Are Membership Directories Worth it for Your Association?
Print is not dead. Admittedly, I come from a print background and may be slightly biased. Newspapers and magazines were my world for many years and I saw first-hand how impactful (and lucrative) print can be. There is something beautiful about a printed piece, seeing your name in print and having a tactile product that you can easily use to promote your brand.
I created my first printed Membership Directory nearly 15 years ago for a state bar association. It was massive, both in page count and in terms of the time it took to create. I made mistakes, and I made close to nothing on the project because it took so much time. It wouldn’t be the last Membership Directory I would produce, but it would be the last time I would create a printed piece that I wasn’t proud of. Since that first Membership Directory back in 2008, I have learned as much about the association model as I have publishing. I’ve headed up associations as executive director and acted as associate publisher and that experience has made me a firm believer in printed Membership Directories. I see five major benefits to producing a Membership Directory on an annual basis:
#1. Value for your members. Most associations are supported largely by vendors and associate members – the salespeople and companies who sell products and services to your core membership. Providing these folks with a full listing of members along with contact information helps them see the value of their affiliation with your association, allows them to be seen as a key resource to your professional members and gives them tangible “proof” to show their superiors when that dues bill arrives each year.
#2. Non-dues revenue. Associations need as much revenue as they can get, and Membership Directories are a great way to generate non-dues income. Advertising sales in Membership Directories can bring in a very healthy amount of revenue with professional members wanting to show their support and vendors not wanting to be left out. Because a Membership Directory is typically a once-a-year publication, many companies can sign on easily without getting multiple approvals and slowing down the sales cycle.
#3. Membership sales and renewals. Make no mistake about it, FOMO is a real phenomenon, and your association can recognize a boost to dues revenue while producing your Membership Directory. Reaching out to members who have yet to renew – or prospects on the fence – to let them know that they need to pay up or be left out of the printed Membership Directory has immediate impact.
#4. Prospecting tools. I am not a believer in posting Membership Directories online for the world (AKA your competition and non-member vendors to your industry) to see and steal. I myself routinely help myself to data that my clients’ competitors publish online and in the world of association membership there are not always enough members to go around. However, having extra printed Membership Directories on hand can be a great tool when trying to seal a deal with high-profile prospects and can provide your organization with a brand-enhancing “brochure” as well.
#5. Good will. Most associations have affiliations or good working relationships with ancillary (non-competing) groups, government agencies, etc. Your printed Membership Directory provides a perfect opportunity to offer up free space for these groups to promote their message and helps raise your association’s profile as well by highlighting your affiliations and partnerships.
Creating a printed Membership Directory is time-consuming. Expertise in sales, copywriting, design, printing and distribution are certainly helpful to creating a professional piece that will help you achieve your organization’s goals. Attention to detail is also key, but the main message here should be that the upside of creating a printed Membership Directory make it all worth it.