1. Don't forget: joining is not the same as belonging.
Smart organizations transition new joiners to a sense of belonging and identifying as a community member by quickly connecting them to both the community at large and to specific individuals, resources, and opportunities of interest. I recommend at minimum a plan of action for one day, one week, and one month after someone joins.
Smart organizations learn about a joiner's needs, interest, and motivations by gathering relevant data in a simple streamlined manner during the membership application process at minimum.
While other data collection opportunities should be used during a member's experience, failure to collect even the most basic interests during the application process means the membership confirmation and initial invitations cannot be customized. The communications sent are generic, impersonal, and less welcoming. The initial data gathering can be as simple as the tangible-intangible question illustrated or a "APICS What's Your Goal?" as described in this Associations Now blog post from Joe Rominiecki.
3. Focus on enabling and accelerating members' acquisition of value.
A key strategic question smart organizations answer is: How do we make it easier for individuals to self-manage as they desire their membership experience, enabling them to acquire the value they most seek as quickly as possible? Accelerants should be offered in multiple forms such as these approaches for helping joiners feel welcome:
- a self-guided online tour
- video welcomes from members with similar interests
- a phone call from a membership ambassador with common affinity
- a public welcome on social media channels
- an invitation (with discount?) to attend a program of interest
- an optional new member "sponsor" who serves a one-stop point of contact
Historically in many (most?) organizations people had to become members to contribute as a volunteer. What if volunteering with others might be what sells some prospects on joining your organization? Inverting the invitation, using volunteering and contributing as a gateway to membership, allows prospects to become connected to your community, both its members and its purpose, in ways that may leave them saying "I want to be a part of this."
5. Help prospects "see themselves" succeeding in your community.
If diversity is about attracting people from different groups, cultures, and interests, inclusion creates an environment where they can succeed. Smart organizations ensure member-facing communications use language, visuals, and examples that are inclusive of your existing community and the diversity you seek for the future. Even smarter organizations ensure that the actual membership experience facilitates success for the more diverse prospects they might attract.
6. Target a type of member.
Fried's assertion is for "customers," so it may not hold the same potential for associations seeking to be the "voice of the profession" or otherwise be the single home for anyone associated with their profession or industry. But even groups seeking to be such broad umbrellas can benefit by narrowing their value propositions given limited resources:
- We are best positioned to serve individuals who ...
- We can enable and accelerate value acquisition for those specific members even more if we ...
In many instances, prospects can access content, community, and other traditional value propositions from more than one organization. It is not unusual to see almost the same list of products and opportunities promoted on the websites of organizations competing for the same potential members.
Prove results, however, are a distinguishing competitive factor. 95% of our members report contracting business from our qualified lead web referral system" is far more compelling than "membership helps you grow your business." Of course, it is difficult to be selling proven impact if you aren't conducting the research to measure it, or worse yet, aren't providing the programs and services that help deliver it.
8. Renew more than just the financial commitment.
As I have written about before, I see renewal as being more than just dues payment, important as that is. We describe the process as membership renewal, so the strategic question is: What member affinity do we seek to renew in addition to the financial commitment of dues? Smart organizations view the process as a chance to not just re-up the financial commitment, but also the emotional commitment and connection to the community and the pride and value one feels from being associated with it as a member.
During a recent panel conversation on membership in which I participated, my fellow panelists and the attendees discussed Member Get a Member campaigns. A light bulb went off for me during that conversation and I suggested a Member Sponsor a Member campaign. Say what?
As an experiment, imagine your org inviting a small group of existing members to recruit a prospect and sponsor their first year of membership, These sponsors could be afforded discounts to offer their prospect ... on membership, attendance at your annual conference, etc. The core principle is that instead of just getting someone to join (and then fend for themselves), sponsors help facilitate the transition from joining to belonging for individuals they sponsor.
For more on this topic, here is a PDF with nine posts about cultivating engagement.