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January 2021

What is Member Success and Why is it Important to your Organization in 2020?

When you sell a jacket or a bar of chocolate, the ethereal idea of ‘customer success’ isn’t necessary.

Those are simple, self-explanatory products that everyone knows how to use. It’s almost built-in to every consumer product today.

Even with things like a new vacuum cleaner or a High-definition television, customer success isn’t required. A user manual and a hotline are as far as most things go.

With your industry-specific association membership product, however, it’s not going to be so easy. Industry-specific tools and resources can be set up and used in a variety of ways, solving different problems for your members. With technology and the internet becoming a global marketplace for not only consumer products but resources as well, industries and the associations themselves have changed and diversified, and there are a lot of avenues for tools and resources your members could be chosen over yours, with more attractive benefits and better support.

When your members need follow-up and guidance to ensure they get a full ROI, that’s when Member Success becomes a must-have.

This is because a member who speaks to your membership coordinator or reads your association’s landing page is already sold on the benefits, not the features.

The member knows your product can solve their problem, but not exactly how to get that value.

What is Member Success?

Member Success starts out as an aim, not a department of people or a group of processes— what we call ‘lower-case’ Member Success.

It starts by recognizing that your members need more than a ‘user manual’ or an automated onboarding flow or email drip campaign for their membership to live up to the promises made on your landing page.

Keeping members close and working with them 1-on-1 is a Member Success style known as Concierge Onboarding. While startups, Product to consumer companies, and now even associations like yours are starting to focus on it only now, the early results are promising — members… who’ve gotten a customized onboarding experience with their membership… and have returned year after year to their associations… have doubled.

It should be obvious that: a member who is staring at the outset of their membership and wondering how they can best measure the ROI for their company – and they haven’t gotten the guidance or hand-holding they need to fully benefit from their membership – that member is likely to cancel their membership and go look for something they understand — something that is easy to see the value of straight away.

Member Success is a system, run by people whose only goal is to help members get the most out of their membership. It happens straight after their joining the association is processed.

So in order to define Member Success, you must know what success looks like for your members. The definition will be different for each member and each member segment, and the method of achieving it will be different for every organization. The first thing about Member Success you must know is that it’s not member support: it’s a way of proactively working with your member 1:1.

The Definition of Member Success

Before you can effectively operationalize member success – hire Member Success Managers, procure Member Success software, or start to explore the role Member Success plays in different aspects of your business, you have to take a step back and look at what actual member success really is.

Member Success is when your members achieve their Desired Outcome through their interactions with your organization.

There are two key elements in that definition of Member Success to pay close attention to:

Desired Outcome – a transformative concept that essentially describes what the member needs to achieve (Required Outcome) and how they need to achieve it (Appropriate Experience)

So then, rather than saying “with your membership, or resource, or product,” in our Member Success definition, the focus is on all of the interactions your member has with your organization; starting at the earliest touchpoints of marketing and sales, moving through closing and onboarding, and continuing through their entire lifecycle with you.

If you can keep this simple definition of Member Success in mind, everything else moving forward will make sense to you.

If your members aren’t constantly getting value from what they’re paying you, you can understand from a business perspective why they will stop paying.

Here at Association Project Management, LLC we’ve developed a 10-statement survey that will assess how well your association is positioned to stop the membership erosion your organization may be experiencing and start adding more new agencies to your ranks than you are losing through decline. If you’re interested in this self-evaluation tool, email us at We’d love to get your feedback, and help you make some positive growth changes for your membership goals!

APM helps member-based organizations & professional trade associations achieve Member Success, stabilize their member retention and guarantee membership growth through Prospect Development and Member Recruitment, as well as Member Engagement and Concierge Onboarding.

Organizations implement our programs to sustain their current revenue, reduce losses due to churn (member non-renewal) and generate new revenue by creating Raving Fans® who evangelize new members that over time becomes automatic, organic growth. “Members begetting Members”.

Association Project Management, LLC also provides a list of other project management and project completion services through a virtual staff member – a committed, trusted expert who helps to reduce costs, lower risks, improve efficiencies, meet deadlines, solve challenging problems, support strategic initiatives and produce better outcomes for your association staff.

Contact us today to see how we can help your organization excel in 2020!

The 10 Commandments of New Member prospecting

By Andrew McElhannon, Association Project Management LLC


Member Prospecting for associations is one of the most challenging and time-consuming parts of association management, but a necessary part nonetheless, and it doesn’t have to be difficult.

Many associations in all industries are seeing declines in memberships – anywhere from 5 to 55% – and its largely due to a couple of key factors, One (1) – The retirement of baby-boomers which began on January 1st of 2011. From that day until the end of 2030, every eight seconds someone will turn 65. On average, 10,000 people retire every day in the United States. As a result, many associations have been losing their retiring members in droves. Two(2) – Merger & Acquisition activity – this may not be something that happens in all associations among their members, but in industries where smaller consumer outlets are bought and absorbed by their larger peers (or competitors), this activity can unintentionally have a negative effect on the revenue an association derives from its members.

While industry perpetuation and M&A activity both impact standing members in your organization, there is no reason whatsoever to think that the age of associations must come to an end because of declining member numbers. Associations must begin finding new ways to attract members, making sure that you are providing the resources your members need Today, not what you only think they need.

Prospect development for members takes time, planning, focus on a specific goal, and a system to carry that out. Today, prospecting might be done via social media, through seminars, business-to-business marketing or even old-school calling from lists. So what might a modern Ten Commandments of Prospecting look like?

The 10 Commandments of New Member prospecting

Number one. Thou shalt get it done first thing. Prospecting is often the least desirable activity on your daily plan. Get it out of the way first thing in the morning. You are fresh, people you call or message on LinkedIn are fresh. Nothing has happened yet to ruin anyone’s day or take up their time.

Number two. Thou shalt follow up. You get a lead. Someone sounds interested. Respond immediately. I find messages sent to me on LinkedIn tend to get lost or overlooked if I don’t jump on them immediately.

Number three. Thou shalt remember New Members are paramount. Member service is important. Paperwork is important. To grow, an association needs to find new members and bring in more assets. If you are great at prospecting and lousy at paperwork, the Association can figure something out. If you’re lousy at prospecting and great at paperwork, the association will die – it has to have the revenue to survive, not adequately kept records (although that is important on other levels).

Number four. Thou shalt treat each call or conversation as a new opportunity. You are smiling and dialing associations with resources they need; they are consumer-centric operations. You call in the slow time of their day. You get hang-ups and “not interested” on the first nine calls. The outcome of the 10th call is not influenced by the first nine. It might be the initial contact with the person who will become your best new member.

Number five. Thou shalt be persistent. Some associations start a prospecting strategy, get to the point where it’s about to bear fruit, and say this isn’t working. They drop it and try another strategy, repeating the process. They put a series of failed strategies into place instead of sticking with one and making adjustments along the way.

Number six. Thou shalt not frown. Smile when you are speaking to new member prospects. It comes over in conversations. It livens your spirit. It puts them at ease. If you act grumpy, you probably sound grumpy.

Number seven. Thou shalt NOT do all the talking. When you have a new member prospect, you often want to show how smart you are. You tell them about what you can do before you know what they need you to do. They think “How can you address my needs if you don’t know what my needs are?”

Number eight. Thou shalt allow the entire team to prospect.  Membership is everyone’s job. Connecting members to services will always drive member satisfaction, but support for those services comes from many different association functional areas. Association leaders looking to improve member engagement and satisfaction should consider how these different teams and services might contribute to membership goals and provide the foundation for long-term success.

Number nine. Thou shalt not be too proud to ask for help. If your prospecting strategy isn’t working, learn from someone who has cracked the code. The folks in the office might be hesitant to reveal secrets, but people you engage with at conferences or online will likely be glad to share their ideas and provide their processes and training for your staff.

Number ten. Thou shalt commit the proper resources to recruit new members. You’ve found someone who can help you build a great member prospecting process and plan. Be sure before you make the decision not to hire or contract with them, that not spending some of the association’s resources for future growth is not totally out of the question, or the right avenue to take.

Here at Association Project Management, we’ve developed a 10-question survey that will assess how well your association is positioned to stop the membership erosion and start adding more new agencies to your ranks than you are losing through lack of industry perpetuation, and through M&A activity.

Once you’ve completed the survey, we would love the opportunity to help you develop and implement a plan that addresses any areas of need.

Solving the Biggest Objection to Growth

Guest Post: By Mo Bunnell, Author of the Snowball System and founder of Bunnell Idea Group (BIG).

In this video, I’m going to explain the biggest barrier I hear our clients talk about when it comes to their own growth. There are three major plateaus that people can get to when it comes to growing their business.

Level one, bringing in enough business you can keep yourself busy. If you’re a professional, it might be bringing enough hours or projects to keep it busy. If you are an account manager, it is leading a client relationship for the first time. If you are a business owner, it is bringing enough to keep you busy, but nobody else. Those folks usually have one foot in delivery and one foot in business development.

Level two is where you get so good at this stuff, you are feeding an entire group of people, because your business development skills are so honed you can bring in enough business to feed others.

Level three, you get so great at this that you’re now teaching others how to do business development. In that case, you might have hundreds of people reporting to you in various mechanisms, so that you’re bringing in so much business and you’re helping others bring in their business that now you have an entire organization reporting up to you.

Why don’t people go from one level to the next? I hear one answer all the time, “Mo, I’m too busy. It takes too much time to run the business. I don’t have time to get better at my own craft of business development.”

But I have a solution for you. One of my friends, Mike Michalowicz, is a great author. He has had several books that have made a big impact on me, and he has a new one coming out in about a month called Clockwork. I got to review an early version of the book and I absolutely loved it. Mike breaks down every single thing that you need to do to make your business run like clockwork.

If you pair his book Clockwork with our book The Snowball System, you’ve now got a perfect game plan to get your business running on its own without as much of your involvement, which gives you time to tackle everything we teach in The Snowball System, so you can make it to whatever level is next for you when it comes to the craft of business development. Two things make businesses run great. One is the business runs on its own. The other is somebody is bringing in new business for growth. When you’ve got both things humming, you can’t help but help your clients succeed.