In the recent 2011 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report, organizations who saw membership decrease over the past 5 years indicated that poor products and services were one of their leading challenges to membership growth. The association executives surveyed for this report also said that their organization's perceived lack of value was the #1 reason why members don't renew their membership.
Are You Sitting on a Goldmine?
Planning, launching, and running new programs to attract and retain members can be expensive. However, an increasing number associations and other membership organizations are taking a second look at the assets that they already have - members, staff, and information. Is access to these resources valuable to your members? Is getting answers to problems, information about best practices, and straight talk about industry changes important to your members' success?
Productizing Your Member Community
While historically your members have joined your organization to receive something tangible in return, association executives are beginning view their network of members as a valuable benefit of membership. Launching an online member community to help your members become more successful in their businesses and professions, as well as discuss and address industry issues, creates real value that makes membership in your association a must-have for your members.
A private social network for members will also help your association align itself with the top reasons that members join associations:
- Networking with others in the field (25% of respondents)
Very few members network for the fun of it. Busy members with questions want access to other members and experts with answers.
- Access to specialized and/or current information (14%)
On your website, via email, and on their mobile devices, members can access exclusive information based on their committee, membership type, location, etc.
- Advocacy (10%)
Members can discuss, rank/vote on, and receive updates on legislative and regulatory issues that impact them.
- Continuing education (7%)
Set up study groups, collaborative learning communities, and file libraries to develop low-maintenance online resources to support your education programs. Use the targeted email engine built into the online community to promote webinars, workshops, educational events, and content.
- Learning best practices in their profession (7%)
Association use members-only blogs, media libraries, and content alerts to keep members abreast of best practices that are relevant to their business or profession.
When you consider that that your organization already has members who want more value, and staff that creates great content, all you need is the right online community platform and the processes to create a successful private member community. Your organization can achieve a significant return on it's investment, in terms of membership growth and retention, when you position your member community and the knowledge it holds at the center of your member benefits portfolio.
Online Community Takeaway
The combination of tightening budgets and the proliferation of news and best practices information online has put a squeeze on many associations' value proposition to their members. However, associations still have numbers. And those members, be it 100 or 100,000, collectively have some of the deepest knowledge about an issue, industry, or profession.
Rather than look at your online member community as a social network where member may or may not talk to each other, make your private online community your biggest member benefit. Your online member community can be a valuable resource where you members find answers, share documents, and discuss relevant topics on a daily basis.