Put yourself in the shoes of a prospective member looking to join an association - what would be helpful to know on your career journey? What would keep an association top of mind for you? What benefits and elements would keep you going back for more?
After you think about these questions, turn to your association and assess the prospect journey you currently have in place. Would your process entice you to join, or does it seem a little bland and in need of a makeover? Are you highlighting the benefits that would persuade you to join?
Follow these 6 steps to create a prospect journey that drives conversions:
- Make it easy to find your association
- Understand your current prospect journey
- Create value for your prospects
- Make it flexible
- Show authenticity
- Create an engaged member community
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Step 1: Make it Easy to Find Your Association
Have you tried searching for your association with a Google search? How easy was it for you to find using keywords and related phrases?
The first step to improving your prospect journey is to make sure prospects can easily find your association in a search engine. A majority of people are going to use keywords related to the profession they are in to find relevant associations they could join or when searching for industry-related content. Search engine optimization (SEO) is a critical part of improving your visibility on a Google search. Take some time to audit your website’s content - including your blog posts and other resources - and update keywords to reflect how prospects search for industry-related information so your association and content will show up higher in Google search results.
You’ll also want to consider how easy it is to find your association on social media channels like LinkedIn and Facebook (or other platforms that are popular within your industry). If professionals within your industry are active online and continuously engaging with your content, it can easily become a new channel to funnel prospects to your website.
A simple way to make sure your content is staying relevant is by using hashtags that are popular within your industry. When you use those hashtags, prospective members can find your posts if they follow the hashtags and actively engage with posts using them. Include your associations website in your social media bio’s for a seamless navigation between both platforms, along with any important event dates that would interest prospects who engage with your profile.
Step 2: Understand Your Current Prospect Journey
To understand the improvements you need to make to your prospect journey, experience it for yourself first. Think of this like the secret shopper concept - pretend you are a professional in your industry who has found your association and begins searching around your website. Think about what parts of your journey are positive, what needs improvement or what is missing.
- Is your branding cohesive and easy to look at, or has it become inconsistent over the years?
- Can you easily find where you should go to join the association?
- Do you know exactly what you should do next from the directions given by the association?
- What does this process look like on a mobile device?
Understanding the process your potential new members are going through when they engage with your association is critical for making improvements and recruiting new members efficiently.
Not only should you check how effective your prospect journey process is, but how effective your content is at supporting the process. Produce and create content that non-members would be interested in and find valuable enough that they would pay a membership fee to read more, like problem-solving and career advancement resources like Career Paths or online learning and certification courses.
Step 3: Create Value for Your Prospects
To convert your prospects into active members, show them your association is of high value for career advancement opportunities and will give them the necessary tools to reach their goals.
Throughout your prospects’ journey, include value statements in your graphics, landing pages, and other informational pieces to convey the importance of your association. Use phrases like “Free Training's”, “Become part of something bigger”, or “Amazing Value” so prospects understand your association goes above and beyond to create meaningful membership experiences.
If your association creates weekly content - whether it’s an online training, webinar, or critical industry information - market this value point so prospective members know you are continuously updating and adding new resources. This not only creates value, but also scarcity and urgency, which can be a major deciding factor for many prospects.
Step 4: Make Membership Flexible
Does your association offer tiered or leveled membership options? One price point can limit who converts to a member and neglect those who would benefit from a reduced membership, like early careerists looking for entry to associate level positions.
Tiered membership levels help attract members in all stages of their careers and creates an opportunity to upsell higher level memberships later when a relationship has been established or they are ready to invest in more member benefits. To properly market each membership level, highlight the best benefits that come with each so prospects can see which one will best fit their needs. Within your membership portal, make the transition seamless between levels so members can easily change their membership without having to jump through hoops!
Conversely, make it easy for members to downgrade their membership as well. Although it’s not what you want your members to do, it’s a good option to have in case they experience a financial crisis or need to take a step back from membership for a period of time. Remember, they will have the option to upgrade again when the time is right, and allowing them to downgrade will make them feel more positively about your association since you were accommodating to their needs.
Step 5: Show Authenticity
Every association has a story, but the way you tell it is what sells your association over another. Associations with a genuine, interesting and captivating story will have the most success at drawing prospects in, making them want to learn more and then become part of your organization.
Many associations offer similar items in terms of resources, but maybe from you they also get a membership community, personalized interactions, and a feeling of belonging to something bigger. These are super important benefits that shouldn’t be overlooked and are important factors for many prospective members that want to get the most out of a membership.
If you aren’t sure how to sell this aspect of membership in writing, considering using video to convey your sense of community and other abstract benefits. To kick it up a notch, include members testimonials and reasons why they love your association, why they decided to join and why others should consider joining, as well. Your video doesn’t need to be professionally produced or edited in extravagant ways - you don’t want it to feel scripted or inauthentic, so keeping it simple and to the point will yield the best results.
Step 6: Create an Engaged Member Community
Associations with an engaged member community won’t have to put in as much effort into recruiting new members - your members will be your advocates and do the work for you! When members genuinely love your association, they will be happy to participate in surveys, short interviews, share success stories, and provide referrals. Not to mention, they will also be more engaged on social media by sharing your posts and inviting friends, colleagues and peers to your webinars or virtual events. When prospective members see frequent member engagement and positive interactions, they become more interested in your organization, want to learn more and become part of your organization to feel that sense of connection.
To continuously maintain and improve your membership community, host frequent networking opportunities like member happy hours and virtual career fairs so members can easily connect with other members to grow their network. Especially during an era of virtual interactions with large crowds, it’s an easy and effective way to make members feel connected to your organization and like-minded people.
There are many pieces to the puzzle for recruiting, but making sure their prospect journey is seamless, genuine and informative will make it that much easier for your association to obtain new members. Take the journey yourself to see exactly where your association's experience is at to determine what has been working well, what needs to be improved, and what needs to be scrapped altogether.