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Diversifying Your Association's Membership: Know The Answers Before You Begin

These days, many associations are looking to diversify their membership in order to survive. Diversification into additional markets outside your association’s original industry may provide some advantages—increased revenue from membership dues, additional outreach into other communities, increased sponsorship or exhibitor revenue opportunities—but also bring about the “cons.”

These days, many associations are looking to diversify their membership in order to survive. Diversification into additional markets outside your association’s original industry may provide some advantages—increased revenue from membership dues, additional outreach into other communities, increased sponsorship or exhibitor revenue opportunities—but also bring about the “cons.”

Before taking the leap into a more diversified membership, association executives need to take a step back and think strategically before proceeding. Are your current staffing levels able to handle the potential influx of new members? Will you be able to target offerings and member benefits to those outside your niche industry?

Know the answers to the following 3 questions prior to recruiting members outside your association’s industry:

1. Why diversify?

If you’re leaning toward diversifying your membership, why is this your strategy and what do you propose the end result should look like? Does your value proposition align with what these potential members will be looking for? It may be time to review your content—online and offline—to ensure that you are able to consistently provide value to this new market.

2. What will we offer?

Are you currently offering new members a reason to join? Associations MUST NOT be selfish, and just look to increase their membership number, and in turn, revenue. What kind of education are you providing? What other resources are you making available that they would find interesting (and not find elsewhere)? What kind of advocacy do you provide these professionals? All key questions to identify in order to come up with the proper membership recruitment plan.

3. Who will we invite?

Test the waters before diving in full-force. There are many organizations out there—who will you invite to join in? For example, if you are a pharmacist association, this could be pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, hospital pharmacists, community pharmacists, pharmacies, etc. Identify one market to test your recruitment campaign and determine what needs to be worked on and how you’ll measure success. Research the other organizations these potential new members could already belong to. What do these associations’ renewal timeframes look like? If they have an annual renewal that takes place every September for example, I would avoid conducting a recruitment campaign at the same time.

GETTING STARTED

Once you have your answers to the above questions, your new membership recruitment marketing plan can be developed. Conduct focus groups in your chosen new, test market to identify what these potential new members would require in order to take your recruitment efforts seriously.

Have a look at other industry conferences and determine if there is an opportunity to combine and cross-educate. For example, the BC Land Summit, which brings together their respective associations for one large conference every five years. The goal of the conference to bring together professionals who are involved with land use in some form to cross-educate and network to better the respective industries in the immediate and in the future.

Incorporate various methods to attract different generations in this new industry, through direct mail, email, website updates, downloadable content, event invitations, social media and phone to ensure you are providing them communication and resources when and where they want them.

Have you expanded into new markets recently? Share your success stories. I look forward to your thoughts and feedback!

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