Membership recruitment is a never-ending project. Every year, members leave your association—they retire, change jobs or professions, go out of business, lose their professional development budget, or just vanish for unknown reasons. As members go out the back door, you must keep new ones coming in through the front.
What strategies will guide your plan for recruiting these new members? And, what tactics will you use to achieve your recruitment goals?
The easy way out is recycling membership recruitment tactics of the past. But, the most successful associations do it differently. They encourage staff and volunteers to bring their creativity to the planning table. They’re willing to try out new ideas and experiment with new tactics. The world is changing, people are changing, and your membership tactics must change, too.
These five under-utilized member recruitment tactics will result in faster membership growth for your association. As a bonus, the practices and mindset you develop by implementing these tactics will improve the association experience for your existing members.
1. Provide targeted, valuable content to increase lead generation.
Instead of relying on membership promotions, provide content which 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’s what to ask to identify each of 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, and what challenges do they encounter?
If you provide valuable content for prospects, they will keep coming back to you for more, and begin to think of you as a reliable source of information and a partner who helps them reach their goals.
By adding inbound marketing to your 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—a prospect finds so valuable they’re willing to provide their email address in exchange for downloading it. Prospects let you into their inbox because you’ve proven your value as a source of relevant information.
Your content becomes the catalyst for converting website visitors into prospects (leads) and then converting prospects into new members.
2. Simplify the path to membership.
When prospects are 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.
- 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 brainless 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 necessary in your online membership application—the data you need now to process their membership. You can ask for more data later.
Price is another barrier to joining. Consider a budget-friendly monthly membership plan. Paying initial monthly dues of $25 is easier to swallow, especially for younger members, than paying upfront annual dues of $300.
3. Incentivize the decision to join.
Sometimes, an alluring incentive breaks down the last psychological barrier to joining. Promote these incentives on your home page, in your blog sidebar, in email campaigns, and on social media. Offer new members a special discount toward a future event, online learning or webinar registration. Choose an incentive to deepen their membership experience.
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.
Incentivize your built-in network of recruiters—your existing members. For every successful membership referral they provide, give them an incentive as a thank you, then 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. However, don’t spread yourself too thin. Find out what platforms your prospects and members use and how they use them.Develop a social media strategy aligned with your organization’s membership and marketing strategies, as well as 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. Help followers manage information overload by being an information curator for them. In addition to sharing your own content, select interesting and informative content from other sources to share.
Let followers know about the membership experiences you provide—events, online learning, publications and other resources. Provide a preview of membership value, for example, snippets of online community discussions. Consider using Facebook ads for highly-targeted promotional campaigns.
But, remember, it’s called social media. Differentiate yourself from other organizations and brands by being personable, conversational and responsive.
5. Enhance the member experience with modern association 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 can 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 about the interests and engagement of prospects, new members and existing members. When you integrate your AMS with marketing automation or email marketing software, you can also learn more about their preferences and habits, for example, what they read, open, click and download. And, while wooing a membership prospect, you can track their interaction with your website and emails. Their online behavior gives you a sense of their interests.
When it comes time to onboard a new member, ask them questions about their reasons for joining, as well as their needs, challenges and aspirations. Launch an automated series of onboarding emails to introduce them to the resources, upcoming events and educational opportunities which 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 association benefits.
Now, you have five new tactics to help you increase member recruitment.