The Push and Pull of Membership Recruitment

Marketers sometimes categorize products as either "push" or "pull." In a pull system the consumer requests the product and 'pulls' it through the delivery channel. On the other hand, in a push marketing system the sales efforts are initiated by the producer and information is 'pushed' toward the buyer.

Membership has traditionally been defined as a "push" product. Most people do not wake up in the morning and say, "hey, I really need to join something today." Instead, they need to be actively sold.

However, we live in a time of exciting change and the paradigm for membership recruitment is changing with it.

Today, effective membership recruitment often includes a pull strategy as part of the marketing mix by taking advantage of online opportunities and social networking tools.

In fact, in our most recent Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report, 56 percent of association executives reported that one way prospective members learned about their association was through association-sponsored social networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn and another 33 percent report the use of search engine advertising or online ads helped make prospects aware of membership. These channels still fall below the top awareness builders for membership, but they reflect signgrowth over the previous year.

Here is what survey respondents highlighted as the top means by which prospects became aware of membership.
So how can this pull strategy be deployed?

We are effectively implementing a pull strategy through what we call trading content for contact. Instead of initiating a relationship by selling a membership, we allow potential members who are seeking specific information to find us through the very content they seek.

With this pull strategy, the relationship is started by presenting valuable information and resources that only a qualified or prospective member would find of value. This concept takes portions of the membership content and offers it for free through a host of online tools. These include:

• Co-Registration Submissions
• Ad Networks including LinkedIn and Facebook
• Online PR Releases
• Article Submissions
• Blogs
• Social Media Ads
• Affinity Media
• Search Engine and Content Advertising

As prospective members access the valuable content, they also are asked to opt-in to receiving additional communications from the organization. These prospective members who have raised their hand to a relationship are cultivated and given the opportunity to join the association and take advantage of all the products and services available.

In a very real sense, by using this pull strategy, the membership organization opens a very large funnel to allow potential members to pull themselves into a relationship at their own pace and as their needs dictate.

And because of the traceability of each stage of the relationship through web and database records, the system can continually be monitored and optimized to make the movement into a full membership relationship as simple and easy as possible.

Is it time to put a little PULL into your membership recruitment efforts? Please share any experiences you are having with these methods.

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