Conversations that Drive Connections

I was about to leave a dull party when I overheard the couple next to me talking about camping. “Where’s your favorite spot?” I couldn’t help asking. This sparked an hours-long conversation about parks, outdoor adventures, and the best gear. I ended up being one of the last people to leave the party, but not before I connected with my new friends on Facebook.

Conversation is a powerful way to engage people and build relationships, whether you’re at a dinner party or a sales meeting. But conversation alone is not especially beneficial to your association unless it results in action. You need to move from conversation to conversion.

Here are six strategies to help you converse and convert to attract prospects, acquire and retain members, and drive non-dues revenues.

1. Consider how people prefer to communicate.

Your audience spends a lot of time browsing social media and sending text messages. They’re chatting, snapping photos, and sharing links. Take your cues from your audience: Join them where they already spend time, and speak in human, personable language they understand. Use compelling visuals to complement your conversations.

2. Be brief.

Along the lines of #1 above, keep your messages short and sweet. If you can’t hook people quickly with something compelling, they won’t stick around to read any length of content. Be brief, especially when prospecting. Your job is to generate interest and get people to raise their hands. You’ll have plenty of time to provide more information once you’ve successfully snagged a new member or prospect.

3. Ask yes/no questions.

Do you need to grow your prospect list? Would you like to increase member acquisition this year? These are pointed yes/no questions that pique interest and spark conversation. Lead off your website content, sales letters, and social media posts with yes/no questions to generate dialogue. It will cause people to linger longer on your website, at your events, or on your social media feeds.

4. Encourage conversation among your internal team.

When your internal team is united and aligned with your mission, your members and prospects will have a better experience with your brand. Consider an in-house messaging platform to facilitate discussions and sharing among your team.

5. Go beyond content marketing.

Your content—such as whitepapers, webinars, articles, and e-books—is the professional face of your organization. But don’t forget the three-pronged approach to association marketing. You also need human and personal approaches to maximize your ROI. Stories, automated workflows, and quiz-style assessments can help humanize and personalize your marketing.

6. Ask people to join the movement.

Once you’ve engaged your audience in meaningful dialogue, encourage them to continue the conversation by joining your cause or movement. You can ask people to take a pledge, add their name to a list of supporters, or provide their email for further updates on progress toward your mission. Make people feel like they are a part of something bigger than themselves.

Conversation Case Study

We used this conversational approach to help the National Alliance for Mental Illness drive participation for their Ending the Silence program. In just 150 words each, we told stories of young people who went from struggling with mental illness to recovery and eventually becoming presenters who share their stories with others. We featured these brief, human-focused stories on social media to engage other young people in a dialog. We captured email addresses so we could follow up with additional communication that included yes/no questions, such as, “Ready to share your story of recovery?”

The age of information overload

On the surface, this conversational approach might seem too informal for a professional association. Your audience could include industry veterans or senior executives with advanced degrees. Don’t these people demand all the facts and figures before making a decision?

The truth is, people don’t need more information. Your members and prospects are already overwhelmed with ads, webinars, whitepapers, PowerPoints, and data of all forms. If they want more information, they can access it all at their fingertips, in seconds, without any help from you. What they really need is connection, a partner who can curate the most important information and offer specific resources based on their needs and wants.

And what’s the best way to know their needs and wants? You guessed it: meaningful conversation. But don’t stop there. Go for the conversion. Think about my dinner party, and don’t leave until you’ve established a way to stay in touch.

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