Building a Membership Association

Introduction

Membership associations or organizations are groups of like-minded people who join together in order to receive certain benefits like networking, access to events, training and others.

Examples of membership organizations include trade associations, like the American Farm Bureau, service clubs like the Rotary, and geographically-bound organizations like Chambers of Commerce or economic development agencies.

I recently joined the Sigourney Area Development Corporation (SADC) Board and will be facilitating our Strategic Planning in Februrary. If you’re interested in learning more about how to build up the membership of a membership organization, read on.

Marketing a Membership Associations

Marketing can be challenging. Membership organizations are frequently competing with each other for the same group of members. For example, in Sigourney, Iowa where I live the Rotary, the Kiwanis and the Farm Bureau all recruit individual members. The Sigourney Area Development Corporation (SADC) recruits organizational members.

Marketing strategies can include:

  • Facebook Paid Advertising
  • Search Engine Optimization
  • PPC Search Engine Ads

Facebook Paid Advertising

Although Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook all provide paid advertising the most important for membership organizations is likely Facebook. Its ads can be highly targeted so that you know the people who are seeing your ads are the ones likely to be able to join your organization.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

SEO refers to ensuring the content of your website has lots of keywords. These keywords are used to help your informational posts appear at the top of Search Engine Results Pages (SERP). This takes some practice, but eventually writing keyword rich pages with lots of links to your other material (which increases how well all your pages rank on Google) will be natural.

PPC Search Engine Ads

Search Engine ads appear at the top or side of a Google search and can help direct people to your website or your sales funnel. This is especially helpful if you’re offering a special piece of information, like a manual or an infographic of tips to people who sign up.

Once they’re seeing your brand, you can encourage them to subscribe or join your association, and they’ll already be well-prepared to do so because you’ve demonstrated the value with your free content.

Onboarding New Members to Membership Associations

When you onboard a new member, it’s critical that you recognize them early on. Don’t wait more than a few days to reach out. A phone call is best, but email will suffice if you’re not able to make a call due to scheduling conflicts.

New members should receive some kind of plaque, certificate or wallet-card to help building loyalty to your association. You want them to feel like they’re part of the “in group.”

It’s also helpful to survey new members to find out what made them join, and what are they hoping to get out of being in your agency? They’ll provide you with valuable information, for free! By taking their comments into account you increase the chances they will renew their subscription and talk to you with other potential members.

Services Provided by Membership Associations

There are a lot of services you can provide your members. The exact services will depend on who you are, but they could include things like:

  • Advocacy. Your membership association can keep in regular contact with your state legislature to make sure you’re advocating on their behalf
  • Training. You can provide live or recorded training for your members, especially if you have the internal resources to provide this at a low-fee
  • Networking. Networking events help your members meet each other and build their own networks, helping everyone win and strengthening their professional and personal lives

Membership Pyramid

If you don’t already, create a membership pyramid. This states for example that your goal might be 250 members: 200 members at Bronze level (paying $50 a year), 25 members at Silver level (paying $100 a year) 15 members at Gold level (paying $250 a year) and 10 members at Platinum level (paying $500 a year.)

You can offer a ladder of increasing services at each level, and price them out. Bronze members might get access to 1 live training event a year and access to the newsletter. Gold members might get access to the complete training library (a $500 value) and use of the conference room once a quarter (a $300 value). There’s no limit to the amount of combinations you can use.

When you make it easy for people to see the benefit of their membership (paying $250 but they’re already getting $800 in value), you increase the number of memberships you sell at every level.

Conclusion

Do you have a membership association? Leave your tips in the comments and let us know how it’s going.

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