Updated By: Amelia Mazza
Membership development encompasses three important areas of focus that span the entire membership lifecycle, from membership recruitment to onboarding and to retention. If you want all of these areas in the membership lifecycle to grow, it starts with a strong membership recruitment strategy. Here are answers to the top 10 questions associations ask about membership recruitment and development.
Here are 10 questions to ask yourself that can lead you to a more effective membership recruitment strategy.
1) How can I find potential new members?
To engage prospective members, you need to know what they are looking for when they consider the opportunity to join. A survey of your current members is one way to learn why they joined and their opinion of their member benefits.
It is even more valuable to have meaningful dialog with your members about what they need and what they currently value from your association. Formal and informal surveys have their place, but key insights often come from meeting members and listening to their perspectives about what is challenging and changing for them and how your association can help.
The goal is to understand your members to learn how your mission, values, and resources can lead to a successful membership and then take those learnings and refine your membership recruitment messaging strategy.
2) How do I communicate the value of membership when recruiting new members?
The most important thing to remember when communicating something as important as your association’s value is to do it often. You need a strategy to communicate your value in yearly, monthly, weekly, and even daily activities. You need a strategic workflow that puts a system of key activities in place. For example:
- Targeted, valuable content: While membership promotions can be beneficial and informative, they should not be the only content used to form a relationship with prospective members. Researching and getting to know your target membership market is key to providing immediate, value-packed content that can aid in any pain points they might be facing. Soon they will begin to view you as a reliable source of information and will want to keep coming back for more.
- Easy path to membership: No barriers should stand in a prospective member’s way when they are ready to join. Optimizing your website to be clear and compelling with convenient and accessible information is essential in increasing member conversions. You want the user experience to be intuitive and quick. The immediate value you provide to members should be prominent, making this a seamless and straightforward process.
- Host events for non-members: While having events exclusively for members is an excellent perk of membership, there is also much value in offering activities for non-members. Hosting an event for non-members allows you to showcase your value to those in attendance so they get a glimpse of what it’s like to be a member before joining. This creates an opportunity for prospects to learn more about your association’s mission and how you can serve them in a valuable way.
3) How can I improve my membership recruitment strategy?
To find out what activities you need to do and how they should work together, break down your membership recruitment efforts into yearly, monthly, and daily activities. For example:
- Yearly: Ensure that your work is about helping your members with something of significant value and importance to them. It may be your power as an advocate on Capitol Hill. It could be your ability to bring innovators and technical experts to industry events. Or it could be something else that is unique to your organization. Make sure you are proactively building a valuable experience or service, not just reacting to the concerns of the moment.
- Monthly: Keep moving on your plans to strengthen your programs, communications, and community-building efforts. Follow your priorities to implement new resources, web pages, programs, services, or other features to serve your members.
- Daily: Use social media to share updates, tips, or refer your followers to things you find helpful or important. Look for questions and concerns that members and non-members are asking. Take time to help if you can contribute a thought or two in an update or in the comments.
Check with your existing members to see how your work is meeting their needs. This does not mean you should launch a monthly survey. A formal survey is only one way to gather feedback. You may get more candid input from an informal phone call or conversation.
4) How do I improve member retention?
Member retention begins with understanding what causes engaged members to renew, and what causes unengaged members to leave. It helps to be open and say you want to learn more about both types of members. Learning about both your members is a never-ending project. The more you know about their needs, goals, pain points, etc., the more you can make better decisions that improve your content and value proposition.
5) Do I need to hire a membership recruitment consultant?
Some large associations might be able to afford an entire membership team that has the bandwidth for recruitment, onboarding, retention, CRM management, etc., but oftentimes we see associations with a single membership person juggling three to four different positions. Strong membership recruitment can be time-consuming and divert their attention from other membership development responsibilities. We have seen that providing a membership recruitment consultant allows the association to channel their focus on other parts of the membership lifecycle, enhancing member development and leading to stronger retention. So, long story short…yes! A membership recruitment consultant can help you divide and conquer these responsibilities.
6) What should I include in my newsletter?
Your newsletter is where you can help your members get access to information they need or to update them quickly on industry or business news. Most email efforts focus on getting people to click through to your website. The more effective approach is to both inform your readers and guide their next action. The big picture of your membership recruitment strategy dictates that action. Want your members to help you grow? Prompt readers to share the story they just read — and make it easy with a clickable link. Want readers to give you feedback? Consider sending them to a special page with a simple question form.
7) Should my organization use LinkedIn? Why and how?
A LinkedIn company page is a great membership recruitment idea. This is an excellent resource to grow your audience, attract prospective members and engage current ones. You can showcase your association member benefits and services, promote events, and share news or valuable information that enlightens your members. A LinkedIn page is a valuable marketing component to include in your strategy to connect and engage with your audience.
8) What should my association post on social media?
The key to expanding your reach on social media is to provide valuable content to your followers. Think about what your association has to offer, and post links to helpful resources. Share an interview with a current member or link to a short, relevant blog post. Video tutorials, advice columns, and photos from your latest events are all good to update and engage your audience.
9) Is there still a place for “old school” communications like press releases and print advertising in my membership recruitment strategy?
Absolutely. Publications like The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, etc., will always have a robust audience. The key is knowing when to use “old school” communications since they are not as popular as social media. If your message is valuable and newsworthy, then yes, push out a press release, but if it’s something that would do better with your audience via email or social, use those channels. Print advertising is something to test because it’s not as common anymore. Emails can be filtered or missed, but most mail ends up directly in the hands of your audience. The key is to capture attention with a strong print strategy.
10) How often should I change l my association’s membership model?
Most likely, your model will need to evolve annually or bi-annually. Membership development is one area that is seeing a lot of change for associations. Professionals no longer join just to support the industry. Membership is about collectively working with other members to achieve success. Successful associations aren’t just collections of people; they’re dynamic – they provide unique resources and foster innovation and change.