10 Overlooked Tactics for Growing Association Membership

Membership recruitment is a never-ending project. Every year, members leave your organization – they retire, change jobs or professions, go out of business, lose their professional development budget, or just leave for unknown reasons. As members go out the back door, you must keep new ones coming in the front.

So, what strategies guide your plan for recruiting these new members? And what tactics will you use to achieve your recruitment goals?

How to create a membership recruitment strategy

An easy approach is to recycle membership recruitment tactics of the past. But that will only get you the same old results.

The world is changing, members’ needs and expectations are changing, and your membership tactics must change, too. So, consider inviting staff and volunteers to bring their creativity to the planning table. Be open to trying out new ideas and experimenting with new tactics.

Creating a fresh membership acquisition strategy gives you a way to move forward with intentionality. Your ever-changing potential membership base needs engaging ways to get interested in your group, and you need the right plan to reach them.

Here are some ideas to keep in mind when creating your membership recruitment strategy

Understanding your members

To get started, do some in-depth research on your members to better understand who you’re trying to reach. Segment your audience, identify their motivations and preferences, and find ways to connect with them. Take the time to get a comprehensive picture of the people interested in joining your organization, and determine what benefits they want from membership.

Once you have some reliable information about your audience, analyze how to use it to grow membership in your organization.

Understanding your mission

Having a clear mission is critical to effective and compelling communication with your audience. Make sure you have a holistic picture of what your organization cares about and is trying to accomplish. Share your organization’s mission and articulate your short- and long-term goals to attract new members to your organization.

Understanding your value

Know the value of what you offer, and communicate it in an engaging way during your membership recruitment campaigns. Whether it’s your empowering mission, a vibrant community of like-minded individuals, or industry-specific certifications and exclusive programs, be sure to broadcast the value of membership with your organization.

Understanding your resources

As you decide how to grow your membership, carefully evaluate your resources and capabilities. Determine your funding, expertise, and technological capabilities, and assess how you can most effectively use them.

Planning your process

Once you know your audience, mission, value, and resources, it’s time to create the right plan. Give yourself time and resources to develop strategies to grow membership that fit your capabilities and resources. Create a process that integrates stakeholders and keeps the end goal in focus.

Are you looking for even more ways to bring in new members and delight your current ones?

Check out the complete list in the ebook, 50 Ways to Boost Your Association Membership.

10 Tested Ideas to Grow Membership in an Organization

Once you have a plan in place, consider using the following 10 under-utilized, yet effective, member recruitment tactics. As a bonus, the practices and mindset you develop by implementing these tactics will improve the experience for your existing members.

1. Provide targeted, valuable content.

Instead of relying on membership promotions, provide content that helps you develop relationships with membership prospects.

What’s the first thing to do in any relationship? Get to know the other person. Identify and research the different segments of your target membership market – for example, students, early career, mid-career, executives, and professionals in transition.

Here are some things to ask to identify their content needs:

  • What do they need to know to advance their career or do their job better?
  • What do they need to know to improve their bottom line?
  • What issues trouble them? What challenges do they encounter?

Then, if you provide valuable content for these prospects, they’ll keep coming back to you for more. They’ll begin to think of you as a reliable source of information and a partner who helps them reach their goals.

By adding this approach to your membership recruitment strategy, your content takes on a new role as lead magnets. Lead magnets are pieces of content – for example, a tip sheet, report, or ebook – that a prospect finds so valuable that they’re willing to provide their email address in exchange for downloading it.

Your content then becomes the catalyst for converting website visitors into prospects (leads), and then, converting prospects into new members.

2. Simplify the path to membership.

When a prospect is ready to join, no barriers should stand in their way. Make sure the joining process is quick, intuitive, and frictionless.

  • Start by testing your website and blog. Ask yourself:
  • Will a first-time visitor know they’re in the right place?
  • Can they immediately see the value you provide to members?
  • Is it obvious what impact membership will make on their life?
  • Is it easy to figure out how to join?

Make joining as simple and painless as possible. Lengthy forms are a turn-off. Don’t give prospects the chance to second-guess their decision. Ask only for what’s absolutely necessary on your online membership application – the data you need now to process their membership. You can ask for more data later.

And remember that price can be another barrier to joining. Consider a budget-friendly monthly membership plan. Paying initial monthly dues of $25 is easier to swallow, especially for students and those just starting out their careers, than paying annual dues of $300.

3. Offer an incentive to join.

Sometimes an alluring incentive can break down the last psychological barrier to joining. For example, offer new members a special discount toward a future event, online learning, or webinar registration. Promote these incentives on your home page, in your blog sidebar, in email campaigns, and on social media.

Also, evoke a sense of urgency in the incentive you offer. For example, members who join before a certain date get an exclusive invitation to a special in-person or virtual educational event. Make sure the event is truly exclusive and special.

And provide incentives to your built-in network of recruiters – your existing members. For example, for every successful membership referral they provide, give them an incentive as a thank you, and recognize their contributions in publications and at events.

4. Step up your social media interaction.

Social media provides another channel for attracting the interest of prospects. Find out what platforms your prospects and members use and how they use them. Develop a social media strategy that aligns with your organization’s membership and marketing strategies, and with the needs and interests of your prospects and members. Let that strategy guide your efforts so your time is invested wisely.

Use social media to demonstrate your value as a membership resource. You can do this by helping followers manage information overload by being a curator for them. In addition to sharing your own content, select interesting and informative content from other sources to share as well.

Also, post on your social media channels to let followers know about the membership experiences you provide – such as events, online learning, publications, and other resources. Provide a preview of membership value, such as snippets of online community discussions. Consider using Facebook ads for highly targeted promotional campaigns.

Just remember, it’s called social media. Differentiate yourself from other organizations and brands by being personable, conversational, and responsive.

5. Find co-marketing opportunities

Partner with other businesses and organizations in your industry by marketing each other’s services or offerings. It’s mutually beneficial, and these opportunities have the potential to exponentially expand your reach to possible new members.

Choose co-marketing opportunities that fit your mission and target audience. Whether you have a cause or value in common, or you’re offering complimentary services, develop relationships that will help you and the other organization move forward. For instance, if you’re a trade group, you could partner with a commercial industry within the same business sector.

6. Optimize your website for new member conversions

When a potential new member lands on your website, make sure there’s a clear and compelling path for them to become a member. Give special attention to user experience. Is the user interface convenient and accessible? Is getting the right information straightforward?

Think through what potential new members want to know, and ensure you’re making that information readily available on your site. Whether that means adding new member-specific content or enhancing navigation on the site, create an experience that’s welcoming and user-friendly.

From accessibility for a visitor who’s exploring your site for the first time to a clear onboarding process, think through all the steps a new member will take to join your group. Then, ensure your site optimizes that process from beginning to end.

7. Host events that aren’t just for members.

Members-only events are great as membership benefits, but there is also great value in putting on events that non-members can attend. This allows you to show off the value of your organization to potential new members before they join.

There are a variety of ways you can offer engaging events for your recruits and membership body. Consider webinars, conventions, networking events, and other opportunities that will help members and non-members alike. Create opportunities to provide your guests with informational and professional value while helping them learn more about your organization’s operations and mission.

8. Add a job board to your website

A job board meets a practical need that many people will want to take advantage of. It’s also an ideal way to position yourself as a leader with members who contribute to the industry. Optimize your website and job board so people can easily find and navigate it.

9. Use existing business networks

If your organization and/or your members are involved in local business networks, these are great ways to get the word out about your organization and its benefits. Take advantage of speaking opportunities or sponsorship opportunities whenever possible. It will give you the chance to broadcast your mission and demonstrate your organization’s expertise in your field or industry.

Help potential members understand how your organization offers value to the community, and encourage them to experience the benefits. Whether you partner with a local business network for sponsorship or plan a speaking engagement, find ways to share your mission throughout your activities.

10. Enhance the member experience with modern membership management software.

Membership recruitment isn’t the only never-ending project. You can never stop learning about your prospects and members. The more you know about their needs, interests, preferences, and habits, the better decisions you’ll make about the content, products, and services – the value – you deliver to them.

Take full advantage of your membership software to collect and analyze data on the interests and engagement of prospects, new members, and existing members. You can also use it to learn more about their preferences and habits, such as what they read, open, click, and download.

For example, while wooing membership prospects, you can track their interactions with your website and emails. Their online behavior gives you a sense of their interests.

Then, when it comes time to onboard new members, ask them questions about their reasons for joining as well as their needs, challenges, and aspirations. Launch an automated series of onboarding emails that introduces them to the resources, upcoming events, and educational opportunities that fit their interests and needs.

Targeted content will help you deepen your relationship with them and tie them closer by encouraging them to take advantage of your organization’s benefits.

Discover how Aptify can help your organization boost membership growth.

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