Thursday, October 4, 2012

Association Member Recruitment: New Opportunities vs Same Old Ways

A question on the ASAE Collaborate for Small Association Professionals grabbed my attention ... and made me wonder about the changes in “association recruitment.”Here’s the question that was posted:

"We are in the planning stages of a membership drive and I am looking for any information out there on the following:

  1. Types of incentives for those recruiting.
  2. Types and methods of promoting - anything special I should think about beyond email, newsletter, website, and social media promotion?
  3. Qualifications for a new member to qualify as a "new" member - do you include those folks that were members within the last year, two, five, etc.? Do you have a cutoff, or any other sort of parameters? We are not including current renewals, but what about someone that lapsed during the previous renewal?
  4. Anything I need to think about in terms of providing incentives? Liability or tax or anything? Our plan is to provide a $50 Amazon gift card to anyone named in an accepted new members' application upon the members approval.
  5. Has anyone provided any sort of additional incentive, such as an extra bonus for the top three people that bring in the most new members?
  6. Lastly - what did you do to ensure they were more than "flash in the pan" members and renewed the next year? Any special communications, outreach, bonuses, and so forth?"
As you look at what this exec laid out, you find a “classical” member-get-a-member recruitment program. 
Like advertising in the mass media, the traditional member marketing worked well before 2010. 

Back then, those with enough money could “yell loud enough and long enough” to build “markets” (and memberships). You bought direct mail lists and blasted people to buy or join.
I didn’t have a problem with these strategies ... in fact, I managed a lot of recruitment efforts like this.

But, the world in which associations operate has changed ... a lot!

Which makes me wonder if we should reconsider many of our membership recruitment (and retention) tactics?

From my days in membership (and college recruitment before that) we worked on a “sales funnel” that involved converting people from prospect to inquiry to member to renewal.

The key was getting more prospects to enter your “sales funnel” and then converting them to membership. And, buying/renting lists of prospects was the cornerstone of starting the process. (In fact the ASAE online Collaborate just had an inquiry asking “Can anyone recommend a mailing list broker they have worked with in the past?”)
In today’s environment, buying names is like buying TV or newspaper ads. It still works but it is costly and not nearly as beneficial as creating and sharing outstanding content that interests prospects.

Rather than concentrating on single “membership campaigns,” shouldn’t we be using content year-round to encourage prospects (and members) to find us, see the value of our content and strongly consider joining (before we ask them)?
Associations should be the world’s best content marketers. Why? Because we produce lots of great content (newsletters, magazines, journals, webinars, conference presentations, seminars, and more). 

What is content marketing? 

First, go to the Content Marketing Institute and sign up for their blogs, white papers and books.

Second, check out these posts.
The key is getting over the philosophical “hump” that “we only provide this content (information, magazine, newsletter) to members.”
So, are you producing lots of content? Do you have a strategy on how to repurpose, repackage and redistribute it? 
Which brings me back around to what is your association doing about member recruitment and retention? Are you using the same tools, tactics and templates from 10 years ago? Have your strategies changed?

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