How to Build a Funnel to Drive Member Applications

Whats a Funnel?

‘The Funnel’ is an idea borrowed from Sales and Marketing. Generally called ‘The Sales Funnel’, it’s a conceptual model proven to drive the sale of products and services. Easily adapted to the needs of member-driven organizations, understanding how to create funnels offers tremendous potential to drive applications and renewals, but also any other action you’d like members to take!

Even better, building yours isn’t difficult, and provides a powerful lens through which you can understand and respond to the behaviour of members and non-members alike.

How Does it Work?

Funneling works by breaking down the path that people take to complete a given action into stages. It helps us understand not only what brings people to do what we’d like, but also what stops them! With that understanding, we’re able to focus our energy on creating and improving the things that work for us, and removing the things that don’t.

For this article, we’re going to focus on building a funnel to help drive applications. It’s important to know, however, that the ideas you’re about to lean can be applied to any behaviour you’d like people to perform. Building funnels for event registrations, fundraising donations, course completions, etc.

No matter the action you want people to take, building a funnel will help you understand how they do it, and how to help more of them do it.

Here’s how to do it for Member Applications:

Building Your Funnel:

From the moment they became aware of you until they finally became a member, every one of your members performed a distinct series of actions that brought them to application with your organization. These actions create a path that we call the ‘Member Journey’.

Each member is likely going to have a different path, but after examining enough of them, you’ll notice distinct patterns that will allow you to build your funnel.

But before we start building, it’s important that we build the strongest foundation possible with step 1:

1. Define Your Desired Action: Application.

What is a Successful Application, really?

The first, and arguably most important, step to this building an effective Funnel is figuring out exactly what action we want people to take.

We want to avoid saying something general like ‘we want people to apply for membership’. To avoid problems later on, we want to be precise and define exactly what action constitutes a successful application:

For applications, it might be the submission of an application form, the completion of a payment, or a member’s approval.

For something renewals, it’s likely the completion of a renewal fee, and might also include certain engagement standards like course completions, digital engagement, and so on.

So, instead of ‘I want more members’ or ‘I want more renewals’, your goals might look like:

– I want more people to fill out the application form on our website.
– I want more people to successfully pay their renewal dues.

With your goal stated in terms like this, you’ve got a firm understanding of the action that you want people to take, and a strong foundation to build your funnel.

2. The Engagement Phase: What Led Members to Apply?

In step 1, we could identify a single action that every applicant takes to successfully apply. As we trace the Members Journey backwards, we’ll find that things become more complex!

Obviously, not all members are going to have been doing the same thing before they applied. Perhaps some were talking to a membership manager. Others might have applied after one of your events. Others more were on your website, learning more about what you offer.

As you consider this stage of your Members Journey (to application, in this case), you’ll find that there’s a pretty wide range of specific actions that each member might take, and that they frequently perform them in combination.

Though how they did it was different, you might find that what your members were doing was the same. Some were at events, others on your website, some were emailing you, etc – but they were all engaging with your organization. Their specific actions were different, but their general behaviour is the same.

Take a minute to list of some of the most prominent ‘engagement’ actions you can think of that a member might perform before an application. These will form the ‘engagement’ stage of your funnel.

3. The Consideration Phase: What Led Members to Engage?

In step 2, we wanted to know what led members to complete their application, and we saw that they were compelled to do so after engaging with your organization in a range of specific ways.

In this step, we want to know what led a member to engage with your organization. The process for figuring it out is essentially the same. We ask:

What were prospective members doing before they engaged?

You’ll likely find that your members were in the process of considering a range of different ways that they could access the value that your organization offers. Maybe they were learning about member-based organizations you compete with, or evaluating alternative ways they could get the same value.

For example, those who sign up for gym memberships have likely investigated your gym, other gyms, as well as non-gym fitness options, before ever engaging with yours. What made them stop considering, and start engaging?

As we did before, its not difficult to make a long list of all the different ways this can happen. They can seek out information about you online, ask friends and colleagues about their experience with you, seek out reviews and testimonials, consume content you produce, etc.

You might notice that there are significantly more ways that a person can evaluate your organization than to engage with it. Because of this, we consider the consideration phase to be ‘wider’ than engagement. Placing this stage on top of engagement, you’ll begin to notice a distinct funnel-shape taking form!

4. The Awareness Phase: What Made Members Consider You?

Lets build the top level of our funnel by asking:

What caused members to consider your organization?

Maybe it was a recommendation from a friend or colleague. Maybe they came across an ad. It could have been as simple as a Google search.

Try as you might to think of them all, there is likely no end to the possible ways that a member could have become aware of you. It’s certainly useful to make a list, especially of the more common ways, but don’t think you’ll be able to cover them all!

What’s important to recognize is that regardless of how it happened, some way or another, they were made aware of your organization.

Like we saw before, there are generally going to be a lot more people who are aware of your organization than actively considering it. Consider what drove a member to take the step to active consideration, and brainstorm what you can be doing to make more of them do so.

Getting Value From Funnels

By sketching out individual Member Journey’s, and assembling them together, you’ll find distinct patterns. In this example, we’ve used the case of a Member Journey to application, and seen that though the specific paths differ from member-to-member, general patterns emerge that can help you understand how your members became aware of you, considered your organization, engaged with it, and ultimately became a part of it.

With this understanding in place, we can then turn our attention to figuring out how to get more members through our funnel, faster.

To learn how, be sure to check the Member365 blog next week! We’ll outline a few strategies you can use to prevent prospective members from leaving your funnel, and provide helpful tips to shorten your Member Journey’s to application, renewal, or any other action you’d like them to complete!