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If your association or chamber is like most, you go through a certain process to sell memberships. At some point in this process, the potential member will ultimately decide to join – or not join.

If they join, you’ll be well on your way to new member onboarding, and recording information on why they joined so you can deliver benefits and gain valuable member intelligence.

But what if they don’t join? What can you learn from these potential members? Plenty!

Let’s start with the “Why not?”

Ask them why they didn’t join. AND, record that information in your database! You’ll soon be able to determine the top 5-10 reasons why people don’t join your organization. You probably hear things like:

  • I don’t have time

  • Dues cost too much

  • You don’t have “X” benefit

  • I’d like to, but the boss says no

  • I was a member once and didn’t get anything from it

  • I’m already a member of another group

Create a way to track these objections in your membership management software and assign them to these prospects that don’t join. (If you can, be sure to record their type of business, what role they’re in, and how long they’ve been in the industry, too…more on using that information later.)

Find patterns

Over time, you’ll notice trends for why people don’t join. If something really begins to stand out, you may decide that it’s time to revisit your benefits package. Review the objections you tracked to find out what missing benefits come up most, and research similar organizations to fill in any other gaps.

You can also use this information to adjust your messaging. For example, if you continue to hear “I don’t have time,” you may want to alter your advertising, website text, and selling process to focus on how people get benefits from your organization, even when they don’t participate in everything all the time.

Using this information to your advantage

How can you use what you’ve learned? Revisit some of these contacts in 6 months to a year and demonstrate to them the ways your organization has benefited professionals just like them in the past year, using their own objections against them! It’s simple:

1. Check the objections this non-member mentioned when you first tried to sell them a membership.

2. Find members that are in a similar role or business by mining data from your membership database.

3. Get testimonials from these similar members to use in your conversation.

You can even create mini “objection kits” for most common objections to help you go back to those non-members that told you “No,” and demonstrate why they now should say “Yes!” For example, you might say:

“When we talked last time, you said that dues cost too much. Since then we’ve taken a hard look at our benefits package, and added XXXX, XXXX, and XXXX – but haven’t increased our dues! It’s important to use to continue adding value for members, year after year.”

The effects of such a conversation can be very powerful: It shows that you listened, which shows that your organization cares about the industry and you are interested in forming relationships with your members, not just collecting dues. Listening and strengthening relationships go a long way toward improving member retention and generating additional new member sales!

Listening and using your relationships are also both key ingredients to effective Inbound Marketing, a low-cost, powerful technique for recruiting members. Have you tried it yet? Give it a shot with Growing Your Organization’s Membership: A Beginner’s Guide to Inbound Marketing.