Two perennial challenges faced by associations and membership organizations are member recruitment and retention. Implementing effective online marketing practices can help on both fronts.
Here are 10 membership marketing ideas to set your organization on a path to growth.
1. Member testimonials
Ask members to submit a testimonial. This could include a written testimonial or short videos - 60 to 90 seconds is long enough - for use on the website. Ask why the member joined, what benefits he or she has received as a result of membership, and why others should consider joining.
2. Digital decals
Remember those merit badges and insignias you earned as a Boy or Girl Scout? Not only did they serve as symbols recognizing completion of certain tasks, they also provided incentive to accomplish even more.
Enter the digital age and you see badges being used on sites like Foursquare and Wikipedia to similarly reward, engage, and motivate users. Heck, even Ford Motor Company uses badges to show affinity for its cars!
If it works for scouting and social sites, it might also work for associations. You could offer a series of badges to reward members based on length of membership or for volunteer activities performed on behalf of the organization that they could display on their website or Facebook page.
A basic membership badge like this one offered to members of the Greater Lafayette (LA) Chamber of Commerce is a good place to start.
3. Using Social media
There is no better way to create a sense of community among members than by using social media. Start an association Facebook page or group. Follow suit on LinkedIn as well. If you have multi-media content such as photos and videos, post those to sites like Facebook, Flickr, Instagram, and YouTube.
And don't forget Twitter. It is a useful resource for disseminating news and other information in a timely manner. Here are two examples for how to leverage Twitter.
- Host a Twitter Chat - Twitter chats have become a popular means of communicating about topics of interest to association members. Get key executives involved too.
- Use hashtags - Tie hashtags (#) to association meetings, events, and conferences. This provides a way for people to stay informed just by checking their Twitter feed.
Hashtags are now incorporated into social networks like Facebook and Instagram, so use them there as well.
4. Mobile technology
Studies show that as many as 56% of Americans have smartphones. One way associations can get on the smartphone bandwagon is by creating a mobile app similar to the one used by the Lafayette Chamber that includes a member directory, event calendar, and news.
Another way to utilize mobile technology is with a mobile version of your organization's website. Such sites are optimized for the mobile experience, limited screen space, and slower connection speeds.
5. Creating a blog
Blogs are a great way to communicate with members for the purpose of education, building community, and engendering loyalty. Make your organization the go-to resource for information pertinent to members. If possible, get the organization's director or CEO to provide an "oped" post once or twice per month.
6. Email marketing
Email is a long-standing online marketing staple. In addition to a monthly email newsletter, send out a news "brief" once a week containing content submitted by association members and/or relevant industry news items.
Use your newsletter to deliver timely updates, reinforce membership value and organizational vision, promote interaction in events, webinars and community activities, and offer special promotions such as referral incentives, member-to-member discounts, or renewal discounts.
Email is unique in that every action can be tracked including delivery rates, opens, and clicks. Most email-sending platforms will even show you the names and addresses of those who took some form of action.
7. Live streaming
Incorporate a live Twitter stream on your website. Livestream video during events, conferences, and tradeshows. Consider live blogging event sessions. People will appreciate the transparency and immediacy such streaming provides.
8. Pay Per Click advertising
If your budget allows for it, advertise on Google Search via the AdWords program. Tie ads to a special landing page that includes an offer such a discount on first year dues, free trial membership, or installment payment options. Consider advertising on Facebook and LinkedIn too. Ads served on these sites are often less expensive than AdWords and can be highly targeted.
9. Get a Member Program
In his blog, Membership Marketing, Tony Rossell, SVP of Marketing General, a membership marketing agency, says that "word of mouth” referrals are the most effective membership recruitment channel for associations.
He outlines three membership marketing ideas that associations can implement in such programs:
- Free trial membership - "Current members are sent tickets that offer a six month, no-obligation membership in the organization," states Rossell.
- Referral cards - Include a set of cards with renewal notices, which members can distribute to prospects.
- Prospect names and addresses - Members provide the organization with names and addresses of prospects and the organization does the follow-up.
10. Create content for lead generation
Using free content offers to drive lead generation for membership marketing. This could include a white paper, industry report, or webinar. Have a landing page where those interested share name, email, and other information.
It's very likely that your association has already put some of these membership marketing ideas to work. But perhaps there is an idea on this list that you have yet to try. If you do, let us know the outcome.