Membership is a “push” product. This means that prospects need to be encouraged or sold in order to join an organization. That is why direct response media like direct mail and email are the channels of choice to acquire new members.
But just like any tool, these channels can be used either poorly or effectively. I have distilled some of the experiences that I have found in direct response membership recruitment down into seven tips to improve membership recruitment. I hope you find them helpful.
1. Begin each and every campaign by thinking creatively and asking “Who might be interested in joining?” Then search out lists that contain these potential members. Not taking the time to research and test mail and email lists is the single biggest mistake in membership recruitment. In any given outreach, the results from one list to the next can vary by 1,000%. Even if you primarily promote to an in-house prospect list, try some direct response rental lists and compare the results. You may be very surprised at the results from tapping into a new file of prospective members. Some of the best outside lists to try are members of similar associations, subscribers to industry magazines, and buyers of books related to your association. Tip: Ask current members what other professional literature that they read and try these lists first.
2. Once you have found the best lists, carefully develop a strong Unique Selling Proposition (USP) to drive the positioning and copy of your promotion. The USP answers the prospect’s question of, “Why this association?” The USP is the big benefit that your association can deliver compared to any other group. Tip: Ask someone who is not familiar with your organization to read your copy and define the USP in one sentence. If they can’t, go back to the drawing board.
3. Develop a special offer to answer your prospect’s question: “Why join now?” After many tests, one of the best offers continues to be a limited-time, introductory dues discount. Ideally, this discount will bring the dues down to a psychological price point – a dues amount that ends with a dollar amount of a “7” or “9”. For example, an acquisition price of $139 will typically generate more revenue and members than a price of $150. But be sure to offer something. Direct response marketing is offer driven.
4. Build your promotion around a metaphor — something a prospect will recognize and know what to do with. Try using an invitation, survey, certificate, or temporary membership card format. People process information by putting it into mental boxes. They make a split second decision on whether a promotion is important or not, so you need to get their attention. An invitation, for example, typically requests a response and goes in the mental box that says: “I NEED TO RSVP”.