Using “Free” to Grow Your Association Membership

Who doesn’t love free stuff? Surely you’ve seen herds of tradeshow attendees waiting in line just to get a logoed stress ball in a funky shape or branded tote bag to carry all the literature they have amassed. Groups congregate at a vendor’s table to scoop up the coolest promotional item at each live event.

Free items may be a great way to attract people to your event booth, how can you get prospects to flock to your association outside of a trade show?

Take advantage of people’s love of free to grow your association membership.

Here are three ideas for attracting prospects.

Provide Free Education

Put together a training event or seminar for people serving in your association’s industry. While it may feel like you are taking a financial hit to plan and pay for an event that doesn’t bring in revenue, think of providing free education as a long term strategy.

If your association is not limited by location, consider hosting a webinar or online education. Online training can be very cost effective, while still providing attendees with value.

For either type of event during online registration, have a default checkbox subscribing them to your email list. Growing your email subscriber list provides future opportunities to market your membership, products and services to interested individuals.

Provide Free Basic Membership

Free membership is a hotly debated topic, but there are certainly some benefits to allowing open membership. Unpaid members may not add to the dues line on your income sheet, but they may be contributing financially in other areas.

Are your free members buying association products? Attending paid members-only events? Or, they may be your best volunteers.

Offering free membership may not be for every association, but do some research to figure out if this model could serve your organization well.

Provide Free Resources

Similar to providing free education, your association can offer extremely valuable information to website subscribers.

Offer valuable subscriber only information, such as an online directory chock full of resources. Put a members’ only forum in place using your membership management software, allowing website subscribers to network and gain advice from others.

As with educational events, make it clear to website members they will receive helpful information and offers. Include these subscribers to your email marketing lists for prospective membership and other products.

Don’t think of offering something for free as losing money up front – think of it as a long term investment in gaining viewers to your products and services.

Take advantage of people’s love for free to grow your subscriber list. Offering free educational opportunities, resources, or even membership can benefit your organization in the long run.

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