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Marketing & Communication for Today and Tomorrow

"How to Attract New Members with Online Marketing"
By Bob DeStefano, President, SVM E-Business Solutions

The Web is a great place for your association or professional society to recruit the next generation of members. These Web users fall into a demographic that is very attractive for your group. These individuals are young, educated and technology-savvy – key qualities for a productive member of your organization.

How do you leverage online marketing to attract these prospective members? The following tips will get you started down the right path

Boost Your Association’s Search Engine Presence

According to our research, less than half of associations have an active search engine marketing program. If your organization does not, you are missing out on a tremendous opportunity to get in front of the next generation of members. Search engines are the most powerful way to drive targeted traffic to your Website. But to be successful, you must make sure your site is optimized for search engines. To turn your association's Website into a search engine magnet, first, fill your Website with rich content, focusing on the keyword phrases that are searched on most often within your industry. Second, code your Website so it is "crawlable" by Google and the other engines, including important keywords in the page tags. Pay close attention to elements such as title tags, meta description tags, directory and page names, internal links, navigation and the site map. Third, build a network of quality inbound links to your Website from reputable and relevant external Websites in your industry. A great way to do this is to submit articles and press releases online using services like PRWeb. Not before long, you will be attracting a steady stream of prospective members to your Website.

Offer a Useful and Compelling Website

Your Website is the most public face of your association. More prospective members will see your Website than will ever read your literature or attend your events. Take a critical look at your Website from the point of view of a prospective member. Would you join? Prospective members are not visiting your Website to kill time. They are there to find a solution and learn how your association can help them. The following recommendations will help you make your Website more useful and compelling for prospective members. First, clearly articulate the benefits of membership. You must demonstrate how your association will be a valuable and trusted resource. Second, clearly show how their peers have prospered through a membership in your association. Demonstrate your value by providing testimonials and photos throughout your Website. Finally, don’t hide your best information behind the 'members-only' login. Allow prospective members to sample the great resources and information your organization has to offer.

Entice Prospective Members to Take Action

Most associations handicap themselves by relying on their Website’s ‘Contact Us’ page as the sole method for prospective members to take action. To make sure your Website generates valuable inquiries, provide visitors with easy access to contact information on every page of your Website in a consistent location. In addition, offer relevant calls to action that will compel your site visitors to respond. When crafting your offers, think about the audiences you are trying to attract, as well as the various stages of the decision making process these prospective members go through. To attract individuals ready to join, make it very easy to start the application process online. In addition, offer 'softer' calls to action for the tire kickers and prospective members that are the early-stage of considering membership to help you build a marketing database. Examples of soft calls to action include downloadable ‘how to’ guides, whitepapers, 'ask the expert' question submission and e-newsletter subscriptions. Also, don’t forget to prominently display your phone number on every page. More than half of Web visitors prefer to call rather than complete an online form.

Leverage E-mail Marketing to Nurture Relationships

Most associations and professional societies produce an email newsletter for their members. Often these e-newsletters provide members with useful information including business tips, committee updates, industry trends and association happenings. This existing resource can also be used to nurture relationships with prospective members. By allowing prospective visitors to subscribe to your e-newsletter, you have an opportunity to build an ongoing dialogue with prospective members on a measurable, cost-efficient basis. By sending useful information that can help solve current business problems, you show prospective members that your association understands them and their needs. This repeatedly reinforces how a membership can help them, as well as builds their trust in your organization.

Bob DeStefano is president of SVM E-Business Solutions, a leading online marketing agency focused on delivering measurable results for industrial marketers and their trade associations. Founded in 1995, SVM helps manufacturers and distributors leverage the Web to generate sales leads, strengthen relationships with customers and measure the return on marketing investments. SVM can be reached on the Web at www.svmsolutions.com or by calling 1-877-786-3249.