How to Make Your Membership Work
For many of us we sign up as members to an organisation because we believe it will benefit us and our businesses. We then sit back and wait for all the perceived and expected benefits to be delivered to us. And then months later we wonder why did we bother? Where was the upside in forking out all that money?
We end up feeling disappointed and frustrated about our membership while the organisation itself is fielding member complaints and disappointments.
The good news is we have more influence over our membership and the benefits we achieve for our businesses than you might think. It's not about joining as many membership organisations as possible but it is much more about how to get the most from the ones you selectively choose to be involved with.
How to Make Your Membership Work for You and Your Business
Here are 10 top tips for how to make the most of your membership:
Membership Tip 1:
Create a check list of what's possible to get involved with and set reminders to update and do. When you're finding out what's on offer for you as a member there will be certain opportunities that will particularly appeal to you and others that aren't that important for you.
The challenge can be having the time to take advantage of the interesting ones. So set time aside to jump in there and get involved. Completing your online business profile is really important so make sure you have your website, email, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and any other social media profiles you have. Include a logo for your business and potentially a photograph of yourself. Make sure your business description is written with your potential client in mind - what do they want to know about your business and how it is of benefit to them.
Some membership websites have an offering or promotions page - love these - that are great for listing what you have on offer, any special rewards or discounts for fellow members and invitations to join your newsletter.
To make the most of great opportunities like these make sure you keep the details current. Set reminders in your calendar to login to your profile page and update details.
Membership Tip 2:
Schedule time each week to leverage your membership involvement such as putting into practice what you've just learnt, meeting with other members and actively giving back to the group. Setting aside an hour a week for follow up and keeping track of news and activities as a routine activity will have last benefits for you.
Memberships simply don't work well on a join and forget basis, nor does learning. When you go along to an event, particularly an educational seminar, workshop or conference, make sure you schedule time after it to put into practice the nuggets of gold you gathered. This will let you make the most of your time and experience.
If networking is a core reason for you being part of the association or organisation then make sure you follow up interesting connections made at events. Send out good-to-meet you emails to all those you exchanged business cards with, make time to have coffee or lunch with those of particular interest and explore the opportunities.
Schedule time also for participating online - for reading the email newsletters, blog articles and forum posts.
Membership Tip 3:
Schedule into your calendar regular activities such as networking events, seminars, lunches, trade shows and opportunities. Many associations and organisations have regular events for members to attend that are ideal for networking, education and socialising. Often these events are the core reasons many join and it's really important to attend, to get involved.
By adding these events to your calendar schedule you can be sure you don't double book, you get along and you make the valuable connections you need. Do be sure to take along your business card.
Membership Tip 4:
Be actively involved in forums, blogs and online chat sessions and share information. This is a great way to present yourself as an expert in your own field and develop connections online.
Be sure your signature includes direct links to your website, Facebook, Twitter and other social media profiles as well as a brief and useful description about your business. You'd be surprised by amount of qualified internet traffic and leads you can generate from your signature file. Check to see if it's acceptable to include a promotional offer.
If you're not involved in online forum conversations, making blogging comments and chat discussions then your online membership profile just won't be seen. It's very simple.
Membership Tip 5:
Join the social media groups such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media profiles of the organisation. It's a great way to keep up with the latest news and the switched on associations and organisations reward their active members by retweeting and sharing their comments and posts.
Be sure to retweet and share their messages as well as fellow members participating in conversations. Social media marketing and sharing is a fantastic way to network. Often you get to meet the chatty online members at the events as well because they are usually the go-getters who get involved and make things happen.
Membership Tip 6:
Bring along a guest to events, seminars, meetings etc as this is a great way to build relationships with your guests as well as within your association or organisation. It demonstrates to all around that you're active, outward looking and a doer - just the sort of person we all like to do business with.
Taking along a business associate, client or colleague to a networking event or educational seminar demonstrates to them that you are interested giving them professional opportunities that are all about benefiting them. You are opening doors to potential new clients through networking and education - lets face it, when you're in business learning is a constant experience that is mandatory for success.
Membership Tip 7:
Get involved - take up opportunities to expand your skills and experiences by getting involved. Many organisations and associations have opportunities for public speaking with member soap box presentations, events management opportunities where you can be involved in hosting an event, product and flyers in goodie bags and being the MC for the evening.
This can give you the chance to try new things, develop new skills and move out of your comfort zone. Remember, the fruits are out at the end of the tree limbs so while it might be a bit daunting giving new things a go, the rewards are there to be claimed.
Membership Tip 8:
Go to the training sessions, workshops and conferences - they are great for both education and networking.
Seminars are now also online - called webinars where distance is negated and everyone logs on at the same time to participate in the training. Questions can be asked either via skype or online chat with answers coming from the presenter.
Podcasts are another great online learning tool where you can download the audio recording of an interview, seminar or event and learn from someone across the country or someone from across the city.
Getting along to actual trade show presentations, seminars, conferences and events can also have the added benefit of meeting others in person.
Be sure to connect up on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn etc with those involved whether you meet them online or offline.
Membership Tip 9:
Contribute articles for the blog, forum, email newsletter or print magazine. This is a great way to build your profile and get your business out there.
Be sure there are direct online links to your website and social media profiles. In printed articles you need your website spelt out, e.g.. www.MyBusinessName.com.au
Have a brief 100 word bio ready about you and your business that is informative for readers and a photo of you. Unbranded photographs of product or lifestyle goals related to your business can also be included in stories. Most editors are not interested in publishing logos or branded, promotional advertisements about a business as this doesn't work for their readers and advertising options are usually available.
The articles that get the best reader (potential client) response are ones that add value - how to stories, tips and advice. Straight out promotional stories that are all about the business aren't read and often aren't published because they simply aren't for the benefit of fellow members.
So make the opportunity work for you and your business by sharing quality information as it will open a surprising number of doors.
Membership Tip 10:
Givers gain. When you're involved there are more opportunities for you to make connections. This is a core reason why givers get more back. It's very simple and very rewarding.
Just think of your own experience, who do you prefer to do business with? Someone who is being actively involved in contributing to a community, who you've met and liked their way of doing business or someone who you haven't met, who might only be a name on a list, who you don't know anything about? It is as black and white as that.
Keys to Success
The keys to your success with any group you belong to are the same as with any other area of your business - planning, preparing, doing and reviewing.
Before you a group or renew your membership make a list of:
- the features and services on offer for you
- what you can do to make the most of these features and services
- how you can contribute to the members community
- what time do you have available for investing in your membership
- how you're going to track and measure the return in your involvement
The clearer you are about these things the more you can leverage your membership and get a good return on your investment. By being involved and active within a membership community you can achieve a great deal more for your professional profile and your business.
Organisers are far more interested in offering opportunities and connections to those members who bring valuable contributions to the table. You can't judge before you join an organisation or association exactly the benefits you'll achieve from being involved but you can have a lot more say over how many doors are opened for you when you are a shining light in a group.