State associations, more than national associations, are riding the wave of accelerated member recruitment with the Member ROI trend. They are proving the real-dollar return on investment (ROI) of membership in order to influence industry members into joining. These associations have realized that the “join because you should” died a long time ago. Today, the “prove to me that membership is a smart decision” has taken hold across North America and is indicating there will be no letup of this paradigm any time soon.
Still Hooked on Days Gone Bye
Unfortunately, far too many associations are still hooked on the opiate of the more senior members belonging to, and attending meetings “because they should,” regardless of the quality of events or ROI of membership. Wake up! These lovely folks, in huge numbers, are retiring and/or passing away. In their place, are appearing a different breed of industry participant and joining because one should is about as foreign to them as your Grandfather’s Oldsmobile.
There are those that cling to the fading idea that associations must be mission driven, without concern for delivering member value. Some say that associations that deliver real-dollar member value are nothing more than buying clubs. Perhaps today’s Mission-Driven philosophy might be nothing more than an excuse for non-performance while Member-ROI-Centric demands that association staff and volunteer leaders perform at the highest levels possible.
Member ROI Centric
Associations that cling to obtuse missions as opposed to delivering high-level member value can imprudently spend the lion’s share of time and resources conducting activities—activities that serve the industry and all that are involved without holding membership. Where’s the value for those loyal members that annually render their dues payments? Many say that it is non-existent. It’s not always easy to be high-performing and deliver actual real-dollar value to members—value that the non-members do not receive. However, for staff and volunteer leaders that use “member ROI, member retention, and member recruitment” as one of their important considerations in decision making—across the organizational silos—these organizations are learning how to create and deliver member ROI. These organizations are enjoying consistent membership growth.
Today’s Forward-Thinking Associations
Progressive association staff and volunteer leaders of today are taking a different approach to member recruitment and retention—one that centers on member value and ROI. They are focusing on how every decision affects member ROI. They are:
· Seeing their organization through the eyes of the non-member to better understand why the non-members have not accepted the invitation of membership.
· Selling the benefits of membership features. They have learned how to explain the “what’s in it for me” to prospective members. They no longer rely on just a list of membership features and erroneously calling them benefits. Additionally, they have learned to differentiate between the features only accessible to an individual or company through membership and the activities they do that delivers benefit to all in the industry. They are learning how to sell through the window of member-only benefit and relying less on things their organization does that delivers benefit to all.
· Proving beyond the shadow of doubt that membership in their organization is a good business, career, and financial decision by conducting qualitative research sessions to determine what their members believe is the actual, annual real-dollar ROI of each member-only, feature of membership is worth.
· Discovering, identifying, and engaging their organization’s Member Recruitment Evangelists—the members that have been around for a while, are influential, and understand how a larger and stronger organization can deliver more value to members and their industry alike. And…arming these Member Recruitment Evangelists with an effective tool for influencing non-members into becoming paid members.
The Member Recruitment Evangelists’ Tool
The trend is moving away from the traditional three-pound prospective member packages. Those packages of yesterday were really an effort to baffle with bulk rather than to dazzle with brilliance. Today, nobody will read a box or folder full of information—it was something like an association member recruitment data dump. Member Recruitment Evangelists and prospective members alike want something (hard-copy and electronic) compact, tightly written, and clearly explaining the “what’s in it for me” in real dollar members. They want to get an idea as the ROI they can expect. The days of saying, “Membership is Priceless” are gone.
This trend of producing a compact tri-fold member recruitment brochure for the organization’s Member Recruitment Evangelists, and everyone else, has been embraced more by state associations than has national associations.
Some of the state and local associations that have produced the Member Recruitment Evangelists’ tool include:
· Mechanical Contractors Association of South Carolina
· Southern Illinois Builders Association
· Associated Builders and Contractors Minnesota/North Dakota Chapter
· American Council of Engineering Companies of Colorado
· American Council of Engineering Companies of Virginia
· National Association of the Remodeling Industry Central Ohio Chapter
This tool succinctly communicates the “member-only” features of membership and how the membership-at-large values each feature in annual real-dollar numbers. The brochure also communicates the “what’s in it” for the individual, their company, and their industry. Not every prospect will care about all the features of membership that is offered to them. As such, Member Recruitment Evangelists have the ability to discover which features of membership matter to the prospect and then can help them to understand the ROI they can expect from using just those features. For a free template to help you produce your own “dazzle them with brilliance” member recruitment brochure, email your request to firstname.lastname@example.org
Selling guilt is like having only one tool in one’s toolbox. The days of people joining because they should, have vanished. With that said, selling guilt along with several important reasons to buy can still be effective, in some situations, for getting CEOs to sign up large numbers of their employees. This is something that some Member Recruitment Evangelists and others are discovering. The something else is buying motives.
The organizations that are helping their members to couple the evangelists’ tool with the knowledge of buying motives is proving very effective. Association staff and volunteer leaders are starting to understand the difference between a feature of membership and how each of the various features make their members lives better—the benefit of the feature. They are moving toward great benefit copywriting for both electronic and print publishing to help current members and prospective members alike to better understanding of the “what’s in it for me” that the association offers.
Each feature of membership relates to one or more buying motives within the framework of non-member decisions to buy (join). The six basic buying motives are:
· Fear of Loss
· Avoidance of Pain
As association staff members learn how to write benefit statements for each feature of (member-only) membership and do so through the window of one or more buying motives held within the minds of prospects—the power of the written word exponentially accelerates. How well an organization’s website communicates member value and ROI has an enormous effect on the organization’s member recruitment results.
Chief Staff Executives Getting Onboard
For years, many chief staff executives (CSE) truly believed that member recruitment was solely the responsibility of the membership department, and focused elsewhere. Today, many CSEs are realizing the criticality of everyone in the organization being onboard for the organization’s quest for member recruitment. CSEs are working hard to breakdown the silo mentality of the boards of directors and the staff members—becoming member-ROI-centric and charging everyone with the simple question, “How will this action affect member retention, recruitment, and total delivered member ROI?” After all, Membership is Everybody’s Business.
“Compelling conversations is the single best way of creating concrete conversions… CONSISTENTLY!” –Ed Rigsbee
Ed is the Founder and CEO of the 501(c)(3) non-profit public charity, Cigar PEG Philanthropy through Fun, and president at Rigsbee Research which conducts qualitative member ROI research and consulting for associations and societies. He has been called “the dynamite that broke up our log jam” by association executives—rarely politically correct and almost always provocative—and from a dozen years as a United States Soccer Federation referee, Ed calls it the way he sees it. Exceptional resources at www.rigsbee.com.
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