According to the 2021 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report, word of mouth remains the top channel for association member acquisition. Therefore, your association must meet the needs of your members so that they will continue to refer your organisation to their colleagues and acquaintances.
But what do association members want?
Read more: How to combat declining association membership in professional organisations
According to the report, the top reason that professionals become association members is for the opportunity to meet and network with others in their field. Networking is critical for medical professionals to develop their knowledge, collaborate on research projects, and support their career progression.
Associations should provide their members with regular networking opportunities throughout the year (and not just at their annual conference) to deliver the benefits members expect. For example, associations can include a meet-and-greet at the start of any online and in-person meeting, even when the main objective is education. Associations with private online communities for their members to interact have also seen great engagement and enthusiasm.
Encourage your high-profile and senior members to interact with those younger and new to the field. This level of networking makes your association more inclusive, prevents cliques from forming, and provides invaluable experience to future industry leaders.
Professional development & education
The second most important reason members join professional associations is to support their professional development goals and continuing education requirements. Members want their associations to provide regular and engaging educational content that helps them develop the skills they need in their professional roles.
Read more: Online Learning And Member Engagement For 21st Century Associations
Hosting regular seminars (online and in-person), providing an online learning platform, and sharing informative content in newsletters and blogs are ways your association can support the educational expectations of members.
Members often join (and stay with) associations that provide accredited professional qualifications as they can be highly-favourable when looking for a job or promotion.
Access to the latest industry research
Guaranteed and easy access to the latest industry research was the third most crucial reason that members had for joining associations.
In an industry such as medicine and healthcare, research can move so quickly that individuals struggle to stay on top of it. Members want associations to do the hard work by finding the latest insights and making them accessible in a single location.
Create a section for the latest research on your website so members can always go there to find what they need and share alerts or highlights in your member newsletters so that they do not miss critical late-breaking updates.
Memberships can be a costly investment for individuals, so they want to know that they will receive exclusive perks and offers as a member.
Some of the top offers that encourage membership acquisition for associations include discounts for conference registrations and discounts on membership fees (e.g. for the first year or when signing up for multiple years at once).
Download: How to price registration
Some associations have also seen success by offering member discounts, vouchers, and coupons for relevant products that their audience will often need to buy or training they will need to complete. Consider collaborating with your annual conference sponsors to provide a year-round discount for members on their products and services.
Since COVID, member participation has grown in members-only sections of websites and public and private social media communities. Online communities are an excellent way for associations to maintain 365-day engagement with their members while also helping to deliver those vital networking opportunities.
Read more: Community Building: Transforming Association Membership
While there are similarities within your membership demographics, such as job role and industry, your association should consider distinct differences, such as age and professional goals, when developing available membership experiences.
‘Baby Boomers’ (1946 – 1964), accounting for an average of 34% of association members, are more likely to be well-established professionals in the industry with vastly different goals than ‘Millennials’ (1980 – 1995), accounting for an average of 21% of association members, who will likely be at an earlier stage of their professional career.
Research what goals and challenges your members have so that you can provide relevant and innovative experiences.
Association members want a mix of tangible (discounts, information, training) and intangible (networking, community, experience) benefits – associations that can deliver both will see high member retention, referral, and acquisition moving forward.
At Congrex, we are passionate about delivering exceptional member experiences to retain and grow your association memberships. Get in touch with our team to explore the possibilities for your association.
Congrex Switzerland is an international operating event agency delivering customised solutions for medical and scientific associations. This encompasses the overall organisation of conferences and meetings as well as the management of associations to help them grow and prosper. Annually Congrex Switzerland organises approximately 45 events with over 70’000 delegates and manages the secretariat of several Swiss and European associations.