Sure, you are likely using an online member directory with your member database. For most trade and professional societies having at least a formal list of their members’ names and contact information in an online directory is paramount. Allowing for member searches is a must have. But, from my experience it usually sits in a lonely corner of a website (or worse, in a hard copy folder hidden away on a shelf or in a file cabinet) and not used very well. In this article, I explore how and why a member directory can and should be used to enhance member services at your nonprofit association.
Before I get to far into this piece, if you have only a printed directory, it is high time that you put that printed directory to work for your members and your association. Get it online and fast! Why does it matter?
I am glad you asked. Let’s take a look at the power that is lying dormant in your printed directory as opposed to having an online membership directory.
Unleash The Power With Your Online Member Directory
Member Engagement, Anyone? Anyone?
Consider this: your members are tugged in multiple directions by organizations competing for their membership, regardless of the type of association you have. Yet the long-term success of your association depends on member retention and growth. Now consider why most of your members joined up in the first place. Most likely they sought more engagement with like-minded people.
From that perspective, I suggest my clients take a new look at their membership directory and ask these three questions—or better yet, poll their membership:
What information about our members would make this directory more useful and interesting to our membership? Awards? Education? Years of first-hand experience? Members’ other professional or extracurricular affiliations?
How do we make this directory more interactive among our membership? For example, do you include links to each member’s social media sites? Professional websites?
Which links to other sites would our members find helpful, amusing, exciting, or just interesting?
Consider segmenting member categories for ease of use, and don’t forget to ask members to update their information quarterly.
In this blog on membership management software trends I wrote that, “A recent white paper published by Abila, the nonprofit software firm, cites a study which concludes that ‘38 percent of those who don’t renew their association memberships site a lack of engagement with the organization.” Engagement is key to retention.
You can power up your directory and make it come alive as a retention tool by adding data and links that will boost engagement both between prospective members and your association and—most important—among your members. Remember, that likely is why they joined.
Links Can Provide Power to a Member Directory
Research shows that the once-lonely and dormant membership directory can become a powerful vehicle for attracting new members. Here’s how:
Get your directory to boost your SEO (search engine optimization) ratings through placement in Google’s Real PageRank. According to Business Directory Plugin, “The way Google assigns your PageRank is by examining how many other sites link to you and the overall quality of those sites.”
In other words, in PageRank, linking is king, especially linking to your directory. As Business Directory Plugin sagely points out, “Ultimately, the best way to promote your site is by having other people promote it for you on their sites. Your membership is a rich resource for ways to link to your site—so mine that resource on a regular basis.
Try engaging with other associations, small businesses, professional organizations, or public agencies to cross-recruit members or at least, mutually raise awareness of each other’s sites through links. Look for win-win ways to attract links, even from seemingly competitive sites. One possibility is reaching out to local area businesses willing to place links or banners on your directory site. Consider adding a mission statement landing page to your directory to which these other sites can link.
Include your directory as part of a larger one to boost your site’s SEO. Here are just a few: Google’s My Business Directory, Bing’s Places for Business, or Yahoo’s Small Business Directory. Your region likely has local professional or geographic directories which serve a similar purpose such as a chamber of commerce site.
Banners are the ultimate visual magnets. Depending on how strong a marketing drive you prefer, you may want to step up from links to banners and small graphic ads.
You can submit [your ad or banner] to sites like Google AdWords or The Banner Exchange, which will feature your image on hundreds or more sites, giving you access to potentially thousands of new visitors that would never have seen it otherwise.
Grow Your Member Site Traffic with Added Content in Your Online Database
Associations are terrific sources of your most relevant information. And, content curation is one of the fastest ways to achieve growth in web traffic for publishing, directory, business and media sites. Content curation websites attract vast amounts of traffic. As you start curating content of a particular type, in this case with a member directory, you will eventually start attracting an audience that favors content of that type such as consumers which desire the help of a professional member. If you’re the source your readers and the public comes to your website when they need new information on a given topic, then your association is doing your job effectively to help members make more money!
Citing the Results of a Member Directory
I visited last week with an association which migrated to a new membership database which included a directory. Within weeks, the organization was able to reach out to their members and other members within their industry in an effort to engage them more because of the member directory. They used many beneficial features to offer corporate members higher level listings in the system, thus giving the more exposure in the directory.
Before implementation, the association emailed members to send emails to listing holders encouraging them to update their information. With an export feature, the association was able to better format the directory listings to be more compatible with graphical applications like InDesign or Illustrator.
Once you decide how best to unlock the latent power of your membership directory, can your current software handle the new automated tasks? If it falls short, know that the software you need to power up your directory already exists to fit the size and budget of your association.
We excel in marrying the right software to the specific needs of each association. Contact us to see how we can help you unleash the power of your directory.