How to Increase Membership – Don’t Sell Yourself Short

It’s highly likely that you are currently a member of an organisation either professionally or socially. It is also extremely probable that the main reason you signed up had little to do with the cost.

All organisations offering membership face the continual challenge of not only maintaining numbers in the face of competition, but steadily increasing them to make its offering ever more attractive. For professional societies, a constantly expanding or evolving group means a more profitable business model and improved networking opportunities for members.

For consumer-facing marketers, it is commonplace to offer flash sales and discounts to encourage spend and attract new customers. In fact I know of only one retailer that refused to offer sale items for 40 years and only changed its policy once the last recession took hold. Those specialising in these fields could therefore be forgiven for promoting Black Friday or Boxing Day-type sales on joining fees and annual memberships expecting the same outcomes to apply. Unfortunately, professionals and businesses can’t to be confused with a pair of shoes or bottles of olive oil.

People make emotional decisions that support rational, practical requirements. Once you have realised you need or want to join an organisation you will probably start shopping around and weigh up all the benefits. Although cost is always going to be a factor, it’s the value that will tip the balance.

Why would you  join an organisation that prioritises cost over value?

During the recession many organisations lost their nerve and started offering ‘12 Months for the Price of 10’ joining offers and reducing membership fees in a desperate attempt to encourage retention and growth. The brave, who understood their true worth, dug in and committed fully to the value of its offering.

One factor that rarely seems to be considered is the underlying message discounting sends out to both prospects and existing members. How do those who have just paid full price feel about missing out on a deal? More disturbing is what has happened to make membership suddenly worth far less.

Last year I was approached by an organisation that wished to significantly increase the number of its members. To understand what would encourage people to join and discover why they would leave, I conducted a number of surveys with more than 250 past, existing and potential members. A high proportion, more than 80%, named value as being the key. Less than 5% said that cost factored in their decision.

Armed with all the information gathered, I put together a strategy to increase membership by a minimum of 30% in under two years. The marketing plan, now in action and on target, places value at its core and introduced time and money saving services for its members as well as number of methods to generate additional profit for the organisation.

The lesson here is quite simple, if you wish to increase membership – stop selling yourself short. If you don’t truly value what you offer, why would anyone else?