Here are three ideas on how to deal with “free riders.” These prospects stay just close enough to the association to participate, but never pull the trigger on joining. We’re paralyzed with our response. They often tell us how much the “like” us, “support” us, etc.
Try these tactics:
For the prospect that says, “If I don’t join, you still do the work.”
“In fact, I’m not representing your company or its interests at all. The Associaton is not training your staff, your team is not going to be aware of a new move by a state to regulate their products, the association does not understand your position on key issues. Indeed, your company does not have a seat at the table.
So, let’s be clear. We are doing the work, but not for your company.”
For the prospect that calls in for free government affairs advice:
One of the biggest mistakes we make as membership organizations is the GR team often leaks useful information to the free rider. It’s easy for them, because the government affairs specialist knows the issue quite well. Resist the temptation. Take them off the list, don’t update them, refrain from answering the “one off” question the prospect occasionally has. This type of help is for members exclusively. They won’t join until you choose to turn off the flow of free stuff.
For the non-member attendee or purchaser:
I don’t mind if these prospects attend events, buy advertising, etc. However, a steep premium should meet these occasional customers. Most associations don’t have enough pain in the non-member rate. Why? Is it fear the prospect won’t give us a few crumbs?
And, at events, ensure certain sessions (i.e. regulatory affairs updates) are promoted as “members only” access. Be prepared to draw the distinction for members, and those that aren’t, that membership has its benefits.
Let’s put an end to our weak, “one down” position.
Instead, we should start an era of protecting member interests, using our time and energy on member priorities and welcoming those to the community that want to support us. Those looking for a free ride should go somewhere else.