| An association cannot grow without new members. Current ones will ultimately retire or pass away, their companies may merge or close, or members change interests. Those who leave the organization must be replaced to stay even, and even more must be added to achieve growth.
Most marketers agree that the single largest factor in the success or failure of a membership organization is whom the promotion targets.
List research should begin with the internal database. Internal records may include lapsed members, nonmember conference attendees, nonmember product buyers, and inquirers. These are some of the best prospects to contact for membership because they are already aware of your organization.
Consider two levels when deciding what to offer in membership recruitment:
• The first involves membership product packaging, choosing specific deliverables that should go into the membership.
• The second is deciding the incentives or special offers used to attract members, to move them from shoppers to buyers of membership products.
Although member prospects may be aware of an organization, it often takes a special offer or incentive to effectively move them from shoppers to buyers. Everyone loves a sale.
Creativity comes into play to match the offer to the prospect's potential objections. Here are examples of special offers:
• A discount off the regular first-year dues payment
• A no-risk offer or free trial that allows prospects to sample membership before receiving an invoice, which may be canceled with no risk or payment
• Premiums, gifts, or special offerings
• Offering more of the product, e.g., 15 months of membership for the price of 12
• Installment payment options, especially on high-ticket memberships.
The Marketing Message–Why
Marketers must decide what they want to say to prospective members. The membership proposition succinctly answers the question, "Why should I join your organization?"
Think in terms of very real and practical needs that are met by your organization.
It is critical to convert an organization's key selling points into benefits. Approach the membership promotion as a conversation between your salesperson and a prospective member. Ask and answer the questions any prospective member would ask.
Determine the marketing tools or media you should use to reach your target audience.
Testing and Tracking–Where
Perhaps the most important but most often overlooked membership recruitment discipline is testing and then tracking marketing results. Effective testing and tracking tells marketers how to deploy resources most effectively and economically among an array of available marketing options.
The Importance of Recruitment
In reality, having a great membership product that meets the needs of the marketplace is only the entry point today for doing business. Membership organizations that will thrive are those that will successfully target the best prospects with attractive membership offers and compelling messages. They test and track promotional efforts rigorously to build a highly effective recruitment program. In short, they use membership marketing best practices to attract new members and grow the organization.