I join an association. About a month after joining I receive my new member pack. It's so huge that I decide to read it later and never do. A few days later I receive an email promoting an event. I attend the event and it's full of people I don't know. I don't really get a chance to talk to anyone and, while it was interesting enough, I'm really not enthusiastic about going to another as I felt a bit out of place. A few months later I visit the website and find a really interesting article which I read. I try to click through to purchase the related book but the link doesn't work. A few months later I decide to call the association to get next year's event calendar. When I call the woman isn't rude but I feel like I have interrupted her day. It's not anything that you'd complain about but I wouldn't call her friendly. When the time comes to renew I don't bother.
I join an association. About a month after joining I get my new member pack. It's not that big because it's tailored just to my needs. I have a quick skim and I get an idea of the services most relevant to me. Shortly after I receive an email promoting an event. I attend the event and it's full of people I don't know. The association has a member at the event whose job is to make sure the new members have a good time. I have a wonderful time and I meet a couple of people who I catch up with privately later. A few months later I find a really interesting article on their website which I read. I then click through and buy the book. Just prior to renewing I decide to call the association to get next year's event calendar. When I call the woman is just fantastic. I register early for an event ... and renew.
The outcomes are different because membership success is in the details. Members don't join (or renew) for your products and services. They do so because of their perception of your products and services.
Every time someone interacts with your association they are forming an opinion about it (either consciously or subconsciously). Even if you do not actively market your association it will still have a reputation amongst your stakeholders. You can't stop that process happening but you can influence the opinion (or perception) that is being created.
The challenge is that membership is intangible. It is not possible to touch, taste, smell or feel a membership. As a result people can only form opinions about your membership from the intangible representations of the membership such as the people they talk to; promptness of response; the look, feel and wording of your communications; how well your website works; the kind of experiences they have at events; etc.
You need to decide the kind of perceptions and opinions you wish to create and ensure that every aspect of your association reflects that positioning.
For example, a social organisation may choose a recycled paper, single colour newsletter and staff may dress smart-casual. In contrast, a professional association with high fees may choose a thick, high-gloss, full colour magazine and their staff may wear suits. The same image expressed through printing and dress should be expressed through all other physical representation of the organisation.
It is vitally important that you track the perceptions that people hold about your organisation through surveying your members and non-members as well as monitoring both traditional media and social media sources (such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook).Comment on this resource