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Membership 101: Why Did They Join?

My last membership 101 blog post addressed the question: how do I know when it’s time two puzzle pieces that don't matchto ask a prospect to join my association? 

The answer was: by studying your data. Data can tell you when is the right time to ask, and what you should emphasize in your slate of programs, products, and services when you do ask.

Why does that matter?

Your association no doubt has a long list of member benefits, programs, products, and services you provide. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

But even though your members and prospective members share some common interests, they don’t all want and need exactly the same things. Not all aspects of your value proposition are going to be equally appealing to everyone.

What you need to do is learn what your prospects – and members – are there for, what they’re trying to accomplish, what their most pressing problems are, and then provide that.

Segmentation in your marketing and communications helps you target the right offer to the right person at the right time.

For instance, a prospect who’s just finishing up school might be most interested in your job board and career services. So when you’re pitching her to join – or renew – you’d want to emphasize that.

A mid-career professional might be ready to learn about your certification program, so as you’re describing your member value proposition to her, you’d want to be sure to highlight that.

As I covered in the previous post in this series, a given individual might like to attend webinars, or buy books, or attend face to face events, or volunteer, or support your advocacy efforts, etc.

How do you know what’s most important? Active and passive data collection.

On the active side, you ask questions like:

  • What are your most important professional goals?
  • What are the biggest persistent problems and challenges you face that you can’t seem to solve on your own?
  • Why did you join (or renew)? What were you looking for?
  • Are we delivering on that?

On the passive side, track what people do. Remember, what a member says she wants and needs may not align with what she actually does. Tracking behavior is an important reality check on what people say. I might say that I want to eat nutritiously, but if I consistently order the fries rather than the kale salad… Your members are no different.

You have a wonderful, extensive list of member benefits. But most individuals join for 2-3 key things, and those vary from person to person. Your job is to find out what those are  for a given individual and focus your marketing efforts to her around them.

(And now the stick part of the equation: if you constantly promote your list of 15 benefits, and your member is only here for two of them, she might start questioning why she’s paying dues that funds all that stuff she doesn’t use. I’m not saying you NEVER want to share the full list with your members – people’s needs change over time – but be careful about how you do that, and don’t do it in every communication. Constantly promoting stuff she doesn’t use also shows the member that you don’t know her or care about what’s important to her, which is another message you don’t want to be sending.)

Image found here.

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About Elizabeth Weaver Engel, CAE

Elizabeth Weaver Engel, M.A., CAE, is CEO and Chief Strategist at Spark Consulting LLC. Elizabeth has over 19 years of experience helping associations grow, in membership, marketing, communications, public presence, and especially revenue, which is what Spark is all about. She speaks and writes frequently on a variety of topics in association management. When she's not helping associations grow, Elizabeth loves to dance, listen to live music, cook, garden, and blog about the Philadelphia Eagles.
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