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How to Create a Killer Association Member Referral Program

Using a member referral program to enhance your association’s membership strategy could provide your association with a new audience in the near future.

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Building an amazing membership takes time, hard work, and a lot of dedication. It’s nothing that your association doesn’t have, but sometimes it can seem overwhelming.

According to GrowthZone’s 2018 Association Annual Survey, 12% of associations have seen a decrease in new memberships in the past year. Additionally, 19% of associations have also seen a similar decrease in membership renewals. With those statistics in mind, it’s important to create a well-rounded strategy for attracting and retaining a solid membership. You don’t want to scramble when it comes time to gather new members.

A member referral program could be what your association is looking for. According to Nielsen, 92% of customers will trust a referral if it is given from someone they know. In fact, people are 4 times more likely to make a purchase if referred to it by a friend. Referrals have the power to bring in a brand new audience for your association. There’s no doubt that a strong member strategy focuses not just on member attracting, but retention and satisfaction as well. However, adding a member referral program into your strategy as a supplement can help make attracting new members a simple task. A member referral program is great for associations looking to save time and money. They’re both low-cost and low-maintenance: Once you set up a member referral program, you can sit back and wait for the results. If your association is looking to implement a new member referral program and doesn’t know where to start, here are some easy ways to get a jump start on growing your membership.

1. Target your audience.

Any good strategy should start with identifying a target audience, and referral programs are no exception. When it comes to targeting an audience, you don’t want to target just anyone. Having a broad, unplanned target can lead to poor results and an overall waste of time. According to Inc., there is a correct way to target an audience that will hone in on a very specific group: “target marketing allows you to focus your marketing dollars and brand message on a specific market that is more likely to buy from you than other markets. This is a much more affordable, efficient, and effective way to reach potential clients and generate business.”

The first thing you should consider when beginning to create a target audience is your current membership. What do they all have in common? What are their wants, their problems, and their interests? This is all information you should collect, whether it’s through a survey or another method of communication.

As a consumer, there’s a lot of consideration that goes into purchasing an item. So, consider both your audience’s demographic and their personality types. You want to focus on things like age, location, and occupation. However, you don’t want to forget about your audience’s values and beliefs. Both of these factors are what help a customer make a buying decision. It’s also smart to look at who your competition is targeting. You could be missing out on a vital demographic of potential members. Study their membership base, who they attract, and how you can attract similar audiences to your association. Once you feel confident in your target audience, you can start developing your actual referral program.

2. What’s in it for your members?

In order to make a member referral program work, you need to make sure members have a reason to recommend your association. Member incentives are one of the most important parts of a member referral program. You want to make sure your members’ word-of-mouth marketing is being rewarded. Many companies benefit from offering members a discount when they refer a friend. Think about it- who doesn’t love a good discount? Members will be inclined to share your association’s benefits with others for a chance at a lower cost.

You can also provide incentives that work both ways. What does this mean? Well, for every new member that signs up due to a referral, not only will your current member get a discount, but your new member will as well. This is double the incentive power for your association.

Another incentive to offer in a member referral program is a chance at free web content. If your association is looking for a way to offer a referral reward, but also wants to keep its revenue up, free content is a great deal. Your content is valuable, and members will enjoy getting free eBooks, guides, and courses that would otherwise come at a cost. Make sure to come up with a way to keep track of referrals. A lot of organizations use specialized referral codes.

Chances are, you’ve probably seen a referral code before. Maybe you’ve even used one to save money on a purchase. They’re a great way to send and receive referrals while also allowing a business to keep track of referral rates. Create referral codes that are unique to every member. You can use segments of their name, or come up with a randomized string of numbers.

3. Create a section for referrals.

Without a referral section on your association’s member application, keeping track of your referral rates will be nearly impossible. This step seems self explanatory, but it’s essential to mention when talking about the basics of creating a member referral program. You want new members to easily find a place to enter their referral information. This can be done by simply adding a section into your online member referral. You can have a space to enter in a referral code. You can also add a question such as, “Who referred you to our association?”

For print member applications, a section for referral information should also be added. You don’t want members to miss out on incentives because their referred friends applied via print application. Looking for a more advanced solution for referrals? You can try using a referral program software.

A referral program software uses advanced tools in order to collect, organize, and catalog member referrals. It’s a hands-free way to run your member referral program, saving your association time and frustration. There are a wide variety of software options to choose from for referral program organization. Research which option would work best for your association and its needs.

4. Promote, promote, promote!

Once your member referral program is in place, it’s time to introduce it to your members. You want to get the word out to your members as efficiently as possible. Without proper communication methods, your referral program could get ignored, forgotten about, or lost altogether. One way to ensure a response from members is to include an announcement in your association’s newsletter. You can discuss what the program is, how it works, and how your members can earn incentives and discounts. You can also reach out to members through social media channels. For example, if you have a lot of members that congregate on Facebook or Twitter, create a promotional content piece and share it on those social channels. Meet members on social channels they trust and actively use.

Promoting to members is another way to rope them in and keep them engaged on what your association has to offer. If you can get members interested in your program, you can see results in no time. You want to make sure you’re communicating with members every step of the way- so don’t forget to send them a big “thank you” when they successfully refer a new member!

If your association follows these simple steps, creating a member referral program can be a hassle-free experience. Use a member referral program to enhance your association’s membership strategy and you could see a new audience coming your way in the near future.