How to Attract New Members with a Visitor’s Center

pexels-photo-128299-Welcome_SmallWhile every association we work with is unique in one way or another, they all share a common goal: to attract new members.  As a result, we often help our clients develop new member recruitment strategies and tactics. And we consistently recommend that they develop some form of a Visitor’s Center for their website.  Since so many of us have been conditioned over the years to never buy a product or service until we’ve had the opportunity to try it out, we need to recognize that this same mentality holds true for association membership as well.  Prospective members want to get a tangible sense of what the experience of being a member is like before they will commit to the annual membership fee.  So the purpose of a Visitor’s Center is to give prospective members a real sense of the member benefits that are served up within the members only area of an association’s website.

Last fall, we helped migrate a trade association onto the Higher Logic platform with a new website and members-only area.  Since they were new to Higher Logic, they didn’t have a lot of member-generated resources to showcase after launching their new sites. However, they did have a very specific goal – to attract small company members (they offer an organization-based membership).  To that end, they had developed several information-based tools (one of which is 250 pages in length) that would be specifically beneficial to smaller organizations that didn’t have the time or resources to develop their own.  They decided they would give these tools away in return for identifying organizations that would be ripe for membership.  We helped them build a simple Visitor Center to facilitate this offer.

On their new Higher Logic-powered website, we added a prominent link on the main navigation that said Featured Tools.  We then built a Featured Tools page – on the left side of the page were pictures and descriptions of the three tools that the association had developed.  On the right side of the page was a simple form (powered by Wufoo – our preferred third-party online form provider) that asked those who were interested in downloading the tools to provide their name, title, email, company, whether they wanted to receive more information regarding membership and how they had heard about the association.   We then created a hidden folder that contained the identical description of the tools, but also included [Download] buttons next to each tool.  The folder was hidden so that it would not be accessible via a search on the site or a general internet site (i.e. hidden folders and their content don’t get indexed within HL – an important thing to know).  Once an interested party fills out the form, they are redirected to the hidden page/folder where they can access the tools.  They get a “taste” of what the organization is all about in the form of the content it produces for its members, while the association gets a lead on a potential new member.

In less than three months, more than 200 individuals have downloaded the tools. And the association has picked up 3 new small organization members as a result (which since they only have 75 total members) is a respectable number to date.

Recently, we built another Visitor Center’s for an association that was also looking to attract new members. They, however, had a variety of different types of content and member benefits that they wanted to showcase to prospective members.  This association is a professional society with approximately 750 members who has been using the Higher Logic platform to power their website and their members-only community for several years.  While not a large organization, their members are very active in sharing their expertise and developing resources that are valuable to all members.  As a result, their Visitor’s Center looks a little different than our first example.

Again, we started the process by creating a hidden folder using the Higher Logic content management system and then added a new page to house our Visitor Center content.  We then went about researching and collecting content that would be of value to a prospective member and demonstrate the benefits of membership.

We first used Higher Logic’s activity reports to identify the member-shared resources that had been download the most over the previous year.

We then visited the association’s online store to understand what content they sell and reviewed transaction history to see what content sold the most. We discovered that the association produces an annual compensation survey that is very popular.  We asked the association if we could feature a two-year old compensation survey that they were no longer selling but would still be attractive to a prospective member.

Next, we collected four issues of the association’s quarterly magazine but issues that were two years old. We then Identified one of the most popular webinar presentations from the previous year.

Finally, we collected images of the association’s annual award winners from the previous year’s conference and built a carousel with the images and quotes from the winners on the impact of the awards and their positive feelings toward the association.

After assembling all of this valuable content, we built an attractive page that grouped all this content into different association program areas, and also included a discussion control widget that pulled current discussions onto the page.

Then, like our first example, we built a publicly available page that outlined all the cool things available on the Visitor’s Center and then included another one of our Wufoo-powered online forms.  Once the prospective member fills out the form, they are redirected to the hidden folder that holds the content-packed Visitor’s Center.  They also receive an email confirmation of their interest in the association, a link to the Visitor’s Center and some additional descriptions of member benefits and an invitation to join.

This new Visitor’s Center just launched in recent weeks, so it is too early to judge the ultimate success of this approach, but the association is very excited about their ability to showcase the benefits of membership in such a low cost, high impact manner.

Plugins To Freshen Up Your Website and Community Sites

SF 2017 Plugins PresentationTCAG President Brett Wangman joined with Justin Prevatte to present “Plugins To Freshen Up Your Website and Community Sites” as a one hour breakout session at Higher Logic’s 8th Annual Super Forum (October 2017).

Session Details:Sometimes you need a little something extra on your site. Come along with HUG MVPs Justin Prevatte and Brett Wangman on a guided tour of third-party plugins that add functionality and style to your Higher Logic sites and communities. We’ll focus on tools you can use on your sites today. From custom slideshows to responsive video overlays to site-wide notifications, we’ve got you covered.

In case you weren’t able to attend this session at the Super Forum, please click below to download the presentation:
Plugins To Freshen Up Your Website and Community Sites

Get Unstuck! Uncommon Solutions to Common Website and Community Site Challenges

Uncommon Solutions to Common Website and Community Site Challenges - First SlideTCAG President Brett Wangman joined with Justin Prevatte to present “Get Unstuck! Uncommon Solutions to Common Website and Community Site Challenges” as a one hour breakout session at Higher Logic’s 7th Annual Super Forum (November 2016).

Session Details:

We provided real-world examples of how to use Higher Logic web controls, built-in bootstrap features, and plug-n-play CSS to extend your website functionality, including:

– HL-driven news/content feeds
– Leveraging responsive images
– Swapping images and sliders for different devices
– Using blogs as a multipurpose content type
– Third-party form builders
– Using security groups to personalize home pages
– Syndicating content control across multiple sites

In case you weren’t able to attend this session at the Super Forum, please click below to download the presentation.

Uncommon Solutions to Common Website and Community Site Challenges – Justin Prevatte and Brett Wangman

Eating our own (responsive) dog food

There is an old saying you hear when you work for a software company for awhile… “We should eat your own dog food”.  In other words, if you are expecting other folks to pay to use the software or website you are building, the best way to ensure you give those folks a quality product or service, is to use the software or website yourself.

Since we, TCAG, are seeing a real spike in demand from associations wanting to upgrade their association website to have a responsive design, we thought it would be a good idea for us to upgrade our own website with a responsive design.  So, what you are seeing now is the result of that effort.

Here are a few things we learned from the experience.

1) Responsive or not, building an interesting website is kinda hard.

Because at the end of the day, you have to have something compelling to say.  Sometimes, after a long day of working on client projects and deadlines, it is a little hard to ‘be interesting’.  So for this first version of the site, we are happy with the content, but you can expect a lot of tinkering and word-smithing in the weeks to come.

Customizr Showcase

We were able to see a wide variety of sites using the theme we liked before we decided to us it.

2) Don’t create a responsive design from scratch.
Jump start your project by finding an existing, bootstrap-enabled responsive theme.  Then customize that theme to produce your final website.  That is what we wound up doing for this site.  First we created a WordPress site on Bluehost.  Then we looked at a lot of free and/or low cost responsive themes for WordPress. We stumbled upon Customizr. It was already Twitter Bootstrap-enabled (preferably Bootstrap 3.0) and it had a large gallery of existing sites using the theme which made it very easy to see what was possible (and what to avoid). A couple clicks and the theme was installed on our WordPress site. Then the real work began. Tweaking the color scheme. Tweaking some of the CSS. Finding compelling images. Rethinking how to organize our content. And rewriting a lot of the content.

3) Don’t underestimate the complexity of rolling out a responsive design.

If you thought it was hard enough to make a good looking site for someone looking at it on a large computer monitor, get ready for the schizophrenia that comes with trying to make the same design look good across all devices.  While starting with a responsive theme will help a lot, there is still a fair amount of fine

TCAG Websites Responsive Design

Here is how the new TCAG website looks on different devices.

tuning to make any site look good across all device interfaces.  Don’t say you weren’t warned!

While we still have work to do before we are truly satisfied with our new site, I have to say that it has been a fantastic learning experience.  We look forward to applying our new found understanding into a high quality service we can provide our association clients.



Brett Wangman Recognized for Contributions to Higher Logic

Brett Receiving MVC Award at Super Forum 13At the Higher Logic Super Forum (December 2013), TCAG President, Brett Wangman receives a Most Valuable Contributor (MVC) Award for his sharing of expertise on HUG, the Higher Logic User Group.

This is the fourth consecutive year that Brett has been recognized for his contributions and expertise sharing.  Andy Steggles, Higher Logic President & Chief Customer Officer, presents Brett with his award.

And shortly after receiving his award, Brett went back to his hotel room and shaved off the moustache.  Movember was officially over.