A few years ago I was caught by surprise when I was running an in-house seminar for a group of CEO’s. I was talking about recruitment when a few delegates commented that they were not interested in recruiting new members. Not interested? Why? What was going on?
So I asked them to tell me more.
They wanted to focus on serving their existing loyal members well. They did not to be want distracted by recruiting and settling in new members that may have different needs and priorities.
That made good sense to me.
I reflected further and linked it to this mantra that I had embraced with my own business… the secret to building a profitable business is to find more products for your customers, rather than find more customers for your product.
So, there might come a time in an association’s life, when the right strategy is to consolidate and strengthen your links with your existing members by providing more and deeper value. You can do this by moving resources away from recruiting new members, who are likely to be of marginal value and have differing needs.
Think about what you are not doing for core members while you are spending time trying to find ways to appeal to people on the fringe who already don’t find you naturally attractive?
To refine this further, if you were to analyse your membership base, you would probably find that members fall into one of three segments:
Group 1 – Are your most loyal members, usually the most active and supportive.
Group 2 – They are quite loyal and active, but could do more.
Group 3 – Are ‘transactional’ members. They are not particularly loyal, perhaps joining to get the discounts. If someone was to offer what you did and were cheaper, then they would leave.
So if you want to build a strong and loyal membership base, the right strategy is to make group 1 a priority, then encourage group 2 to engage further and only focus on group 3 when you have a special offer. Some associations seem fixed on more members and growth is the best strategy. But at some point you can get distracted by servicing the needs of the marginal member. Perhaps a better approach is to focus on serving those who believe in you and what you are doing, and keen to be part of and contribute to the success of the community or sector.
The recent interest in attracting members from overseas and ‘go global’ needs very careful consideration. What happens in the medium and long term when these new members, who are primarily interested in acquiring knowledge and contacts, and not interested in your national lobbying and projects, vote in large numbers to drop the latter. Will your current members be happy with that?
Reflective questions for you:
- Is ‘bigger’ better?
- When is the time for your organisation to ‘rightsize’?
- If you were to segment your members as suggested above, how many would be in Group 3 and what percentage of your resources do they consume and contribute?
- ‘Race for Relevance’ – Chapter 5: Rationalize the Member Market, Coerver and Byres
- ‘10 Lessons For Cultivating Member Commitment’ – Lesson 10: Approach International Ambitions Judiciously, Dalton & Dognap