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How to Sell Memberships More Effectively to Qualified Candidates

Andrea Amorosi April 26, 2024
Table of Contents
10 min read

It has been said that nothing happens until a sale is made. That may be a bit overstated, but the point is well taken. Sales are critical to just about every organization, including those that rely on the sale of memberships. Membership sales, however, have their own unique challenges. The target market is often more well-defined, and the ongoing commitment is longer.

How can your association or organization sell more memberships? What are some proven techniques and innovative strategies? In this article, we will take a deep dive into how to sell memberships and steps to making memberships more appealing. Whether you have a newer or established organization or a large or small membership base, we think you will take away some fresh and powerful tools to expand your group.

Let’s First Define “Membership”

We should acknowledge that there is almost an endless variety and types of organizations and memberships. There are also a number of possible definitions. For our purposes, we will use the following: “A membership is a mutual agreement between an organization and an individual generally for a specified period. The member pays a fee to have access to defined benefits.”

There can be limitless nuances to memberships and membership agreements. In simple terms, it is a transaction that involves payment of dues to qualify for benefits.

Advantages of Memberships

Membership benefits are usually tailored to the interests of the member group.

Common benefits include:

  • Access to Exclusive Content
  • Networking Opportunities
  • Professional Development and Educational Opportunities
  • Discounts
  • Political and Advocacy Representation
  • Prestige
  • Marketing Assistance

Advantages and benefits to membership are a significant factor in attracting new members. This elevates their importance in your toolbox for how to sell more memberships.

Simple Steps to Selling More Memberships

Selling more memberships often involves re-evaluating your organization and its purpose and benefits. You may be surprised at how far an organization can drift from its initial purpose.

You may want to review your target audience and the value your organization offers. Are you actively marketing? What are your goals and plans for growth? Here are some steps to get you started on the path to selling more memberships.

Survey/Interview Current Membership

Current members often offer the key to selling more memberships. They can shed light on what initially appealed to them and maintain their membership. They can tell you what is of little interest to them. They can enlighten you about problems with communications. Surveying current members can provide a good indication of the temperature of your organization and what is working and what is not.

Clearly Identify Your Target Market and Ideal Member

Many organizations feel they can increase their membership sales by appealing to a larger market. The opposite is often the case. When you clearly define your market, you are more likely able to reach them.

In addition, ideal clients are often more supportive, involved, and engaged in your organization. Describe your ideal member with as many details as possible, including interests, education levels, employment, income, and more. Some organizations will create prospective personas to help them maintain focus on ideal candidates for membership. Keep in mind the old marketing adage that if you attempt to appeal to everyone, you may appeal to no one.

Find Your Value Proposition

If your group has yet to identify the membership value proposition of your organization, it’s time to start the process. Value propositions have long been used in for-profit organization marketing, and it can help you sell more memberships. A membership value proposition clearly states what makes your organization unique and better than what is available elsewhere.

This provides a valuable, straight-forward way to communicate the value of joining your organization.

Interview Potential Members

Once you have identified your target or ideal membership, interview individuals who fall into that market. What are their desires and expectations in a membership? What is the threshold of pain for member fees? What may be preventing them from joining your organization? Of course, removing these barriers may help you sell more memberships.

Write Your Purpose Statement

A purpose statement helps define your organization and its purpose for existence. This purpose statement should align with the core beliefs of your membership and should appeal to your target audience and ideal members.

Clarify Your Marketing Messaging

Once you have done research involving members and potential members, have created a membership value proposition, and have better defined your purpose, you have taken strides in clarifying your marketing message. Use language that appeals to your target market and helps explain the value of membership. A well-crafted purpose statement can help rally members and potential members. This can help convert more prospects into increasing membership sales.

Create Your Member Experience

What do you want your membership experience to be like? Most organizations want to make members feel welcomed and appreciated. They should be informed about and encouraged to take advantage of the benefits. What is their preferred method of contact and communication? How do you want members to feel about being a part of your organization?

Invite New Members

Perhaps the most simple step in making more membership sales is making sure you are inviting enough members of your target group.

Here are some ways to accomplish that.

  • Use Social Media to Make Connections

Social media remains a powerful tool in getting out your message and expanding your membership. Social media can be effective in promoting short-term promotions. Encourage members to share on social media and use it to promote events. Promote and provide useful content through social media.

  • Send Emails

Use emails to promote your updated messaging and sell new memberships. Encourage referrals, perhaps including incentives for new member referrals. Target emails for where your prospects are in the sales funnel.

  • Use Events

Use sponsored conferences, expos, seminars, and networking opportunities to share the benefits of membership. If you are sponsoring an event, member discounts can attract members.

  • Develop a Sales Process

Create a sales funnel or process to move prospective members through. This can be done by gaining interest, prompting action, demonstrating value, and presenting the invitation. There are a number of ways in which to accomplish this.

  • Provide Free Content and Tips

Offering prospects free pertinent content and tips or tricks can gain attention and help establish your credibility. Make sure the content or tips are related to your organization. A content marketing strategy is a superb way to gain attention and move potential members into your sales funnel.

  • Host a Webinar

A webinar targeted at your ideal member candidates can deliver an exceptional return. Solicit the help of current members to help spread the word about the webinar.

  • Offer a Free Trial

Samples have always been an effective way to get prospects to try a product or service. A free trial can have a similar impact on your target market. Offer a free trial for a brief period or offer an extended membership when signing up for a year. This can provide a higher level of comfort with your association.

How to Sell Memberships FAQs

What is a sales funnel?

A sales funnel is a way to sell memberships through a process. The widest part or top of the funnel is where you make prospects aware of your organization. Once you pique their interest and have an interaction or engagement with them, they move into the narrowing part of the funnel. The goal is to move them through the narrowest part of the funnel, where they are converted into sales.

How do I make them aware of my memberships?

This can be done through digital marketing, social media, testimonials, and more.

How do I move them down the funnel and engage them?

You can engage prospects initially through a landing page, offering valuable content, a webinar, or other reasons to get them to exhange their contact info for a lead magnet.

How do I invite them to buy?

You can use an incentive or promotion to close the sale.

What are the steps to a successful sales pitch?

Know your market, engage your target market, and demonstrate the value of membership. Ask for the order inviting them to join.

How do I upsell or sell premium memberships?

Upselling memberships and selling premium memberships may only take showing members the additional value they’ll receive from making a relatively small investment. Additional benefits should far exceed the price.

5 Ideas to Sell More Memberships:

1. Get members to sell for you.

Your current members have experience with your organization and apparently a certain comfort level with their membership. They may just be your best sales ambassadors to spread the word. Offer incentives that could include entries in a major prize drawing, branded origination merchandise, cash incentives, or credits for their next membership renewal.

2. Develop exclusive events

Create events or webinars that are so compelling prospects will become members to be able to access them. You can either organize these everts in house or sponsor events of interest to members of your group.

3. Create a social media campaign.

If you are fully utilizing all of your social media accounts, you may be missing out on a valuable tool to gain new members. Social media campaigns should be for a specified period of time and should include discounts, or merchandise incentives to encourage new members to join during this period. Create energy throughout the campaign by using your social media to update the campaign’s progress and perhaps even to welcome specific new members.

4. Ask for and publish testimonials from satisfied members.

You can raise the level of comfort in potential new members by publishing testimonials of satisfied members. These testimonials can be written or in video form and can even include comments and ratings from sites that publish them.

5. Offer a satisfaction or money-back guarantee.

A terrific way to close on new memberships is to simply take the risk away. The easiest way to do this is by offering some form of satisfaction guarantee. This guarantee could include a refund of any portion of the membership that would go unused.

Use Technology to Sell More Memberships

The good news is that there are more opportunities to make membership sales than ever before. Even if you precisely define your target market and ideal member, sales opportunities abound. The challenge is that the process can be more complex and comprehensive than ever.

Membership sales today involves the careful targeting of prospects and creation of a member value proposition. It can take consistent, pertinent, and valuable content creation. It will require monitoring prospective members as they enter your sales funnel and reaching out to them at the best time through emails or texts.

All of this creates an immense amount of activity and monitoring.

Handling a sales process today with a spreadsheet is inefficient and mistake-prone. Quality leads can be lost. Opportunities missed.

This is where technology like a member management system can be invaluable.

Not only can member management software help an organization manage its current members, but member management systems can also help automate the sales process.

An MMS can identify ideal candidates for memberships and encourage them to enter your sales funnel. It can nurture them through valuable content and get and keep them engaged through emails. It can even accept member applications, secure and process membership fees, and onboard them. Once a candidate becomes a member, an MMS can automate the membership renewal process.

With the right member management system, your membership sales process can be virtually completely automated. The reality is that as complex, constant, and precise as the sales process is today, it should be automated for more efficient results.

Other Benefits of a Member Management System

The irony is that when an MMS helps manage your membership sales process, the more members you will likely acquire. This creates an even greater need for an MMS.

Member Contact and Membership Details

An MMS allows you to gather more details of your members, improving opportunities for engagement. This helps maintain your relationship with members, reducing churn.

Automates Your Dues Payment System

An MMS will more accurately track and react to your member fee status situation. It can invoice, remind, and process payments seamlessly.

An MMS Can Keep Members Engaged

It can be labor-intensive to keep members engaged. Not so with a member management system. It can monitor contacts, so no member is forgotten.

It Can Create Content

An MMS can help take the load off content creation and use it to provide value for your members. Exclusive content is one of the most valuable services an organization or association can provide. A member management system can help you stay on top of it.

It Can Manage Your Website and Social Media

Your website and social media management can be a weight on your staff, volunteers, and organization as a whole. The appropriate MMS can help reduce that weight, allowing you to use resources elsewhere.

Manage Events

Does your organization conduct fundraisers, stage conferences, organize conventions, or provide networking opportunities? The right MMS will help make organizing and following through on events simpler.

A member management system can also prevent embarrassing and even costly mistakes that happen far too often in a manual system.

Large or small, if your organization wants to sell more memberships, it should elevate its management process. It should explore the value of a member management system.


Memberships are unique in that they are intangible and are purchased for a specific period of time. This makes it crucial that the organization clearly explains the benefits of membership. Since selling a membership can be a bit more complex, the sales process can require more persistence. This can be facilitated through the use of a association management software system like MemberClicks. It can enhance the membership management process and increase the value of membership. Selling more memberships is one thing, managing the process more efficiently is another. See for yourself. Request a demo of MemberClicks now.

Get on the path to increased membership sales and smoother association member management today!

Free Member Retention Guide

Ready to retain members and keep them coming back forever and ever? This guide will teach you everything you need to know about member retention. We cover all the basics, like the first steps to member retention and how to map out your member journey. From there, we dive a bit deeper into retention tips.