10 Ways to gain membership in 2019

10 Ways to gain membership in 2019

A practical guide to membership growth for online associations and organizations.

You run an association or organization and are ready to take things to the next level by increasing your membership numbers? Here are the top ways to increase member count from the perspective of online marketing, clean development, workflow efficiency, and powerful online tools.

As developers we have seen the impact that a series of small things done right can have on an organization. Take the time to get all of the details right—it WILL pay off, in a big way.

To keep things simple, this has been divided into three categories: sourcing new leads, increasing conversions, and increasing member retention.

Lead Acquisition

1. Remarketing

Remarketing is the top online advertising strategy worth exploring. The idea is a simple one: advertise to people who have seen a social media post or visited your website. The initial organic interaction creates brand awareness, and paying per click means that anyone who visited your site by mistake will know it isn’t what they are looking for and won’t click (saving you the cost of bad traffic); conversely those people who liked what they saw originally will see your brand again, building recognition and trust.

Use Facebook for remarketing and install pixel tracking. Carefully select conversions and consider layering remarketing campaigns: for example a primary campaign could get people to sign up to a newsletter or get a free download, while a secondary campaign could target those conversions and advertise membership after the signup or download.

Pro tip: Use video. Video is a powerful medium that quickly gives voice to any organization. Create a polished video with the goal of telling people who you are and why you are different.

2. Adwords

Adwords is an increasingly powerful way to advertise to people who are most likely to become members. Flexible ad design and specific target demographics make advertising much easier and highly effective. Design a campaign and run a small daily budget until you see a positive return on investment, then increase the ad buy while carefully monitoring the conversions and ROI.

Google specializes in delivering ads to the right viewers, so listen to them. Completely fill out all campaign info, and research anything you don’t understand.

Pro tip: When paying per click, save money by making your ad ONLY appeal to people who want your product. Discouraging clicks from people who aren’t interested in your organization will increase your ROI.

3. Organic Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

SEO is vital for the health of any organization because organic search traffic is free and plentiful. To optimize for search engines it is important to think from the search engine’s point of view: Google stays in business by providing relevant sites for every search. Understandably they reward sites that satisfy searchers and deliver quality content. Make Google happy by making people happy.

SEO Checklist:
Pro tip: Check out your competition. Browse to a competing site and view page source to see their meta tags (ctrl + U) and use keyword and search tools on competing sites to see what other people are doing.

Boost Conversion

4. Free Trial

Free trials: Distance between a product and payment can increase the chance of conversion. Having a free trial period with no fees and simple pricing can reduce any psychological roadblocks and increase conversion rates.

Fees: Professor Dan Ariely has a useful overview on the psychology of money exchanges and the “pain of paying” in which each parting with money is painful and repetitive or additional fees can increase checkout abandonment. Carefully factor the benefit of all fees and additional charges.

Pro tip: Don’t collect payment information for trials for higher conversion rates.

5. Effective Copy

Tone: The text on your website is one of the most important aspects of online presence to refine and improve. Start by ensuring your site conveys a complete picture of who you are and what you do. Next do a tone audit to make sure the voice of your text doesn’t change throughout the site. More is better, in terms of SEO, so keep writing.

Call To Action and leading: Define a clear call to action on each page. Tell the user to do what you want them to do. i.e. “Sign Up For a Free Trial” rather than "Free Trial".

A/B Testing: Once you have your copy cleaned and polished, use Google Optimize to test different variants and different calls to action. After collecting a sufficient amount of data, choose the optimal variant and create a new alternative. This process should be continually repeated every time a sufficient data pool is gathered.

Pro tip: Hire a copywriter. Crafting copy is an artform and a skilled copywriter can pay for themselves.

6. Polished Graphics and Imagery

Image matters. Having polished graphics is no more a luxury than a salesman wearing a clean shirt. Retouch event photos for proper lighting, tones, and contrast; match graphic colors with brand colors and tone; and be careful with stock photos that are too generic and stereil.

Brand Tone: Try describing your organization in three adjectives. (i.e. hopeful, informative, innovative) Now see if those words describe the tone of your images. If not, drop the image and find another that fits more closely with your tone. Use this same technique with copy, colors, layouts, and videos.

Pro tip: did you know that it is natural to look at a face first before reading any copy? Immediately after looking at the face, there is a powerful inclination is to follow their gaze and look where that face is looking. Keep people in your images looking towards site controls or copy.

Maximize Retention

7. Automatic Recurring Payments

Minimizing membership dropoff is an effective way to boost membership counts that rarely gets the attention it deserves. One of the best ways to do this is with automatic recurring membership payments.

For a quick and dirty approach, use PayPal. User accounts are built in, and membership details can be managed without any coding knowledge.

For an enterprise level approach, use a system like Capitol Membership, Fonteva, Wild Apricot, or a custom built system with a payment gateway. This system should track membership, handle payments, allow user logons, and offer detailed reporting at a minimum. Manual processes here only decrease profit margins and burden staff, so it is important to aim for full automation.

Pro tip: Recurring payments require a user account/login to allow for cancellations and payment information updates.

8. Maintain Current Memberships

Salesforce Report 1: Don’t overlook your members. Build a Salesforce dashboard report to automatically create a call sheet by factoring account expiration dates, last interaction, last user logon, and membership duration. Reach out to inactive members and share news or information they are likely to find helpful.

Salesforce report 2: Conversely build another Salesforce dashboard report to automatically create a call sheet with a list of the most active members. Reach out to active members and thank them for being a valuable part of your community.

Treat your members as valuable people--they are nothing less.

Renewal email: Scrutinize any email alerting people to upcoming renewals. Are you offering a reason to stay? Are there new and exciting things happening? Does your renewal email excite and inspire members, or just blandly tell them to pay you more of their hard-earned cash?

Expiration email: Use an automated expiration email to let people know it’s okay to leave but you are sorry to see them go. After six months send a promotional email to get them back. Bonus points for automation.

Pro tip: A new customer is 5x more expensive than an existing one.
-Source: invespcro.com

9. Provide Value

Is your organization providing value beyond the cost of membership? This is a brand-awareness question that must be asked a minimum of twice per year. Assess your offering from a member standpoint and consider their return on investment.

Easy, cost-effective value adders:
Pro tip: People buy value. Cost is meaningless without a scale of value. Increase your value offer and sales increase.

10. Listen to Feedback

One of the most valuable and overlooked tools in building a membership-based organization is member feedback. Use Google Surveys to collect feedback to carefully worded survey questions. Consider the responses carefully and correct any weaknesses in your offering.

Google Analytics: Use Google Analytics to spot weak points in your site. What pages have high drop-off rates? What pages error-out or have high bounce rates? Often these pages have mistakes or simply don’t provide a path forward for the visitor. Recraft the page and use Google Optimize to A/B test several variations.

Pro tip: Watch your competitors and get to know them. What they offer, how they interact, and what they convey as a brand all give insight into strategy. Look for points you can improve.

Let’s recap.

It is important to have an advertising and marketing setup that is targeting the right people. Be specific, keep refining, and create ads that showcase who you are and why you do what you do.

Get your SEO in order. It’s not rocket science and it will have a big impact on your overall growth. Research the basics and check your site. After a few days of adjustments you should be on track for more organic search traffic.

Clean up your message and imagery. Make sure your brand has a consistent voice throughout all of your site and promo materials.

Set up your work processes for efficiency. This is essential as it frees resources to be spent on member interactions and sales. If something can be automated, automate it.

Give your members as much as you can. Create the organization you want to be a part of and deliver in a BIG way. This is something that will increase sales immediately and build a reputation that pays dividends in the future.

Listen to feedback. Listen. Take your ego out of the equation and LISTEN. If someone is taking the time to tell you something there’s a reason for it. There’s tremendous value in feedback as well as being known for being in touch with your members.

As always, audit everything you can, look with a critical eye, and fix weak points. This is a process of continual refinement and choosing where to focus will determine the speed at which you grow. Be discerning, be decisive, and be efficient.

About the authors: We’re developers for Mazuzu and founders of Capitol Membership. Membership is something we have been refining for years and we have seen many do’s and don’ts of the membership game. We are sharing what we have learned to help everyone create better memberships and more successful organizations. If you have questions or feedback, feel free to reach out to us at: team@capitolmembership.com