The relationship between your members and your association is a mutually beneficial one. They pay dues and provide revenue through other avenues, and your association provides value through things like continuing education, networking events, and professional opportunities.
As working professionals, no matter their field, your members are busy. Sometimes their day-to-day lives will prevent them from being able to engage with your association as much as they have in the past. And that’s normal. But there are some strategies that your association can use to engage members throughout the whole year.
The key to strong member relationships is personalization. When you’re able to provide your member with information and opportunities that are most interesting and relevant to their own life and needs, you’ll have higher engagement and satisfaction rates.
Every association is different, but there are some best practices that every professional organization can use to ensure that you’re engaging your members in as many ways as possible. We’ve broken down our favorite tactics into 5 easy steps.
– Empower your members through software.
– Communicate better.
– Offer tiers of engagement.
– Provide professional value.
– Listen to what they have to say.
If you incorporate these 5 techniques into your member engagement strategy, you’ll be able to keep interactions high and learn more about your members in the process. If you’re ready to learn more about using these tips in your own association, read on!
1. Empower your members through software.
One of the easiest ways to ensure that members stay engaged with your association is to provide them with easy and convenient ways to engage on their own time. In order to do this, you have to provide your members with membership software.
Membership software is the tool that your association will use to manage your communications, outreach, and maintain the data that you keep about your members. Take a look into how you’re managing your member relationships right now.
Does your software allow you to keep your member profiles updated easily? Does it allow you to segment by interest or location? If your software isn’t providing you with the functionality that you need, it’s time to try something new.
The key features to keep in mind when choosing a membership software are:
– Customizable member profiles. Both your association and your members should be able to personalize their member profile. You should be able to update the profiles to include new fields and questions, and your members should be able to update their profiles to reflect the most accurate position title, contact information, and interests.
– Communication tools. You should be able to reach out to your members in a variety of ways, including social media, email, direct mail, and in-software messaging. Different people respond better to different methods of communication, so make sure that you can meet all needs through your membership software.
– A searchable directory. One of the most important aspects of your association for your members is the vast collection of people they can now network and connect with. If they’re not able to reach out to peers and colleagues easily, they will turn somewhere else to fulfill their professional needs.
Your membership software has to meet the needs of both you and your members. If you’re looking for a new software solution, check out Fonteva’s comparison guide to some of the biggest names in association software.
2. Communicate better.
Now that you have software that empowers you to communicate more easily with your members, it’s time to ensure that your communication strategy is as effective as possible. The most important thing isn’t making sure that your communication efforts are received—it’s that your communication efforts are read and acted upon by their recipients.
In order to ensure that your messages are being sent to the right people, at the right time, and emphasizing the right information, use your software to make data-driven communication decisions.
Segmentation is the strategy through which you separate your whole member population into smaller, more similar groups. Creating groups linked by common interests is an easy way to create more effective communication.
Three of the best segmentation strategies for associations are:
– Communication method. When you segment your population by communication method, you ensure that your open rates will increase. Split your membership up by whether they like to be contacted by phone, by email, or by in-software messaging.
– Engagement history. Your association should be keeping track of how your members like to interact. Some members only attend educational conferences. Some have never missed a networking night. And still others like to purchase online courses and resources. When you know how people like to receive value from your association, you can more directly target them with messages about those resources.
– Location. When you know where your members are located, you can ensure that they never miss out on local or regional opportunities. Plus, you have the opportunity to create discussion/focus groups based on region in case your association has a problem that you need a solution to.
There are a thousand ways to segment your members, so don’t limit yourself to just these three options. Get creative with it, and then send each member segment specifically targeted information that you know will make them happy.
3. Offer tiers of engagement.
Members of all engagement levels will go through ebbs and flows of interaction. Some seasons are busier than others, so you may find that segments of your population are virtually absent through tax season or the summer and then pop back into action in the next quarter.
In order to allow for these natural shifts, as well as give members options to participate even when they’re short on time, consider creating some ways through which you can offer ‘tiers’ of engagement.
Instead of only offering levels of memberships that have different price points and different benefits, consider offering varying levels of engagement through the year that require different amounts of commitment.
For every national three-day conference that you hold, consider broadcasting a portion or all of it for those folks at home, or try creating an option for them to download the brochures, reports, and papers distributed at the conference.
The easiest way to engage your members when they’re short on time is online. Three of our favorite ways to encourage virtual engagement are:
– Hosting monthly or quarterly webinars on relevant topics.
– Hosting online discussion forums where members can ask for help, advice, or hear others’ thoughts on current issues.
Taking your engagement strategy online allows members who are short on either time or money to still benefit from the educational resources that your association wants to provide.
Virtual events will never overtake the popularity of in-person, live conferences and training opportunities, but they do allow you to offer engagement possibilities to more members even during the busiest times of the year.
4. Provide professional value.
We know—providing value to your members is the whole point of your association. But have you considered using software to make it even more convenient and accessible to your members, wherever they are?
Two of our favorite tools for providing real, tangible value to members are learning management systems and job board software. Let’s break each one down and discuss why they’re so important for engaging your members.
Learning Management Systems
A learning management system, or LMS, is a software solution that allows you to provide your members with access to continuing education directly though your association. Your association staff can author courses, upload them to the system, and then track member progress and scores as they complete it.
Plus, a ton of association LMS platforms come with options like white-label design and a variety of compliances. White-label design means that the software can be designed to completely match your association’s website, logo, and color scheme, so that your members don’t even have to know that they’re using a different software other than your membership software.
Compliance is especially important for continuing education in careers like medical practice, teaching, and different trades. If your LMS is ACCME-compliant, for example, the nurses and medical professionals who belong to your association can complete their certification programs through the LMS.
Other crucial features for an effective LMS are:
– Social learning options.
– Assessment authoring and automatic scoring.
– Business and usage analysis.
Your members will appreciate being able to further their career and learn more in their fields, especially without having to travel and pay for faraway conferences and courses.
The leaders in your field that belong to your association are looking to hire qualified professionals. What if your association could make that as easy as possible? Use a dedicated job board software to encourage recruiters to post positions via your association management system.
With software designed for both job posters and job hunters, you know that the leaders in your field will be able to find the people they’re looking for and that prospective applicants will be able to find one that fits their experience and skills.
Make sure that your job board software is equipped for:
– Both desktop and mobile use.
– Appearance customization.
– Filtering by level, location, and more.
A job board is one of the most valuable things that you can offer your members, so make sure that it’s in tip-top shape in order to drive engagement and non-dues revenue for your association all year long.
5. Listen to what they have to say.
The best way to ensure that you’re providing your members with positive engagement opportunities and interesting content is to ask them! Getting feedback from your members about your association’s efforts is the easiest way to find out if your efforts are succeeding or not.
Asking for feedback has two benefits in one. First, your association learns from those experiencing it how your events are going, how your LMS works, etc. Second, your members feel happy and involved that your association cares enough about their opinion to ask.
Consider sending a brief survey to your members when they:
– Renew their membership.
– Attend an in-person event.
– Come up on an anniversary, like a year, five years, or more with your association.
– Complete a course on your LMS.
– Are offered a job that they found on your job board.
By reaching out when they’re already thinking about your association, you’re more likely to get your members’ honest opinions on the experience.
It can be hard to get enough people to fill out your surveys, so consider incentivizing them with swag from your conferences or discounted tickets to a panel. If you go with the t-shirt route, check out these t-shirt templates from Bonfire to ensure that your members end up with gear they’ll love wearing: free advertising for your association!
Take what they say into account when you plan upcoming events or courses, and they’ll appreciate the improvements. Who knows? You might even convince a member who was going to let their membership drop to renew.
Member engagement is one of the most important metrics for an association to measure. To ensure that you’re keeping engagement as high as possible all year long, include these 5 easy tips in your member engagement strategy.
This post is a guest blog from Jake Fabbri from Fonteva. Jake Fabbri is the Vice President of Marketing at Fonteva with over 18 years of experience working in marketing management. He has experience with lead generation, content marketing, marketing automation, and events.