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How to Recruit New Members by Using a Membership Trial

Membership trials are an effective strategy for member recruitment. But, how can your association create a trial plan that is both appealing and valuable for the ultimate member attraction plan?

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The idea of a membership trial isn’t one that’s necessarily new and unique. Websites like Netflix, Amazon, and Spotify have been offering membership trials for their services for years now. It’s a great incentive to attract new members and get them talking about their company’s offer.

However, a membership trial isn’t just for huge money making organizations. It can also work wonders for associations and nonprofits alike. Many associations worry that offering discounts and free content can decrease the value of your membership as a whole. While that is a legitimate concern, membership trials have worked for many an association in the past.

Let’s take The Association of Otolaryngology Administrators (AOA) for example. Their membership trial started in 2014, and since then they’ve seen success. In fact, the offer worked so well that AOA decided to repeat the offer in 2015. Robin Wagner, COPM of AOA, backed up the experimental offer and its success. “This was better than anything we’ve ever tried,” she claimed. If your association is looking for new ways to recruit members, a membership trial might just do the trick. A  trial allows potential buyers to see what it’s like in the shoes of your current members. It also acts as a great marketing tool to generate buzz around your association and its membership.

So we know that a membership trial is an effective strategy for member recruitment. But, how can your association create a trial plan that is both appealing and valuable for the ultimate member attraction plan?

We’ll show you how to create a successful membership trial you can use to attract new buyers to your association.

Timing is always important.

The first thing to think about in any member recruitment plan is the basics. How will this plan be executed? What will it entail? Will there be a specific length or deadline? These are all great questions to start with when creating a membership trial offer.

All membership trials should have a start and end date. You don’t want to give away your association’s features for too long, but you also want them to get a feel of what your benefits offer. It’s up to you to create an appropriate timeline for your membership trial. For AOA, their membership trial lasted 10 months. While they seem to have found success in that time length, 10 months may be too long for some associations.

Think about classic membership trials like Amazon Prime and Netflix. Amazon prime offers their trial for an entire year, while Netflix’s offer lasts just one month. Despite their huge time difference, both offers bring in business for each company. Create your trial based around what works best for your association. If you’d like to center this trial around an annual event, make sure the membership runs until that date. Or, if you’d just like to give members a small taste of your benefits, create a one month trial. You can even make your trial a few weeks- whatever will show potential buyers your association’s value.

A survey done by Instamotor shows that one in ten millennials will spend up to $200 per month on short-term subscription services alone. With that in mind, it might be best to try a short-term,  30-day trial with an option to renew at the end of the month. Once you find a time span that works for your association, you can move onto other details.

Decide which benefits are up for grabs.

If you’re an association who feels wary about a membership trial, you’re not alone. Many associations feel that trials can devalue their member benefits and decrease revenue. However, you can always customize your member trial to avoid this concern. While an all-inclusive member trial is the best way to give potential buyers the true experience of a member, there are other options.

Creating a customizable membership trial allows your association to control which benefits are available to try out and which are off limits. Doing this allows you to tailor your trial as much or as little as you want. This is great for associations with different membership levels who just want to provide a basic idea for potential buyers. Giving a basic membership trial and allowing for room to grow with payment can tempt potential buyers into becoming new members.

For example, let’s say your association provides career development services to its members. While one service might be ideal for a membership trial, others might be be better to keep as member-only. The same goes for eBooks, events, even career centers.

Customize your plan based on what your association values and what it wants to portray to audiences. Formulating a perfectly customized membership trial will help ensure member recruitment success.

A paid trial is also an option.

If you’re still not sold on the idea of a membership trial, there is always an option to create a trial that still brings in revenue. A paid membership trial is a way to showcase benefits at a much lower cost than an actual membership. A paid membership trial works the same way as a free one. However, it typically comes at a small cost. Think about it like getting a travel size of an item rather than the normal size. The Textbook and Academic Authors Association (TAA) succeeded with a paid membership trial. Their trial lasts 30 days and costs only $10. This way, TAA isn’t giving away any benefits that were promised to be member-exclusive. They also lessen the risk of devaluing their memberships. You can find a way to make your membership trial work without breaking the bank. Offer up benefits for a small sum of what a normal membership would be. This way, potential buyers are still getting an experience without getting every benefit for free.

However, auto-renewal should never be an option.

Auto-renewal can be a frustrating process to go through when utilizing a membership trial. Think about it, have you ever been automatically charged for a service once your free trial expires? Most can agree the entire process is stressful. Between cancelling subscriptions and getting fees reversed, you almost always end up regretting the free trial in the end of it all.

You don’t want potential buyers to go through this with your association. Installing an auto-renewal option is a big risk that does not always pay off. While an auto-renewal service can work well for current members, it’s best not to push potential buyers into this payment cycle. You want to avoid any situations that could upset or frustrate any possible new member.  Instead, provide options that encourage renewal. For example, send out an email once a user’s trial has expired. Provide helpful links in order to renew and become a member of your association.

You could also provide an optional auto-renewal section. This would give members the chance to choose whether they want to renew their new membership/trial automatically or manually. This option serves both users ready to say yes to your association and users who may need a little more time to decide. In any case, a membership trial is always a way to try and recruit new members to an organization. Create a trial that fits perfectly with your association’s recruitment strategy and see how potential buyers respond to it. You may just have a new way to attract new members to your association.

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