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Common Membership Myths – and What to Do If You Fall Into Them

When you’re one of the decision makers of an association, maybe the decision maker, one of your primary roles is to grow the membership – and strengthen the financial position of the association. With all the board meetings, day-to-day operations, attending events, and developing partnerships to offer members new benefits, it can be easy to rationalize that all that effort makes for happier, long-term members and a stronger association. In other words, you can be led into a faulty mindset that could end up hurting the association without a reality check now and then. Your efforts matter – a lot. And as a strong leader, you can evaluate yourself and your association in an honest way, which is why you won’t fall into these membership myths – or be able to recognize that you have to do something about it.

  1. I see the value in membership so others will find value in it as well. There’s value in every membership; that’s why there’s an association in the first place. But how is that value conveyed and experienced by the members? In past surveys we have helped conduct on behalf of other association clients, we commonly uncover a disconnect between the leadership and the general membership when it comes the top benefit of membership. For example, leadership may say that it’s advocacy, because they know the daily grind and subsequent successes more intimately than the members. Members, on the other hand, may say that the association’s publication is their favorite benefit. Sure, they see the value in advocacy and are appreciative of the association’s efforts, but most members tend to gravitate to physical or more tangible benefits to measure the value of their membership experience. Make sure you speak with your membership often in a variety of settings. Ask for their opinion, conversationally, and use what you learn to make changes to the association. One caveat though: There are usually conflicting opinions and feedback. Your association can’t be everything for everyone, otherwise it’s nothing. You still need to weed through it all, and then make an informed, firm decision for your association and your membership. Be wary of the vocal minority.
  2. Any membership marketing is better than no marketing at all. Marketing should be strategic, thought-out, and with a measurable, realistic goal that you’re accountable for. Otherwise, it’s like throwing a dart blindly and expecting it to hit the bull’s-eye, which, as experience can attest, is difficult even with practice and focus. In reality, it’s better to not market rather than conduct rash or poorly done membership marketing campaigns. Marketing doesn’t need to be expensive, either. If you have a regular email newsletter and social media accounts, you can create buzz and exclusive campaigns that can direct people to your transaction points on your website. Direct mail campaigns historically work better than digital only campaigns, but if your association can’t afford one at the time, then work on meeting your goals through other methods.
  3. Our members know what’s happening because it’s all up on our website. A website is just one method of communication, and these days, most people don’t check websites for up-to-date information. They check emails and social media feeds. Don’t ignore these other relatively inexpensive communication vehicles to get the word out regularly to your membership. Use your website as the “house,” with all the “traffic” being driven to the website. Offer snippets on social media – whichever platforms work best for your membership – to generate interest and spur engagement. When you update your website, it’s a good practice to make a post about it on social media and note it in your regular newsletter. Compile several updates before you send the email out to members – and limit the number of email communications you send.
  4. Our association has the best benefits. You had better know this with absolute certainty. Have you compared your benefits with competing associations? Have you asked your members if they belong to other associations and, if so, what they find beneficial from that other association that could make belonging to your association an even better value for them? Do you offer benefits nobody else offers? If you say no or that you don’t know, then take the time to dig in and find out. You may find that another association has something you lack that is drawing members away; or you may find that you really do, in which case, market it!

Article written by:

Jillian LaCross

New Media Director, Managing Editor

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