Congratulations! You’ve successfully built your association’s member base.
For lots of associations, this is the most difficult part; with the many distractions of everyday life, getting others to notice your platform is a challenging task that requires constant planning, marketing, and analytics.
Now that you’ve got the member base, you have a delightful, yet daunting new task:
Keeping those members engaged.
You want them to interact with your content, events and platforms frequently. You want them to decide your association offers a service they can’t pass up, so they renew their membership year after year.
But how can you make that happen?
First things first, it’s important to know what member engagement actually looks like. Simply put, the interaction between associations and members shouldn’t be one-sided. If you’re constantly sending emails, invitations, and requests to your member base but hearing nothing back, then you need to boost engagement.
You want them to like and comment on your social media posts, offer feedback, go to fundraisers, attend annual conferences and tune in to your virtual events. What’s the magic ingredient that makes members do these things?
The answer is simple – value.
Remember, this is a two-way transaction. Your members have joined your association, and in return, they want to receive something they deem valuable, usually in the form of content. This could be anything from career guidance, continuing education, access to industry expertise, or better yet, a combination of all of these things.
Whatever it may be, your members aren’t going to interact with you unless there is some sort of payoff for them.
What kind of payoff, exactly? Here are a few ideas.
Some associations put out regular audiovisual and written content.
One of Association TV’s clients, the Material Handling Institute, releases 24 short videos a year as part of their series, MHI View. They cater to their members by regularly giving them educational, career-building video content that they can put to practical use in their daily lives.
MHI also releases a podcast called MHIcast, and a newsletter.
A benefits program allows for access to a community of like-minded individuals with whom your members can connect and network.
Usually, there is an incentive to become a member, such as exclusive access to certain perks. For example, some associations offer members-only job boards, VIP access at events, sales discounts, directories of other members and learning opportunities, such as courses or certifications.
Although implementing a benefits program is an investment, it’s a step you can take to ensure you’re seeing renewed memberships year after year.
We’ve all heard of annual conferences, but you should give your members something more to look forward to.
Some associations hold trade shows once or twice a year; others have galas, seminars, retreats and even appreciation events. If your association has not considered revamping its event roster, it’s always a good time to start.
This, too, is an investment, but between ticket sales and renewed interest from members, in-person events are your chance to leave a lasting impression and generate non-dues revenue.
Face-to-face interaction goes a long way, especially when compared to more traditional forms of advertising, like e-blasts and newsletters.
Virtual events are ideal when in-person gatherings aren’t possible. They’re also the more accessible option that allows your members to network, learn and enjoy themselves from the comfort of their own homes.
In our current COVID-19 era, virtual events are the way to go. Especially when there are so many ways to make these events more attention-grabbing and engaging.
For advice on your virtual event, see our blog post entitled ‘Create value before, during and after your virtual event.’
There are many subtle ways to make your members feel valued, and one of them is by curating content for them.
This doesn’t mean you have to write each member their own newsletter, but email blasts can be addressed to specific names instead of using a universal greeting. Occasionally, you could even connect members to content they’ve shown prior interest in.
This also means you should make a conscious effort to investigate the interests of your members.
Though they’re likely joined by at least one common interest, questionnaires or feedback forms are an effective method of finding out a breadth of touchpoints where you can meet your members. This is a great opportunity for you to curate your communications based on which seminars, events or resources your members hold a stake in.
Not only are you reaching them at a point that already holds their interest, but now you’re showing your members that you value them individually, and you’re thankful for their continued involvement with your association.
You want them to feel like more than just a name on a list. These are the sorts of small details that make people more likely to renew a membership.
Put simply: ask them what they want, what’s working and what’s not.
Gather as much feedback as you can, look for trends, and then take action. Follow-through is extremely important here. Your members don’t want to feel like they’re shouting their needs into a void. If they see that you’re implementing the changes they’ve suggested, they will know you’re listening, and they’ll feel like you’re all on the same team.
Member satisfaction surveys can help you better understand whether or not your members are happy with the services they receive from your association. Other strong indicators include your membership renewal rates and new member sign-ups.
Making an effort to compile this data goes a long way in giving you a snapshot of how your members generally feel, and it can also alert you to specific members who want to see big changes.
Analytics, analytics, analytics.
Analytics help you decipher whether your communications are translating into action from your member base.
Upgrade your web and social media platforms so you can keep track of how many people see each of your posts versus how many people interact with them. Then, keep track of whether these engagements are actually leading to your members taking real action; for example, signing up for an event you’ve organized.
If it turns out that your members are not taking direct action as a result of your online communications, you’ll know it’s time to adjust your strategy.
Something as simple as asking your member base why they’re not connecting with your content is a great place to start. Maybe it’s time to begin sharing your messaging through a new platform.
For example, your member base might find video content more digestible than written.
Whatever the circumstance may be, making an effort to curate your content to your audience’s preferences is the difference between sounding like an annoying ad, or a valuable service.
Now that you're equipped with the tools you need to boost your member engagement, go forth and put them to good use!
Or contact us to see how we can work together to build you a sustainable (and totally awesome) strategy to grow your association.