out to recruit and talk about it to high school students. They offer a free membership to them and follow them to college. Often the high school students join as college age members later on.
Members tell their stories Consider capturing the stories of how your association made a difference in the lives of individual members and sharing them. One association had a photo and video booth at its annual conference where people could tell their stories of membership. It was kind of an old fashioned idea, but members loved it. The association was also able to create a library of material that it could use to reinforce the value of membership.
Remember to Constantly Ask Yourself These Membership Questions
Consultants also shared some of the questions they ask membership staff and leaders when they are called in to help. They are pretty basic, but always good to revisit.
What is your members’ can’t, why aren’t they involved with the association and what’s stopping you from delivering it?
What do your members want from you?
Who are the members in your association that bring in non-dues revenue and how are you reaching out to them?
Are you focusing your membership marketing on what you do well?
What can you stop doing and no one will care?