Would your “elevator speech” about why a prospect should join your organization convince YOU to join?

It’s highly unlikely, especially in consumer enthusiast environments, that your prospect hops out of bed in the morning and says, “I believe I’ll join a membership organization today. One that’s dedicated to the things I enjoy doing.”

What’s more likely is that you (metaphorically) drive your bus by the prospect’s house enough times that they start to recognize it and eventually come to understand that you’ll take them places they can’t get on their own.

To continue the metaphor—is the bus contemporary and appealing? Is it reliable, and has a good navigation system? Trustworthy? Are there like-minded people already using it and finding it worthwhile? Does the message accurately represent the experience?

Enough with the metaphor. Let’s get personal (or at least switch to the topic at hand: membership marketing strategy). When was the last time you looked at your own acquisition messaging and collateral? Has it grown appendages with every new membership committee meeting? Well intended, probably, but did everything in the message “earn” its way in through testing?

People need a reason to say, “Yes!”

One of our favorite levers of persuasion, so well-articulated and supported by Robert Cialdini, is “Because.” He presents the proof that a reason—even a seemingly simple one—makes us all feel better about a decision.

We bought the peaches BECAUSE they were on sale (and we love peaches). We joined the neighborhood Next Door group BECAUSE we want to know about things happening around us. We joined an enthusiast group BECAUSE we want to interact with others who share our passion. We participate in benefits or access services BECAUSE the endorsement has meaning.

So what’s your “Because?” And is it convincing?

“Because” = Positioning Statement

It’s wise to revisit your organization’s positioning statement (AKA “elevator speech”) on a regular basis. Especially after a disruption as consequential as a pandemic. Many organizations have (wisely) taken a hard look at their benefits and pruned a bit. Some have added new online resources that are proving popular, or broadened their content portfolio to minimize dependency on one particular area. Kudos to you if you have.

Has your “because” changed? Is it still relevant to the audience? While we love the Cialdini explanation of why “because” is powerful, we do have to smile a bit that the case study involves standing in line at a copier. Is that a thing anymore? Do you have a relic in your join pitch that could be replaced with something stronger?

If your membership acquisition messaging is using a “because” that was built on a benefit or belief from more than 18 months ago, you might want to set up some testing to validate that it’s still the most persuasive and authentic reason.

If your organization didn’t exist, could it be successfully launched in today’s world?

If you’re holding your breath, hoping your prospects (and current members) don’t realize your value proposition is on thin ice, maybe it’s time to gather your best thinkers and revisit the reason(s) you exist.

Here’s a list of benchmarks you can use to drive your discussion. This series of questions comes out of the process of creating communities, but it’s equally effective for discussing the contemporary relevance of mature organizations.

What Works:

  1. Does your community or organization meet a need? You may need to help the audience perceive that they have a need, but be mindful that you cannot create a need where one doesn’t exist.
  2. Is your organization a source of trustworthy, authoritative information? This became challenging with the advent of Google, but in reality, it’s now more important because of Google. A search for information might turn up 92 million hits. But what is authoritative? Who to believe? Has the information been tested/vetted/proven by peers or an authoritative source?
  3. Is there is an element of exclusivity and privilege? Have you put information behind a paywall, or carefully distributed content through your member-only publications? This allows the member to be the knower-of-things because of having access to information not everyone has. It makes your member smarter and better equipped. And who doesn’t want to be smart?
  4. Does it bring people together for a common purpose or pursuit? If you like watching birds, it’s much more enjoyable to connect with other birders. You speak the same language, and prioritize your time/talent/treasure in similar ways.
  5. Does it makes sense. 
  6. Is it inspiring? Because here’s the key: Remember the prospect who doesn’t wake up thinking they will join? They also don’t HAVE to. You have to make them WANT to. If it’s something that feeds their passion and validates their priorities (and they are willing to put your member decal in their car window, or post about their great member experience on social media), you’re much more likely to succeed.

Conversely, these things work against success:

  1. No soul center or “voice” of the organization. Members want to know that there are people who “get” them and their interests.
  2. Lack of passion or champions.
  3. Absence of privileges. No authentic member-only benefits or information, and everything comes with a catch.
  4. It’s a thinly veiled construct to get the member to pay more. We call it “grabbing for the wallet” too soon. This is why we recommend keeping new members isolated from third party programs for at least a month. Programs like insurance or partner deals can wait until your members have been effectively onboarded and warmed up to YOUR organization.
  5. Too complicated. If you make it hard to do business with you (too much friction in the join process, like too many questions), fewer people will do business with you. Because remember #6 above: THEY DON’T HAVE TO in most instances.

Tear down—Build up—Because

You’ve stripped off the ephemera (the meaningless appendages that made sense at the time). You’ve revised and energized your positioning statement. Back to step one: Would YOU join your own organization? Put yourself in your prospects shoes. Is it easy to say yes, easy to do business with you, and rewarding to be a member of your community?

Why go through all this? Because communities/organizations matter. They serve an important role of filtering out the noise, of inspiring, of amplifying the voice of a group of like-minded people. We encourage you to work hard to pass the test, because your constituency deserves it.

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