If a prospect comes to your website and WANTS to join your association, you should make that process as easy as possible - for obvious reasons. The last thing you want is to lose a potential member as they’re filling out a member application form.
Now it’s important to note that what may seem easy or intuitive to you may not be easy or intuitive to your potential members - and the latter is what matters most. That said, it’s important to keep a critical eye on your member application forms.
To simplify your forms - and the process as a whole - consider the following:
1. Make them easy to find on your association’s website
This one seems obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many associations get it wrong. There should be links to join your association all throughout your organization’s website - and especially on your homepage. And when a user clicks on one of those links, they should be taken directly to your member application form. No guessing. No searching. Just easy and intuitive.
2. Eliminate the PDFs (or at least the “PDF-only” option)
Now hear us out. It’s fine (and good!) to have a downloadable PDF of your member application form on your association’s website. Some people prefer to print items out and mail/email the completed version(s) back in.
But - and this is a big but - some people find that process a little too lengthy. And not only that, but some people may not have the equipment (such as scanners) to complete such a process.
That said, it’s preferable to have an online member application form (embedded in your association’s website) in addition to a downloadable PDF. That way, you’re appealing to a multitude of preferences - to those who prefer to mail/email items back in AND to those who prefer to just do it all online. Plus, by utilizing an online form, that cuts back on the paperwork you have to process - a win-win for parties.
3. Divide your form into sections
When someone applies for membership, you have to request a good bit of information from them - their name, address, industry, member type, reason(s) for joining, etc. And that’s understandable.
But sometimes, the sight of so many questions can scare people off. It looks like it’s going to take a while, even if it’s not.
To eliminate that fear (and the initial shock of so many questions), break your member application form into sections - a section for their contact info, a section for why they joined, etc. That way, it’s much more piecemeal and easier to digest.
4. Choose your question types wiseley
Once someone starts filling out a member application form, you want them to complete that form, and that’s why question simplicity matters. And we don’t just mean in terms of what you’re asking, but also in terms of how you’re asking it.
The more “multiple choice” type questions you can include, the better. They’re much easier to answer than open-ended questions. You’ll have to have some open-ended questions, of course, (name, address, company name, etc.), but the more you can help your soon-to-be members out (by including lists and checkboxes, etc.), the more likely they’ll be to actually complete the process.
5. Make SURE the process is seamless (In other words, test, test, test)
Even if you’ve read through your member application form 20+ times and you KNOW it’s promoted heavily on your association’s website, you still want to walk through the process - from start to finish - just to make sure it really is seamless.
Here’s an example of why that’s important: I was trying to fill out an online member application form a few months ago, and every time I tried to click “submit,” not only would it not submit, but it would delete all of the information I filled out. It ended up being an issue on the organization’s end (just a little bug), but I had to fill out that member application form three times before it actually worked.
Would everyone be willing to fill out a member application form three (or more) times? Not necessarily. A lot of people would probably just abandon the process. That’s why it’s SO important for you to walk through the process - from start to finish - so that you know EXACTLY what people are experiencing.
Want more tips for growing your membership online - through your website, forms, etc.? Check out our free guide, Best Practices for Online Member Acquisition!