I bet I have a pretty good idea of how your association’s website is structured. The home page flashes an inspiring mission statement, myriad momentum-building news blurbs and the logos of your most prominent members and sponsors. Of course, visitors can drill down into countless secondary pages to mine seemingly endless information about your association, its current projects and all its accomplishments over the years. It probably even has a slick layout and high-end images and graphics. And don’t forget the banners and buttons on every page urging visitors to “Join Today!”
Congratulations, your association’s website looks great. (As it should for all the money you’ve spent to create and maintain it!) There is, however, some bad news about it: It is probably failing you miserably in your quest to recruit new members.
The problem is that, like most associations, your website is likely too focused on answering the question “What are we doing?” versus the more important question “What are we doing for our members?” In other words, it is too likely focused on operational details and statistics versus reinforcing the benefits of the products and services your organization offers.
Like for-profit businesses, associations should avoid forcing their customers (i.e., potential members) into drawing their own conclusions about why they should buy their products and services (memberships, sponsorships, etc.). Perhaps your most motivated customers will be capable of making the leap. Many others will not. Just think of the lost opportunities!
Allow me to illustrate my point with a prominent, real-world example from the technology industry. Based on its sales performance over the past couple of years, few people would refute that Apple knows a thing or two about selling its products. But when was the last time you saw Apple call any attention to the actual technology in its products? (Hint: Never.) Instead, the company promotes all the wonderful things owners of iPhones, iPads and Mac Books can do with their devices. Again, it’s not about what Apple is doing, or what’s inside their machines, it’s about all the amazing things Apple’s products are allowing its customers to do.
Your website, the same as all of your association’s other communications tools, needs to draw these conclusions clearly for your customers. Such statements of value proposition should be prominent (on your home page), blunt (think bulleted lists, not paragraphs), powerful (think graphics, video and color) and tinged with urgency (join today or fall even further behind your peers).
Bottom line, don’t use your website and other marketing pieces to sell your association’s operations and history. Use them to sell memberships. Lots of them.
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