When working with member centric organizations, I hear two questions that inevitably surface: Why are my members not renewing and where do I go to get new members? 

There are approximately 1.5 million such organizations ready to serve those who share a common passion, interest or value set.

From experience and research, the most successful member organizations – professional associations, cooperatives, foundations and charities – all stayed true to their original vision and mission. But they also share three other common characteristics that accounted for their growth and relevance over their history:

  1. Continually look for ways to innovate and enhance their value proposition.
  2. Leverage technology to better attract, know and serve their members.
  3. Promote their brand.

Today, over 57 million people belong to the American Automobile Association (AAA); some 38 million Americans belong to AARP.

The key word here is belong.

Motorists and travelers, seniors and retirees, each have a special organization they can join and realize the benefits and value of their dues-paying memberships.

With more members, an organization grows its scale, increases its buying power and forges the business partnerships it needs to fulfill its mission and message. This article highlights three principles to attract and acquire the members.

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1. Review and Calibrate Your Value Proposition

Is your vision and mission today as valid as it was yesterday? There is a strong likelihood it is, but you may need to bolster your value proposition to adapt to increased competition and a more demanding consumer.

The membership model leverages size and economies of scale to do more for members and increase its appeal to potential members. The more consumers you convert to members, the larger your scale and buying power.

  • Scale makes you a desirable partner for other organizations.
  • Become a pipeline and growth channel for those partners.
  • Add value to your membership proposition.

AAA represents a classic study of evolution and innovation in a member-based model. AAA realized it could be more than a tow-truck dispatcher to stranded motorists. AAA leveraged its scale to build relationships in the travel and hospitability industry. They continued to enhance the value of membership through similar relationships with airlines, insurance companies and providers of financial services. AAA stayed true to its founding mission but discovered additional ways to add value and help for its members.

Your association can follow a similar blueprint. The advice here is to free your team to brainstorm and evaluate what is possible under your current model. You will be able to grow scale and do even more to serve and help members.

2. Listen to Your Data

Companies have been employing analytics for some time. You don’t have to be the one mining the data, you just need to be sure that your data is being minded and that you are leveraging the stories and insights to know, attract and engage new members. Associations and Member Organizations are in the catbird seat when it comes to maximizing this gold mine.

You have an abundance of valuable data about your current members, you have access to a trove of historical behavioral and publicly available data, or the so-called “big data.”

A body at rest tends to stay at rest. Keep moving.

  • The data you have is your fuel to ignite, move forward and grow.
  • Data-driven marketing is an investment not an expense.

But capturing meaningful and actionable insights from data may be outside your wheelhouse, which should be building deeper and more enduring member relationships. A partnership with an experienced membership marketer can work wonders to optimize your investment in marketing. Analytics tells you who and where your potential new members are and how to engage them in the channels they prefer.

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3. Promote Your Brand

There is truth in the saying, “out of sight, out of mind.” Regardless of how long your association has been serving members, it’s critically important for them to see and experience your brand.

To acquire, retain and engage members, they need to be continually reminded of your organization. Your brand is the best picture to help them recall the great work and service your organization delivers.

In addition to the visual reminder your brand projects, you need to have the one-word that comes to consumers when they see your brand. What does your brand stand for? Do your employees know and deliver on that brand promise?

People make decisions in two ways, emotional and logical. Since you don’t know which one your target is going to base their decisions on, you need to appeal to both.

  • Brand is an emotional connection.
  • What is the one-word people use to describe your brand appeal?
  • Create a regular cadence of helpful content through social media.

Companies with efficient economies can afford to invest in other business activities, such as marketing. Effective marketing also contributes to economies of scale, because attracting new customers and selling more products promotes greater purchasing and production power.

Get more tactical application of these three proven principles. Email us at Velma@VelmaKnowles.com to learn more about sessions and workshops on the nuts and bolts of growing membership, engaging your teams and aligning your boards.


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