Membership Magic: Insights from Orlando

Need some quick tips on effectively engaging new members? Here are a few strategies shared by speakers at this week’s YourMembership conference.

This week I’m reporting to you from Orlando, where I’m attending the YourMembership Xperience 2017 Conference. And since we’re near the home of Mickey Mouse and Harry Potter, this year’s conference theme is creating membership magic.

Side note: This is also the first association conference I’ve attended with a wizarding theme, complete with a live owl, sorting hat, and speakers donning capes. Luckily, no wands or spells are needed to create membership magic.

On Monday and Tuesday, association leaders shared strategies for onboarding, engaging, and recruiting members. And many speakers talked openly about the challenges of attracting members in a technology-driven and time-limited world.

“There are so many disruptions and distractions happening, it can impact how and why a member engages,” said Liz Peuster, director of membership for the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA). She spoke on a panel Tuesday afternoon about the future of association technology. “From the online experience to those personal and digital touchpoints, we have to figure out what are the most cost-effective ways to reach members when and where they want.”

Peuster says it’s easier to approach these challenges by thinking about member segments and anticipating their needs and habits. For example, an NWFA member segment is wood flooring contractors with mobile devices who frequently engage on Facebook. To further member connections, NWFA maintains a robust Facebook presence, and it’s in the process of launching a social platform where similar conversations can happen through a mobile application.

“We know that some members are using Facebook to have these conversations, which is great,” Peuster says. “But with the app, we can begin to track and know who’s engaging and who’s not.”

Knowing how to engage can be especially challenging when dealing with new members. Peuster says a lot of her new and younger members are starting to use other social platforms, like Instagram, to reach potential customers, which is why NWFA added a session on business marketing with Instagram at its annual conference last week.

Consultant Amanda Kaiser, of Kaiser Insights, LLC, has spent a lot of time getting inside the heads of new members. She conducted 332 interviews with association members and recently published findings in an e-book about early-member engagement.

“Often, members make the decision to renew in the first three days, three weeks, or three months of membership,” Kaiser said at a Monday conference session. “So if you can engage a new member quickly, you stand a good chance of engaging them for life.”

Usually, a new member’s decision to renew rests on a simple a-ha moment or experience. In her e-book, Kaiser identifies three strategies that associations can use to create these moments:

Develop a value trigger point. Often a single benefit or experience can come to define why members join. Associations need to spend time focusing on what Kaiser calls a trigger point. Whether it’s an event, service, product, or staff interaction, it’s the point at which members realize your association’s value. And you may or may not have one. “The only way to know if you have a trigger point is by taking the time to interview your members and ask,” she says.

Orchestrate first impressions. From the first email, website visit, or conference registration, your members are feeling out first impressions. “People are hardwired to like you on first impression,” Kaiser says. “And associations have a huge opportunity for engineering positive first interactions, so that members feel welcomed and valued.” This is where something like a surprise and delight experience might serve you well.

Focus on member culture. Staff culture permeates beyond the workplace, and often a professional culture will rub off on members. Kaiser says associations should intentionally evolve both staff and member culture together. And if you use something to boost culture inside your organization, use it with members too. For instance, if your organization uses a buddy system to onboard staff, use a similar program for new members who attend a conference.

One of the biggest issues with onboarding is how membership teams think—usually in linear and regimented ways, Kaiser says. To make onboarding more successful, membership teams need to realize that they have just a few emails, not a full calendar year, to make an impact.

How do you make membership magic happen, especially for your new members? Leave your tips in the comment thread below.


Tim Ebner

By Tim Ebner

Tim Ebner is a senior editor for Associations Now. He covers membership, leadership, and governance issues. Email him with story ideas or news tips. MORE

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