Monday, March 11, 2013

Member Engagement: It's NOW or NEVER

I've been sitting in sessions at the ASAE Great Ideas Conference, and I'm amazed at some of the things I've witnessed that display how some associations are disconnected in key ways to growing their association.  Here are two examples:

In one session, association executives wanted to talk about how to get their members to see their "perceived value", yet when asked if they wanted to expand and talk about non-dues revenue generation, only 4 hands went up in a room of 80+ people.  That was a missed opportunity.

Then the comment was made early in a session that the new, younger generation is not a set of "joiners", yet later in the session, it was noted by someone that the coming generation is one of the most passionate and cause related generations in history.   This could be a missed opportunity.

Hear this next comment:   In order to maximize member engagement and association loyalty, you MUST get past perceived value and begin generating "ACTUAL VALUE."  Actual value comes from benefits that go PAST your membership dues; this means in large part, creating non-dues revenue programs. 

When looking at member engagement, it is critical you understand which one of these three categories your members fall in to:

These are members who tap into your association for your newsletter, magazine, journals, online resources, etc.  They aren't active or buying anything.  They just value your information.  The danger of this group is that most information is now available for free through the internet, therefore, there is no real dependance on your association.

This group are members who spend money to purchase some type of resource from your association.  This could be classes, projects, technical data, etc.  This is a great level of engagement.  However, the downside of this group is, many items and services that associations provide can now be purchased or found outside the association.

This group is the most committed because they have taken an emotional step through attending meetings or volunteering within the association.  Through this emotional step, they create bonds with other members that take their engagement to a personal level, which ties them closely to the mission of the association.  This is the strongest engagement you can have in an association.  The emotional member wants to be a part of something bigger than themselves, they want it to be exciting, and they want to be a part of an organization that will empower them to do so.

It is also vital in your engagement strategy that you:

  • Understand which members are in each of these three categories
  • You ensure that you have great value in each to attract members
  • Your systems and marketing make it member friendly to move from informational to transactional, and from transactional to emotional
Engagement means members reach out to the association in some fashion to connect with it for some benefit.  When looking at benefits, there are 3-types that associations can have:
  1. Ones that members can access for free outside the association,
  2. Ones the association is going to do if they are a member or not (government relations is an example),
  3. Ones that the association can do together more effectively than members can do themselves.
If you want to maximize your member engagement, it is vital that you focus on option 3.  These benefits are the "golden handcuffs" that engage members and increase loyalty, because they can't get these anywhere else as effectively as the association is providing it to them.  Some of these you charge for, some you don't.  To discover these, you must have a good grasp of:
  1. Your member's daily problems
  2. The threats to your industry and members
  3. How your member's business and/or daily functions operate, better than they do
For those of you looking for a measuring stick of how successful using the above strategies for developing your engagement strategy can be, it has lead to a 28% increase in our per member revenue and an 865% growth in our association's net worth over the last 7 years.

Knowing what category you member's level of engagement is, and putting focus on things you can do more effectively, that your members can do individually, will have an immediate impact on maximizing your value proposition to your members, and turn you from marketing "perceived value" to providing "actual value."