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Engaging First-Time Conference Attendees

Engaging First-Time Conference Attendees: 4 Tactics to Try

Of course you want to provide an exceptional experience for ALL of your conference attendees, but ensuring that happens for your first-time attendees is particularly important. Their decision to attend future events (and possibly even renew their membership) depends heavily on that first experience, so going the extra mile for those folks, in particular, is certainly worth it.

What does “going the extra mile” for your first-time attendees look like? Here are a few tactics worth trying:

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3 Ways to Get Members to Recommend Your Association

Posted by Colleen Bottorff

getting association members to give you a referral

How many times have you been talking to a new member who said they were encouraged by an existing member to join? I bet it’s nice to hear that someone is talking you up!

But beyond the good vibes, how can you capitalize on the fact that satisfied members are willing to refer you to their colleagues? It’s important to recognize that those happy members can be an effective extension of your marketing efforts.

Even more important: You have to give something in order to get that referral! Here are a few things you can give members in exchange for the kind words:

Give them a shout
Always, always, always take the time to personally reach out and thank a member who’s referred you. Give them a phone call, send a handwritten note, approach them at the next event - or do a combination of things! The point is to make sure they know their time and thoughtfulness is appreciated.

That said, you may not always know whether or not a new member was referred by an existing one. Help yourself keep tabs on unsolicited referrals by:

  • Including a “Were you referred by anyone?” line on your join form. (You know, like in a job application.)
  • While you’re doing any new member follow-up. (A phone call to see how it’s going, a survey 3-6 months into membership, etc.)
  • Paying attention to what companies your members are coming from - and if you notice a lot from one in particular, ask!
  • Paying attention to whether or not a new member already seems to have a relationship with an existing member. (This is probably easiest to do at meetings or events.)

Thanking your referrers is not only the right thing to do, but chances are your acknowledgement will encourage them to do it again one day!

Give them great customer service
Part of creating advocates among your membership is providing exceptional service and a completely refreshing experience. You want to be SO amazing to your members that they have no choice but to talk about you - in a good way! Think about all the ways you can have a positive effect on your members:

  • Never wait too long to reply to an email or voicemail
  • Give them a way to give feedback - anonymously and not
  • Make your leadership team readily available
  • Take special needs into consideration for events, meetings, and webinars
  • Don’t overload them with irrelevant information
  • Involve their input in big decisions or changes

Just think: What can you do to go above and beyond? The point is to always stay one step ahead of your members, so you can solve problems before they even occur.

Give them an incentive
We have to take the time to mention incentives - they’re pretty typical to any referral program, so you know it works! And frankly, sometimes members need to see what’s in it for them up front.

Now, the incentive doesn’t have to be monetary. Think about your existing benefits and what a member may find valuable:

  • Free event tickets, preferred seating, or a VIP experience
  • First choice of committee participation or another volunteer opportunity
  • Free advertising or an enhanced online directory listing for a few months or so
  • Discount on their next dues payment
  • Ability to host or sponsor certain events
  • Private meeting or meal with your leadership team

Pro Tip: If a member refers you unsolicited, consider extending an incentive to them anyway as a thank you!

Pro Tip, Part 2: Still reach out personally to thank the referring member even if you extended an incentive in order to get the referral. Like we talked about, every little touch matters to their overall experience!

Happy members who refer your organization all boils down to one thing: Member engagement. If that’s an area you struggle with, take a look through our free membership engagement guide to see if there are any new approaches or best practices you could try!

Membership Engagement  A comprehensive guide to engaging your organization's membership Download this guide

Topics: member engagement, Small Staff Chatter

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