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How Associations Increase Revenue Using Online Community Software

Written by Joshua Paul | on February 2, 2012 at 8:30 AM

Use these tips to increase revenue from your association's online community.

Marketing, customer management, and membership professionals are family with the obvious revenue impact of creating a private social network for members or customers. These benefits include:

  • Product differentiation
  • Member or customer retention
  • Increased event attendance
  • Lower customer service costs
  • Better data to create more profitable products and services

Though these benefits have a meaningful impact of an organization's performance, they are often indirect sources of revenue. For instance, there is more that goes into a customer's decision to continue doing business with your organization than their level of engagement. The tools in your online community software can also provide a major source of direct revenue for your association or user group.

How Can Your Online Community Software Generate Revenue?

The following are 7 ways that membership organizations can generate significant revenue through their online communities.

1) Event and Conference Attendance

When your target audience is engaged, event attendance goes up since more people will be aware of and excited about your events. The buzz generated by using your online community to keep the conversation going after your conference also results in higher attendance for upcoming events.

2) Event and Conference Sponsorship

Managing conferences using your online community tools provides an array of options to combine traditional offline event sponsorships with new sponsorship opportunities in your online community. This added exposure and value for your sponsors can both increase the price of your sponsorship packages and the number of companies that see value in sponsoring your events.

3) Vendor Program

How Associations Increase Revenue Using Online Community SoftwareIf there are companies in your industry who would pay to have access and exposure to your members or customers, your organization can use the online vendor program build into online community software to generate significant revenue.

Example of a Vendor Program Package: Access to certain groups where vendors can answer member questions, 4 helpful blog posts a year (This helps you generate relevant content too!), 2 marketing emails to your members per year, one market research survey per year, one month of listserv sponsorship, and website and mobile app advertising.

4) Virtual Memberships

Offer a virtual membership to members who cannot afford or take full advantage of your full membership offering (e.g. international members). Selling a virtual membership that gives people access to your community allows you to expand your reach and keep members engage who would not otherwise be able to be part of your organization.

5) Physical Product Sales

Associations and user groups traditionally sell books, education class, industry-related equipment, journals, magazines, and items branded with their logo. The product is then drop shipped or shipped from the organization to the member.

6) Virtual Products Sales

Boost profits with high margins by selling recorded webinars, audio training, electronic documents or online tools. Access to individual products can be determined by your organization's membership structure so that members can only see products relevant to them. With virtual products, members and customers will be at ease with the familiar shopping cart process while enjoying immediate access to the video, tools, or file that they purchased.

7) Membership Dues

Online community software can handle all of your membership management and dues processing functions allowing your staff to use a single system to handle member-facing engagement tasks and backend membership procedures.

While few associations, users groups or companies launch all of these revenue generation programs out of the gate, it is critical that these options be part of your strategy from the beginning. The main focus after launch is creating an experience for your members that shows them value of your community and keeps them coming back. However, it won't be long before you can build lasting revenue streams into your online community.

Learn how your community can generate revenue.

Topics: Associations, Online Community

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