Over the past few weeks, I've been posting in a new series about The Path to Community.

You can read previous articles inside the Community here (it's free to join): https://joyofmembership.mn.co/topics/509853

If you've been following along with the series, you'll recall that the first stage was “Discovery” which represents the point at which someone finds out about you and what your membership is all about.

As soon as someone learns about you, they move into the second stage, which I call “Contemplation”. In this stage, someone is literally contemplating the value of your membership.

Contemplation may be brief… or people can sit in this stage for years.

People only leave this stage in two ways – either they choose to move forward into “Activation” (when they actually join)… or they dismiss you completely and drop off of the path altogether.

As leaders of a membership community, we obviously want Contemplation to be as brief as possible.

So, what *makes* people buy (or join, in our case)?

I can sum it up in TWO words: VALUE ANTICIPATION. Prospective members have to believe that something will happen as a result of their participation.

No anticipation = No action

Yet creating that sense of anticipation can be challenging. Here are four proven ways to ramp that up for your own membership:

1. Hook people in with a common aspiration.

Joining a community is often about being part of something bigger than ourselves. Whether your membership focus is on helping speakers build their businesses, quilters learn creative new patterns, or making a neighborhood more beautiful, uniting people around a shared vision of the future is powerful.

2. Nurture their sense of belonging.

I was asked recently how someone can tell if they are connected with the ‘right' community. You'll know the right community by the way it feels. You'll look around the room, either in-person or online, and you'll know that these are your people, your tribe. You'll see people you can relate to, people who inspire you, people who accept you, people who challenge you… but your gut will tell you that this is where you belong.

If people feel that way when they are exposed to your membership community, they will join more quickly. If they aren't sure that there are ‘people like me' in the group, hesitation happens.

3. Organize your benefits around the desired transformation.

People join memberships because there is *something* about their current experience that they want to be different. By joining, they think, “my problem will go away” or “my situation will improve”.

If we go back to the earlier examples:

  • a speaker might want more speaking engagements
  • quilters might want to create some cool new projects and make more friends
  • neighbors don't want to drive past the trash-covered empty lot at the entrance to their neighborhood

Regardless of whether you are a solo professional, a trade group leader or a nonprofit fundraiser, your members ALL want something to be different a year from now. When you can tap into that desire, and show them that it's possible to achieve that outcome through their participation in your membership, value anticipation emerges.

4. Show that it's worth it.

The first three items in this list are really about creating an emotional response to what you're doing. This final item adds the reason people need to be able to rationalize the investment… how long would it take to recoup their investment?

This isn't the only possible rationalization they can use, but it's one of the most powerful.

Can someone recoup the cost of the speakers group with just a single speaking engagement this year?

Can the quilters get a bunch of patterns for free that they would have needed to pay for otherwise?

Will the neighborhood association's work raise home values in the area?

The more quickly and decisively someone's investment will pay off for them, the more quickly and decisively they'll join.

I'd love to hear your thoughts about this topic. What have you found to be effective in shifting people from kinda-sorta-intrigued to ready-to-join?

Share your thoughts in the comments.


Joy Duling is Founder and CEO of The Joy of Membership.  Since 2005, Joy and her team have helped associations, trade groups and membership-based nonprofits run their programs more easily and deliver exceptional member care.

You can find FREE tools, tips and training to help you run and grow your membership organization in The Joy of Membership Help Hub.



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