Let’s be honest. Before I sign up for anything, whether it be a rewards card for my favorite retailer or an email newsletter to keep me informed about a specific subject matter, I’ve always weighed the pros and cons by asking myself two questions:

  1. What’s in it for me?
  2. Is it worth the potential inconvenience (such spending more money to get savings or ‘junking’ up my inbox)?

In a business sense, the need to attract and retain members is a constant priority for associations around the world. So, let’s rephrase these questions with business owners in mind. What value will a membership to your association bring to him/her or the business and what is required of them to become and remain a member of your association. Now we understand that each downtown and main street may have different purposes, goals, strengths, and weaknesses, but Dennis Harman over at Chron.com and Samantha Whitehorne at The Center for Association Leadership, give us good ideas of what to consider when developing a membership package.

Tangible Benefits

Not all your members are the same, so don’t create a benefits package that assumes they all want the same things. Select a mix of offerings…to cover all your member demographics.”

Recreation center benefits, tickets to concerts, website posts and social media features. Create benefits that are easy to obtain AND easy to see. Once these benefits get your members through the door, you can show them the added benefits more easily.

Networking Opportunities

“A business association provides its members with opportunities to network and share information and resources.”

Whether they are competitors or just business acquaintances, they can benefit from shared needs, preferences, referrals, and services. Additionally, this can speed up the process of integrating new businesses within the community and push forward legislation that favors and benefits commerce.

Take Downtown Provo, as an example. Every third Wednesday of each month the organization hosts an event called Link and Lunch. Catered by a restaurant in the downtown Provo area, business owners are able to mingle together and hear a speaker lecture on a topic applicable to the owners, such as how to use Yelp effectively or prepare for a grand opening in the area.

Improved Business Climate

As business owners get to know one another they find ways to share resources, unite on important issues and develop new tools for securing their profitability in the community and creating an atmosphere that encourages competition and attracts customers.”

Money and exposure are key contributors to the success of any business. So, what are you doing to encourage leadership and participation among the members of your community? Businesses serving as community partners and hosting events together is a great way. Look for mutual interest and mutual profit to ensure no one get’s the short end of the stick! Encouraging some form of social responsibility can also positively impact the businesses in your community, as well as make your area more appealing to potential visitors. 

Consider The Enrollment Process and Requirements

The simpler it is for members to sign up for a program, the more likely they are to participate.”

When? How? How much? These three questions will make it easy for you (and them) to keep track of their membership. As software developers, we can’t help but suggest a web-based system! Regardless, make it easy for them both systematically and financially.

If your downtown or main street consists of different sized businesses, maybe a membership tier with different benefits in each tier might be the right fit for you.

At the end of the day, you know your organization best, and you should do what’s right for it. Be creative, be willing to experiment, and be willing to learn. After all, your members are one of, if not the most important audience within your organization. If they’re happy, their customers will be happy and as such, you will see them reinvest in your organization.

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