3 Types of Content Every Association Needs to Increase Their Membership Conversion Rate

The content you offer to your prospects and members can help strengthen membership. Learn the three types of content to attract, convert and retain members. Bonus: Use ChatGPT to help you create that content.
membership conversion rate

During my early years of creating content for associations, I always focused on content that would bring value to our members’ lives. This is an admirable goal, right? Serve your members helpful, relevant content, and they will renew year after year. Not quite. 

As I progressed along in my career, I realized that for associations to have a healthy and robust membership, they need a different content strategy to help increase their membership conversion rate. A healthy and robust membership cycle happens when you bring in a steady stream of qualified prospects, convert those prospects into new members and then retain those new members for the long term.

You accomplish this through your content. 

Defining “content?”

Before we dive into the three types of content, let’s define what “content” is since it may mean different things to different people.

The Content Marketing Institute defines content as: “Compelling information that informs, engages or amuses.” 

Three content types

Here are the three types of content that associations should create to recruit new members and retain current ones:

  • Lead Generation Content
  • Conversion Content
  • Retention Content

Lead generation content

The first type of content is your lead generation content

What is it? This is your front-end content, so consider it an appetizer to attract qualified leads. This content has to add value to be attractive to prospective members. Typically, your lead generation content solves a specific problem for your ideal member/customer that they are facing.

Lead generation content can be critical to membership growth because this type of content is what attracts prospects to your association and gets them to join. In Tony Rossell’s book “Membership Recruitment,” steady state analysis examines membership levels over time to identify where the number of new members joining equals the number of members leaving (through non-renewal or other reasons).

It’s like finding a balance where the inflow of new members matches the outflow of departing members, resulting in a stable or steady membership count. This analysis helps organizations understand their membership dynamics and plan strategies for sustainable growth. Rossell explains that focusing just on retention is not enough to grow membership. You must focus on membership recruitment efforts to improve your chances of increasing your membership.

That’s where lead generation content comes in.

Example of lead-generation content 

Let’s say you represent an organization of CPAs. Your lead-generation content could be a list of five questions every CPA should ask before deciding whether to specialize in a niche base of customers. Niche specialties are often something that many CPAs consider at some point in their career, so having a checklist of questions to ask and think through would be helpful. The questions would help them make a more informed decision about why they should – or shouldn’t – niche down. 

Besides helping to solve a problem, your lead generation content aims to bring in a steady stream of prospects. You do that by packaging your content as a digital download offered to your prospects in exchange for their contact information. 

Use the power of artificial intelligence (AI) to help you find compelling problems for your prospects. In the example of our CPA organization, I used ChatGPT and put in the following prompts. You can do something similar with your association.

Also known as a lead magnet, you attract qualified prospects to your association by helping them solve a problem they’re facing. Providing valuable information from the get-go positions your association as a provider of helpful solutions and establishes your credibility.

For a step-by-step article on developing a lead magnet for your association, check out, How to Attract More Ideal Members with a Quality Lead Magnet. Now that you understand how lead generation content helps to bring in a steady stream of prospects let’s look at how to convert those qualified leads into members.

Conversion content  

The second type of content is your conversion content

What is it? Think of this as your follow-up or that nurtures your relationship with your leads to get them to join your association. Without a good follow-up email sequence and communication touchpoints, your association cannot convert qualified leads into members. Besides getting these prospects to join your association, your nurturing series aims to build a warm and engaging relationship with them, start up a conversation with them, and tell them more about how your association can help them.

Orchestrated correctly, conversion content creates multiple touchpoints, follow-ups, and opportunities for connection, presenting a solid case for joining your association. You may have difficulty converting prospects into members/customers without conversion content.

Think about it: When a prospect or future member contacts your organization about joining, only 3 percent are ready to join and buy a membership. The rest – an overwhelming 97 percent – must be nurtured throughout the joining process.

Example of conversion content 

Let’s go back to the example of our CPA organization. You want to tell them about your membership benefits through stories in your conversion content. In your communications to prospects, include case studies of members who have benefited from your organization to grow their business or even reach a certification goal. 

Conversion content often gets overlooked by organizations. Why? In my research on talking to associations, I believe it’s due to a couple of things:

First, they don’t think about it. They think their membership value speaks for itself and that a prospect would want to join automatically. But as Tony Rossell points out in Membership Recruitment, association membership is a “push product,” and therefore you must sell or “push” the value of belonging or joining an association.

Second, it can be time-consuming to set up email campaigns to promote the value of your association. If you’ve ever set up a nurturing email sequence, you know they are a lot of work on the front end. But once you’re finished, you can automate them in your email service provider. 

CLICK HERE to get my free 5-email Conversion Series of email templates to help you convert those prospects. Just plug in your info, and you’re all set! Comes in both pdf and Word .docx formats.

Use the power of AI to help you write some creative or inviting email subject lines that will help you get the attention of your prospect. Here are the prompts I put in for a resource that would be helpful for a beginning accountant. ChatGPT helped me identify that the pressure to pass the CPA exam is a challenge facing many new beginning accountants and suggested an infographic or tip sheet to help them pass. I put in the following prompts to come up with three different subject lines for emails and headlines for the resource to help promote it and grab the attention of my audience.

Here are the prompts for emails …

Here are the prompts for the headlines …

As you can see, they are generic but not bad, and certainly can give you a good start and get your creative juices flowing.

A word of caution about setting up email campaigns: Automated campaigns should never be a “set and forget” type. I recommend reviewing them every quarter (put it on your calendar!) so you can tweak your messaging to reflect changes within your association community and the day’s issues.

Retention content 

The third type of content is retention content.

What is it? This content is for your current members, whom you’ve worked hard to capture as members. Since member acquisition is costly and timely, you want to do everything possible to deliver content that helps your members with their problems and reinforces membership value. 

When your organization delivers valuable, helpful and relevant content to its members, it’s like crafting a gourmet meal. Imagine assembling the finest ingredients, each selected with care and purpose, to create a dish that not only satisfies their hunger but also leaves a lasting impression. Just as a skilled chef combines flavors to create a harmonious symphony for the palate, your content blends information, guidance, and inspiration to nourish the minds and hearts of your members. Retention content enriches your members’ lives and meets them where they are in their careers to deliver value

Helpful retention content is also targeted to critical segments of your membership. For example, a member new to your industry or career field will have different content needs from those who have been working for many years or even decades. Knowing your different member personas and having a structured content plan for them can be a helpful tool. To learn more about this topic, see the blog Do You Know Your Association’s Ideal Members?

Example of retention content

Going back to our CPA organization – an example of retention content could be a webinar that looks at upcoming tax changes that will affect how CPAs process tax returns for the future. The webinar content checks off my criteria for good content:

  • It’s helpful
  • It’s relevant 
  • It’s timely 
  • It will help them do their jobs better, creating value.  
Use the power of AI to come up with an outline for your webinar that will be discussing tax changes. Here are the prompts I used for a fictional scenario:

People often ask, “Can I use my retention content as my lead generation content?” Of course! Retention content is also relevant to prospects, who are in the same boat as your members. Many associations will open their webinars to nonmembers to generate leads, for example. Opening your webinars to nonmembers is an excellent way to generate new membership leads for your organization. A great strategy that works well for many associations is to offer the live webinar free to prospects but save the replay for members only in a gated community to watch on demand later.

To recap, the three types of content that every membership organization should be creating are:

  • Lead generation content
  • Conversion  content
  • Retention content

Take a look at your content. Does it fall into one of those three categories? If not, then get started now in creating content that will help drive membership. I’ve found that associations do a great job of retention content, but unfortunately do a mediocre job of lead generation content and a poor job of nurturing content. 

To have a successful, year-round membership cycle, you must create content that meets your prospects and members where they are in the member journey. If you don’t, you will fail to generate qualified prospects, and failing to generate a steady stream of prospects will make it challenging to grow your membership.

Ask yourself which areas you are deficient in and make a plan now to start taking action. Since most associations don’t have a nurturing sequence, I have developed a five-sequence email campaign for free! All you need to do is plug in your information, and you’re good to go! Click here to get them for FREE! Don’t forget that you can contact me about setting up a free 30-minute call to strategize on how to make your content attract, convert and retain more members.

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