By: Sigrid Hazelwood
Working in the member and customer service department I get a lot of phone calls from potential members who are usually pretty confused and hesitant about joining an association. They’re not sure if it’s a good fit or if they’ll get what they want out of the relationship with the association. It reminds me a lot of the situation I had when I first adopted my rescued German Shorthaired Pointer, Esther.
[Esther enjoying herself at Tom Brown Park in Tallahassee, FL]
Before Esther was rescued, she had a rough 5 years in a puppy mill. So, naturally, when I adopted her there were some trust issues – much like what you see in prospect members. What I learned from Esther relevant to membership with an association is that it takes time to build a relationship and gain trust.
People most often ask what benefits the association can offer them, the same way a rescued animal may be thinking “How can I trust this new human?!” Often the best way to explain something like that is to just show them. It’s important to be patient and work closely with potential members. The more time and information you can provide, the easier it will be for them to cross that bridge and join an association that they feel comfortable with.
What motivates your prospect members? For Esther, it’s going for long runs and hanging out in the woods. One of the most important things I can do for prospective members when they call is to listen to what they say. If they’re talking, I can learn what they need from the association to convince them to join. But, if they’re not talking, then I need to ask them some questions to get them talking again.
[Esther on the lookout for some birds/prospect members]
A great question to ask is “What is your goal for your company/organization?” or “What is it you want to accomplish?” If they answer this question then you should be able to follow up with an example of what the association can offer them in the way of a membership benefit, program, meeting, publication, etc.
Another good question you can ask is, “How did you hear about our association?” The answer to this question may reveal details about what is important to them. If they heard about your association while working for Habitat for Humanity (for example) then you can guess that giving back is important to this person. Tailor your message to them to include all the wonderful things your association has done for the community, environment, etc.
Remember, we all just want someone to listen to us and make us feel special. Building trusting and strong relationships is a key factor in having many happy members (and dogs!)
[Esther at Alligator Point, FL]