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Drive Association Membership: 5 Ways to Create Members for Life

By August 18, 2018April 4th, 2019No Comments

pay attention to clients and customersEvery Association wants to create members for life, Right?

Unfortunately, not EVERYONE is paying enough attention to that very big cog in their business engine.

I recently ran across this quote from former CIO and Senior VP of Dell, Jerry Gregoire, “The customer experience is the next competitive battleground.”  (I know you don’t call them customers in the association world.. but you get it). Isn’t it time to pay even more attention to your member experience?


When was the last time you looked at what YOUR members are experiencing from a lens OTHER than your own? It’s an important question to ask yourself and your team if what you really want is to not only compete in our world today. You know the old saying, “good news travels fast, but bad news travels faster?”  It’s never been truer than it is in a world where social media is front and center and consumer tolerance for less than perfect is slim to none.


So, what can YOU do to ensure that your members are raving fans and stay that way for the long haul? How can you make sure when their membership renewal notice comes they are excited to rejoin? How can you encourage your members to be great referral partners for you?

Step ONE – pay ATTENTION to what matters.

Step two – follow these five strategies:


  1. Get out in front of social media. What are people saying about your association?  Have you checked Yelp? Twitter? Facebook? Trip advisor (if you’re in the hotel or travel industry supplying association executives)?  Are people saying good things or bad?  Are you responding to comments? Likes? Forwards? Reviews?  Are you reading the information with an open mind and looking for every little way you can improve the experience your members feel when they interact with your association? Every bit of information is valuable. Remember these wise words from Bill Gates, “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” I loved how ASAE used their app to engage attendees at their annual event before they even arrived in Chicago.
  2. Mystery shop or blind call your association head office. There are services everywhere that are experts at analyzing the member experience of associations. From sending in mystery shoppers to cold dialing your membership department to testing your technical team.  This can be illuminating on so many levels.  It’s easy to get myopic when it comes to our own team and what we believe to be an amazing experience, and often, your staff is on the money in terms of service and standards. But it never hurts to check in with an outsider’s perspective now and again to see what’s really a true member experience so you’ll know what to tweak and change.
  3. Create focus groups. Pull a group of your active members together and ask them for feedback on what’s working and what’s not. Let them know your goal is to continuously elevate and improve their member experience.
  4. Walk a mile. Ever hear that saying, “walk a mile in someone’s shoes”? When was the last time you purchased or experienced something from your association? From start to finish? From phone call or web portal, all the way to product in hand or service met? It can be quite enlightening.
  5. Review your communications. Listen to your voicemail lately? Read your signature line? Hear your outgoing association messages? Update your website? Take a look at your business cards? Did you put all that together in 2000 and haven’t changed it since?  Our “signatures” in all the different communication forms they come in have affected the member experience.

When you brainstorm ideas to create an innovative, elevated member experience, that creates members for life, consider these ideas (just remember I shot this video for those of my clients who call them customers LOL… I know you call them members):


Lastly, take away this thought from Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, “We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.” Yes, Jeff! He’s got a perfect idea. Make your association a party people want to keep attending friends. They’ll be members for life when you do.   I’d love to hear from you! Share your ideas with us here!

If you will be at #ASAE18 in August, let me know – let’s meet up! I am sharing a session on how association executives can use contextual models to get (and keep) member attention and also use them as tools to share why people should join your association.

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