Personal recommendations still carry the most weight when it comes to convincing people to make a purchase or try an activity. Online presence and reviews matter, but referrals are an association’s strongest tool in attracting new members.
The first step to maximizing referrals is to mobilize your best advocates—happy members—with a dedicated member-get-a-member campaign. Here are some strategies to consider if you want to start or revamp a member referral program in your association.
1. Plan your campaign.
Set a length of time for the campaign. There’s no magic number, but a few months is a good starting point. You want enough time for the campaign to gain some momentum and buzz, while also setting a deadline to give members a sense of urgency in their outreach. Create a marketing strategy including email and social media to spark enthusiasm in members. Be sure to spell out what you’re asking for and include clear calls to action.
2. Make it easy for members
Kickstart the referral process by starting a conversation with your existing members. Send them content that reminds them of the reasons they joined your association. Highlight the personal benefits as well as the collective benefits to the industry. People join associations as much for what it does for them as for the good it does the profession.
While you’re talking about the value of the association, ask them to participate in your member-get-a-member campaign. Explain the program in clear terms and give specific actions they can take.
For example, you can ask members to:
- Share emails or email newsletters with colleagues who might find them useful
- Encourage their staff to join
- Bring a potential member to a conference or event
- Send out an email outlining the benefits of membership with a quick sign-up link that they can forward to prospective members.
3. Offer enticing incentives
Give something back to members who succeed in getting one of their colleagues to sign up. Straightforward rewards like gift cards and discounts on programs or membership are great. Some associations will enter members into a drawing for a big prize, like free dues or conference attendance. You can also get creative with some type of merchandise. A great example is a periodic table blanket the American Chemical Society gifts its members.
4. Recognize your referrers
Public recognition is another way to reward your members. Give shoutouts to successful recruiters in your newsletter, on your website or during a conference. Recognition gives people visibility in the community and can help them expand their networks. Just remember that even when you recognize someone publicly, you should also take the time to thank them privately with a personal call or email.
Member-get-member campaigns will look different at every association, and you’ll come up with a unique twist on your member referral program. Make it simple for members to make referrals, and show them your appreciation. Use clear communication and appealing incentives to build your strategy. And of course, make your association easy to recommend by offering great member service year-round.