Glue Up held an event in November 2019 that collected some of Hong Kong's top professionals in the chambers and associations space. It was a round table event where discussions took place between professionals in charge of membership acquisition to share and learn from each other's experiences.
Throughout this event, we've uncovered some secrets to membership acquisition in Hong Kong that could be useful for your organization. Organizations that joined the discussion included the CFA Institute of Hong Kong, Canadian & Irish Chambers of Commerce, and other membership-based organizations from around Hong Kong.
Let's dig in.
The number one issue that plagues associations and chambers in Hong Kong is that young professionals oftentimes have a perception of these organizations as being old fashioned and just "not for them".
This perception has been a major pain point as many professionals under the age of 40 are seeing themselves as not experienced enough to be a part of associations in their industry or chambers related to their country of origin.
In reality, chambers and associations are looking for young professionals to bring new skill sets and perspectives into their events, committees, networking, and other aspects of their organizations because it breathes new life, and adds new headcount which leads to much better ROI.
Furthermore, this benefits young professionals to join these organizations because at such a young start in their career, they would actually benefit more from the networking, rather than later on where their experience is already at a zenith. <h2 id="responsibility"">Everyone is responsible for membership
A major takeaway from our event was the idea that everyone at an organization is responsible for membership acquisition. Even the members themselves.
There should never be one person or one team's responsibility to acquire new members at any organization, it should, in fact, be the responsibility of everyone at the organization. The ability to expand your membership based on referrals is oftentimes understated, and without incentive, it can oftentimes hold back membership growth potential.
Chambers in Hong Kong also said that this responsibility is also in the hands of members themselves.
With referral incentives and rewards, members can benefit from introducing new members by word of mouth to the chamber, and in doing so, leaves a lot of the labor of membership acquisition out of the hands of the internal staff, freeing up more time to allow the chamber to provide overall standard chamber benefits to members as a whole.
When it comes to running a membership-based organization, a consensus was reached at our event, that there is no such thing as a loyal member. We can oftentimes mistake loyalty for what is in reality, a member who just sees value in their membership.
Members are not loyal, they are simply staying for the value you provide. Therefore, when it comes to membership acquisition, your angle to approach should not be that of loyalty, but that of value. To this end, some feedback was gathered that running loyalty programs can oftentimes harm your member's perception of value.
Because if they're just staying for the loyalty rewards, then what is the purpose of being a member?
What can an organization do to keep members happy, and feel value in that organization, long before any gimmicky strategies like rewards are needed to be used to retain members?
A solution mentioned at our event included running events that are paid or for members only. The idea that an event has exclusivity gives a lot of value to members, and organizations that run only public events can lose members since members can just join events without having to pay to be a member in the first place
[Partner Message] We are proud to support the 2019 #terryfoxrunhk. All proceeds of the event will go towards supporting cure-oriented, biomedical cancer research in Hong Kong. Join us on November 9, 2019 to support this important cause! Sign up now: https://t.co/1FZhW3Lf7b pic.twitter.com/QZI0ErY7Y1— CanCham Hong Kong (@CanChamHK) November 6, 2019
A minor, but also underutilized secret to membership growth, is the usage of social media to impact your ever increasingly social media-driven audience. Chambers of commerce and industry associations as we've said before often times have the perception of being old school and antiquated.
Jumping on social media like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook can help bring down barriers to your communication to audiences who might be a fit for your organization. Posting images, recording videos, or communicating your value can lift the curtain off your organization and give more insight to audiences as to what you do and how you could impact them.
Social media also provides a valuable resource to organizations as it gives a platform to join in on related community discussions, and most importantly, social media is not just for posting, but for social listening. Listening to conversations can give a lot of insights into your area of expertise or communities, and give you a head start to catch trends and implement those trends as topics for your chamber or association to capitalize on for your members or to add on new members.
While more suited for associations than chambers, offering courses and classes is a common practice that members will seek to further career aspirations, expand their skill sets, or obtain certifications. While these are indeed a driving goal for organizations that run these types of learning activities, it can be overwhelming as you can assume most members are already working, and after they're out of the office, overwhelming hard-skills courses can easily turn them off.
A solution suggested by the CFA Institute HK says that if you're looking to keep members attending courses that are geared toward hard skills, then it's actually best to pair it up with soft skills as well. Not only are these skills lacking in the labor-force as of lately in Hong Kong, but it's something that young professionals are actively looking for as a career aspiration. In fact, it can oftentimes become a course of its own. The less-intense coursework still gives a feeling of accomplishment, while not exhausting working-class members.
A major gap for opportunity in membership acquisition in Hong Kong is the lack of local digital and physical paid advertising. Often times chambers are a culprit of this, but associations too can benefit from the huge lack in paid advertising.
Most membership-based organizations run events, sponsor events, or exhibit at events, and this can sometimes fool management or staff that they're just enacted a marketing activity, but in reality, it's only a small part of the potential marketing activities a chamber or association could be engaging in.
One of the main areas of membership acquisition campaigning is the usage of paid advertising, especially on digital platforms. When it comes to actively advertising, there is a lot of potential to leverage social media like LinkedIn and Facebook to get your message or offer int the eyes of social media browsers who match your target audience. Or, engaging in search ads in Google that target keywords related to your chamber or association, and even targeting competitors with ads as well.
A more chamber-oriented secret, but useful for associations with clubs or chapters around the globe, is the negotiation of a "Global Passport" for members. Meaning, if a member of an Amcham in China visits a country with another aptly named Amcham, that member from Amcham in Country A can now attend events run by AmCham in Country B.
For those not "in the know" most chambers of commerce abroad are separate organizations and are not affiliated with each other despite their naming similarities.
A chamber or association "global passport" is a new idea that's been experimented before, but is likely more viable now as chambers are getting increasingly more digital and are able to manage digital memberships that support cross-border check-in, registration, and so on.
There is also the reverse idea of this. A "global passport" might be able to be used within only one country, but strategic partnerships could lead to a "passport" being used by an AmCham member who can now attend BritCham events as if they were a BritCham member, but possibly with limited use per month.
Glue Up is dedicated to exploring all solutions for our clients, and through our regional events, we are helping to explore and explore with chambers, associations, and events professionals to see what their challenges and solutions are. This helps us to become your number 1 platform by updating and improving our engagement management platform.
As we continue to host events and learn from local professionals, we will update our blog and posts like this for you to learn and grow your memberships. So, remember to follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, or Book a Demo today and get right to the meat and potatoes of what we're all about.