Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Tracking Your Membership Engagement... It's An EYE OPENER

An amazing thing happened this past month in the area of membership engagement.  Our Chief
Administration Officer, in charge of all our data, downloaded all our member activity to an excel spreadsheet and passed it onto me to review.  As I started looking over the data, it became apparent that we, for the first time, had the data right in front of us to truly measure our membership engagement in an easy and readable format.  We could sort and categorize members by:
  • Very engaged
  • Actively engaged
  • Somewhat engaged
  • Not engaged
This was incredible because now we can start targeting these members with different messages depending on their engagement.   The numbers showed we have 84% of our members engaged in one of more programs or services that are meaningful to their organization.  A more detailed view looked like this:

- 14% - Very Actively Engaged (6 - 11 programs)
- 26% - Actively Engaged (3 - 5 programs)
- 44% - Somewhat Engaged (1 - 2 programs)
- 16% - Not Engaged (0 programs)

Here is the key behind membership engagement:  Many look at engagement through the eyes of their meetings and volunteerism.  The philosophy being that if you don't come to meetings or volunteer, then you aren't engaged.  That couldn't be farther from the truth.

Many associations struggle because past coming to meetings and volunteering, their is no "actual" value.  It is "perceived" value.  The biggest mistake you can make as an association is to try and sell a "perceived" value to your members.

I was sitting in an association meeting I'm involved with recently where the staff liaison to the membership committee said that on their last conference call, everyone was stating, "If they don't come to our annual conference, we don't know what to tell them on why they should be a member."  That's a serious problem.

Keep in mind, according to the 2011 Marketing General Association Survey, only 22% of members on average attend their annual conference.  This leaves 78% unengaged with the association through their meetings.  Another figure to keep in mind is that the #2 reason members stated they dropped membership was a "lack of engagement" in the association.  Hense, if they don't come to meetings or aren't a volunteer, your value proposition is in serious jeopardy.

Knowing these two stats should send a RED FLAG up the fire pole that, as an association, you need to have some very specific programs or engagement for those non-attending members of your conference.

When analyzing this, there are three types of member segments that engage in your association;

1) Informational - They get data from you in one way or another
2) Transactional - They purchase something from you
3) Emotional - They volunteer or attend meetings for face to face networking

The easiest members to keep around are the emotional members because they have a connection to a
human being or the "cause" that keeps them in the association.  That is a minority in most memberships.  As the numbers showed above, the vast majority of members are those who are information or transactional.

When we looked down our list of benefits on the member engagement spreadsheet, we realized that we have 14-benefits that play a key role in any member's business.  Having members broken out by engagement segment will give us a marketing advantage because now we can thank and reward those who are really engaged and encourage those who are not.

The moral of the story is:
  • According to Marketing General's study, member engagement plays a huge role to non-attending members maintaining their membership.
  • Have you measured, in some fashion, your member engagement?
  • Have you separated your members into the 4-categories of engagement?
  • Do you have a communications plan to send different messages to each?
  • Do you know who your informational, transactional and emotional members are?
  • Is your association's value outside of meetings and volunteering "perceived" or "actual"?
When it comes to providing value, their are three types of benefits for your association to provide:
  • Those members get for free 
  • Those the association will do whether they are members or not
  • Those the association can do more effectively together than members can do themselves
I would encourage everyone reading this post to list every benefit a member can take advantage of and ask yourself two questions for each:
  1. Is this benefit a "perceived" value or "actual" value to the member?
  2. If it is "actual" value, state on paper the answer to, "How does the benefit have a lasting and measurable impact on a member?"
If you can answer "actual" to question one and have a good answer for question two, then keep the benefit. All others, toss because they have no real value to the member.

Get with your leadership in 2013 and build your membership engagement strategy.  Look at the different segments of engagement, send them more targeted messaging, design benefits that have actual value and are things you do better than your members can do themselves.

A highly engaged membership drives a higher level of retention.

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