The key to recruitment, retention and revenue is engagement. As associations and association partners, we spend a lot of time and energy focused on engagement. What will keep members around? How do we entice a new member to join? What do they want? Engagement is as the core of this discussion and if you are not doing it well, you are at risk. Here we will discuss how engagement opportunities change through the member journey and what you can do to maximize it.
To be clear about engagement, I am not talking about the ‘down on one-knee proposal with a sizeable diamond’. I am referring to attention, involvement and participation. Much like a proposal, associations need to motivate a person to join, to say “YES!” The person will need to like you, be willing to commit themselves to you and show that commitment financially. Questions asked at this stage include: What do you have in common? Are your core values the same? Can you imagine a future together? Similar to marriage proposals, associations need to answer these questions confidently for their audiences. Demonstrating a strong value proposition, goals and big picture vision will inspire potential members to want to be involved. Like-seeks-like – what this means is that people want to understand what you stand for and see if it resonates with who they are, or who they inspire to be. Being able to find this info easily (and for free) they will be more apt to get involved. ‘Association’ by definition is a group of people organized for a joint purpose. Be clear on what that purpose is and inspire people to engage.
After saying “yes,” your new member will be excited, but sometimes experiences cold feet. You’ll need to get them to the alter to celebrate their commitment with family and friends – or in this case, experts and other members. The big chapter event, annual conference, or convention is your opportunity to showcase what you stand for and demonstrate the value of your organization to drive engagement and truly capture their attention. According to The Experience Institute, the top drivers to attend an event are Education (92%), Destination (78%) and Networking (76%). Associations often deliver their best content at events that said, less than 15% of members typically attend. Looking for creative ways to bring this experience and your best educational content to non-attending members will drastically increase their engagement. Consider recording or livestreaming an event to share it with those that can’t attend in person.
The Honeymoon Phase
It’s all excitement and inspiration after that; they sign-up for a sub-group, subscribe to the newsletter and advocate for you through their channels. Everything is new and members are willing to go the extra mile to search for content they want, provide feedback, interact with other members and explore the content on your website, but this doesn’t last long…
The First Year
A strong relationship goes two ways. What keeps members most engaged is different by generation: Mature members look for info and updates, Boomers want info and professional development, and Gen Xers and Millennials engage most with professional development and networking. If you don’t deliver on this value throughout the year, they may lose interest. Or even worse, sharing things they don’t care about, items they have told you they don’t want, or not delivering the things that they have asked you for - their level of engagement will suffer. Receiving good feedback from your members and implementing preference-based changes throughout the year is one way to ensure each member is getting what they want. In the age of information overload, people have developed great filters for what they give their attention to and what they ignore. Why not make it easy for your members? Ask them, and then share information that you know they will care about. (Learn about how to understand their needs through content marketing and feedback automation our webinar 3 Lessons Associations Can Take from Social Media and Drip Marketing.)
Building a Lasting Relationship
A marriage is expected to be a life-long union; a commitment of two people forever. You are choosing in different ways, to stay together every-day, there is no simple subscribe or unsubscribe button. However, with an association commitment you are asking them to say “Yes,” on a regular basis through, attention, group involvement, event attendance and especially renewal of membership. Each year your audience has the option to leave, no strings attached or messy lawyer debates. They could just choose not to come back, as simple as that. Many of the reasons that members leave such as, it’s too costly (32%), little value (19%), forgot to renew (16%), can get the same benefits elsewhere (13%), and decline in benefits (12%), all tie back to the importance of engagement. If you wait until the renewal date to pitch for their involvement, it’s too late. Using specific engagement tactics, extending your best content, catering to individual needs and showcasing value throughout the year is the only way to guarantee the best chance they stick around.