For InReach partners that are associations, member share means the percentage of your membership that buy CE products from you. Knowing your member share is a good thing. First, you can define potential opportunity for growth, and second, you can quantify the number of members that take advantage of what is typically identified as the most popular member benefit.

For those of you that have access to numbers maintained by your CE regulatory arm, you can easily confirm your member share. You can do so by hours or by purchaser. Both approaches provide valuable information.  Who buys from you, and how much do they buy?

For those of you that do not have access to numbers maintained by your CE regulatory arm, you can “guestimate” your member share by comparing your purchaser lists with membership lists. You can also ask CE specific questions in any association member surveys.

Anecdotally, I can tell you that most of our associations have a 25-35% member share, and arguably a lot of room to grown. However, like with so many things, you shouldn’t assume without a precise assessment, that working to grow member share is something that should be done. (If you want to grow revenue, the best way to have significant results in doing so is increasing prices and not volume.)

Most association executives and volunteer leaders want to serve as many members as possible, especially if the association is a voluntary organization. So, you might be compelled to grow member share without consideration of costs related to growing. Absent that mandate, you should analyze costs and balance any risk of growing member share against the benefits of growing your market share. While you normally profit when you increase member share, there are instances where that will not be the case. For example, more members might purchase CE from you if you lower your prices or begin to give away free content.   Be careful if you have challenging revenue goals.

A client recently asked me how to grow member share.  Admittedly I was tired and had recently lost an important football game, but I was left flat-footed. I suggested actions related to selling more CE and not selling to members that have never purchased before. Recognizing my weakness, I have drilled down and done research to provide a better answer to that specific client and to all of you!

Get Feedback from the Right People

You already know what your current customers think about your CE offering because you ask them almost every time they buy from you. “How do you like the program…?”  To increase market share what you need to do is ask those members that aren’t buying from you. Through surveys and focus groups find out how they are getting their continuing education, and what is the barrier for them in buying from you. As an aside, always ask them specifically about their educational needs. This feedback may give you information upon which to act in gaining member share.

Things to Try to Increase Member Share

  • Reward members for referring a member that has never purchased from you. A discount?
    Incentivize members that have never purchased from you by providing a discount for a first-time purchase. Create a limited window of time with this opportunity to generate a sense of urgency to purchase. As an alternative, send an electronic thank you note with a discount to be used on a second purchase. Or do both!
  • Provide program extras without increasing prices: Pre- and post- programs on the same subject of the primary program; a supplement to supporting course materials like a tip sheet, e-book, or a checklist.
  • Target members with valuable content you know will be helpful to your member. This doesn’t have to be a product, it can be a communication relating to their practice area. For example, let your bankruptcy practitioners know that there are Senate hearings this week on XY and Z bankruptcy law provisions. Notify litigators that the new procedural rules are effective in XX weeks, and you can find the new rules here. If you are offering programming on the new rules, let them know about that too. At some point, the member may begin to rely on you as a source of information that is important to them.
  • Be personal. Everyone wants to feel wanted. Ask program planners, speakers, and authors to reach out to people they know and ask them to attend their upcoming program or alert them to the release of a new book. Carrying on the bankruptcy example, if you have a program on bankruptcy CALL practitioners in that area and offer a personal invitation to register for the program. You’d be surprised how much a staff of five can do in 30 minutes to make an impact. (Make it fun. Make it a contest. Include food.) Thank first time purchasers by listing their names in a print ad for your association journal.
  • Invoke your leadership to advocate for your department and the products you produce. Association leaders love to make a difference, and this is an easy task. Every time a president speaks to or meets with a member, ask for their loyalty to the association by promoting the quality and breadth of your CE offering.

Whew!  Longer than normal, but I’m not going to be caught flat-footed again.  If you have increased your member share, please let me know how you did it.