Personal Relationships Drive Membership Growth
By Jim Sotiropoulos, TMG Association Executive
An association’s success, or lack thereof, can be largely measured by how effectively it grows and retains its membership. Those associations that fail either to attract new members or to provide value to existing members will ultimately cease to exist. Therefore, most association managers are in a perpetual struggle to find prospective members and make meaningful contact with them. The rise of digital technology has given us more opportunities than ever before to reach out to prospects and convey associations’ value propositions. We can go to Facebook or LinkedIn to talk with potential members. We can launch email-marketing campaigns. We can write a blog like the one you’re reading right now!
Yet associations can rely too heavily on digital marketing strategies—usually at the expense of the personal touch that often drives a prospect to take action. If we use social media or email marketing as the only growth tactics, then the target may never feel personally connected with the organization, and may not be compelled to become a member.
So, what is the association manger to do? Pick up the phone! In order to build a personal rapport with key prospects, it’s critical to periodically speak with them about their needs, desires, and concerns. These calls do not have to include an explicit pitch to join. In fact, most of them shouldn’t. You’re not making a sales call. You’re building a relationship. Over time, the prospect will gain a sense of trust and confidence in you and the association. Some prospects require several months or even years before the conditions are right for them to join. With such a long sales cycle, it’s the slow building of a relationship over time that proves most successful.
The digital age has undoubtedly changed the way humans communicate. But we can’t forget the human part of those communications. As you work to grow your association’s membership, always remember the power of personal relationships. When you leverage both digital and interpersonal communication tools to your advantage, you can more effectively communicate your message and grow your association.