The Vanguard View: Insight for Association Websites

Why Members Don't Log On To Your Website: Part 1 of 3

Posted by Chris Bonney on Tue, Mar 31, 2009


members-only-logojacket-111507-2We can't seem to get our members to log in

One of the main complaints we hear from organizations, especially healthcare groups, is that members don't log in to their website. We've pursued many reasons for this phenomenon over the years:

Is it because the login button is too hard to find?

Is it because members just don't understand all the great things they can get on your website if they would just log in?

Is it that the arrangement of content on your site makes it hard for site visitors to understand what is for members and what is for the public?

Are you just not promoting your members' only section enough?

The answer, sadly, is usually none of the above.

What we've found is that while some of these factors may play a part in a low turn out in the member center, most times it's simply that the organization is not understanding three very simple things:

1. That your members are not turning to you for the industry information you're providing. They've found somewhere else. You've lost your authority.

2. That your content needs to be one-of-a-kind, exclusive, super-relevant, fascinating, helpful and timely AND it needs to be the content they're interested in getting from you.

3. That it's no longer about your website. Web 2.0 technologies like RSS and social networking along with the proliferation of smartphones have greatly opened up the ways in which your content can be delivered.

This post is the first of three that will cover each of these points. If you like what we have to say about #1, subscribe to this blog to make sure you don't miss our take on 2 and 3.

1. You've Lost Your Authority

Most groups we talk to are in denial over this fact.

Somewhere along the line your members have found that your 25-year-old newsletter and your yearly hard copy membership directory just aren't enough incentive to stay engaged with your organization. Your members pay their dues (or don't)  now to get the discount on the conference or, worse yet, to simply keep that box checked on their resume.

While you're struggling to maintain the status quo -- "we've always done it this way!" -- your members have become more savvy and your competitors have brought better options. Realize, too, that your competitors can have very little to do with your industry. What you're competing for is your members' attention. They only have so much and there are a million entities vying for it.

To get -- or, better yet, keep -- your members' attention you need to recapture your authority.

You need to usurp the "good enough" information all over the Internet (and not behind a members' only login) and regain your place in the industry as the authority.

How do you do that?

Authority hinges on perception. So, here are some questions you can ask yourself as you strive to re-establish or simply regain some lost authority:

- Are people in the industry talking and writing about you as the authority? Is the press still calling like they used to?

- Have you put out any product (books, e-books, blogs, podcasts) that reinforce your authority?

- Are you keeping the promises you make to your members and, just as importantly, your industry?

- Are you confident deep down that you really are the authority?

- Are you operating from a place of fear and complacency or are you operating from a place of audacity and vision?

- Is part of your organizational strategy to be the authority?

- Are you linking your website strategies with your organizational strategies?

There are more questions we can ask, but I think this will help get your juices flowing in the right direction. Stay tuned in coming weeks for more on the topic of getting your members to log in to your website.

In addition, check out this fantastic e-book on Authority by Brian Clark of Check out for even more info.

So, what are your thoughts? Does this sound like an issue for your organization or is this one for the other guy? Or is being the authority still relevant at all for associations?

Topics: log in, web strategy, members only, associations

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