Your members are the life force of your organization – but keeping them on board requires a lot more effort than you think!
Member engagement can take all sorts of shapes and sizes. In fact, you might already be implementing member engagement practices in your organization without knowing it. But it isn’t enough to have a few random practices in place – you need a comprehensive membership engagement strategy.
According to one study on member engagement, over 20 percent of surveyed members had canceled or allowed their memberships to lapse in the past year. Of those respondents, 32 percent said they left because fees were too costly. Meanwhile, 16 percent said they had simply forgotten to renew.
This is why, for any membership organization, member engagement should always be a top priority. In the simplest terms, member engagement is an ongoing exchange between your organization and your members, in order to provide them with a valuable member experience.
Members spend money and time to be part of your organization. So when they don’t feel like they’re getting their money’s worth, they find few reasons to stay. Your job is to give them a reason – that is the essence of member engagement.
Now, to help you get a clearer picture of what that is and how you can optimize it for your brand, we’ve cooked up a five-point guide on effectively growing membership engagement.
Come Up With an Engaging Welcome Plan
The solution to a thriving membership organization is a combination of member acquisition and member retention. Therefore, getting members to sign up to your group is only half of the equation. Once they’re in, you need to make sure you give a good first impression.
The first objective of a welcome plan is to make new members feel comfortable, familiar and of course welcome in your organization. So the first thing you should do is offer your new member a welcome package.
Most people expect nothing more than a generic welcome email from an association or club – so this is a great way to subvert expectations and surprise your new members! In the same way that some folks offer welcome baskets to new neighbors, you can offer discounts, gift cards or merchandise and memorabilia to your brand new members.
Next, assign a virtual “tour guide” to each new member. No matter how well you design your website and social channels, these things will be completely alien to new recruits. The same goes for your systems, rules, and regulations. To keep members from feeling lost and overwhelmed at the outset, make sure they know who to turn to – whether it’s via email, phone or through a chat box, always have someone ready to answer any questions and concerns.
Finally, make sure to direct new recruits to your social media channels and encourage them to follow you there. More importantly, make sure your online communities and social media channels are constantly updated. Not everyone checks their email regularly, so you can’t rely on email newsletters to effectively update all members. Plus, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram all have different audiences. Cover all your bases and build communities within each channel – but we’ll get into this later!
Personalize the Experience
According to one Digital Evolution Study, 79 percent of members say they look for targeted and valuable content from their organizations. This is why it’s of utmost importance to provide a uniquely personalized experience to every member.
However, people have different reasons for joining membership organizations. So before you can even begin to offer personalized and targeted content, you need to know your members well. Collect member data through surveys and feedback forms, and tweak your engagement strategy based on the results.
For example, if you find that your older members prefer fewer notifications and updates, go easy on their email blasts. If you find that younger members are interested in finding career opportunities, you can work towards creating blog posts, social media threads or even events that will help them in this area.
Cultivate an Online Community
Your online communities should aim to do three things:
- Keep members informed on the latest updates, promotions, new content, blogs, etc.
- Allow members to communicate with you and fellow members.
- Add value to your members’ overall experience.
An online community can be anything from a forum to a Facebook group to a Slack chat group. Through these platforms, you have endless possibilities for member engagement. Here, you can establish an open line of communication between your organization and your membership base so that the latter feel listened to and supported.
Let’s look at three specific examples of how you can use your online communities to boost member engagement:
- Roundups: An active and bustling online community can sometimes be too active! It can get to the point where important updates, new content, and blog posts can get buried under tons of posts. Roundup posts can help members catch up on anything they might have missed while they were away. You can release a blog post summarizing the biggest discussions and news of the week or you can even put together a short video with engaging graphics.
- Hangout sessions: A “hangout session” is a scheduled Q&A or AMA (Ask Me Anything) where a representative from your organization fields questions and comments from your membership base. This engagement strategy is especially useful when you have a lot of new recruits coming in at the same time. This also helps “humanize” your organization and reminds members that there are real people behind the brand.
- Rewards systems: This is something you can do in a forum or a Facebook group. Create a hierarchy of titles or badges that you can give to active and helpful members of your community. Titles and badges can come with extra perks and rewards so that members are encouraged to participate. In the end, this system benefits both you and your members.
- Champion of the week/month: This is a simple member engagement scheme that can easily be done through a blog post or a simple social media post. Every week, two weeks or month, find an active and helpful member of the community that you can recognize as the current “champion.” Make an announcement detailing their contributions and achievements and talk about the rewards they’ll receive. This informs members that your organization recognizes and rewards active engagement; it also provides them with a sense of achievement.
- Contests: One of the oldest tricks in the book, the contest is a time-tested member engagement strategy. Whether you’re putting together a raffle, a quiz bee or a test of skill, this kind of activity creates buzz and excitement in your community.
- Member takeover: On the other end of the spectrum is one of the newest engagement techniques. A member takeover is when a brand or an organization invites a popular member (or influencer) of the community to take control of one of its social media accounts. Usually, member takeovers happen on Instagram or Twitter, where influencers can share their insights, engage in Q&As and livestreams, and even drop clues about their whereabouts and give away prizes to members who find them.
Engage Members During Membership Renewal
Aside from implementing an auto-renewal feature that removes the hassle of going through a time-consuming membership reapplication process, here are some other ways to increase retention at the renewal stage:
- Exit surveys: When it’s time for a member to renew their membership, they’re deciding on whether the past month or year’s experience in your organization is worth the time and money. Sometimes, even the most well-thought-out member engagement strategy can’t convince people to stay. But while you can’t win everyone back, you can use member exit surveys as opportunities to build strong retention campaigns. So before they complete their cancellation, ask exiting members to answer an exit survey. You can create a survey form in your association management software and then publish it on your website. Here, you can ask about what factors led to their decision and what types of features they felt were lacking in their overall experience. With enough answers, you can create a strategy to draw in members who are having second thoughts about renewing their memberships.
- Year-end report: This report can highlight both the organization’s accomplishments and the member’s progress or activity over the course of a year. This can give members a better understanding of how much they’ve contributed to the group and how much they have to lose if they give up their membership.
- Discounted rates for active, loyal members: You can create a hierarchy of discounts. For example, you can send an email with a 10 percent discount code to members who have filled out a volunteer form this year and send a 25 percent discount to members who joined a committee. This member engagement strategy entices even the most inactive member to stay.
Build a Killer Website
Of course, there is no better engagement strategy than a well-made membership website. With membership software like MembershipWorks, you can create a seamless and intuitive website to help your members to find all the necessary information they need, make payments and donations and access members-only content.
We want to stress the importance of the words seamless and intuitive. A website that’s chock full of useful information can still feel incredibly frustrating to use if it isn’t laid out correctly. From the navigation menu to the search box, a highly accessible website can make or break your member experience.
To sum up, a successful membership engagement plan is one that makes members feel valued and appreciated. And remember, it’s all in the details – from the moment you welcome new members to the point they renew their applications, there are plenty of ways you can make members feel important.
By personalizing user experience, rewarding participation, and listening to suggestions, you can remind members of why they joined your organization or service in the first place. In the end, it’s these small, value-adding decisions that will turn new recruits into loyal, lifetime members.