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Members are the backbone of every association; even if you’re focused on innovation and alternate revenue streams, attracting and retaining members is a constant fixture in the back of your mind. We know this is one of the critical things that keeps our association clients up at night.
Delving into your members’ minds through surveys and other user research methods notwithstanding, how do you know what an increasingly diverse groups wants from you? Fortunately, we, and others in the industry, have done the work for you. According to higherlogic.com, “23% of association members cite a lack of value [from their association].” A larger percentage – 55% – says they “don’t feel a connection to their professional membership organization” (Community Brands Membership Loyalty Study).
This goes to show that almost a quarter of them don’t believe they are getting what they need from you and over half don’t feel that strong connection to the organization that is crucial for long term endurability of their membership. The figure below shows the percentage of current association members who found each of the top benefits for member retention “very important.” Note that a lot of this is probably things you’re already doing or offering – your members just may not be aware or it isn’t delivered in a way that works for them.
Enter innovation. According to the 2019 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report, 81% of associations with positive growth in membership over the past year (and past 5 years) are significantly more likely to indicate that their organization has a culture that supports innovation. Those who report that their value proposition is very compelling or compelling were also the same ones who experienced membership growth. Thus, innovation and value are at the heart of attracting and retaining members!
Here are some of the ways associations are successfully innovating and providing value to members:
There is a positive correlation between adopting a new membership model (that responds to member needs and market trends) with membership growth and retention. The image below shows the percentage of membership models adopted by surveyed associations – notice that some are as simple as adding another category, e.g. student or retiree or even offering electronic access only. Allowing your members flexibility in how they consume your content and interact with the association is a key way you can be both innovative and value-added.
Members are looking for information – are you providing the latest industry news/updates? Put information out before they even have to look for it, maybe through a weekly newsletter with content most relevant to them. In other words, members want you to make the first move, to engage with them without hesitation. Also, there are often large numbers of potential new members out there who don’t know about you or what you offer; 68% of surveyed associations said Facebook paid advertising has been the most effective tool for finding new members. An example of an association doing this well is SNAME, using Facebook to advertise upcoming events.
Associations winning in the support area are available in some way to members 24/7. It’s as simple as a chat bot on your website (ASAEis a perfect example of this), a direct line to call, or someone to chat with on social media. Members get regular emails and can easily find what they need on the website or connect with colleagues in an association-hosted online community. Check your website data to be sure they are not getting 404 messages and keep the lines of communication as open as possible. There is value in supporting and building a relationship with members of your association because they are the future of it. Additionally, this type of interaction with your members can provide incredible data and insights into their needs and unfulfilled wishes.
The Easy Button
“Easy Peezy, Lemon Squeezy” – Members want easy…here…now…no questions needed. Have someone from the outside re-evaluate your website – is your navigation easy to understand? Do you have detailed subheads making it easy for members to jump to the content they need? Ensure your membership join and renewal process is streamlined, as well as event registration and purchasing. Evaluate these processes to ensure you’re not overcomplicating these crucial touchpoints. With a neutral set of eyes, pick apart what makes sense and what doesn’t.
Show your members they have value. Focus on leveraging the emotional bond by focusing on solving their problems. Consistently make the member journey personalized and relevant. Members just want to see value, feel valued, and feel connected within your organization. And perhaps most importantly, constantly put the word out about all the value you offer, again and again, and consistently. There is no value in something members don’t even know exists.
Continuously test and re-test efforts, not just to get a better idea of your ROI, but to know what’s working and what isn’t, with which audiences, and under which conditions. It’s not just the data that helps but getting in the habit of continually setting up everything you do to make data-based decisions. Designing a campaign, setting a goal, deciding on some measures of success, setting up a measurement and evaluation process, launching the campaign, gathering and analyzing real-time data, feeding data back into the iterative process and making changes, closing the campaign, assessing results, communicating results to all, and incorporating those lessons learned into the next campaign. The process alone derives from an organizational culture that values innovation and the results from the process drive positive change. Two examples of associations implementing this process include NGA and AASLD.
Continuously listening and learning from your members is essential. Take into account what value members are expecting when they join. Communicate effectively where/when/how they can get what they want. Lastly, make everything they want/need easily accessible.
Keep your members engaged by being engaged with them.
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