I have worked with a number of associations recently who have wonderfully high retention rates but very low growth rates. After investigating further, it became apparent that all these associations have a wonderful range of services, many very happy members, and absolutely no sales function whatsoever. To fix this situation, and to effectively recruit new members, you need the have the following processes in place:
A process for generating leads into your organisation. To create new members, you need prospective members. This means developing strategies for generating leads. This can include attending trade fairs, viral campaigns, and strong internal policies around the collection of opt-ins from prospective members with whom staff and volunteers come in contact with.
A process for building a relationship with prospective members. Recruiting and retaining members is a bit like dating. Just because you are ready for them to join doesn’t mean they are ready to make that commitment. Having some regular non-member engagement is a great way to enable prospective members to get a feel for the organisation. This can include issuing free e-newsletter and enabling non-members to register to attend your events (at a much higher fee).
A process for converting someone from a non-member to a member. There are many great sales channels for membership including direct mail, e-mail, outbound telephone calls, and/or an on-the-ground sales team. Associations who are growing the most strongly use a mix of all of these. After a heavy swing to email over the past 7 years, we are now seeing associations generating an excellent return from sending a well-crafted direct mail piece followed up by a phone call.
It is vitally important that every prospective member enquiry or outbound campaign is followed up with a phone call. This is an absolutely critical element to member recruitment success. With the advent of cost-effective, outbound call centres specialising in associations (such as Optimum Contact) there is no excuse for these calls not being made.