By Pam Sefrino, National Sales ManagerWe all know that one of the primary reasons that companies join business associations and chambers of commerce is to network, have access to resources and grow their own business.
One very simple (but often overlooked) thing that business associations do unknowingly to hamper members’ opportunities for business growth is unintentionally hide their member directory – which is essentially a business directory – on their web site. More on this in a minute.
Some business associations do not publish a member directory at all. I’ve always had trouble understanding the reasoning behind keeping the membership list a secret from non-members. I advise associations to consider how making their member directory public on their web site can benefit their members (drive more business and connections) and also their own organization. Prospective members want to know who else is “a member of the club.”
But back to the hidden directory. First, consider your varied audiences. Your members are a primary audience and are seeking to connect with each other. Make it easy for members to find and connect with each other by making that directory prominent on your site.
But who are your other audiences?
What about consumers and others who come to your site to learn about the industry, or who are, in fact, looking for a referral to members in your industry?
Sometimes business associations and chambers of commerce unknowingly bury their online business directory under the "Members" section or "About the Organization" section in their web site’s navigation, not realizing that visitors to their web site can’t find it or don’t have the patience to search for it. See the example below where the Membership Directory is buried under a complex sub-navigation menu.
Here’s a simple fix. Make it easy for visitors to your site to find your members with just ONE CLICK. Place your member directory in your main navigation. Do this, but also consider other pages on your site where it makes sense to link to the member directory, such as your resource center, professional development page (members can learn from other members!) or your join page.
The key here is to think about your entire audience – members, potential members, visitors seeking information, key stakeholders – and then plan and build your web site to serve all of those audiences.
One last item in terms of impeding your members’ success – automatic directory updates! Many business associations and chambers of commerce still do not have automatic updates from their membership management software to their web site. That means when a new member is put into the member database, or a change is made to a current member’s information, that update is not automatically transfering to your web site. This results in incorrect or outdated information interfering with the referral and connection process.
Waiting even one day for membership updates to your web site or sending changes to a third party to update when they get a chance is no longer an option.
Lack of a seamless integration between your database and your web site hampers your ability to deliver referrals and drive business connections to your members.
Make it EASY for your members to find other members and gain more business value from your organization. They will thank you for it!
Pam Sefrino is the National Sales Manager for software and technology sales at WebLink International. With more than 10 years of senior level association experience, Pam, with the rest of the WebLink team, is focused on helping membership organizations to remain relevant and easily gain and use valuable member and customer "intelligence" to help streamline operations and communications and create long-lasting member value, increased retention, new member sales and non-dues revenue.