Peer-to-peer referrals are consistently rated by associations as one of their most successful recruitment tactics. To give your referral strategy a boost, focus on giving members every reason to refer your association and making it simple to do. Here are seven tips for making your association more referral friendly.
1. Go above and beyond for members
Referrals are earned. The best way to ensure word-of-mouth referrals is to provide exceptional experiences. Everyone on staff should consider themselves part of the member services team, regardless of their job title. Make exceeding expectations a part of your culture. Be available to members whenever they have questions, go out of your way to engage with them at every opportunity and show your investment in their growth by providing personalized services and celebrating their successes.
2. Thank your referral sources
A simple thank you can go a long way, especially one with a personal touch. If a member makes a referral, reach out to tell them that you’re grateful to them and you value their membership. Whether you do it via email, a brief handwritten note, or a letter enclosed in your magazine, make sure it comes across as personal and heartfelt.
3. Act on positive feedback
Timing matters. A good time to encourage a member to make a referral is when they’ve just given you positive feedback or had a good experience. If you send a feedback questionnaire after an event or learning program, or a post-meeting email thanking attendees and recapping the event, take the opportunity to ask members if they’d be willing to refer a friend. People are busy, so when you have someone’s attention, lean into it and ask them to act right then, before their focus gets pulled elsewhere.
4. Make it easy for members to refer you
Make it as easy as possible for members to make referrals when you ask. Encourage members to forward content or information on events that are open to nonmembers who might be interested. Include links and sample language they can easily copy and paste into an email. Also ask them to share posts from your social media feeds. The goal is to make a specific request and provide clear next steps for your member to make a referral.
It’s important to strike a balance when asking members to recommend your association. You want members to know that you’re looking for referrals, but don’t flood them with requests and messages. Avoid asking members for referrals when communicating about an unrelated topic, for example, when asking them to pay services.
5. Keep in touch
Doing regular outreach over email and other channels is an important part of keeping association members happy and building strong relationships. It’s also a good idea to use a handful of these touchpoints to make a call for referrals. Be strategic about it. You don’t want every email to include a referral ask. A great time to suggest recommending the association is when you send out information that clearly points to the value of membership. That includes when you:
- Share your annual report highlighting the association’s efforts over the year
- Score a major win in advocacy efforts
- Add a member benefit
- Announce a new learning program
6. Hold a member-get-a-member campaign
It’s important to have a year-round plan for soliciting member referrals, but a dedicated push once or twice a year is a great way to bring more attention to your efforts. Try holding a member-get-a-member drive, where you ask members to reach out to people in their network over a specific period of time. Be creative. Create an email and social media campaign that encourages members to spread the word about the benefits of membership and build excitement around your referral program.
7. Reward referring members
Offer an incentive to the members who give you successful referrals. It doesn’t have to be a big expense. Gift cards, membership discounts or exclusive merchandise like a pin or a sweatshirt are great incentives. It’s the gesture that matters, though people don’t mind a little extra cash. Always make time to thank individuals for their membership and acknowledge their support for the association.
Associations are getting more innovative in the ways they reach potential members, but old fashioned word-of-mouth recommendations are still the most effective way to recruit. Use these techniques to make sure you’re mobilizing your member network and getting the most out of your referral program.