How can our association make our “Find a Member” service more valued?

Most associations have an online member directory or searchable member database. In the case of trade associations, those directories can be vitally important member benefits because they help bring new business to the members

While the directories are important and perhaps even receive heavy use, it’s possible that your association members don’t realize the positive effect that the directories are having on their businesses. Why? There are two reasons:

1) Emails sent from the association directories often rely upon the user to insert a subject and body text. Their subject might be something like “Quote requested” or “Information”. However, the subject usually doesn’t mention the association. Equally unfortunate is that many users won’t mention in the body of the email that they found you through the association web site.

2) Even if users did tend to mention the association in their email, the greater problem is that most users don’t use the email link if a web site link exists. While your member may be checking the web logs for referrer entries from your association, most probably do not. As a result, your members may have no concrete understanding of how many prospective customers are coming to their web site from the association site.

Fortunately, the solutions to these problems are fairly easy:

1) If your association web site carries only simple email links, the simplest solution is to add the following at the end of the email address (not including the quotation marks): “?subject=Referral from Acme Association&body=Below is a referral from the Acme Association Find a Member service”. There are two problems with this solution: One is that the user can change the subject and/or body in their email program. The second is that some email programs won’t support the query string. Therefore, a better option would be to present a form for the user, and then have the association web server send the actual email; by doing so, the association can control the subject line as well as the body text.

2) Rather than having the member’s URL serve as the web site link in the association’s referral service, give the user a link such as “Click here to visit the web site.” Then have the link point to the association web server where the click can be logged in the database, and then redirect the user to the member’s web site. You can access the click log information either through the database or perhaps even through the main association web log, depending on how you pass the information to your web server program. In either case, the association should report the click information to the members on a regular basis.

Your association offers a wonderful benefit through its referral service. Now you just need to make sure the association gets credit for it by following the above steps. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how your members will think referrals have suddenly increased when it’s really just their improved recognition of the association’s great work.

Does your association provide referrals to your members? Do you provide reports to the members of the email and web click-through activity?

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