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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.
Today I want to begin to help you on the long journey to helping your B2C (Business to Consumer) members understand the importance of having a presence in the Digital realms of the Internet, Websites, Social Media, and marketing their business online as a strategy for growth. I said it’s a long journey, and it IS – it won’t just happen overnight – but that doesn’t mean it has to be complicated.
Over the next few weeks, we’re going to set off on an adventure, you and I, to find the answers that plague many of your members today regarding marketing and Building their Brand for the purpose of driving more customers to their business and Dollars into their cashboxes. We’re going to dive into the term-infested waters of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Analytics, Add buys and Pay-Per-clicks (PPCs), Content Marketing, and Social Media, and we’ll look at how they’re currently positioned to harness the power of these things to Build their Brand, and have the best 2020 their business can have thanks to more exposure to more clients who want to buy their products and services.
Who knows – You might even find something here for you and your team at the association too! Here we GO!
SEO helps small business owners create fast, robust, and user-friendly websites that rank higher in search engines, which in turn helps bring more qualified potential customers to their websites and eventually increases conversion rates (simply, converting them from lookers to paying customers).
SEO also helps build brand awareness for your business as search engine users are more likely to trust a site that is on the first page of search engine results pages (SERPs) than brands who are not.
If you’re a small business owner, you should utilize SEO to build a strong web presence and bypass your competitions to gain new customers for your business and take it to the next level.
Here are the top 5 KEY benefits of SEO for small businesses:
- User-Friendly Websites
SEO will help small business owners create a faster, smoother, and user-friendlier website. Although most people still hang on to the old definition of SEO, thinking that it is only about optimizing for the search engines, today SEO is also about improving user experience too.
Well-structured, clean, and uncluttered websites compel a casual visitor to stay longer, thereby decreasing the bounce rate and increasing page views. Similarly, highly relevant content (sales pages and blog articles) keeps you readers happy as they are more likely to answer their questions, solve their pressing issues and helps them find exactly what they’re looking for on your site.
On-page SEO, if done properly, makes your users happy, which makes search engines happy too as they love to serve high-quality information to their users.
- Bring in MORE Customers
Let’s face it, one of the main reasons for having a website is to stand out from your competition and increase your customer base. Otherwise, why invest 1,000s of dollars ($) on marketing, right? Businesses that have an SEO optimized website bring MORE customers and grow as twice as fast than businesses who do not have one.
SEO is probably the most efficient and affordable marketing strategy that exists today. Moreover, it will only bring in customers who are actively seeking to find your product or service!
If you’re willing to spend few hours of time, energy, and a small amount of money, SEO will help bring “targeted” traffic to your website, and eventually more customers to your business than any other marketing tactics you’ll ever use.
- Better Conversion Rates
SEO-optimized websites load faster, are easy to read and surf, and will display properly in almost all types of devices, including mobile phones and tablets. Websites that are easy to read and navigate are more likely to grab and hold attention from your readers or visitors – i.e. they’re more likely to become your loyal customers, subscribers, and returning visitors.
- Build Brand Awareness
One of the benefits of getting higher rankings on the SERPs is building brand awareness. When your sites appear on the first page of major search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing, your potential customers are more likely to trust your brand when they search for a particular term rather than other brands that don’t have a strong web presence.
That is why small businesses that want to build better brand awareness (either locally or expanding nationally) must invest in SEO and start gaining top rankings for the key terms related to their business. We’re not in the 90s anymore; search engines now play a significant role in making or breaking your brand.
- Bypass Competition
Let’s take an example of two businesses that are in the same industry, selling similar products, at similar prices. One of them has an optimized website while the other has a non-optimized website. Considering everything is else is equal, which company do you think will attract more customers to their website from local searches? Which company will likely grow faster and become more successful?
Search engines and SEO are very powerful. If your competitors are doing SEO marketing, you must ask yourself why you haven’t invested in such a strategy yet too.
Search engine optimization has leveled the marketing playing field for small businesses. It used to be that as a small business unless you were really lucky, you had no way to compete with the big guns of your industry. Now, however, with a bit of strategy, a pinch of small business SEO and some hard work, you can muscle your way into your biggest competitor’s space.
While big businesses still start with an advantage in SEO, with the right strategy, you can find cracks in their armor and come out on top. Yep, even if you’re a startup with a new website.
Over to you. Why do you think SEO is important for small business? Please share your ideas in the comment box below.