What question is top-of-mind for most people who are interested in starting or growing a membership-based initiative?  “Where do I find new members?”  (followed very closely by, “How the heck do I get these people to engage?!”)

My response to that first question is ALWAYS the same. The BEST place to find new members is to look at where you already have customer relationships and move more of those people into your membership.

For most people/organizations, it's highly unlikely that 100% of your existing customers are participating in your membership. While you may never hit 100% because membership isn't necessarily a perfect fit for everyone, you should still be aiming for a significant percentage.  If it's only 10% now, could you boost it to 25%?  If you're at 80%, could you get it to 85%?

When was the last time you extended an invitation?  (Not just a generic email offer, but a truly genuine and personalized invitation.)

In fact, your best chance of “selling” anyone on anything is when they are primed to want *more* from you. If a membership is positioned as the next natural step in the relationship, someone is much more inclined to join. It simply feels like the right thing to do.

So, putting this concept into action might look like:

  • You are an association that hosts live event… how can the membership help guest attendees carry the concepts they learned forward?
  • You are an author who sells books… how can the membership help readers apply the concepts they learned?
  • You are a consultant who concludes a service engagement… how can the membership help the customer amplify the results that they experienced?
  • You are a featured speaker at a conference… how can membership help audience members dig deeper into the concepts you shared?

You'll never have a warmer audience than when a customer has just experienced a happy outcome from their work with you.

Don't have customers of your own yet?

Partner up with someone else to make your program a natural extension of *their* relationship with *their* customers. Show them how your membership helps them create happier customers and better results with what they do. Then, give them a commission or finder’s fee for every new member they bring in.


  • You run a gardening club – partner with a local nursery, hardware store or neighborhood association.
  • You run a group for new moms – partner with a local retailer of baby clothes and accessories, local daycares or pediatricians.
  • You run an association for human resource professionals – partner with consultants and advisors who serve the corporate market, attorneys, software companies, etc.

The partner approach is especially powerful when your services naturally complements or amplifies what the partner does. If what you do makes his/her results for customers even better, this creates a win for you, a win for the partner and a win for the customer.


I’d love to hear whether this approach makes sense to you. Do you find existing customers most inclined to join?  Why or why not?  

Chime in with your comments below… I'd love to hear your thoughts.


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.




Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *