Turning Customers into Members

8 Sep

Back when I was a student, one of my professors told me that I should join a professional association in order to help me develop in my career. So, I went ahead and joined with vague expectations that it might help me find an interesting job, look good on my resume, or help learn skills that would be useful out there in the real world. And shortly thereafter I got a nice welcome package that described all the benefits of belonging to the association, and I started getting a monthly magazine.

Reflecting back on this, I realize that I was, at that point,  a customer.  I had paid some money, and had some expectations of getting some tangible benefits in return. Although I was technically a member of the association, I really didn’t have much of a sense of belonging to anything.

A number of years later, a colleague/mentor of mine asked me to get involved with one of the volunteer boards at the association. As a result, from time to time I got to fly across the country, meet with the staff at the association’s headquarters, meet with the other members of the board, and, of course, actually get involved in trying to plan out some aspects of the association’s future.

And so, I transformed from a customer into a member! I felt like I actually belonged to something, and that I was helping to build it and make it better.

I believe that the source of the transformation was this sense of belonging. And I think that the basis for feeling that you belong is interacting with people, getting a sense of who they are, reaching out and helping someone in need, and in turn, find helping when it is needed. The root of belonging is community. Associations need to use whatever tools they can to create opportunities for members to meet, interact, share, and collaborate, both in person and through technology because it will help turn customers into members.

At AssociCom, we’re passionate about online communities and we’d love to help you build a vibrant online community at your association. Have a look at our website to learn more about AssociCom, or even set up a free trial to see how an online community could work for your association.

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