Growing your organization is no easy feat. You probably do some email marketing, event marketing (to attract potential prospects), and perhaps even some inbound marketing. But are you tapping into your strongest marketing tool – your members?

Word-of-mouth marketing continues to be the strongest marketing tactic there is. And while a majority of that happens organically, it never hurts to encourage the process.

That’s why today, we’re talking all about member referral programs. If you don’t already have one in place, here’s an easy way to get one started:

1. Identify who you’re trying to target

Before creating a member referral program, think about your organization’s goals, particularly as they relate to recruitment. Are you trying to recruit all types of members (student, associate, organizational, etc.)? If so, then you’d want a referral program that’s open to everyone. But if you’re trying to target one member type in particular – students, for example – then you’d probably want to create a special referral program just for them.

Take some time thinking this over before hashing out the rest.

2. Determine what the incentives will be

Once you know who you’re trying to target, spend some time thinking about what the incentives will be. Note: Double-sided rewards tend to work best (a reward for the person joining AND a reward for the person who referred them).

As far as what the reward should be, that’s completely up to you. If you can offer some kind of financial discount (on membership, a trade show, etc.), that’s great. But if not, consider offering something else – a free webinar or a free book/industry report. Just know that the better the incentive, the more effective your program is likely to be.

3. Set the program up

Now you can make your referral program as simple or as elaborate as you’d like. If you’re looking for something a little more full-fledged, consider seeking out referral program software, which will handle codes and tracking and all that for you.

But if you’re looking for something a little more simple and/or that type of software is out of your budget, don’t hesitate to set this up on your own. You can make it as simple as having a “Did someone refer you? If so, who?” section on your member application. Then, as those come in, you can reward the two members accordingly.

4. Promote

Once you have your referral program set up, promote it! Mention it on social media, in your organization’s newsletter, on your website, etc. And don’t forget to hone in on those incentives! That’s what’s going to get people to take some kind of action.

Now two added notes about creating/executing referral programs:

  1. When someone refers someone, be sure to reach out to them and say ‘thank you.’ They did your organization a big favor, so show your appreciation.
  2. When one of your members refers another, that’s a sign of engagement, and you should ABSOLUTELY capitalize on that. If they’re willing to spread the word about your organization via referral, they might be willing to spread the word in other ways as well. What we’re getting at here is this: Consider putting together a list of those members referring others and reach out to them about participating in a more formal member ambassador program. Those members could be your champions!

Want more tips for growing your organization’s membership, aside from a member referral program? Check out our free guide, Best Practices for Online Member Acquisition, below!