Trawling is the act of dragging a large net behind a boat and scooping up everything you can. Although it’s the most efficient way to catch sea creatures like shrimp, you also get a lot of things you end up throwing back.
Membership can be the same way. Your association has recruitment goals and you want to see continued growth to fill in for non-renewals, but filling your net with members who will only be there a year, because they’re not exactly the right fit for your organization, doesn’t do anyone any good and can actually be much worse than signing fewer numbers to being with.
The Perils of Casting a Wide Net
If you cast a wide net you’ll catch a number of new members, ones that might not be the perfect fit but they sign on because of your amazing offerings. While this is tempting, in the long term it will adversely affect your association’s growth. If they’re not the right fit for your association, or if they’re not being engaged in the right way for them, they’ll leave at the end of that year. Their departure might not appear to be a great loss, as you may have recognized they weren’t what you were looking for.
However, from your members’ perspectives it doesn’t look good. One moment you’re boasting about new members. The next they’re watching them walk out the door. When a large number of members walk out the door, existing members start wondering, what do they know that we don’t?
And doubts erode into unwritten renewal checks.
TED Speaker Simon Sinek shared, “The goal is not to do business with everybody who needs what you have. The goal is to do business with people who believe what you believe.” If we apply what Simon is saying about business to associations, it seems he’s in favor of a very targeted recruitment strategy and not a trawling one.
Using the Right Bait
A targeted recruitment strategy centers around content. Content in the broadest sense, like website content, marketing communications, social media posting, blog content, everything your association produces that touches members and prospective members. Creating valuable content even feeds the SEO machine, which in turn brings you your ideal member organically, assuming the content is targeted and you’ve chosen something that speaks to them or catches their attention.
Going from Trawling to Targeted in 3 Easy Steps
Decide who your ideal member is. Marketers know this as a buyer persona but you can figure out the same information for your association by taking a quick look at your most loyal members. Who are they? What characteristics do they share? What actions do they have in common?
Target what they need from you. What unique solution does your association provide for them?
Give it to them. Serve it up to them in multiple media formats and in different levels of accessibility. Give prospects enough of the bait that they’ll be hooked, but not so much that you end up with an empty line. Meet your members’ content needs as well and they will continue to provide word-of-mouth advertising for you.
I’m not suggesting you turn down prospective members because they don’t fit your ideal but if your content is sharply targeted in attracting the type of people you’re looking for, you won’t have to. Those who don’t have an interest in your content won’t be asking to fill out a member application and those who do see themselves in your association will be jumping on your deck begging for more.