Blog

What Association Members Want

Elisabeth Bradley

Vice President, Strategy, Forum One

Christina Crawley

Managing Director, Marketing, Forum One

Are your digital content and experiences generating the member engagement you want in return? Take your association to the next level by focusing on what your members want and need. 

According to a 2019 membership performance benchmark report, only 34 percent of associations reported an increase in member engagement this year, down from 38 percent last year. Member engagement continues to be a major challenge for associations, especially in retaining new and younger members. High-quality and targeted online content is more important than ever, and a clear, focused digital engagement strategy for members is essential.

First, define what digital engagement looks like to your organization: is engagement opening an email, reading a blog post, attending an event, or something else? Define engagement for your association as it relates to each major touchpoint and interaction by imagining that you are a paying member on the receiving end of your content.

An intriguing pitch: new member marketing

Engagement begins long before you’ve formally brought on a new member. This is where clearly communicating your mission and value is most important. You want to give individuals a sneak peek and clear description of what membership entails and what they can expect to receive once they sign on. This is where clear membership information and testimonials will play a crucial role in convincing an individual to sign on.

A great welcome: member onboarding

You have a new member! Now it’s time to extend that first positive impression and prove your worth.  Welcome them, provide helpful instructions into how the community operates, share with them what they can expect, and where they can find the resources you’ve promised. Send a welcome email series, let them know when to expect your regular newsletter, and request to be added to their “safe sender” list. This last point is especially useful in making sure you are not getting lost in the shuffle.

Email is usually a good way to build a connection, however, doing so in a personalized way can make a real difference. This may include picking up the phone to welcome them personally, having your executive director or president send an additional welcome note or video, or assigning an account executive or volunteer to check in with them as they get started. You should also collect some initial data on your new members by inquiring about their interests and needs. This will help you create a more personalized experience for your new member right away. 

A curated experience: personalization 

Making your members feel special through an ongoing personalized digital experience can go a long way to build trust and create value. Based on your initial onboarding, provide them with more tailored content. If they really like a specific topic, send them related resources. Try to do things that stand out at the right time and feel special. For example, an easy way to brighten someone’s day is to wish them a happy birthday; you can do this by sending out automated birthday emails to show how much they are appreciated. Perhaps you can offer an additional benefit or access to a resource that is not usually within their membership band. 

Use Google Analytics and see what are your most popular content is and who is engaging with top content and resources. You may also find that you have audience segments that you hadn’t accounted for previously, e.g., young career seekers and older executives, which will provide the opportunity to further personalize your content to make them feel special.

An engaging conversation: social media

Use social media to actually engage with your members. Not only is it a valuable medium for you to reach out to your audience, but it’s also a perfect platform for them to reach you. Through comments, shares, and reactions, your audience engages with you—so engage back. In timely a timely manner, thank them for their comments, ask them questions, and engage with them as real individuals as much as you can.

An authentic voice: building trust

In a world filled with advertisements, media, and clutter, it is important to remain authentic. People can tell when your content is not sincere and notice when you are inconsistent. Create and strategize your brand and make it consistent. With a voice and an opinion, you want to project a brand that truly speaks to your audience. With so many brands and companies out there in the world, it is very important to have a recognizable brand. Make sure all elements of your brand is consistent

A sense of belonging: recognition and appreciation

Giving recognition and thanking your members shows that you care and it makes them feel appreciated. Thank new members for joining! Feature member stories on your website, on social media, and through your newsletter.  This both recognizes the featured member and connects with your other members. It shows that you value individuals (rather than the masses) and can be more engaging for others. You may reward members for long-term membership by giving them an exclusive experience to show your appreciation. You can offer other benefits or promotions as well, including referral gifts and rewards.

A helpful reminder: reengagement

You’ll always have a segment of your membership that hasn’t engaged with your site recently, hasn’t opened your newsletter, or accessed member resources. Take this as an opportunity to reach out and reengage them. Often a personal reminder does the trick; however, other more personalized options such as a phone call or offer can make a bigger difference. You may even send them a survey asking what it is they are looking for or were expecting from their membership. 

Most importantly… 

Put yourself in your members’ shoes, give them what they want, and be sure to engage with them along to way to find even more ways to be a helpful resource and community to their work.

More ideas like this directly in your inbox

To receive valuable content as well as training materials and event invitations, sign up for the Forum One newsletter today!

Written By

Elisabeth Bradley

Vice President, Strategy, Forum One

Christina Crawley

Managing Director, Marketing, Forum One