“My Members Don’t Read!”

Raise your hand if you’ve heard this.

Now raise your hand if you’ve SAID this.

Everyone’s hands should be up by now.

And we can all also relate to hearing, “I didn’t know you did X! I really need that!” from our members. ALL THE TIME.

OK, so we’ve all been complaining about this for years. Our members have no idea what we offer them. What we’re doing to educate them isn’t working.

What do we do to fix it?

I don’t claim to have the answer, but I do have some ideas about where to look:

K.I.S.S. Many of our organizations, in an attempt to be all things to all people (or due to the temptation of all that tasty, tasty non-dues revenue), have larded up our membership “benefits” with so much tangential crap that our members can’t focus on the stuff that will actually help them fix their problems. Not to single out a particular industry, but while royalty revenue from your credit card program is nice, is it worth losing your members’ attention over the things that really matter to them?

Inside Voice. How much do your members need to know about the internal workings and arrangement of your association to find stuff? If the answer isn’t “zero,” you need to rethink how you present information. Your members don’t care that the professional liability insurance you offer them lives in your financial services department, which they have to access under Member Services –> Other Services –> Affinity Programs. What does “affinity program” mean anyway, if you’re, say, a professor of economics, as opposed to an association membership professional?

Broadcast. Are you targeting the particular needs of particular members, or are you still broadcasting everything to everyone? Have a conference that’s for marketing directors? Why are you sending a thousand marketing messages to CEOs? They’re tuning you out, and the next time you release a CEO salary survey for your industry, they aren’t going to be listening. “But our AMS…” “But our bulk mail client…” No buts. Learn what your members are interested in AS INDIVIDUALS, track it, and target it.

Push versus Pull. As we all know by now, one of the key differences to social media is that it’s a PULL mechanism. That means people become subjects who pull the information they want to them on their schedules. Our models are built on people who are objects that passively receive the information we push out on our schedules. And while most of our associations are using social media now (latest figure I saw was that 86% of associations are on Facebook), we haven’t changed our mindset. We’re still using these platforms as push marketing outlets. Which is, to say the least, missing the point.

What do you think – how can we do a better job of educating our members about the things we offer that we know they need (because they told us) but that they don’t know we have?

2 thoughts on ““My Members Don’t Read!””

  • ” in an attempt to be all things to all people (or due to the temptation of all that tasty, tasty non-dues revenue), have larded up our membership “benefits” with so much tangential crap”

    And this is why I love to check out your blog even though I have so little to do with your professional world. 🙂

  • I love your blog entry on this topic. Here are some thoughts.

    Inform members about the benefits they will receive for their buck at the time they join. And at the time they renew, inform them of new benefits or changes about them.

    Some associations may not have clearly defined or outlined what the member is receiving. Joining to receive “networking” benefits may not be descriptive enough for the member. What does that mean? What tools are available for them to network i.e. member directory, discussion groups.

    Outline how other members are using the benefits to help advance the mission, advance with their own careers, or contribute to the organization's success.

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