Starting a referral program from scratch can feel like a pretty overwhelming task. First, you have to target the members of your association that you think could be strong advocates in helping you acquire new members. But then, how do you actually get them to start sending referrals your way?
Take a look at these five steps you should try to start building up a solid referral program for your association.
1. Offer Incentives
Let’s be real: Money talks! Whether that’s in the form of currency, discounts, or promotion codes, people like to feel compensated for their time. To be clear, we aren’t implying you need to flash around a huge amount to incentivize these referrals. Typically, the magic number comes in the form of a ten - whether as a $10 gift card or 10% off a service.
Additionally, make sure that you’re very clear in your referral ad when it comes to these incentives. The two big questions that you should answer in your referral pitch include “Will you allow their incentives to stack if they refer multiple people?” and “What counts as a full referral? (Do they have to become a member?)”
2. Get Creative with Your Referral Format
Not all marketing ads are created equal. What marketing message resonates for some of your members might not work for all of them. Enter A/B testing - where you have a “standard” format and “variable” format that you send out to your members to test what ad style works better for your audience.
We recommend to take one of your standard ad formats and adjust some of the following aspects to your variable ad:
- Rows vs column placement
- Types of images (banner vs side image vs center image)
- Amount of white space included
3. Collect Member Testimonials
Everyone loves a good success story! Start by reaching out to those members that you know love your association and ask if they’d be open to share their testimonial via a written blurb or a video. Try collecting as many of these testimonials as possible and be considerate of gathering a wide range of members (student, professional, retirees, industry, etc). The bigger the selection, the better chance you have of attracting a larger pool of potential members.
In addition, don’t hesitate to use some of these testimonials in ads, on your homepage, or on a benefits page on your website (with the speaker’s permission). People are more likely to trust other people who live in a similar space, so allow these testimonial to create a connection between them and your association!
4. Get Public Recommendation of Industry Influencer
Ready to go the next level with your member testimonials? Think Industry Influencers! We all have those thought leaders in our industry that everyone knows and respects. So why not reach out and see if they will endorse your association? More often than not, these professionals would be more than happy to support your association, especially if you are already on good terms.
If you’re worried about the act of “asking” for the recommendation, consider providing an “in-kind” trade of your choosing. A popular option is to provide a free conference registration or promoting their agenda in your association’s newsletter in exchange for a glowing recommendation on their social media. Pro-tip: If you go this route, make sure you get this exchange in writing.
5. Keep Improving Your Association
The ultimate way you’re going to get existing members to recommend others is by having an association that is worth joining! Yes, it’s cliche, but professionals in your industry are going to notice if they see your association is open to feedback and growth about how to better serve your members. Even when you think your staff’s actions may go unnoticed, your members are always aware of your association’s helpful (and ineffective) actions - so be thoughtful!
Your members are the lifeblood of your organization. Not only are their dues a primary source of revenue for you, but they're the ones who bring the life, the drive, and the mission to your association. If you're looking to get those recruitment rates up, check out our new guide, Best Practices for Online Member Acquisition.