April 1, 2019

How to Recruit New Members at Your Events

How to Recruit New Members at Your Events

Event attendees are the “warmest” membership leads. They already believe your event is worth their time and money, so they’ll likely be a receptive audience to your membership recruitment efforts too. Try out these ideas for marketing membership to attendees before, during, and after your event.

Before Your Event

The non-member registration rate for your event is more expensive than the member rate, yet non-members choose to pay the higher rate instead of joining your association. What’s going on here? Do they pay the higher rate because their employer won’t pay for membership? Or, are they not interested in membership? There’s one way to find out: talk to some of them and choose recruitment strategies and tactics based on what you learn.

Offer an Event Registration/Membership Package

Some associations offer an event registration package that includes one year of membership. Attendees who select this option pay the member rate for the event and sometimes get a discount on membership dues too.

The package approach is a sneaky way to get around a common barrier to joining: employers who pay for professional development, but not for membership.

Some associations force non-members to purchase a registration package that includes one year of membership. However, this recruitment tactic raises anti-trust issues since you’re requiring membership for event attendance.

With the registration/membership package approach, your recruitment numbers will look good, but your retention rate for these new members might suffer—around 30 percent, according to association consultant Ed Rigsbee. The consensus on ASAE Collaborate from dozens of ASAE members confirmed Ed’s findings: because these new members joined only for the registration discount, they didn’t value association membership itself and dropped out at renewal time.

If you decide to try this approach, develop a new member engagement plan specifically for these attendees. You need to engage them differently throughout their first year since they joined for a different reason than most members.

Start Membership Marketing Before the Event

After they register, invite non-members to join your association. Provide a membership incentive, such as an exclusive invitation to a members-only event during the conference. Tell them how membership will improve their professional life. Focus on the impact, not the features, of membership.

Make your invitation personal, if possible. Ask to schedule a time to meet during the event. If you have a membership booth or lounge at the event, you could arrange to meet them there.

During Your Event

The longer the event, the more opportunities you’ll have to hook your prospect. But even at brief luncheon events, you can take advantage of some of these tactics.

Put the Name Badge to Work

Put “guest” badges in a colored transparent badge holder so staff, volunteer leaders, and membership ambassadors know at a far-away glance who’s a member and who’s not. Or, add a distinctively colored “Guest” ribbon to the name badge.

Recruit a group of volunteer membership ambassadors who make a point of welcoming guests, introducing them to others, and assessing their interest in membership.

Invite Non-Members to Special Events

Invite non-members to new member or first-timer orientation sessions at the event. They’ll hear about the benefits of membership and get a chance to meet other members, including veteran members and membership ambassadors.

If you want to give additional attention to some of your membership prospects, ask your volunteer leaders or ambassadors to invite them to a members-only event.

Work Your Leads at a Membership Booth

Have a membership booth on the show floor—and elsewhere in the venue when the expo hall is closed. Ask volunteers to take short shifts in the booth, and have someone from staff there at all times. Keep a FAQ on hand so everyone can answer questions. Make sure you have a laptop connected to the web so attendees can browse resources and join the association on the spot.

You’ll need a hook for your booth—some way to attract the attention and interest of people passing by. This hook will depend on your attendee profile, other attractions on the floor, your allotted space, and, of course, your budget.

  • Relaxation: hot and cold beverages, snacks, comfy chairs and tables in a lounge-like atmosphere
  • Massage therapists: chair massages
  • Photographer: head shots

Make It Easy to Join on Site

Your AMS member portal is always open for business, but attendees have lots to do, so make joining a quick process. The information they provided during registration is in your AMS—how much more do you really need at this point? Get additional data during onboarding. All you really need is their dues payment—make sure you have a secure way to process that.

However, if your AMS doesn’t have an event registration solution or an open API that integrates with your event management software, then the prospect’s information is likely not in your AMS. In that case, keep the membership application as short as possible. Or, scan their badge with a lead tracking tool or collect their business card and do the data entry later.

Consider giving the new member credit for the difference between the member and non-member registration rates. They can apply that credit now to membership or apply it toward a future purchase or registration.

After Your Event

Develop a post-event email campaign for non-member attendees. Make these emails relevant by segmenting the list by career stage, specialty, or interests. Don’t send hard-sell recruitment messages. Instead, demonstrate the value of membership by sharing relevant informative and educational content.

Make these emails personal, if possible. If you met the attendee at the event, refer to your conversation.

Take this opportunity to ask them why they chose to pay a higher price for registration instead of becoming a member. Ask for feedback on their event experience too. You could offer a free 30-day membership and suggest members-only resources they might be interested in, if you can find out what type of sessions they attended.

With all your event registration data and member/prospect data in one place, your AMS becomes a valuable event management and membership marketing tool. Click here to learn more about our Event Management solution.