Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Maximum Member Engagement SOLVES EVERYTHING

Marketing General recently released its 2014 association study that
had two compelling stats in it:
  • The #1 reason members non-renew memberships is lack of engagement in the association
  • The #1 priority for 67% of associations is growing member engagement 
As I look back over the last eight years of our association's strategic plan, implementation and the incredible growth we have experienced, one thing sticks out that turned everything around:  Maximizing Member Engagement.  You see, in 2006 we decided the number one strategy in the strategic plan was to put members things for them they couldn't do themselves effectively, and do them with excellence.

Look at our key numbers and the increase since 2006:
  • Membership Increase:  13%
  • Dues:  25%
  • Revenue Per Member:  33%
  • Non-Dues Revenue:  132%
  • Associate Sponsorships:  68%
  • Net Worth:  1,058%
  • 98.5% Member Retention Each Year
  • Percent of Members Engaged in Programs:  81% 
You see, when you put absolute focus on meeting member NEEDS and driving issues that are important to THEM, they RESPOND with engagement.  This engagement creates a level of financial security that frees the board to take risk and make decisions that can transform your industry.
Remember, maximizing your value proposition is directly tied to maximizing member engagement.  When your association can establish new programs or services without raising dues or costs to members, you are inherently raising your member value proposition.  The more you add programs or services at no cost to the membership, the more you are adding value to why they pay dues each year.  You can only develop and add programs at no cost to the members when you have an ample amount of reserves in the bank.

I see many associations who put the strategic plan ahead of member needs, which, to me is a huge mistake.  They keep building strategic plans and wonder why members aren't engaged.  It's because they haven't connected member needs to their plan.  They have built a strategic plan through the eyes of a board that thinks it knows what members want, yet have never asked, and then wonder years later why they lack member engagement.

To maximize member engagement, there are some key elements you need that ensure your association experiences maximum member engagement.  The following are what I feel are elements you can't do without:

A Staff Who is Passionate to the Cause of the Association

When members call in and speak to staff, they either feel awesome, or not.  Many staffers feel like they have an ordinary job and they haven't themselves connected the dots as to how their job, their attitude, and their actions can help make a difference in a member's life.  Members are dealing with the difficult task of succeeding in their profession or business, and it's not easy.  The world is a very competitive, cut throat place, and the resources and network that associations bring to the table helps lessen the stress of doing business.  You need to ensure that your staff feels the passion of how they make a difference each day and they understand the cause of serving members.

Doing Things For Their Members They Can't Do Themselves Effectively
When it comes to serving members, we have to stop trying to provide benefits and services members can easily access through, yahoo, or bing.  Many of the services that associations provided years ago, are now readily available to members through technology.  It is important that associations dig deeper into their members daily lives as professionals and business owners, and look for areas that are a real struggle for them.  When you find the pain that keeps them up at night in their business, then you will discover the "medicine" that you need to provide what will maximize their engagement.  Create programs that minimize cost, maximize opportunity, leverage people, free up time, and reduce stress.  I believe you need to narrow your focus to 5 or fewer benefits that you do better than any private enterprise.

Have An Effective Communications and Technology Strategy
Once you have a group of passionate people leading the association and your programs and benefits are focused on meeting member needs, it is imperative you have an effective communication strategy.  YOU NEED TO CONSISTENTLY TELL PEOPLE WHAT YOU ARE DOING FOR THEM AND HOW THEY CAN BENEFIT.  The biggest mistake associations are making today is trying to get as big a percentage of members to go digital.  Many have focused on email communications.  At best 32% open email newsletters.  If this is your choice of communication, you are losing 68% of your audience.  I'm a believer association should do it all in an effort to get 100% of their members to read or watch something.  That strategy has paid off for us as you can see from our numbers above.  I believe associations should be doing most if not all of the following:
  • Monthly Print Newsletter
  • Weekly Enewsletter With No More Than 4-Articles in It
  • Facebook or Private Social Network (we do both)
  • Linkedin  to Tap Into Prospective Members
  • Twitter to Keep Message Consistent and Revolving on Your Home Page
  • Photo Gallery of Meetings on Flickr
  • YouTube Channel of Videos
Many reading this may wonder how many staff we have to pull of of this off.  Most thing 6 to 8.  We have 3.5.  So I know it can be done with any size association staff, big or small.  We utilize technology to do as much as possible and we have no wasted space in time.  Our team meets the first Wednesday of every month to discuss every committee, project, meeting and communication.  We plan for each month to maximize our efforts and make sure we accomplish everything. 

Our members don't buy a product or service.  They buy the following:  There is strong... Then There is MTI STRONG.  They buy into a philosophy that they are stronger with our people and resources than without.  That only comes through having a group of staff who is passionate and focused to the cause, focused benefit structure that are things members can't do themselves and a communication structure that makes them FEEL your presence in their business or career.

Take time to get your full staff together and assess these three areas.  Ask everyone to write down on paper the following:

2 Things we are doing that we should be doing differently
2 Things we are not doing that we should be doing
2 Things we should stop because they are completed or irrelevant

Collect the pieces of paper and start making change.