Getting Married to Membership May Require Engagement First

It used to be that you had to pay to play: join an organization and then you can get involved.

But a Twitter exchange with David Gammel, an association executive and author of Maximum Engagement, reminded me that a major shift may be underway.

Some people may have to play before they are willing to pay.

With many companies and nonprofits offering some degree of value under a freemium model, some potential members and customers may invest in the cost of membership only after becoming experiencing some of the benefits of joining the organization.  But this needs to be more than the old 90-day free trial.  The engagement needs to be specific, personal, and intentional.

Professional associations have long touted networking and community as one of the primary benefits of affiliating.  But as described on the website or in a brochure, they are abstract, impersonal concepts.

But when experienced in person, the benefits become real, tangible, relevant, and meaningful.  And when I experience meaning, I am much more likely to commit monies.

Perhaps just as in real life, people are more likely to get married (to membership) only after a period of engagement.

How would you adjust your recruitment and involvement strategies to capitalize on this potential shift?

And let's not forget that playing is a way of paying.  When we are present, engaged, and contributing, we help create the content and community that people value and that our organizations market.  That can be easily overlooked by those leading the organizations, both staff and volunteers. 


Tony Rossell said...

Hi Jeffrey -- Very insightful points. Yes, I am seeing this play out with organizations that I am involved with on a daily basis. We will often offer some free content to gain an opt-in for the organization and then cultivate the relationship with additional free information. These prospects are up to four time more likely to ultimately join than reaching out to a cold prospect. Thanks for sharing this. Tony

Bob MacKie said...

Hi Jeffrey - Very good points. To answer your question, it is easy for a potential member to play online as a step towards membership. One of our online community customers is offering a trial membership of their online community so that the member can virtually experience membership benefits. That experience can be made a little more personal by having some experienced members be online ambassador/mentors for potential new members. - Bob MacKie