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Fresh Ideas for Member Development

Looking for some fresh ideas to help you grow your organization in the coming year? Try to keep an open mind as you brainstorm – because you never know when an offbeat or overlooked idea might just provide the spark you need to ignite a membership development movement.

Here are a couple of ideas to get you started in thinking about fresh approaches to member development.

Revisit good old fashioned Word-of-Mouth

As you plan for next year, don’t underestimate the power of word-of-mouth promotion. According to the 2011 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report, member word-of-mouth recommendations (90%) continue to be the most common means by which prospective members learn about an organization, followed by the association website (87%).

But even though traditional word-of-mouth (WOM) is still important, remember that as the world moves online – so too does WOM. Research has confirmed that “66% of online adults use social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace or LinkedIn.” They use these social networking sites to gather information and offer their feedback and recommendations to their network of friends and peers about products and services as well as associations and other membership organizations.

So how can your organization take advantage of and even take control of word-of-mouth marketing? As Andy Sernovitz noted in an Associations Now article – Talking About the Word-of-Mouth Revolution – a few years back:

“Word-of-mouth marketing isn't about a new campaign; …It's a way of doing things. It's a way of thinking about what you do so that you build forwardability and viralness into everything you do.
So, when you're creating a direct-mail piece, are you making sure it's the kind of thing that people will share? When you do an event invitation, are you doing it in a way that people are dying to show it to their friends?”

But it’s not just about ensuring you are thinking about the WOM factor in all of your communications. You also need to ensure that you give your existing members or volunteers the information and tools they need to promote your organization effectively. The key to a successful WOM recruitment campaign is to keep it simple. Sernovitz suggests,

“if you're doing a formal membership campaign where members have to identify the people they're recruiting and they get some kind of referral fee or some kind of bonus, it feels like work. And people are much less likely to participate if it feels like work. If it is incredibly easy, you'll get a much better response. ...So create a message like, "Here's an email ready to go, please forward this to two friends today," and you're going to get a better response than an overbuilt, structured campaign.”

At Wild Apricot, we realized that we were getting a lot of wonderful, unsolicited feedback and testimonials through emails and Facebook messages. So we decided to make it easier for our satisfied customers to promote our Membership Management Software to their friends, colleagues and social networks. We created a web page where we’ve collected all of the tools for easy sharing and recommending of reviews, videos and information.

Leverage Word-of-Mouth marketing using social media

Need some ideas for getting your enthusiastic members and supporters to promote your organization online? Check out this Wild Apricot blog post – 4 Ways to Leverage Word-of-Mouth Marketing Using Social Media – which offers ideas and helpful “how-to” examples.

Repurpose the “Giving Club” Concept

Here’s an idea that takes Word-of-Mouth marketing one step further. I’d heard of a “President’s Club” but I was really intrigued by the concept of a “Giving club” – which has apparently been very effective for fundraising. In a Movie Monday video, Karen Rotko-Wynn explains that her organization identified three volunteers who had made a significant gift and who were willing to help recruit additional members for a “Giving Club.” To entice members to join the club, they met with potential donors one-on-one and talked about the benefits of being in the club. These benefits included  exclusive perks such as intimate, behind-the-scenes access to a private event. The club participants shared both their support for the organization and the energy and excitement at being part of this unique group.

Can this work for member development?

But what if you were to apply this idea to member development – how might it work? Are there groups or individuals within your organization that might want to create a networking group or club? Maybe instead of trying to get members to volunteer for a Membership Committee and follow the strictures of a specific organization-wide recruitment campaign, you create one or a number of recruitment or networking clubs. Can you think of benefits or rewards that would motivate club members? For example, if you have membership levels, could you challenge a number of volunteers at each of the member levels to identify some touch-points that they could use to entice new members?

By taking a group or club approach to recruitment, you enable your member-advocates to recommend and recruit their peers. As the SocialSilk.com blog  suggests, your customers [or members] are your influencers…At the end of the day, those are the people who vote with their wallet or their behavior. Those are the people who tell their peers, colleagues. Those are the people who will tweet and blog about you. …Trust and relationships are everything. … You are more likely to trust the word of someone who is in your network, or at least adjacent to it.” 

Networking With Younger Prospects:

If your organization is “graying” and you’re looking for some new blood, you need to be sure that your recruitment tactics address the needs of the younger generations. As Sarah Sladek notes in her book The End of Membership as We Know It  – if you are trying to recruit younger members, you need to think about ways to entice Generations X and Y. They join because they are looking for “opportunities to further their careers” (Gen X) and “ opportunities to learn from others” (Gen Y).

So how can you engage younger members? Here are a few networking ideas that Sladek reports are being used effectively in some associations and I’ve added a few as well:

  • Coffee chats
  • Online chats with association staff
  • Small lunch meetings where established members and/or staff can answer questions and provide information.
  • An online forum for existing members to connect with prospective members

Tips To Keep In Mind

So as you plan for your membership drive for 2012, consider some fresh new ideas and find ways to refresh your tried-and-true strategies. As you do, you might want to keep Sernovitz’s Four Rules for Word-of-Mouth in mind as you to develop or refresh any member development campaigns:

  • Rule 1: Be interesting
  • Rule 2: Make people happy
  • Rule 3: Earn trust and respect
  • Rule 4: Make it easy

Good luck in brainstorming new ideas for member recruitment - and share your ideas with others by leaving a comment below.

Photo credit: Pixelsrzen's Flickr Photostream

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Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]
Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]
Published Monday, 05 December 2011 at 9:32 AM
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