Keeping Members Happy: 4 Quintessential Rules for All Associations

Taking care of your members should always be at the top of your association’s to-do list. But how can you make sure you’re doing the best job possible?

Whether your association is small-staffed or international, keeping your members happy will always be what helps determine the success of your organization. At the end of the day, the interactions and engagement you have with your members – those who pay dues to keep your association running – should be considered high priority.

In order to make sure your members stay happy and actively engaged with your association, it’s important to keep yourself accountable for the effort you put into servicing members. And luckily for you, there are key steps you can take to make sure you’re doing the most to make members feel valued, appreciated, and at home.

Let’s take a look at four quintessential rules your association should follow when servicing members and making sure they’re satisfied with their membership. With these rules in place, you’ll have a solid foundation for the ultimate success in member satisfaction.

Rule #1: Personal communication is a must.

When managing a large group of members, you may feel like reaching out to each one individually is a hassle. And while this may seem time consuming, it can actually make or break the way your members feel about your association.

At the end of the day, members want to feel like they can have genuine interactions with a real human being who understands their struggles and needs. If you leave members with an automated email or voicemail box, it may be the last time you hear from them.

Putting effort into communicating with your members on a personal level will show them the value you place on their time and money. Getting to know them on a first name basis, recognizing their achievements and anniversaries with your association, and reaching out throughout hardships can give you that personal connection members are longing for.

For associations with large memberships, or associations scrambling to find the time, making personal connections with every member may in fact be impossible. However, with association management or customer-relationship management software, you can use tech tools to help reach members quickly while also creating that personal touch.

Making the effort to know your members on a more personal level will help ensure they feel appreciated and happy with their membership experience.

Rule #2: Provide support and training.

No matter whether a member is brand new or been with your association for many years, offering customer support and training services can help keep them in the know in terms of making the most of their member benefits.

Providing tutorials on your association’s services can cut out a lot of the frustration and questions members may have when interacting with any member interface or website program you have in place. For example, if you use a chat forum or exclusive member web page, you may want to create a guide or video on each feature members can use on this site, as well as how to navigate the space.

You should also provide guides for benefits that require online access or any extra work that may come across as confusing. Does your association host webinars? What about online workshops? If members are not sure how to access these benefits, they may give up entirely, decreasing your member engagement on benefits you work hard to provide. But with a tutorial on these services, you’ll be sure to receive the member interaction you’re looking for.

Similarly, providing constant customer support can help members get any questions or concerns they have answered in a timely manner.

Create a space for members to contact your association’s staff in case of a question, comment, or concern. Whether this is a voicemail box or email address (which is answered by a real member of your staff), there should be a way for members to have their voices heard and responded to by your association.

You can also provide emails that explain any changes that occur at your association giving members tips on how to navigate new features and what they can expect from these changes. By warning members ahead of time, you’ll mitigate any stress due to unexpected change.

Rule #3: Track and execute member complaints.

If your members are coming to your association’s staff with problems or concerns, active listening is not going to be enough to keep them satisfied.

Members want to know that the problems they’re facing with your association’s interface, member benefits, or anything of the sort are actually being addressed from within. Members don’t want your association’s staff to just apologize, they’re looking for active change and a better experience in the future.

This is where complaint tracking and execution comes into play. Your association needs to take ownership for any hardships they cause members, respond to these complaints in a timely manner, and assure members that their problems are being looked into and taken care of.

A great way to do that is to keep members in the loop when troubleshooting issues. Having a space where customers can view their complaint tickets and see if problems are being addressed is a great way to ease their minds when waiting on answers. They can also see how many complaints they’ve submitted, whether or not those complaints have been solved, and what solution your association has come to.

Rule #4: Keep a customer-first mentality

And finally, the most important rule of the bunch: Make sure your association always acts with customers in mind.

Keeping your mentality focused on the satisfaction and happiness of your members will propel you to make decisions and changes based on member needs and wants. You should consider your members in every decision you make, from switching up the software you use, to increasing your dues fees, and anything in between.

You should also be sure to give your members each their own equal share of attention and respect, as well as those interested in joining your association. Treating your potential new members like a welcome part of your community can only increase your chances of recruiting them into your association’s membership.

With your members in mind every step of the way, your association can be sure the decisions it makes are the best for those who matter most.

Keeping your members happy is a tall order to take on, but by implementing some core rules, your association can make sure members get the best treatment possible.

Author bio

This guest post was contributed by over friends at Web Scribble, a job board platform that helps associations all over the world increase member benefits, member engagement, and non-dues revenues.

3 Digital Member Acquisition Strategies to Grow Your Base

Recruiting (and retaining!) dues-paying members is not only paramount to the longevity of your association for financial reasons, but an ever-growing membership also correlates with your organization’s potential for industry-wide influence. Your members are essential to the success of your association. As such, member-based groups should be constantly seeking new avenues to discover prospective supporters with the goal of motivating them to join the association. Fortunately, recent research suggests that association membership is generally on the rise across the country. In fact, as reported in the 2018 Membership Management Report1, nearly half of the associations surveyed saw an increase in new members over the past year.

What does a national trend in growing memberships mean for your association? To put it simply, engaging in new member acquisition is an opportune and worthwhile undertaking. There are many different methods that your association can employ to search for and gain new members, both offline and online. In this blog post, we are only going to focus on key online tactics you can use to grow your base. In this digital age, online member acquisition efforts should be a cornerstone of your association’s membership growth strategy.

The internet offers countless possibilities to find and attract prospective new members. From producing web-based content to digitally involving current members, online strategies are both useful and cost-effective. This blog post discusses three digital member acquisition strategies you can employ to grow your base. These strategies are:

  1. Implement an inbound marketing strategy to attract potential members
  2. Use paid advertising to target member personas
  3. Design and activate a digital “refer-a-friend” program

While one of these strategies requires a financial commitment in line with your budget, the other two are completely free tactics that your association can use to grow its’ online presence and reach likely supporters. Building comprehensive online member acquisition strategies can take time, but the net result of attracting new members to your professional or trade association is undoubtedly worth it in the long-term. Here’s our first tip:

1. Implement an Inbound Marketing Strategy to Attract Potential Members

Inbound marketing involves the creation of purposeful content (such as blogs, social media, and search engine optimized posts) that provide educational value to your targeted audience2. Ultimately, the goal of content creation is to motivate readers to download pertinent items, generating new leads (prospective members) for your organization. Targeted content brings in interested readers who are searching for helpful information online. The best part about a solid inbound marketing strategy? After crafting and publishing high-quality content produced by the brainpower of your team, the major legwork is done! The beauty of inbound marketing is that relevant content doesn’t have an expiration date. Once helpful material is produced, your content will continue working on behalf of your association’s membership growth strategy over time. As you build up your association’s digital content library, your work is simultaneously improving your association’s online visibility and increasing the chances that your ideal prospective member will organically find the website.

Here are a few tips to producing an effective inbound marketing strategy:

  • Focus on search engine optimization3, also known as SEO. For associations, SEO will involve a variety of ways to ensure that your website and its content appear high in search rankings, so interested readers easily find your materials. The goal of SEO is to drive organic traffic to your association’s website while becoming a trustworthy source of relevant information, dare we even say an industry thought leader! A great resource for charting an SEO-driven marketing path is to check out Moz’s Open Site Explorer tool4.
  • Create industry-relevant eBooks, webinars, or guides that seek to educate your niche audience. For example, if your association includes members who work in the retail industry, publishing downloadable infographics that discuss industry trends and insights might be of interest to your ideal member. As an added bonus, educational content will also create additional value for existing members, enhancing member retention efforts.
  • Ensure your content is mobile-responsive. In this digital age, we’re always accessing information on our smartphones on-the-go. It would be unfortunate if a likely supporter found one of your association’s eBooks online, only to discover that the format was incompatible with his or her iPhone and left your website before even reading the eBook’s first sentence! Ensuring that your association’s content is mobile-ready is key to a lasting and effective inbound marketing strategy. To put it succinctly, “mobile technology is an imperative” according to Fonteva5.

2. Use Paid Advertising to Target Member Personas on Social Media

Now that your association’s team has developed an arsenal of interesting and educational content for your audience, an important step is to share it far and wide. While inbound and content marketing material will serve your association without paid advertising, promoting your material with the help of paid media can’t hurt either!

Paid advertising can help grow your base by expanding the reach of your association’s content and deliberately surfacing the materials to the right people.

The goal of this type of paid media campaign is to attract the interest of your target audience and guide them to download information from your website. A key component to conducting a successful paid advertising effort is in targeting the right personas, or detailed mock-ups of likely supporters6. It can be helpful to think of your association’s member personas as “pre-members”. Some questions to ask yourself when creating each target persona are:

  • What is this typical member’s job responsibility?
  • How old is this member? How does this member’s age impact their involvement in the association?
  • What value does the association bring to this member?
  • What is this member’s education level?
  • How does this member interact with the association’s industry?

It is okay to get detailed when developing member personas, but remember to allow room for variation as well. Both Facebook and LinkedIn allow for very specific targeting of criteria, and Twitter provides multiple options for tailored targeting.

3. Design a digital “Refer-a-Friend” program

Attracting and retaining membership is important and strategic work that requires a year-round approach. For an association, updating and iterating on a membership growth strategy is imperative. Every creative idea you have to attract new members has merit. One of the most effective member acquisition strategies is to implement a referral program! Why? Your membership is your greatest resource. Each of your members’ has his or her own personal and professional networks that likely includes individuals who would be a great match for your association. In essence, a member referral program involves requesting that your current members suggest to their own contacts that they join your association. Since we are focusing on digital tactics to grow your base in this blog post, here are a few ideas on designing and implementing a digital member referral program.

  • Design your member referral program. There are multiple ways to design a successful referral program, so focus on developing a program that fits best with your association’s current membership and marketing operations. One referral structure is simply to ask that your members send a personal, informational email to a friend or colleague about the association and CC your membership coordinator on the email. This is an easy way to track which of your members is engaging in the program and personalizes the outreach in a meaningful way. Another way to organize a member referral program requires a little more tech savviness. Work with your technology team to implement a pre-filled text box with language that can be sent to prospective members from current members with one click of a button. The easier the task, the higher the likelihood that your members will follow through on the ask.
  • Send an introductory email to your existing members. In launching a referral program, it’s important that you spread the word! While adding new website content describing the referral program is great, the first step in introducing a new practice is to send an introductory email and get your members excited.
  • Incentivize your members to refer their contacts and/or colleagues7. There’s nothing quite like a prize to motivate the masses to participate in an activity. Incentives can vary based on your association’s industry area and type of member. For example, if your association operates in the coffee industry, sending your members a branded or personalized coffee mug could inspire them to join your referral program. Of course, digital gift-cards are also coveted and easy to pass along to active members. Lastly, remember to be patient with your members!8 Hopefully, engaged members will contribute to your referral program promptly; however, it is important to remember that building a digital referral program takes time.

We hope this article has provided you with three actionable member acquisition ideas you can put into motion at your association soon. Members are the lifeblood to every association, and as such, developing and executing a membership acquisition strategy should be a top priority. Good luck!

Author bio

Cleo Dan is the Vice President of Communications at Muster, a civic technology company providing online advocacy, grassroots engagement and data analytics solutions to organizations of all types.



The Association LMS: 5 Reasons Why Your Organization Needs One

There are a variety of reasons that people join associations. These reasons include networking, leadership development, and oftentimes professional development – all translating to your members looking for opportunities to grow.

When it comes to networking, face-to-face events still take the lead. These face-to-face networking events can also combine leadership development and educational programming. However, in today’s world we also want to be able to connect with people outside of a scheduled networking event. We want to be able to learn outside of a face-to-face conference. We want to be able to do these things whenever we want, from wherever we want.

As the world continues to deliver us so many things right when we want them, the demand for the ability to learn online continues to grow. Your members are experiencing this in both their personal and professional lives, and have come to expect the same from their association.

How can you easily deliver content to members online? An LMS! An LMS is a Learning Management System. If your association is not already delivering educational content online through an LMS platform, you are already falling behind in the digital transformation. If you’re still not convinced, we’ve outlined some of the top benefits of having an LMS:

1. Accessibility

First, there is the practice of accessibility to make your LMS usable by as many people as possible – traditionally thought of as people with disabilities but also benefiting other groups – such as those on mobile devices, or with slow internet connections. When you are going through your LMS selection process, it’s important that you make sure your LMS is ‘accessible’ by these definitions.

Second,  make your educational content accessible. While face-to-face conferences or events will probably never disappear, they include travel costs and time away from work and family. With an LMS, you’re delivering on-demand content from these in-person events, webinars, and from original content created through authoring tools such as Articulate and Captivate. You can also utilize the LMS to live stream webcasts from those in-person events or professional studios!

By delivering all of this content on-demand, you are enabling your members to grow, to receive required continuing education credits and further engage with their association, whenever it is most convenient for them, from the comfort of their home, office, or anywhere else in the world. And by delivering your learning content in a variety of ways, you give the learner ability to not also choose when they want to engage, but how. By giving them choices, this gives the content longer lets for wider access ability for members. This also allows you to expand your reach outside of those members who are willing and able to attend your in-person events.

2. Cost Savings

Yes, an LMS costs money. However, it helps significantly save costs associated with traditional training and education. For example, you may be hosting the same meeting multiple times in different cities – this translates into venue costs, food and beverage, travel, and time!

Alternatively, you could hold the entire meeting online via a webinar, or live stream a webcast from one location. This also allows your members who cannot afford (whether it be time or money) to travel to these in-person meetings the ability to attend online or take an on-demand course after the fact – allowing them to continue their education and engagement while saving money and time.

3. Non-Dues Revenue

In addition to creating opportunities for your organization (and your members) to save some money, an LMS should provide you the opportunity to also generate more non-dues revenue. Your LMS should have eCommerce capabilities as well the ability to integrate with the eCommerce functionality within your AMS or CRM, if you’d like all of the purchasing to happen in one place.

Within these eCommerce tools, you should have the flexibility to offer different pricing scenarios – such as member vs. non-member, attendee vs. non-attendee. Features such as product bundles and coupon codes can also allow you to market content in different ways and continue increasing sales. It is important to remember that eLearning is not bound by the same constraints as in-person events and to use these new opportunities to multiply your revenue potential.

4. Learning Assessment and Education Management

Again, LMS stands for Learning Management System. Whether that learning is required continuing education, optional certificate programs, or watching on-demand webinars and conference sessions here and there for some just-in-time training about specific topics, it can all take place on the LMS.

Part of the accessibility of courses and education via an LMS also means easy access to tests and assessments, instructor-led virtual learning, automatic certificate generation and credit management. Whether your learners are receiving automated rationale on tests to manual feedback from instructors to providing their feedback to associations through surveys, your learners will continuously be assessing their online education.

In addition to learning assessment, the LMS can also serve as the repository for all of the learner’s awarded certificates and continuing education credits. You can also have this information written back to your Association Management System (AMS) with the appropriate level of integration, or to a community platform, allowing your learners to show off achievements to their peers.

5. Data & Analytics

At this point, it’s clear that an LMS can expand your organization’s reach, potentially help you cut down on some face-to-face costs, and generate additional non-dues revenue. Once you create the content, organize your courses, and have learners visiting your LMS; you receive more than just additional revenue and engagement – you now have data!

An LMS allows you to track and maintain a lot of great learner data. You can easily see the popularity of courses and events, the points where learners are falling off and disengaging, what people are purchasing, and if specific marketing tactics and promotions are successful. Utilizing this data, you can monitor, analyze, and improve learner adoption as well as behavior and financial performance, allowing you to outpace your competition.

In this ever-changing world where we continue to become more and more reliant on digital, where your members expect more from your association than before, it is important to stay ahead of the curve and continue to be seen as an industry-leader in your field.

Whether your goal is to expand your reach to more members, more learners; to cut down on costs or to increase non-dues revenue, one goal all organizations have in common is to retain members and grow memberships. As the competition heats up with platforms such as Lynda and Coursera, it even more important to understand that an LMS is a vital part of many organizations’ digital ecosystem and that without one, they will be left in the past with their face-to-face conferences and mailed certificates.

Author Bio

Jocelyn Fielding – Director, Marketing & Sales Operations

Jocelyn is responsible for all marketing activities at Blue Sky eLearn, as well overseeing sales from an operational standpoint. She has over 10 years of experience in sales and marketing, with 7 of those years being spent at Blue Sky, marketing and selling to associations, corporations, and pharmaceutical companies. When Jocelyn isn’t working, she enjoys being outside – whether hiking or heading to the beach. She’s also an avid traveler, has been to six of the seven continents, and is always planning her next trip (or two!).