Former U.S. House Speaker, Tip O’Neill, used to say, “You have to ask people for their vote.” The same logic holds true for building your association membership. Simply stated, you have to ask people to join. Too many organizations and advocacy groups leave the process to chance, and don’t conduct direct outreach.
What sorts of outreach work well in growing an association membership? Here are three strategies we’ve seen work for many professional association clients:
1. Conduct regular “recruiting” webinars.
Webinars are a great, cost effective way to communicate with your prospects. And by offering them regularly (the first Tuesday of every month, for example) you can establish an ongoing conversation, which is helpful for prospective members who maintain internal approval processes. We’ll often see an individual from a company join a webinar one month, and then return the following month with an approving manager in tow.
2. Leverage your current members.
Social currency is a powerful force, which is why so many of today’s biggest brands use customer reviews and endorsements to help grow new sales. As you’re conducting webinars, invite current members to attend and give testimonials about why they joined. Also, don’t forget to stay tuned to what your current members are saying on social media. Promote their messages, and they may help to promote yours. Companies and influential advocates tend to follow one another in joining organizations; your recruiting strategy should take advantage of that.
3. Use public relations to drive association membership.
A steady drumbeat of PR can drive association membership—especially in the early stages. Whether you’re working on behalf of a professional association, trade association, or advocacy group, consider distributing “milestone” releases to celebrate major membership goals. For some associations, banner announcements might be warranted after the 10th, 25th and/or 100th company member joins. For others, announcements about quarterly and annual growth may be more appropriate.
Overall, the most important directive is to be consistent about association membership outreach. Attracting new audiences is always harder to do without the benefit of momentum. And regular efforts will improve your team’s ability to target and engage new prospects.