Transform Your Member Experience with Digital.
Ever since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve all had to figure out how to navigate this new normal. Associations, which have traditionally relied on networking and events, have it especially hard. Not only are in-person meetings a no-go, but members are also rethinking their subscriptions as they look to cut costs. Member retention has never been more important than now.
The key to member retention has always been to prove your association’s value through the member experience. But what members experience – and expect — is changing. As social distancing measures continue to disrupt the way we interact, members are increasingly turning to digital channels. If you want to demonstrate your relevance to your membership, you need to meet them where they are—on digital.
Here are four steps to take your digital experience to the next level.
1. Define Your Digital Audience.
If you want to optimize your members’ digital experience, you’ll have to get to know them first. Take a critical look at your association from your members’ perspective.
– What resources and services do they need to access most often?
-What do they come to you to learn?
-What digital (and non-digital) channels do they use?
– Are you successfully delivering value to them?
Your strategy for delivering value to your members will depend on who they are. You probably have several different types of members—members who have been in the profession for ages, new members who are just getting started, and other types distinguished by various characteristics. And they all have different needs and expectations. You’ll need to find a way to serve all of these groups.
Developing personas can be a useful tool to help you segment your audience. A persona is a fictionalized representation of your audience that describes their wants, needs, desires, demographics and psychographics. You’ll want to pay particular attention to how they use digital media and which channels they prefer. You can create personas for your different member types – high producer, new to the profession, veteran, nearing retirement, etc. From there, you can develop a digital channel strategy and messaging that speaks to each group.
2. Update Your Website Experience.
Your website is your welcome mat for the outside world, and it is likely one of the first experiences people will have with your association. An effective website can dramatically improve many aspects of your business. A well-crafted site makes it easier to sell prospective members on the value of your association. A user-friendly site makes it easier for members to find what they need, reducing customer service requests. A content-rich site makes it possible to deliver member value, support your members and convey credibility to the outside community. It pays to develop a superior website experience.
Although different associations will have websites with different features, layouts and designs, all successful websites share similar features: they are easy to navigate, they present content relevant to their audiences, they contain clear calls-to-action and next steps, and they are designed for mobile. Their high-quality content and user-centric navigation guide visitors through all of the stages of the member experience—from prospect to lifelong member and from novice to seasoned pro.
So take a long, hard look at your website with respect to your member personas.
– Is there an obvious path for your personas to take?
– Is it easy for them to access the most important, most frequently visited features?
– Is it easy to navigate on a mobile device?
– Does your website go above and beyond to deliver on their expectations?
If your site is falling short on any of these points, you need to invest in a website redesign.
3. Virtualize Your Networking Events.
One of the biggest attractions of joining associations is gaining exclusive access to the member network. This is one area where the COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly had an outsized impact. But even though the options of networking may have changed, that doesn’t mean that networking is out of the question.
There are many ways to bring networking to the digital sphere. Bring your in-person events online by investing in a quality video conferencing platform. Use social media and email to keep members up-to-date about your virtual events. Create online forums around your members’ interests and passions, like education, career advancement and business development. Again, you’ll want to refer to your member personas to identify opportunities to create value for your membership.
The key to success in digital is being consistent—you need to produce, publish and promote regularly so that your members will expect and engage with your content. Your goal is to build a community that unites people around a core set of interests, experiences, beliefs and values — and with the right set of tools, you can do that anywhere, whether in-person or online.
4. Transition to Digital Media.
One of the most notable effects of the pandemic has been how our relationship with our digital channels has deepened. Nowadays, we depend on digital channels for both work and leisure. And because of the distance that digital allows us, there is a growing preference for digital over physical formats.
From high-quality graphics to engaging videos, digital can provide a breadth and depth of experience that is impossible or impractical to deliver on paper. Messaging can be tailor-made for your member personas. Email marketing can be sent with the click of a button and be customized to speak to specific audiences. Digital transactions can occur in seconds. Because production times are often shorter, you can quickly update digital communications to respond to changing situations. This added efficiency can also benefit your staff. Since they’ll need less time for labor-intensive processes, they’ll be free to focus on the valuable activities they do best. In addition, digital delivery is less expensive and more environmentally sustainable.
Think about your current processes and communications.
– Are you still producing paper-only brochures, newsletters and flyers?
– Are critical communications and notices only delivered by mail?
If so, you should strongly consider relying more heavily on digital in your communication mix.
In short, thriving as an association during these times will mean assessing your value proposition and fast-tracking digital transformation. But tremendous opportunities await those willing to make the jump. Now is the perfect time to revisit your digital experience and invest in your digital future.