Why is nobody applying to my program?
If you tuned into our live webinar last week on the reasons behind low application numbers for your programs and what you could be doing to bring those numbers up, you’d know that there’s more to the story than just needing to spread further awareness. David and Alexis, co-hosts of last week’s webinar, discussed some reasons behind why your application numbers may be dwindling, and what some easy tips & tricks exist to boost entries and take your program to the next level.
Introducing the Hosts…
One of last week’s hosts, Alexis, is a Client Relations Manager at OpenWater and has a deep background and knowledge in marketing, especially in the Associations Industry. Having worked with a lot of clients who were frustrated with the same issue, she had a wealth of knowledge to share about some tips & tricks to really raise the numbers on the metrics that people care about. David, Associate Brand Manager at OpenWater, joined her in facilitating the conversation on his experiences working with clients to bring their programs to the next level. Here are the three biggest reasons why organizations that receive a lower number applications experience those growing pains that often outlast the initial stages of the program – if not dealt with the right way.
1) Marketing Woes.
“How you spread news about your program will determine how many people get in the front door and start a submission,” says Alexis. “You want to tailor your communication to be as specific as possible to the people you communicate with.”
Looking at this from the other way, this means that a low application number is often associated with an issue of targeting or communication.
2) Low Member Engagement
Have you heard of the hockey stick effect? It’s when there’s a sharp rise in data points after a long period of dormancy – like the way a hockey stick looks. We see the hockey stick effect all the time here at OpenWater, especially in the way application numbers tend to shoot up just before the deadline.
Clearly, one of the biggest issues why people are late to apply or apply close to the deadline is procrastination.
A good solution takes to the heart of the issue – which is that people often need a nudge to get things done.
“Having been on the association end of these problems, a personal touch is important. At one point for one of the associations I worked for, we hired temps and had them call our members to ask them if they knew about the awards and if they had any desire to enter.”
Aside from the nudge from a personal phone call, another solid option would be to offer a good early bird special, maybe included as part of a special event benefit – an incentive to get them to beat everybody to the curve.
3) Trouble getting to the finish line
Sometimes, the simplest answer is the best one. For whatever reason, the reason nobody is applying to your program is because they’re not actually hitting submit and having a complete entry. If you have a lot of incomplete entries, there’s probably a reason why (with a software program like OpenWater, you can in fact track how many people start an application vs. how many people finish). If your applicants are having trouble getting to the finish line, that’s a problem that can be easily identified and rectified.
This is where OpenWater starts making things really easy. Using OpenWater, you can easily schedule email reminders for anyone who might have an incomplete submission, review your submission form to make sure it’s not too complicated, and allow submitters to save their work and come back later.
Why do we want more applications?
More applications mean more than just more funding for the association. It also means a lot for your organization’s prestige – the more people know and enter your program, the more you can be viewed as being the top of the field. It also is a form of quality assurance – the more entries you get, the more likely you are to have applications from individuals at the top of their industries.
The last thing David and Alexis has to say is not to shy away from talking to applicants to see how you can improve the perspective from their process. “Focus groups are a great way to improve your program year upon year. Reaching out to your members and program applicants to hear their thoughts about the application process can help to make sure next year’s is even better.”
Interested in staying up to date on how to optimize your association and program management process? Don’t miss another Webinar – register for our upcoming ones here.