Are your digital content and experiences generating the member engagement you want? Take your digital strategy to the next level by focusing on what health association members want.
According to a 2021 membership performance benchmark report, increasing engagement edges out retention as the top goal for associations broadly. That being said, member engagement continues to be a major challenge for health associations, who are looking to better connect with new and younger members such as doctors, caregivers, or research professionals, as well as long-time members who are looking for new, relevant resources and support following the global pandemic. High-quality and targeted online content is more important than ever, and a clear, focused digital engagement strategy for all different types of 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, taking a certification course, or something else? Define engagement for your health association as it relates to each major touchpoint and interaction by imagining that you are that patient or family member, practitioner or clinician, researcher, or policymaker on the receiving end of your content.
No matter the target persona, here are the most critical elements of what your health association members want.
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, whether that is research for advocacy groups and policymakers, online learning and certifications for practitioners and clinicians, or screening and care resources for patients and families. This is where clear membership information and testimonials will play a crucial role in convincing an individual to join.
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 about how the community operates, share with them what they can expect, and where they can find the digital 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 when communicating with different member types and audiences ranging from clinicians to policymakers, and any other membership groups. 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, which will vary based on what type of member they are. This helps you create a more personalized experience for a 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 based on what type of audience they are. For example, If they are clinicians you may want to send them resources on different treatment protocols and research on new possible treatments. Try to do things that stand out at the right time and make your members feel valued. For example, an easy way to accomplish this is to send out automated birthday emails. 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 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., entry-level job seekers or caregivers, which is an opportunity to further personalize content for them.
An engaging conversation: social media
Use social media to actually engage with your members. Not only is it a valuable medium for you to connect with your audience, but it’s also an ideal platform for them to reach out to you. Through comments, shares, and reactions, your audience engages with you—so engage back. In 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 organizations out there competing in the health association space for members, it is very important to have a recognizable brand. Make sure all elements of your brand are 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. For example, you can highlight a policymaker who is actively making a difference in their community or highlight a researcher doing groundbreaking research in your particular focus area. 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 an 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.
Put yourself in your members’ shoes, give them what they want, and be sure to engage with them along the way to find even more ways to be a helpful resource and community to their work, advocacy, or journey in dealing with a specific ailment.