In creating any kind of association marketing or association communications plan, you will want to tap into your most valuable asset — member excitement. How do you do that? Member stories and testimonials will capture that excitement and help you demonstrate your association’s value in a way that no list of member benefits, no matter how long or skillfully articulated, ever can.
The best membership organizations — those that are growing and meeting member needs — understand this. Here are a few ways to get started.
#1 – Collect some member stories.
In the best organizations, you won’t need to dig too deep to uncover great stories from members about how joining the association has changed their life, career or business, engendered new friendships or provided new insights. These members are powerful ambassadors crediting membership as critical to their success. Members trust their peers more than they trust just about anything else. In today’s trust economy, a good story and recommendation will go a long way.
If you hear your members telling these stories, be sure to commit them to writing. Keep collecting them — and get more. Ask members to share what the association means to them, how it has made tangible improvements to their businesses and careers. Be sure to get specific. Stories are powerful, and the best will resonate with other members and prospects.
If you’re not sure where to start, ask a dozen members these questions:
- How has the association specifically contributed to your professional development, to building your business, to your success, to your life?
- Can you share an anecdote that would help us share your excitement for XYZ organization?
- What is one thing you have gained by being a member of XYZ?
Member stories will capture your association’s value in a way that no list of member benefits ever can.
#2 – Dig deeper
Be sure to personally call each member who submits a reply, both to thank them for taking the time and to dig a bit deeper. What else can you learn from this member’s experience?
#3 – Listen to the responses
Take time to study and review these responses. How can your group use this member’s experience to create a similar positive outcome for other members? How does what this member tells you connect and compare to the benefits you communicate in your marketing? Are there changes you need to make? While not a replacement for the data you can gain from a member survey, personal member stories can help you uncover the impact of your programs in a deeper way.
# 4 – Keep asking.
Once you have several stories collected (5-6 would be ideal to start), keep the ball rolling by making this process a regular, scheduled activity. Your association is evolving and changing, and your stories will change too. As you add or update programs, hold another event, engage in advocacy efforts, issue a new report — you are increasing the potential ways you are adding value, helping your members and growing member return on investment. Tap into that by asking questions, requesting testimonials, getting event evaluations and collecting anecdotes so that it is a part of the natural flow of association activities and all staff understand that this is important.
# 5 – Shout your stories from the rooftops!
Make a point of sharing member stories across varied media. Include the content on your website, use excerpts in your member marketing collateral and capture them on video and audio. Include a few in each issue of your newsletter, in your annual report and on social media. Whenever possible, include photos with names and company affiliations to show real people achieving real results through your association’s work.
Ask members to share what your group means to them, how it has made tangible improvements to their lives and businesses.
6 – Post them around your office
Member stories and testimonials are great reminders for your staff about why they do what they do. Post some stories around your office for all to see – staff and visitors alike.
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About the Author: Anne Doherty Johnson is marketing strategist with expertise in growing engagement, revenues and visibility for member based organizations. She has also counseled corporations and individuals on how to maximize memberships in pursuit of their goals.
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