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The best incentive for membership growth

Updated: Apr 1

I’ve been asked this question many times in the past few months and my response is always the same: Incentives don’t work.

During pandemic, associations focused on being accessible and supportive. When the going got tough, members appreciated access to free professional development courses and dues extensions. This was important and necessary. Members needed support, and associations provided it.

Incentives can be meaningful, but don’t make the mistake of thinking they will generate membership growth. Don’t confuse culture with collateral. Prospects will rarely make the jump to join solely to take advantage of a special offer or perk. These strategies tend to be short-sited and ineffective.

Why? Because there are only two ways to influence a person’s behavior: manipulation and inspiration. Manipulation works for a nanosecond, while inspiration leads to a more meaningful, long-lasting relationship.

Getting free stuff is awesome! But the commitment to a purposeful culture is considerably more effective at generating growth.

Consider the story of the consultant tasked with increasing the profitability of an auto mechanic franchise. She visited the company’s locations and interviewed employees and customers. A few months later she sat down with the executives and said: ‘Want to increase sales? It’s simple. Improve your waiting rooms.’

The executives were upset. They were expecting to receive revolutionary marketing and customer acquisition strategies guaranteed to drive increased profitability.

But the research revealed dark, dirty waiting rooms and unfriendly customer service. After one visit, most customers didn’t return. Until this obstacle was cleared, revenue growth would prove difficult, if not impossible.

What’s in your association’s waiting room? In other words, what’s the membership experience really like? If you want to drive membership growth, now is the time to take a closer look.

In the aftermath of the pandemic, organizations of all types and sizes will be vying for attention. Fueled by a ‘life is short’ perspective, the market won’t settle for experiences that feel negative, inadequate, or irrelevant. Now, more than ever, people need to feel aligned to a mission and they want to feel included in that mission.

Exceptional, inspiring membership experiences drive growth. Forget the incentives and focus on what really matters.


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